Free Will or Free Grace?

Having spent a couple of weeks on the oncology and hospice floors of Emory University with family, I have been reminded yet again of the bounds and limits of a person’s will. Many folks, would have you think that the will is neutral and capable of accomplishing great feats, not the least of which is salvation. Yet the time spent at Emory has demonstrated and brought to my mind yet again one of my core beliefs concerning the bondage of the will. Contrary to popular opinion, a person’s will is neither free and certainly not the deciding factor in life’s course or destination.

Yes, we have a will. Yes, one acts according to his will. Yes, by one’s will (determination) great accomplishments have been achieved. However, everyone’s will is sinful and limited. These limitations affect all our decisions and capabilities from the lesser and mundane to the higher and spiritual.

While spending so much time on the 5th and 7th floors of Emory Hospital, I met several people. Most of the folks I met were visiting family members, often critical if not terminally ill family members. None of us (patients and/or family members) wanted to be there. The patients wanted (willed) to be well and to live. We the family did not want (will) our loved one to have cancer or to die.

The patients were receiving top notch, often cutting edge medical treatment by skillful doctors and nurses. While many of the patients were helped others could not be. Why? Was the deciding factor one’s free will? Did some by an act of their will or their loved one’s will stop death? No! Not even the best medical skills combined with the love and good will of family, staff and patient could reverse the devastating effects of the disease or prevent death.

Interestingly while at Emory I did not hear anyone touting free will as an answer for cancer or death, but I did hear folks talking about and engaging in prayer. Wonder why? Because intuitively we know that man’s will is limited and not the ultimate factor in life or death. Why do we pray and ask God for our daily bread (lesser) and the forgiveness of sins and the salvation (greater) of loved ones? Because we know that our wills are limited and that daily and eternal blessings are not the result of man’s will but God’s grace.

The Bible says, The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:56). Sin is the greater, the cause of death. Death is the lesser, the result of sin. If no one can prevent death (lesser) by an act of the will, why would we imagine that the solution to sin (greater) is the will of man? Salvation and eternal life are not the results of free will, but free grace sovereignly and lovingly applied by the Great Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To God alone be the glory! Amen.

Original Blog Post Found Here.

Before Your Throne We Sinners Bend

Before Your Throne We Sinners BendDon Fortner

(Tune: The Doxology—LM)


The Father in wisdom profound a ransom for our souls has found.

Before His throne we sinners bend our hearts and pray, “Free-grace extend!”


Eternal Son, incarnate God, our Prophet, Priest, Redeemer, Lord,

Before Your throne we sinners bend and pray, “Savior, free-grace extend!”


Blest, sov’reign Spirit, by whose breath poor souls are raised to life from death,

Before Your throne we sinners bend, eternal life to us extend!


Great God, our Father, Spirit, Son, Eternal God, great Three in One,

Before Your throne we sinners bend, Your mercy, love, and grace extend!

Daily Roundup

The Journey of Sheep – An interesting insight into how we people are more like sheep than we like to think.

God’s Amazing Grace – Charles Quarles looks at the theology behind John Newton’s hymn.

Preaching the Gospel to Yourself – Just like there is a shelf life on fruit once it is picked from the vine, so it is with us if we don’t stay on The Vine.

The Forgotten Trinity – Dr. James White in a 1 hour teaching series on the Trinity.

An Introduction to the Gospel – A Covenant Theology Primer – Great page from Monergism on Covenant Theology, just in case you don’t know what it is or just want to know more about it.  Also, some good links at the bottom of the page for further study.

1 Corinthians 6 and the Lordship Debate – Good article defining what the debate is and what is at stake.  Even though this debate has been around for 20+ years, it is still relevant.


I held my heart back from positively accepting anything, since I was afraid of another fall, and in this condition of suspense I was being all the more killed. – Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

Spurgeon Thursday

From the sermon Free Grace, preached 9 January 1859:

THERE are two sins of man that are bred in the bones and that continually come out in the flesh. One is self-dependence and the other is self-exaltation. It is very hard, even for the best of men, to keep themselves from the first error.  The holiest of Christians and those who understand best the Gospel of Christ find in themselves a constant inclination to look to the power of the creature—instead of looking to the power of God and the power of God, alone. Over and over again Holy Scripture has to remind us of that which we never ought to forget—that salvation is God’s work from first to last—and is not of man, neither by man. But so it is, this old error—that we are to save ourselves, or that we are to do something in the matter of salvation—always rises up and we find ourselves continually tempted by it to step aside from the simplicity of our faith in the power of the Lord our God. Why, even Abraham, himself, was not free from the great error of relying upon his own strength! God had promised to him that He would give him a son—Isaac, the child of promise. Abraham believed it, but at last, weary with waiting, he adopted the carnal expedient of taking to himself Hagar, to wife and he fancied that Ishmael would most certainly be the fulfillment of God’s promise. But instead of Continue reading