What Does the Bible Say About Free Will?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, June 25, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Growing up in the church, we would often have events where there was a “free will” offering collected. Rather than charge a fee to attend the event, you could give whatever you wanted (if anything) toward the event’s cost or whatever cause funds were being raised for. One of the pastors had a saying about free will offerings that I still remember (and sometimes use): “You got in free, so you will give an offering!”

So, what is “free will”? According to Google’s dictionary, free will is defined as “the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion.” Free will is being autonomous and able to make our own decisions, not being controlled by some being in authority over us.

God created humans in His image (Genesis 1:27), so we all have the desire to choose good or evil, just as the first people Adam and Eve did. They knew the rules God had set for them (Genesis 2:16-17), and they broke those rules (Genesis 3). That was the first example of humans’ free will being exercised.

Because of that original sin, our human nature generally chooses to go against God. The people of Israel continually had to make the choice to serve God or to serve their own selfish desires or the other peoples around them. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 demonstrates this: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Joshua 24:15 shows how Joshua and his household chose to serve God: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

We too have the choice to repent from those evil actions and turn back to God (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Acts 3:19). It is our choice to believe in Jesus and choose to follow Him, or to continually choose to turn away from Him (1 John 3:23). In John 1:12-13 we see that we still have the option to be made right with God again: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

The apostle Paul struggled with his free will in Romans 7:15-21: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” Just like each one of us, Paul had the choice to do what he knows is right or to go against that. He struggled with knowing what is right and desiring to do it, yet not being able to fully do that. That’s the free will that God has given us.

Of course, we are not free to choose absolutely anything we want. I could choose to fly, but that doesn’t give me the ability to do it. Our free will is still bound by the laws of nature and this world that God has created for us. We also need to be aware of God’s natural law, where we will experience consequences for the choices that we’re free to make. We will reap the consequences for our choices and actions in this world.

I often say, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” This pretty well sums up free will; we can make lots of choices that turn us away from God, but just because we CAN make those choices doesn’t mean we SHOULD. Choose this day to love and serve God with your life!

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