Is Human Free Will Really Free?

Which pill will you swallow?

Which doctrine will you embrace?

The one which teaches that God is sovereign in all details including the deepest crevices of the human soul?  Or the teaching that human free will is ultimately responsible for our decision to follow Christ?

I would argue using the Bible that for believers, their freedom and free will is hidden in God’s sovereignty.  Paul tells Christians in Colossians 3:3: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  Discussing the “when” this happens is a matter of technicality… we know that from God’s perspective the past, present and future matter not.  From His point of view, which ultimately is the only point of view of importance, our choices, our decisions, and final outcomes are hidden with Christ in Him.

When it comes to free will, I believe that absolute human free will is not found on the pages of the Bible.  But interestingly, human responsibility is found on every page of the Bible.  If absolute free will were found in the Bible, then we would also find our ability to NOT sin.  If a man or woman had absolute freedom of choice, they should be able to choose to NOT sin!  But sadly this is not the case.

There is a multitude of biblical texts showing that while unregenerated by the Holy Spirit, we are enslaved to sin, captured and bound by our sinful nature, and the only freedom we have IS to sin.  Any attempt to rid ourselves of sin is unsustainable.  That is biblical truth.  Then how can anyone say that they have absolute free will?

I personally know people who live in sin and cannot stop sinning even though they know the depravity of their actions.  They know the truth to a large degree.  Paul tells us in Romans 1 that such people know the truth but they are suppressing it.   No matter how much these people want to give up sin in theoretical terms, they are unable to do it.  They do not have the absolute freedom to do it because they are not free.  They are chained.  Their will is not free at all.

What the children of God have is not an absolute free will but a will that is subordinate to God.  Paul teaches this in Philippians 2:13 “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  And the previous verse implicates the human responsibility: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…”

Our free will is subordinate to God’s sovereignty while maintaining personal human responsibility.

So, the next time you think that your own freedom of choice lifted you out of sin and unto salvation, meditate on our incontestable inability to break the chain of sin on our own.

This is the mystery of all ages, the way God the Father draws his children unto Him through the work of God the Holy Spirit, all made possible by the death and resurrection of God the Son.  And to see that He found it appropriate to reveal to us this great mystery of salvation makes us stand in awe.

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