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Free Will Contrary to Gospel
by Marcus Booker
Many believe that the will of man is entirely his own (and thus free from God's control). Indeed, this belief appeals to the pride of those who, in their hearts, claim the credit for their own salvation, saying, "*my* own discernment led me to Christ." Furthermore, few beliefs are so strongly held, emotionally, as to evoke such vexed opposition when challenged. You may question most any belief, but if it's "free will," people foam at the mouth in offense and anger. Yet the total sovereignty of God is not only presupposed throughout the Scriptures, but it is also central to the good news in Christ.Many believe that the will of man is entirely his own (and thus free from God's control). Indeed, this belief appeals to the pride of those who, in their hearts, claim the credit for their own salvation, saying, "*my* own discernment led me to Christ." Furthermore, few beliefs are so strongly held, emotionally, as to evoke such vexed opposition when challenged. You may question most any belief, but if it's "free will," people foam at the mouth in offense and anger. Yet the total sovereignty of God is not only presupposed throughout the Scriptures, but it is also central to the good news in Christ.CLARIFYING STATEMENTS
Before continuing on in this discussion, I must give a few clarifying statements.
1. "Free will" is not synonymous with will or with choice. Man, with his will subject to God, still has a will, and he makes choices. So whether or not there is choice is not the issue. The question at hand deals with the nature of man's will (not *whether* he has a will). Is that will governed by the power of God, or is it not?
2. The word "free" may mean many things (including "free from sin"). In this article, however, free means "not under the direct control of God's will" or "independent" or "separate."
SIN AND RIGHTEOUSNESS--TRUST IN FLESH AND TRUST IN GOD
First of all, a most basic understanding of the difference between sin and righteousness is this:
Sin (or idolatry) is trust in the flesh, fear of man, reliance upon that which is "made with hands," and that which passes away.
Righteousness is trust in the spirit, fear of God, reliance upon that which is "not made with hands," and that which endures.
Psalm 20 says, "Some of chariots and some of horses, and we of the name of the LORD our God make mention."
Psalm 147 says, "Not in the might of the horse doth He delight, not in the legs of a man is He pleased. The LORD is pleased with those fearing Him, with those waiting for His kindness."
Proverbs 29:25 says, "Fearing men is a snare; but he who trusts in the LORD will be raised up."
Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not rely on your own understanding."
And Christ says, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! (Luke 12:4-5)"
See also Psalm 56:2-4, 11; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 18:6-9; Psalm 146:2-5; Psalm 44:3-8; Psalm 33:10-21
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TWO COVENANTS--SIN V. RIGHTEOUSNESS
The first covenant represented sin, the second righteousness. The first is called the "law of sin and death" and the "ministration of condemnation." But the second is the "law of the spirit" and the "ministration of righteousness (2 Cor 3)." The distinction between the two covenants represents also the distinction between sin and righteousness. Christ delivers from the first to the second. The first covenant had a circumcision that was "hand-wrought" and a "temple made with hands." Yet the second covenant had a circumcision done by Christ and a "temple not made with hands." The first covenant was fleshly in priesthood, in sacrifice, in temple, in circumcision, in feasts, etc. The second covenant, by contrast, is spiritual.
Thus trusting in the Law, the first order of things, was sin and idolatry (for the Law was never meant to take the place of God). Like those of old who fashioned things "made with hands" to worship, so were many among the Jews in Christ's time. Isaiah 31:7 says, "For in that day despise doth each his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, that your hands made to you—a sin." But to the Jews their idol was the Temple and the circumcision "made with hands."
Moreover, Christ rebukes the Pharisees for making void the command of God for the teachings of men. These Pharisees characterized the first covenant. Yet the tax collector who beats his breast is the second covenant.
BEARING OF ALL OF THIS ON THE "FREE WILL" ISSUE
With all of this in mind, those who espouse the "free will" doctrine must trust in their own strength, power, and ability to choose, thereby displacing the strength and power of God. "Free will" also places our continuance in Christ upon our power, not the power of God in us. [Note: There is a fundamental difference between a man's workings, and Christ's working in us, "for a man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps (Prov 16:9)."].
Yes...We must love God. Yet "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10)." But they say that "it is the man who wills, and the man who runs." Yet the Scriptures say otherwise (Rom 9). But they, for their parts, do not acknowledge God as the one who makes the difference; they take credit for their salvation. And they do not confess their sins. Rather, they claim that they were not so fallen in sin as to be unable to come to God, of their "free will." And they think that of their own "free will" that they can also persevere in Christ.
Romans 9 answers some of these questions. The text here contrasts two nations or two vessels, the people of the first covenant (the elect of Israel after the flesh) and the people of the second covenant (the elect of Israel after the spirit). Esau represents those under the law; Jacob represents those under grace. And just as God hardened Pharaoh's heart against His people, so did God also "harden Israel (Rom 11:25)" against His saints ("whereunto also they were appointed (1 Peter 2:7-8)," sending them a spirit of delusion that they may believe the lie (2 Thess 2:11-12). God did this so that His glory may be known by the vessels of honor, while he bore the vessels of dishonor with much longsuffering. Indeed, "God has mercy on whom He has mercy, and whom He wills He hardens." Yet the end of the matter is vindication for the vessels of mercy and shame for the vessels of wrath, for "the elder shall serve the younger (See Rev 3:9)."
So to the "free willer" who asks, "Why does God still find fault (if He is the one who hardens)?," I say, "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, 'Why hast thou made me thus?'" Indeed, Proverbs 16:4 says, "The LORD hath made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil." And Isaiah 45:7 says, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." And Jeremiah says, "Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the most Hgh proceedeth not evil and good? Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? (Lam 3:37-39)"
UNDERLYING ASSUMPTION IN THE SCRIPTURES
There is an underlying assumption in the Scriptures that God is sovereign over everything, not least of all the hearts of men. Indeed, "for of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things (Rom 11:36)."
Isaiah asks, "O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? (Isaiah 63:17)
He laments, "He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart (Isaiah 6:9-10)." See also John 12:39-40
Where is "free will" in these passages?
See also Isaiah 29:10; 44:18; Rom 11:8
Moreover, Moses says, "the LORD hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day (Deut 29:4)."
Psalm 105 speaks thus of God's hardening of the Egyptians, "He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants."
When Sihon, king of Hesbon, wouldn't let the people pass by, Deuteronomy 2:30 says, "the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate."
Jeremiah speaks of the time when the dominion of the Bayblonians will expire. He says, "Sharpen the arrows, fill the quivers! The LORD has aroused the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because His purpose is against Babylon, to destroy it (Jeremiah 51:11)."
When the people of Judah were in exile, Ezra says, "the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, that he had a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing."
All of these accounts are also consistent with the Proverb, which says, "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will (Prov 21:1)."
Moreover, when the beast, in Revelation, turns against its rider, John says that "God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled (Rev 17:17)."
When Paul speaks to Lydia, Acts says that the LORD opened her heart so that she attended unto the things which were spoken by him (Acts 16:14). Yes, she believed Paul! Yet she wouldn't have had the ability to do so had God not opened her heart.
Furthermore, Paul says that God put the earnest care into the heart of Titus (2 Cor 8:16).
It is also written, "I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart."
And there are many prayers which presuppose that God has the ability to change the hearts of men (Ex: Psalm 119:34-37).
John 6 speaks both about a particular redemption and an irresistible calling. Christ says, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
The Arminian (or opponent of particular redemption), on the other hand, says, "Some that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, because his will was not as corrupted by sin as the others, I will in no wise cast out."
Christ says that the Father's will is that "of all which He hath given me, I should lose nothing."
The Arminian agrees but claims that God cannot violate the "free will" of man. He says, "the Father's will is that of all which He hath given me, I should lose nothing--But it's too bad He's not powerful enough to accomplish that will."
There is, then, a limited atonement. Yet notice the limitation: "every one which seeth the Son and believeth on him, may have everlasting life."
And of course the "free will" advocates will cry out, "What if I am just not one of the elect?" "Will I then come to Christ in vain?" To this I say, "impossible!" For Christ says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draws him." Also, when some of the Gentiles believed the good news, Acts 13:48 says that "as many as had been *appointed* to eternal life believed."
Thus by these statements all boasting is silenced. The pride of man is brought low.
A NOTE ON THE WORD "FOREKNEW"
Some think that God simply "knows in advance" who will decide, of their own strength, to come to Him. I agree that the prefix "fore" means "in advance." Yet the base-word "know," in this context, does not mean "to have a mental awareness of." Rather, it means "to be closely familiar with or to have a relationship with."
Psalm 1 says, "The LORD *knows* the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." And the Lord says, "Get away from me, ye wicked, for I never *knew* you." (Also note Joseph's not "knowing" Mary, till she bore Jesus).
So those that God "foreknew" are those that God, from the foundation of the world, had a relationship with in Christ. These are those who He had chosen in advance, before they had done good or bad. These are the ones that God "called according to His purpose" and "predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29)."
And this article did not even consult many other texts which speak of God's choice, the council of His will, His calling, His election, His purpose, and predestination.
The conclusion of the matter is that God is sovereign, and that this fact is the pith and marrow of the gospel.
For more information...
See Ephesians 1:3-11; 3:10-11; 2 Thess 2:13-14; 2 Tim 1:9-10; Acts 15:17-18; Rev 13:8; 17:8; Matt 10:27-31; 25:34; 26:39; Heb 4:3; 6:17-18; 9:26; Luke 2:34; Rom 3:23-25; 8:28; Acts 2:22-23; 4:26-28; 1 Peter 1:19-20; John 17:24; 19:10-11; Prov 16:33; 20:24; 27:1; Ecclesiastes 7:14; Psalm 31:15; 115:3; 135:6; 139:16; Jer 18:6; 24:7; 32:39-40; Isaiah 14:24,27; 19:13-14; 29:16; 40:15; 45:9-10; 46:9-11; 55:10-11; 64:8; Daniel 4:35; James 4:13-15; Job 42:2; 1 Sam 10:6,9,26; 16:14; 2 Chron 18:18-22; 1 Kings 22:19-23; Judges 9:23; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:25-27; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 2:7-8; Neh 7:5; Gal 1:15; John 15:16; 2 Tim 2:10; 1 Tim 5:21.