What Does “Free Will” Mean Anyway?

One may often hear theologians defend the “free will” of man. The topic usually centers on a belief that man has a choice to accept Jesus and receive eternal life, or reject Him and suffer eternal separation. This is accompanied with an erroneous belief that God is incapable of interfering with the will of man in whatever he chooses to do concerning the offer of eternal life. Needless to say, I have issues with this. I wish everyone would take issue with it because when we do a biblical study of the will of man we will find out what man is really capable (and incapable) of by nature.

Freedom of Choice Within Nature

God created Adam, the first man, and he was complete. God did not create Adam incorruptible. We know this because Adam disobeyed God and thus fell into corruption and that corrupted nature has been passed along to every man since (Rom. 5:17-19). Adam, in a good state (Gen. 1:31), had such great liberty in what he could do. The Bible tells us there was only one thing Adam was not supposed to do, eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:17). It was within the ability of Adam to choose to eat of the forbidden fruit even though he shouldn’t. His choices were before him to either live or die, since God said that if you eat of the forbidden fruit you will die. We all know what Adam chose. He chose death rather than life.

Adam in his perfect nature and “free will” still made an evil choice. It should be noted that man has never existed in that perfect nature since Adam sinned. Because of Adam’s transgression all humanity has fallen and now we all possess a nature of death (1 Pet. 1:24; Rom. 7:18). Our nature is a limiting factor. The nature of man only knows death. It cannot choose life because it is not familiar with it and cannot conceive such a thing (1 Cor. 2:14). Life is not an option.

An analogy may help to explain this: consider a dog, maybe your own pet dog. You have expectations for that dog based upon the nature you know a dog possesses. You would never expect a dog to speak English, solve algebraic equations and carry out the responsibilities of driving the children to school and helping with their homework. It is not within a dog’s nature to perform such work as was mentioned. However, a dog can perform the actions that are within its nature and can make choices based upon its ability. For example, Rover can choose to eat the food placed before him or not. Rover can choose to roll over and retrieve a ball that has been thrown. Perhaps you get the idea. Dogs do dog things.

The same applies to every nature, including that nature which we are born with, the nature of sin and death (Rom. 8:2). The sinful nature only does sinful nature things. We are bound to that nature and can only make choices that the abilities of that nature allow us to make. What are those choices? To sum it up: no good thing. We, through our sinful nature, cannot make choices of goodness or holiness. It is impossible for us to do good works by the nature of man alone. That sounds terrible, right? Well don’t fret because God doesn’t expect us to make a choice that He knows is impossible for us to make, let alone understand.

God Knows Better

Simply said, God doesn’t leave our eternal salvation up to us to choose or reject. Just like you wouldn’t expect your dog to choose whether it should cook its own dinner on the stove, or order take-out for itself; you know better than that! God knows better than that, too. He knows we couldn’t choose Him since our nature would not allow us to even think upon Him. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isa. 55:9). It was and is impossible for us to choose God based upon our “free will” (which is limited by our natural abilities).

So how are we delivered if we cannot choose God? God makes it clear in His word that it wasn’t our choice to begin with, but rather it was His choice from the beginning. He chose us! And He has plans for us based upon that choice. He has chosen us in Jesus Christ long before we were ever created. Long before we ever fell and corrupted our nature. God chose for us to be His children all the while knowing what we would get ourselves into (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:29). God didn’t base His choice upon any decision of ours, because, once again, we couldn’t choose Him. He chose us, but He didn’t stop there.

New Nature Means New Abilities

Since God chose us to be His children He then has expectations for us. How can the expectations of God be met while we are still limited in the nature of sin? We need a new nature, and I’m happy to say that God knows that, too. What God does to every person He has chosen before the world began is give them a new nature. That new nature is a spiritual nature. The spiritual nature did not come to us because we asked for it, since the nature we possessed before it came was incapable of comprehending anything from God. Rather, that spiritual nature came to us by the eternal decision of God in the love that He has for us (Titus 3:5; John 3:8). We have an eternal, spiritual nature because God declared in His great love for us that we should live with Him in His glory, in spite of our sin and dead works.

So those expectations God has for us, they are fulfilled by Him, too. He expects us to be His servants and His children (Heb. 10:12-14). TO be transformed into new creatures. He pays for that transformation through His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. He applies that transforming nature to us, by His will, not ours, at the new birth. Once God providentially applies that new spiritual nature, we then have new abilities. We can see spiritual things. We can hear spiritual messages. We can understand the matters of God. Where at first we were blind, deaf and ignorant; now we are made aware. Now we are enabled to serve the living God. Once we are in possession of the spiritual nature, it is with us forever. There is no losing, forgetting, or leaving it. God has secured it for us forever (Rom 8:35-39).

The Freewill Choice Was Never Ours

Praise God that He didn’t leave our eternal life up to a choice we could not make. The false premise that so many theologians try to use won’t work. They assume God cannot interfere with the will of man. They say that this would contradict His nature and the way He created man. What an important attribute they forget concerning God’s sovereign power. God is sovereign in choosing His children, and He is sovereign in imposing His will upon them by making them alive in Christ. This completely routs the idea that God cannot disrupt the “free will” of men. God has gone utterly against the will of wicked men by giving us a new nature that we would have never desired for ourselves.


The conclusions that can then be made are that God is truly the only one who has free will to choose whatever He would be pleased to choose. That man, in comparison, is finite and extremely limited in what he can actually choose to do in his natural state. Once God gives us spiritual life, according to His free will, we then have an expanded nature to do things we could never do before thus giving us a greater life and nature.

Does God hope for man to choose Him? No. God made the choice before the world began. Does God interfere with the “free will” of man? Yes. And we are better for it. Praise God!

Matthew 16:16-17

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Originally published February 2016

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