A Brief History of the Will of Man
Many Christians believe sinful humanity has free will. Of course, the Bible does not support this wrong idea, but our task here is to see the historical course of the human will. When God, who in His sovereign will, chose to create man and woman, He made them in His image. This included human will. Adam and Eve were spiritually free, meaning they had the free will to be obedient to God (Gen 2).
In God’s eternal purpose to bring glory to Himself (Eph 3:11), He decreed the fall of man (Gen 3). The pinnacle of God’s creation, man, abused His freedom, and despite being warned of the consequences, man showed that he was not suited for such freedom of the will.
The image of God in man was ruined, and his status outside of the Garden of Eden was total depravity. Man’s will was so depraved that every inclination of his heart was only evil, all the time (Gen 6:5). He willed evil, and his ability was limited to evil. Man was now a sinner, and there was nothing he could do to change his miserable status (Rom 3:9–18). It is not as if he did not enjoy his life of sin. Man was wicked (twisted), and all people living today were born into Adam’s lawless nature and practice. Our natural inclination is still sin, and sin is our daily habit.
Man’s mind was also negatively impacted by his fall into sin. All his thoughts were sinful, and his words exposed what was in his heart — sin. Could he not just decide to be a better person and then just do it? Blind to his reality of being spiritually blind (2 Cor 4:4), he was unaware of his enslavement to Satan, the one who stole dominion over the earth from man.
As a slave, man’s will was enslaved to his master (Satan) and his master’s will (sin). Slaves do not have free will.
The fact of his will being a slave to sin does not mean he could not choose to get out of bed, eat breakfast, do his work, reproduce himself, and all the other activities of life in this world. What his will could not do was choose righteousness and godliness (spiritual good). This is what it means for man to be void of free will. He has a will. He makes choices and decisions all day, every day, throughout the entirety of his life. He is constrained to sin, however.
Can fallen, sinful man please God? Can he make any decision to win favor with God? Do any of his “good works” find acceptance with God? The answer to all of these questions is, “No.” Fallen man is saturated with sin, and he is at enmity with God, unawares.
God, in His sovereign will and mercy made the way for some people to be set free from this slavery. God in Christ set them free, and these saved people were freed from the consequences of sin (wrath, hell, eternal death).
The will of God’s elect regenerate people was restored to the status of being able to choose that which is pleasing and acceptable to God. What is different for Christians, from that of the pre-fall Adam, is that Christians are slaves of Christ (Eph 6:6). Whereas Adam had the freedom of the will to damn himself, the Spirit-filled Christian has no ability to damn himself.
Christians are bought for a price, with Christ’s precious blood, and with that they become His possession (1 Pet 2:9). We are not our own. As objects of God’s mercy (Rom 9:23), Christians are filled with the permanent residing Holy Spirit, who is the living Christ living in our hearts. The life He lives in us is the will of God manifesting more and more (Gal 2:20). God’s will for His beloved people is our sanctification (1 Thess 4:3); and this work is overtaking the sin nature and practice in the child of God, who is being prepared for glory…by the sovereign will of God. Who can resist God’s will for his or her life? No one. His will so influences the believer’s will that joyful obedience has become our desire, despite our dying old nature.
The glorified saint will experience no dualism in his will in heaven. He will be fully hidden in Christ, without sin, and without the possibility of hindrance to his fully submitted will. Free will did not work for Adam, and it has no possibility of working for us. Praise God! Whose will must be done!
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 12, 2021