Man’s free will, and whether he has it or not, has been in contention within the church for a long time. And where one stands on the issue can give a lot of insight into their beliefs about the attributes of man and God. Let me be the first to concede that, in a sense, man does have free will. He has it in the same way that a bird has free will in deciding on the location of where he will build his nest. But I’m quick to add that man doesn’t have free will in the same way that the bird doesn’t have the freedom to decide whether or not he’s going to build a nest at all… in a general sense. A bird cannot not build a nest, and man cannot not sin.
Following this reasoning, you too have the freedom to choose which sins you will partake in, but you don’t have the freedom to decide whether or not you will sin. Yet still, the entire concept and the disagreement on the matter is more precise than all that. The real question is whether or not a man has within himself the free will to ”accept” Christ as his Savior. The ramifications of how one ultimately answers this question are many and far reaching hence the divide you will discover that exists in the Church.
So to help you think this through, consider this: An evangelist visits your home and presents you with the Gospel. You listen carefully to what he says and, based on your own sovereign free will, make a decision to surrender your life to Jesus. Then that evangelist visits your neighbor and he rejects the same message. A month later, you and your neighbor are both killed. Now, which one of you will have reason to boast that you made the right decision? Is it ultimately because you’re smarter than you neighbor that you can boast? Or because you’re a better person? In the end, you can see that no matter how you look at it, you will have reason to boast before God and man based on your decision.
Another ramification is the requirement that God subject His will to the will of man. If our salvation depends on our own merit in any way, then God is reduced to an entity that anxiously sits in heaven hoping and fretting over the question of whether or not we will make the right decision, which necessarily insinuates that we are capable of making the right decision. God is made smaller and man larger. It’s also worth considering that God actually has the power to convince everyone to follow him by use of some miracle or something, yet He doesn’t do it. No, instead he leaves it up to the smart men to beg, plead and cajole, to make better arguments and so on. Also, man is made to appear larger in his own eyes. It places those who are considering God in the seat of judgment and neutrality concerning God’s offer of salvation, and that’s a seat that no man by any means ever occupies.
You also need to understand that the real reason that man wants to appropriate free will for himself is that he is embarrassed to serve a God who decides who He will and will not save. It seems so unfair to the worldly thinker because he holds man in such high esteem. We must understand, however, that we are not the center of the universe, God is. He is the arbiter of all things. He is holy and perfect, and he would be holy, perfect, and all loving even if He didn’t deign to save one man. His love and righteousness is. It is not dependent on what happens to any man. God owes man nothing. That is our human position and condition.
But these are also the same reasons that we have to celebrate, and be joyful, and filled with thanksgiving when we find ourselves hidden in the cleft of the rock that is Jesus our Savior. What words can I use to describe such a reality? They fail me. So we may praise God for what He has done.
This is why I pray for you all the time. I ask God to take your hearts, to make you His, to save you for all eternity. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed a more fervent prayer, yet it is never fervent enough.