"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Justification by Faith, Out of Date? B. B. Warfield | Main | The Message of the Cross by Pastor John Samson »

    Free From What? by J.W. Hendryx

    Hey John, how goes it? I enjoyed reading your article on "unregenerate will, self-determined but not free"

    Question: I was wondering if you had anything else similar that you could recommend. I liked your illustrations and examples. I am still trying to find an article that has a good balance of depth, but is not over people's heads and covers the different types of wills, both mans and God's, in detail. Perhaps I wont be able to find everything I'm looking for in one article but I'm trying to put together something for a bible study class so I will be cutting and pasting stuff, hope that is ok?

    Response: Thanks for your inquiry about the concept of free will. For clarity's sake, one important thing we must do when speaking to folks about this issue, I believe, is define the concept of "free will" up front. People come at this with different preconceptions so it is important to explain what you do and do not mean by the expression.

    For example, if someone says they believe man has a free will, you may want to ask them, "free from what?" ... From sin? ... from God's eternal decree?

    What the majority of people actually mean when they claim we have a free will is that they believe we are free from external coersion. This is a good place to start because it is a place that all can agree upon. But what most Reformed people actually mean when we explain that man has "no free will", is not that we are coerced by some outside force. (Coersion here meaning an outside force that would make us involuntarily choose something). No, rather, the Bible explains that the natural man, without the Spirit, is in bondage to a corruption of nature. The expression "bondage" to the natural man speaks of His lack of freedom. His nature is hostile to God and loves darkness (John 3:19, 20). In fact he is in bondage until Christ sets him free (Rom 6). We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness, the Bible tells us. So coersion is not the only form of bondage, there is also bondage because our poor choices are made by necessity due to a corruption of nature. Coersion and necessity are, therefore, both equally valid ways to express that a person lacks free will. Just because we are not coerced into making desisions does not mean the will is free. One may also sin of necessity, due to the natural man's innate hostility to God, by which he will always flee from God, apart from grace.

    Unregenerate man would never choose Christ apart from the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. This brings us to another question that is also important to ask other believers. Can a person believe the gospel apart from any work of the Holy Spirit? No, the Bible testifies that "no one says 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit." (First Corinthians 12.3) The Spirit must turn our heart of stone to a heart of flesh that we might believe. Remember, in the Bible, freedom is always defined as holiness, not the moral ability to choose equally between the opposites of good or evil. Otherwise the saints in heaven and even God Himself would have less freedom than we do, since (being sealed in righteousnes and their inability to violate their own essential nature) they do not have a free will in the libertarian sense. Instead Jesus sets us free from the will and affections' bondage to sin ... which is the only freedom the Bible speaks of...

    Also see *John 6:65 together with 6:37. No one will believe in Jesus unless God grants it and ALL to whom God grants it will believe. The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. (John 6:63).

    Related Essays
    The Will of God by R.C. Sproul
    Man's Utter Innability to Rescue Himself by Thomas Boston
    Bible Logic Fallacies of Synergists by Hendryx & Smalling

    Visitor Response:
    sometimes life's greatest depths are explored by life's littlest expressions. I have been in many a debate and dialogue with armins and uninformed believers and not once did I ever think to ask from what we are free. I knew. I know. It just never came out of my mouth. defining terms! yes of course but you make it look so simple. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, it will take some time to buff the rust out, hehe.

    Posted by John on February 27, 2006 03:22 PM

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