Do we human beings really have free will? Some say no. They claim God is sovereign and is entirely responsible for our salvation. But does the Bible agree?
This complex theological question is at the heart of two recent articles published on this website about “Universal Salvation” and “Once Saved, Always Saved.” What does the Bible really say about free will?
What Is Free Will?
1: voluntary choice or decision;
2: freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or divine intervention.
~Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Edition)
The ability to choose, think, and act voluntarily. For many philosophers, to believe in free will is to believe that human beings can be the authors of their own actions and to reject the idea that human action is determined by external conditions or fate. In contrast, there are those who do not believe in human free-will. Examples are beliefs on: determinism, fatalism, and predestination.
~The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (Third Edition)
No Free Will Beliefs
The doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Some philosophers have taken determinism to imply that… human beings have no free will and cannot be held morally responsible for their actions. [Determinism or Predeterminism is often contrasted with free will.]
The belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable. Fatalism is a doctrine stressing the subjugation of all events or actions to fate… Included in this is that man has no power to influence the future, or indeed, his own actions. This belief is very similar to defeatism or predeterminism.
A doctrine [in some Christian theology], concerning the divine foreordaining of all that will happen, especially with regards to the salvation of some and not others. It has been particularly associated with the teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo and of Calvin… This teaching is related to the concept of omniscience—meaning God knows everything.
Two Opposite Beliefs Regarding Free Will
The theological or philosophical positions concerning salvation in relation to “free-will” have locked many Christians into either of two opposing camps: Arminianism or Calvinism.
Arminianism is based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) and his historic supporters known as Remonstrants.
Arminians believe that whatever the atonement accomplished, it did so universally for all alike, not just the elect… the atonement is seen as a universally effective propitiation and the basis for a universal offer of salvation. The key verse used for this position is 1 John 2:2.
This point holds that man is the final arbiter of his election, and that God elects him on the basis of foreseen faith which is exercised by libertarian free will, thus making man ultimately decisive.
God has decreed to save … those… [who] believe in Christ; but … leaves in sin those… who are incorrigible and unbelieving. This is in contrast to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election.
This point holds that God never overcomes the [free will] resistance of man to His saving grace. While both Calvinists and Arminians hold that men often resist God’s grace, Arminianism teaches that this resistance is rarely conquered by God because this would be a violation of man’s libertarian free will. The grace of God works for good in all men, and brings about newness of life through faith. But saving grace can be resisted, even by the regenerate. This is in contrast to the Calvinist doctrine of Irresistible grace.
Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism which follows the theological tradition and the forms of Christian practice that were developed by John Calvin and other Reformists…
A doctrine associated with Calvinism teaching that God’s saving grace is applied to all those whom he has determined to save (the elect), whereby in God’s timing, he overcomes their resistance… and irresistibly brings them to salvation… [causing universal salvation].
Summary of Free Will Implications
- If humans have no independent free-will, and everything depends on God’s will alone, then humans don’t have to be concerned about taking any responsibility for any of their actions [even if immoral]. If it is God’s will that they will be saved, they will be saved [regardless]; but if it is not God’s will, there’s nothing they can do. This belief is also related to: Fatalism, Defeatism, and Predestination.
(NOTE: The above stated belief contradicts the verse which says: “…work out your OWN salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12; etc.)
- If on the other hand, everything depends on human free-will alone [with absence of the influence of God’s Holy Spirit], then God is found helpless in trying to save as much of humanity, allowing man to rule with impunity– seemingly more powerful than God?
(NOTE: The above stated belief is also contradicted by: “for it is God who works in YOU both to will and to do for HIS good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
- A third stated position is to deny the existence of human free-will (stated in the belief on Determinism). In effect, we are just like animals; simply acting on natural instinct and reactions; with no moral accountability for any of our actions. But what can’t be denied is that unlike animals, humans have intelligence and creative minds, able to reason, and find creative solutions. Since we are definitely not animals, but rather created in the “image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26,27); this is another FALSE Satanic belief foisted upon gullible humans.
- And if God has already pre-programed everything that we will ever do, then we are simply comparable to ROBOTS. However, the Bible reveals that God did not intend to produce mechanical creatures or robots out of us; but rather spiritual “sons and daughters” (spiritual children). (2 Corinthians 6:18; John 1:12; Romans 8:16, 17; Philippians 2:15; 1 John 3:1; Hebrews 2:10, 11; etc.)
Man Is Created in God’s Image and Likeness
As humans, we now have only the temporary physical image [or form] of God. When He was on earth, Christ looked physically like any other human being in his day. When the disciple Phillip asked Him to “show” them [how the Father looked like], (John 14:8), He answered and said, “… he that has seen me, has seen the Father …” [indicating that the Father likewise has human form—not like a monster or some sort of alien being image as depicted in some movies. (John 14:9; Colossians 1:15)
Little-Understood Truths About Free Will
- The subject on Salvation in relation to “free will” has been much debated upon because most mistakenly believe that this is the only day of salvation. Both 2 Corinthians 6:2; and Isaiah 49:8 have been misunderstood due to textual inaccuracy as illustrated by such verses shown below. However, Ezekiel 37:1-28; and Romans 11:25-32 (among many other Scriptures) clearly shows that “today” is not the only day of salvation. Billions of the now dead who never got the chance to hear the true message of salvation will be raised back to life, because God is fair and just to all.
“Thus says the LORD: “In a [not “the”] time of favor I have answered you; in a day [not “the”] of salvation I have helped you; …” (Isaiah 49:8, ESV, KJV, NAU, YLT)
“for He said [in Isaiah 49:8], ‘In an acceptable time I did hear thee, and in a day of salvation I did help thee, lo, now is a well-accepted time; lo, now, a day of salvation,’ (2 Corinthians 6:2; correctly translated in the YLT)
[NOTE: the indefinite article “a” and “an” is correctly and properly used here.]
- Absence or lack of the knowledge and understanding concerning God’s Master Plan of offering salvation to all the multiple billions of humans who ever lived (but have not had the opportunity to hear about it). It was definitely not their fault that they were born in the years “B.C.” (Before Christ), and/or born in lands and cultures where the true Gospel message was not known or proclaimed while they were still alive. The little known “Seven Annual Holidays of God” commanded to be kept “forever” (Leviticus 23:21, 31, 41) gives a logical clue into the subject of God’s seven steps concerning the offer of salvation for all humanity. (Watch out for more detailed articles on this subject on this website.)
- You will obviously be surprised why is it that among the 7.5 billion people presently alive on earth today, only about 2.42 billion (comparatively a small minority) profess the Christian religion? And yet, we all know that only a small percentage among these so-called Christians are really faithful and sincere. Why? The answer to this question is related to the surprising topic: Today is not the only day of salvation. God has not yet offered (let alone given) the Holy Spirit to all at this time. God is simply preparing a relatively small number of “called out ones” that are being trained now to be part of the “First fruits” (James 1:18) to help rule and teach in the soon-coming Kingdom of God on earth (Revelation 5:10) so that the rest of humanity will begin to also be truly converted and be saved starting then. If you somehow heard or read about a group of 144,000 (Revelation chapter 7 and 14), that should somehow give you a clue of what I am trying to say. Who knows, you can be among that group, too; if God grants you the gift of the Holy Spirit and sees your good attitude in trying to learn as much with the help of articles from this website?
- Most erroneously believe that to be saved, all one does is say the “Sinner’s Prayer” then try to develop that “born again” feeling… and presto, they are forever saved! What most people don’t realize is that God wants every potential child of His to develop a pattern of obedience and good works (Titus 2:7,8) in their lifetime, and begin partaking of that divine nature or character of God in themselves (Hebrews 12:10; 2 Peter 1:4).
Walking with God
This term was originally used in the Old Testament to refer to righteous ones who “walked with God.” Enoch was one of them (Genesis 5:22, 24) and the other one was righteous Noah (Genesis 6:9). Even in the New Testament, John (the last surviving apostle into the ‘90s A.D.), also admonished us to do the same; following Christ’s example when he wrote: “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He [Christ] walked.” NKJ 1 John 2:6
“Walking with God” is a consistent lifetime process (not just a one-time event). In this manner, God can see in us a clear pattern of constant obedience by exercising our free will, and thus resulting to developing a Holy Righteous Spiritual Character in us.
Holy Righteous Spiritual Character is usually defined as: That spiritual quality developed in a being with free will [free moral agency], possessing knowledge of right and wrong, and exercising the ability to choose what is right, in spite of the pressure and influence to do what is wrong.
Example: Joseph in Egypt chose to do what is right in spite of the temptation of his master’s wife to do wrong. (Genesis 39:7-20). Another example is Christ, resisting several temptations from Satan: to satiate his extreme hunger; to demonstrate (with pride) that He is the Son of God; and to obtain right there and then possession of the whole world with all its glory… (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).
When all material things in our mortal life is gone, there is only ONE thing that remains, which is spiritually formed and embedded in our individual “Spirit in Man.” That is the Spiritual Character formed in us, which God will then place into our new spiritual body. (Please read the article on “Spirit in Man” in this BiblicalTruths.com website.)
God Required Mankind to Choose
Most people on earth today have not known what is the purpose of human life. They do not know why God allowed good and evil to co-exist (side by side); thus, forcing us with our free will to make a choice; sometimes, even painful and difficult ones.
Did you know that one of the largest repeated word in the Bible is “If”? It is mentioned in the Bible: 1,679x in the ESV; 1,595x in the KJV; 1,637x in the NKJ; 1,621x in the NAU; and 1,785x in the NIV; among other versions. This fact alone shows clearly that man has a big and constant responsibility to make a consistent decision; to use his free will to choose. Here are two examples below:
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live…
And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Summary and Conclusion
As we have documented, humanity, including most of so-called Christianity is deeply confused regarding “free will” and abysmally ignorant concerning God’s real masterplan and purpose for the salvation of mankind. Let us also be fully warned about Satan’s massive and total campaign to cleverly deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9). Satan has spiritually blinded even those who are expected to teach humanity about God (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Process of Salvation for Those Being Called Now:
Christ said, it is God the Father who determines whom to call (John 6:44,65). For those predestined (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:5,11) or called to be part of the “elect” (Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 1:2) or “firstfruits” (James 1:18; Revelation 14:4) of God’s offer to salvation, the Holy Spirit is graciously granted to each of them by the Father (Romans 5:5), and it continues to dwell in them as they consistently remain obedient (Acts 5:32). God helps those being called in cooperation with their own free will (Philippians 2:13), while each of them seriously works out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
Process of Salvation for Those Not Being Called Now:
For those not included among the “elect” or “firstfruits,” they will have to wait for the time when Christ returns to rule this earth. The Messiah will banish Satan’s influence in deceiving mankind (Revelation 12:9) when the Devil will be cast into the “bottomless pit” (Revelation 20:1-3). With Satan’s worldwide deception gone (Isaiah 25:7), the Holy Spirit will then be poured out upon all flesh [all of humanity] (Joel 2:28-29). For the first time, they will be given a true understanding of God’s plan and purpose to also be part of God’s Family. God will then offer salvation to everyone (Joel 2:32), and those who turn to Him in true repentance and faith will be saved!
In answer to the title of this article: “God’s Sovereignty” indeed reigns supreme over “man’s free will.” However, as part of His benevolent creative plan, God is producing a family kingdom through human beings. Therefore, such spiritual children who eventually qualify for sonship in God’s Kingdom should likewise have proven Righteous Spiritual Character in them, formed through exercising their God-given “free will” in their lifetime. Human life is the testing and training ground for potential children of God. This filtering process of human existence is to make sure that no rebellious being (like Satan and the demons) will ever enter or be part of God’s Holy Righteous Spiritual Kingdom which will rule forever and ever.
For most of our readers, you are beginning to read about many TRUTHS which you have never heard your preachers and religious leaders teach—but you see them clearly written in the Bible. Many of these are big topics, for which we intend to write and detail more in coming articles. So, keep watching for more articles in BiblicalTruths.com and please share them with your friends.