God’s Will, Man’s Will and Free Will – Part 1

I have been thinking quite a lot about this over the last couple of years.  Having come from a semi-pelagian background, my world was entirely shaken and turned upside down when I realized that God is absolutely sovereign over everything, which includes salvation (Jonah 2:9).  One way of thinking about it is that God owns salvation just like he owns the entire created universe due to the fact that he created it.  If I walked into a group of people and started handing out $100 bills, who could complain that I didn’t give them one.  It is mine to give to whosoever I will to give it too.  Why is it any different with God?  The problem is, we have a flawed view of God, which is another byproduct of the fall of man, and we do not understand that all he owes us is a one-way trip to hell because of our sin.  It is His shear grace that even allows any of us to come to salvation.  Grace by it’s very definition is ‘unmerited favor’, which means that it is unmerited (wait for it, it will sink in eventually).

Ernest Reisinger wrote a piece on The Will in the late 1990’s and I want to share it here:

Introduction

This book contains a brief study on a very important but neglected subject, that is, the subject of free will. We will be considering in what sense the will is free and how important this subject is to the Christian faith.

Does salvation depend upon man’s willingness to be saved apart from a prior work of the Holy Spirit? We will see that no one is saved against his will; however, God changes the “willer” so as to make the sinner willing. We will see that the subject of free will is at the very heart of Christianity and has a profound effect on our message and method of evangelism. We will see that “whosoever will may come.” We will see that the Bible teaches that salvation depends not on man’s willingness but on God’s willingness, God’s grace, and God’s power—and if God did not have power over man’s will the whole world would go to hell. We will see that God does not exclude anyone in His invitations; however, sinners do exclude themselves.

Listen to these lines from Philip Bliss’s hymn “Whosoever Will”:

“Whosoever heareth,” shout, shout the sound!
Spread the blessed tidings all the world around;
Tell the joyful news wherever man is found,
“Whosoever will may come.”

Whosoever cometh need not delay,
Now the door is open, enter while you may;
Jesus is the true, the only Living Way:
“Whosoever will may come.”

“Whosoever will,” the promise is secure;
“Whosoever will,” forever must endure;
“Whosoever will!” ’tis life forever more;
“Whosoever will may come.”

“Whosoever will, whosoever will!”
Send the proclamation over vale and hill
‘Tis a loving Father calls the wanderer home:
“Whosoever will may come.”

If you cannot sing this hymn from the heart, then you do not understand the Biblical teaching on free will and this book should help you. You will note that the songwriter was very prudent when he wrote “whosoever will” may come. He did not say whosoever will can come.

One of the first questions that faces us in any serious study of the freedom of the will is whether there is power of the will to obey God and to do that which is spiritually good. Continue reading

Round Up

If All Religions Are True – If all religions are true, then God is cruel. And not just cruel—God is an incompetent, cosmic child-abuser.

Two Favored Sons – Want to know how to read the Old Testament? Here’s a quick primer: Martin Luther said that everything bad in the Old Testament (and there’s a lot) is there to point out our sin, while everything good in the Old Testament is there to point us to our Savior.

Dragged Into the Kingdom, Kicking and Screaming – God often pursues us long before we have any inkling of what he’s up to. More often than not, we don’t like the pursuit.

Can Natural Man Do Good? – The unbeliever’s moral inability to do good—good that may be credited to his account by way of righteousness—means that there is only one possible way of salvation: it must come from outside himself.

Salvation In A Dementia Ward – “I know who you are,” she growled at me with eyes I could now see were wild with fear and anger. “You are Mr. Holy-Holy-Holy!”

Quote:

Tolerance has become such a god in our culture that not to have it is heresy. The effect is that tolerance swallows up truth, negating any need to search for things that might offend or challenge our preferences. It conveniently avoids the notion that certain things might just apply to all of us, no matter who we are or what we believe. It is a comfortable place to be, for it challenges nothing but truth, but it may also be a dangerous home to inhabit. – From the book Truth Matters.

 

 

An Introduction to the Reformed Faith

Five years ago I could not have told you anything about the Reformed Faith.  Oh, I knew who John Calvin and Martin Luther were, but nothing about their beliefs.  It was a simple conversation about what it meant for God to be sovereign that started a process that brought me out of a state where I thought I was saved, into a new understanding of the Doctrines of Grace and what it means when God saves you.  Over the past few years I have read, studied and listened to as much as I could get my hands on to learn more about the sovereignty of God in not only salvation, but in all things.  With that, I have come across a gentleman by the name of Brian Borgman multiple times and he is an outstanding expositor and teacher of the Word.  I highly recommend his 13 part series on an Introduction to Reformed Faith.  I’ve included the links below.

Tale of Two Gospels (MP3)

Soli Deo Gloria: The Supremacy of God in All Things (MP3)

Grace Needed: Total Depravity (MP3)

Sola Scriptura: The Supremacy of Scripture (MP3)

Grace Conceived: Unconditional Election (MP3)

Sola Gratia: The Supremacy of Grace in Salvation (MP3)

Sola Fide: The Supremacy of God in Salvation (MP3)

Solus Christus: The Supremacy of Christ in Salvation (MP3)

Grace Secured: Limited Atonement (MP3)

Grace Applied: Irresistible Grace (MP3)

Grace Triumphant: Perseverance of the Saints (MP3)

The Assurance of Grace: Assurance in the Life of the Saints (MP3)

The Grace of Law: God’s Law in the Life of the Saints (MP3)

Myths

MOST PEOPLE say that they believe in “free will.” Do you have any idea what that means? I believe that you will find a great deal of superstition on this subject. The will is saluted as the grand power of the human soul which is completely free to direct our lives. But from what is it free? And what is its power?

THE MYTH OF CIRCUMSTANTIAL FREEDOM

No one denies that man has a will — that is, a faculty of choosing what he wishes to say, do, and think. But have you ever reflected on the pitiful weakness of your will? Though you have the ability to make a decision, you do not have the power to carry out your purpose. Will may devise a course of action, but will has no power to execute its intention.

Joseph’s brothers hated him. They sold him to be a slave. But God used their actions to make him a ruler over themselves. They chose their course of action to harm Joseph. But God in His power directed events for Joseph’s good. He said, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good” (Gen 50:20).

And how many of your decisions are miserably thwarted? You may choose to be a millionaire, but God’s providence is likely to prevent it. You may decide to be a scholar, but bad health, an unstable home, or lack of finances may frustrate your will. You choose to go on a vacation, but an automobile accident may send you to the hospital instead.

By saying that your will is free, we certainly do not mean that it determines the course of your life. You did not choose the sickness, sorrow, war, and poverty that have spoiled your happiness. You did not choose to have enemies. If man’s will is so potent, why not choose to live on and on? But you must die. The major factors which shape your life cannot thank your will. You did not select your social status, color, intelligence, etc.

Any sober reflection on your experience will produce the conclusion, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but THE LORD DIRECTETH his steps” (Prov 16:9). Rather than extolling the human will, we ought to humbly praise the Lord whose purposes shape our lives. As Jeremiah confessed, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer 10:23).

Yes, you may choose what you want, and you may plan what you will do; but your will is not free to accomplish anything contrary to the purposes of God. Neither have you any power to reach your goals but that which God allows you. The next time you are so enamored with your own will, remember Jesus’ parable about the rich man. The wealthy man said, “This I WILL do: I WILL pull down all my barns, and build greater; and there I WILL bestow all my fruits and my goods…But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee” (Luke 12:18-21). He was free to plan but not free to accomplish; so it is with you.

THE MYTH OF ETHICAL FREEDOM

But freedom of the will is cited as an important factor in making MORAL decisions. Man’s will is said to be free to choose between good and evil. But again we must ask, from what is it free? And what is man’s will free to choose?

The will of man is his power to choose between alternatives. Your will does decide your actions from a number of options. You have the faculty to direct your own thoughts, words, and deeds. Your decisions are not formed by an outside force, but from within yourself. No man is compelled to act contrary to his will, nor forced to say what he does not wish. Your will guides your actions.

Yet this does not mean that the power to decide is free from all influence. You make choices based on your understanding, your feelings, your likes and dislikes, and your appetites. In other words, your will is not free from yourself! Your choices are determined by your own basic character. The will is not independent of your nature, but the slave of it. Your choices do not shape your character, but your character guides your choices. The will is quite partial to what you know, feel, love, and desire. You always choose on the basis of your disposition, according to the condition of your heart.

It is just for this reason that your will is NOT free to do good. Your will is the servant of your heart, and your heart is evil. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that EVERY imagination of the thoughts of his heart was ONLY evil CONTINUALLY“ (Gen 6:5). “There is NONE that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom 3:12). No power forces man to sin contrary to his will, but the descendants of Adam are so evil that they always choose the evil.

Your decisions are molded by your understanding, and the Bible says of all men, “And their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom 1:21). Man can only be righteous when he desires to have fellowship with God, but, “There is NONE that seeketh after God” (Rom 3:11). Your appetites crave sin, and thus you cannot choose God. To choose good is contrary to human nature. If you chose to obey God, it would be the result of external compulsion. But you are free to choose, and hence your choice is enslaved to your own evil nature.

If fresh meat and tossed salad were placed before a hungry lion, he would choose the flesh. This is because his nature dictates the selection. It is just so with man. The will of man is free from outside force, but not from the bias of human nature. That bias is against God. Man’s powers of decision are free to choose whatever the human heart dictates; therefore there is no possibility of a man choosing to please God without a prior work of divine grace.

What most people mean by free will is the idea that man is by nature neutral and therefore able to choose either good or evil. This simply is not true. The human will and the whole of human nature is bent to ONLY evil CONTINUALLY. Jeremiah asked, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jer 13:23). It is impossible. It is contrary to nature. Thus do men desperately need the supernatural transformation of their natures, else their wills are enslaved to choosing evil.

In spite of the great praise that is given to “free will,” we have seen that man’s will is not free to choose a course contrary to God’s purposes nor free to act contrary to his own moral nature. Your will does not determine the events of your life nor the circumstances of it. Ethical choices are not formed by a neutral mind but always dictated by your personality makeup.

THE MYTH OF SPIRITUAL FREEDOM

Nevertheless many assert that the human will makes the ultimate choice of spiritual life or spiritual death. They say that here the will is altogether free to choose eternal life offered in Jesus Christ or to reject it. It is said that God will give a new heart to all who choose by the power of their own free will to receive Jesus Christ.

There can be no question that receiving Jesus Christ is an act of the human will. It is often called “faith.” But how do men come to willingly receive the Lord? It is usually answered, “Out of the power of their own free will.” But how can that be? Jesus is a PROPHET. To receive Him means to believe all that He says. In John 8:41-45 Jesus made it clear that you were born of Satan. This evil father hates the truth and imparted the same bias into your heart by nature. Hence said Jesus, “ Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not .”

How does the human will jump out of man to choose to believe what the human mind hates and denies?

Further, to receive Jesus means to embrace him as a PRIEST — that is, to employ and depend on him to sue out peace with God by sacrifice and intercession. Paul tells us that the mind with which we were born is hostile to God (Rom 8:7). How can the will escape the influence of human nature which was born with a violent enmity to God? It would be insane for the will to choose peace when every bone and drop of blood cries out for rebellion.

Then too, receiving Jesus means to welcome Him as a KING. It means choosing to obey His every command, to confess His right of rule, and to worship before His throne. But the human mind, emotions, and desires all cry out, “ We will not have this man to reign over us “ (Luke 19:14). If my whole being hates His truth, hates His rule, and hates peace with God, how can my will be responsible for receiving Jesus? How can such a sinner have faith?

It is not man’s will but God’s GRACE that must be thanked for giving a sinner a new heart. Unless God changes the heart, creates a new spirit of peace, truthfulness, and submission, man will not choose to receive Jesus Christ and eternal life in Him. A new heart must be given before a man can believe, or else the human will is hopelessly enslaved to evil human nature — even in the matter of conversion. Jesus said, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye MUST be born again” (John 3:7). Unless you are, you will never see His kingdom. Read John 1:12 & 13. It says that those who believe on Jesus have been “born, not of the will of man, but of God.” As your will is not responsible for your coming into this world, it is not responsible for the new birth. It is your Creator who must be thanked for your life, and if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation (II Cor 5:17). Who ever chose to be created? When Lazarus rose from the dead, he then could choose to answer the call of Christ, but he could not choose to come to life. So Paul said in Ephesians 2:5, “Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).” Faith is the first act of a will made new by the holy Spirit. Receiving Christ is an act of man just as breathing is, but God must first give life.

No wonder Martin Luther wrote a book entitled The Bondage of the Will which he considered one of his most important treatises. The will is in the chains of an evil human nature. You who extol the free will as a great force are clinging to a root of pride. Man, as fallen in sin, is utterly helpless and hopeless. The will of man offers no hope. It was the will choosing the forbidden fruit that brought us into misery. The powerful grace of God alone offers deliverance. Cast yourself upon God’s mercy for salvation. Ask for the Spirit of Grace that He may create a new spirit within you.

The Myth of Free Will by Walter Chantry

Daily Roundup

Behold Your God – This website talks about a new 12 week church study course that is soon to be released.  There is also information on a conference in Memphis, TN that takes place in January.

Ripping the Heart out of Sunday School – Tony Reinke looks at why we attend Church on Sundays.

The Kingdom is Now – R C Sproul, Jr. takes a look at the ‘already, not yet’ aspect of the kingdom of God.

9.5 Theses on Martin Luther Against the Self-Indulgences of the Modern Church – In light of many Reformation 500 posts happening this week, Carl Trueman tries to bring us back to the true Martin Luther and how the modern Church should view him.

Heretics Are Usually Nice Guys – Jared Wilson looks at a message by John Piper from 2006 that is very true

Quote:

4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. – Eph. 1:4

God’s eternal election is the basis both of our calling and of all the benefits that we receive from him… The timing of our election shows that it had to be free and could not have depended on any works of ours. …

Holiness and blamelessness are the fruits of election…. Those who are not elect retain their natural disposition, which cannot change except by divine intervention…. This verse is also a reminder that there is no room of licentiousness among the elect, because holiness of life is tied to the grace of election… Nor does this mean that we attain perfection in this life. We have the goal set before us, but we do not reach it until our race is done. Why do some people think of predestination as a useless and even poisonous doctrine? No doctrine is more useful, as long as it is handled properly, as Paul does here. It reveals the infinite goodness of God and gives us our knowledge of his mercy…. Election is the ultimate proof that we cannot claim any righteousness for ourselves. – John Calvin

Daily Roundup

New Theme Song for Prosperity Preachers – Courtesy of Pirate Christian Radio by way of Apprising Ministries.  If you are a faithful “Prosperity Abomigospel” follower, you will not like the implications of this song, just sayin’.

MSM Pushing It’s Own Agenda? Part 1 – John McCain on Face the Nation along with some commentary by Denny Burk.

MSM Pushing It’s Own Agenda? Part 2 – Sad that David Gregory never got back around to Carly Fiorina’s statements.  Just goes to show the depth of human depravity.

Desiring God is Making Available a Free Martin Luther eBook – Head on over and grab it in your favorite format, 3 to choose from.

The Importance of God’s Immutability – R. C. Sproul, Jr. takes a look at the unchanging nature of God.  This is the attribute of God that allows Him to be God.

The Holy Spirit and Apologetics – A message by Al Mohler from the 2007 Contending For The Truth Conference.  Well worth the listen.

Quote:

Let me grant, in the first place, that the believer cannot cite a deeper ground for revelation than its divine authority, which he or she recognizes by faith. But this is not to say that believers have nothing to say to the opponents of that revelation. True: they have no airtight proofs; they cannot move the opponent toward faith; but they have at least as much to say in defending as the opponent has in attacking scriptural authority. Unbelief, too, is rooted, not in proofs and arguments, but in the heart. In this respect believers and unbelievers are in exactly the same position. Their convictions are integrally bound up with their whole personality and are only a posteriori supported by proofs and arguments. And now, when the two parties oppose each other with these a posteriori proofs and arguments, the position of believers is not less favorable than that of unbelievers. God is sufficiently knowable to those who seek him and also sufficiently hidden to those who run away from him. “There is enough light for those who only desire to see and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition. There is enough clarity to illumine the elect and enough darkness to humble them. There is enough darkness to render the reprobate sightless and enough clarity to condemn them and to render them inexcusable.” The state of religion, theism, revelation, and Scripture is not as hopeless as science has for years wanted us to believe. – Herman Bavinck

Daily Roundup

Brian McLaren Leads Ceremony at Son’s Same-Sex Wedding – I well know, prominent individual who runs in Evangelical circles officiated a non-traditional wedding.  The NYT also reported this ceremony.  You can read about their report here.

We Are Beggers – 3 Lectures by Carl Trueman as he talks about Martin Luther as Theological Pastor.

Preach the Word – Pastor H. B. Charles lays out 3 aspects of preaching the Word.  If you are a Pastor, take notice, if you are laity, hold your Pastor accountable.

Bibles, Booze, and Bikini’s – Say it ain’t so!  Unfortunately, it is.

Reputation or Testimony? – We have to guard ourselves against all sins.

Created An Appetite – This post from Phil Johnson from 7 years ago still rings true.

Quote:

After Adam had ruined himself and all his posterity by his deadly fall, this is the basis of our salvation, this the origin of the church: that we have been uprooted from the deepest darkness and have obtained a new life sheerly by the grace of God; that the patriarchs have by faith been made partakers of this life (just as it was offered to them by God’s word); that this word, in turn, was founded upon Christ; and that all the pious who have lived since then have, in fact, been sustained by the very same promise of salvation by which Adam was revived in the beginning. – John Calvin