Men foolishly believe they have free will (the ability to choose all the moral options that a situation offers). Men, however, have no natural ability to choose God (one erroneous assumption in Arminian preaching). Unfortunately, some Christians believe they have free will, too. They are confused.
It is true that God has endowed man with a will, and he certainly has free agency (the ability to make choices), but human will is influenced by potent spiritual forces. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests the will of man is free from those influences. Our decisions are in alignment with whichever force is greater (sin or grace).
There is an assumption that because men make choices and decisions that they must be free to do so (what choice does the heroin addict have?). Many Christians assume that if God has given them an imperative that they have the freedom to comply or not comply. The matters here include will and ability.
The Bible describes men in various terms, but in the recognition of the truth that there are only two distinct groups in God’s view, we are constrained. For this article, we will employ the contrasting phrases, “slave to sin” and “slave to Christ,” in order to distinguish human will and ability.
All men are born into the world of sin, as slaves to sin (Ps 51:5; Rom 6:6). Most people deny this fact, which almost makes my point, entirely. We progress, however. Progeny of the first Adam inherit and then naturally perform what their inner principle (sin nature) directs them to do (Rom 3:23; Eph 2:3). Man is obedient to his own sin nature. Sin reigns in his mortal body, and his mind is set on the flesh (1 Cor 2:14). His sinful affections and emotions get the best of him. What’s worse, sin is irresistibly directing each person’s steps toward death (Rom 6:23). One’s sin nature is also acted upon by Satan, demons, and a world filled with temptations (1 Jn 2:15–17).
Death is the inexorable draw for sinners. If you were born of a woman, being of the seed of Adam, you will die in your trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). All have sinned, and no façade of righteousness will endure the day of God’s wrath against sinners (Mt 3:7; Lk 3:7; Rom 2:5). Sin is proved; death is surely coming; and just judgment is promised for slaves to sin (Heb 9:27).
Satan sweetens sin and makes it a seductive addiction. Satan acts as the judge of sinners, excusing them, even exhorting them to continue in the way of darkness, the way of destruction (Ps 82:5; Prv 2:13; Eccl 2:14; Jn 8:12; 12:35; Rom 2:15). His subjects are the walking dead, unable and unwilling to be anything other than what they are in fact. Sinners are not coerced to sin. They love sin, and they love sinning (Jn 3:19). The results of sin, like a hangover, is their lament. In the end, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt 8:12; 13:42).
When God has mercy upon those He will have mercy (Rom 9:15), He sends them His life-giving Holy Spirit (Jn 14:26; 15:26; 1 Cor 15:45). The Spirit bears witness of the living Christ (Acts 1:8), whose Word is life to those He gives faith (Jn 6:63; Phil 1:29). Faith comes to God’s chosen people, when it is preached in their hearing and appropriated by the Spirit (Lk 4:18; Rom 10:17; 15:19; 1 Cor 2:4; 1 Pet 1:12). The miracle of Christian conversion is an act of God’s grace (Eph 2:8–9), evidenced by a repentant soul (Acts 5:31), that now trusts Christ, where she did not trust Him before.
The warmth of God’s love, in Christ, is the believer’s new state, having been transferred from the coldness of her former dark lord (Col 1:13). Having received God’s love in her heart (Rom 5:5), the Christian now fulfills her new role, which is, “slave of Christ (Eph 6:6).”
God is love (1 Jn 4:8), and the love of Christ constrains those who are not ashamed of the good news of their liberty from sin and death (2 Cor 5:14). Whereas, the sinner loves sin, the Christian loves Christ (1 Jn 4:19). The slave boasts of her Lord (Gal 6:14) and reports all the spiritual blessings she has in His kingdom of light (Eph 1:3).
The slave of Christ says, in following her Lord, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” To obediently work, as His witness in this fallen world, is the martyr’s (witness’) joy. She is a vessel of mercy (Rom 9:23), filled with His witnessing Spirit (Acts 4:31; 13:9, 52), who is willing and doing His good pleasure in her (Phil 2:13). In this way, she is not free. She is a slave of Christ, who is powerfully influenced by His abounding grace (Rom 5:15, 20; 2 Cor 4:15; 9:8). The Christian is terrified of the prospect of free will; she trembles, “Look what happened to Adam and Eve.” Instead, she sings, “Have Thine own way, Lord, have thine own way.”
It is not the will, nor ability, of the slave that brings glory to Christ. She exclaims, in her enslavement, “Christ lives in me! I have died to sin. I have died with Christ, and the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I belong to Him. I am identified with His Name. I am marked with His brand. I have His seal engraved upon my heart. I have the mind of Christ because He has given me His Spirit. His Word dwells in me, richly. He is Christ Jesus, my Lord. He is my all in all. I will bear witness of His goodness and glory all of my days. Here I stand. I can do no other, for He is my Master, and I am His slave.”
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 11, 2021