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  • « Four Helpful Essays by Kevin Stevenson | Main | Romans Chapter 9 »

    Do People, by Nature, Have a Free Will to Come to Christ?

    Does any person, by nature, have a free will to come to faith in Jesus Christ? No. The Bible declares that we were all held captive by our corruptions, Satan and the world. That is why Paul prays for unbelievers, "…if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” Now if we were held captive to do someone else’s will then it is clear that our will was not free, and according to the above passage, freedom comes to an individual only when God grants it. Likewise when Jesus promises freedom to the captives to sin, He says, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) And again, in like manner Paul declares that "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart form the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor 12:3) We would only do ourselves harm if left to our own boasted free will.

    Notice the word "perhaps" before praying for God to grant them repentance. This clearly reveals that in Paul's mind, God did not do so for everyone. This granting of repentance was only for those the Father has "given" the Son (John 6 & 17) Likewise Jesus does not say "when the Son sets you free" but rather "IF the Son sets you free..."

    Posted by John on January 22, 2013 04:18 PM


    Just this morning I was thinking about free will and election in the story of Lot and son-in-laws.

    We read two things there in that chapter.

    One: (4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house.)

    Here it is recorded "to the last man"!

    Then this: (14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, "Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city." But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.)

    Fairly clear these two were not chosen to saved from the wrath pending.

    I base that conclusion on this "happening":
    (15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city."
    16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.)

    It sure reads like Lot and family were seized upon and forced to leave promptly?

    How is that for freely willingly submitting to the will of God?

    This story to me seems more like God answering another's prayer for them?


    That is a really good point.


    Michael. Not sure what version you are quoting but, the NKJV uses "the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city". While it may appear they were seized, Matthew Henry states that if God had not been merciful to us, our lingering would be our ruin. I also like your point but I think if we look at the overall context, it shows that we are not always eager to leave our life styles and it is only through God's mercy that we are able to. Lot seemed to have a real concern for the well being of his family and quite possibly put their lives in front of his own thinking they all would be saved. Does this shed some insight on your questions? Thanks


    taking it a bit farther let me ask?

    Would you agree that the free will of the sons-in-law, their choice to not "believe" (faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God spoken by Lot) is indicative of the non-elect not being given the Faith to believe the Word of God and in so doing resulting in their salvation?

    And the Elect have a propensity as Lot to be more careful, complacent and reticent because of the Faith they have been given? Because of this sort of weakness we are continually in need of daily salvation from God and in some extreme cases, as in Lot's, we need to be manhandled by the Lord's Angels?

    I mean to say, that one argument could be mounted against the Election doctrine by virtue of the response of Lot's sons-in-law that men have free will to make a choice to receive the Word of God? But I don't see it that way. I see it that men, who are not of the foreknown Elect, predetermined, have only their free will to rely upon in this short viporous life, so fleeting and quick and then they too are gone as we believe free will doesn't get anyone into that restored relationship lost in the Garden?

    And God continually overrides our free will by seizure if necessary to get us out of harms way, saving us from certain consequences.

    The Apostle wrote to the Philippians this:

    Php 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
    Php 3:21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

    Anyway, just some more contemplative thoughts because of your article I wanted to put on the table to see if you would speak to them?


    you must have been posting while I was writing the latest response.

    I was quoting the ESV translation.

    If you think seize is too strong of a word, maybe you should contact the translators?

    As I made mention above I see myself as quite lazy when it comes to the overall blessings of God in my life and sometimes I find myself resisting "change" especially when it is change from above to my way of life below.

    Yes, you have broaden the discussion with your comments, thanks!

    Michael; not sure if 'seize' is too strong a word. I happen to like the ESV, along with KJV, NKJV & NASB. I also try to word search the original text to see how it was meant to be used. (I am at work and don't have access to my library)I am sure you know the drill; using trustworthy sources to help understand the Word of God. You have definitely given me some homework though and I always like it when someone makes me think. It's a good way to grow! Thanks


    Glad to inspire you to think. These guy who publish articles in here inspire me to think too!

    I just looked at the Hebrew in a few translations and the word is :
    Transliteration: chazaq
    Pronunciation: khä·zak'
    Part of Speech: verb
    Root Word (Etymology): a primitive root

    Got back to the post today. Thanks for the reference material. Many possible definitions to the Hebrew word - CHAZAQ. I looked at the Geneva Studay Bible and this is how it's worded - And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.
    I am leaning towards th 1a definition (to prevaail, prevail upon). Would be interesting to know what John H. thinks.

    I also read about Lot's escape from Sodom and Gomorrah with my wife the other night. Another parallel that may or may not be warranted that I noticed there with Christ's saving work was that at the end of that whole chapter, it summarizes it with:

    "So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived." (ESV)

    It was God's remembrance of ABRAHAM and not Lot that caused him to SEND Lot out of the overthrow. That jumped out at me.

    The parallel:

    And so it was that, when the wrath of God was being stored up for the day of judgment, that God remembered Jesus Christ and sent Kaleb Penner out of the wrath that was to come.

    It may not be warranted by the text, but it fits doesn't it? I was saved ultimately for the sake of Christ, not my own, in order that he might see the travail of his soul and be satisfied. It certainly wasn't the memory of ME that caused him to save me...

    I recommend you listen to John MacArthurs sermon on election and free will, he makes a very good biblical argument for both. you can not be dogmatic and say it's all election and predestination when there are specific verses that talk about mans response. I'll post the sermon.


    Thank you for your post. I think the issue here is about definitions. It is important to define what we are talking about up front. When you say man has a free will, what do you mean? Free from what? Free from sin? Also let me say that If you think Dr. John MacArthur is arguing for free will then, I believe, you may have profoundly misunderstood him. He actually affirms exactly the same thing all other Reformed thinkers do about this issue. With him, we affirm that men all make voluntary choices and no one coerces anyone against their will to make a choice. We always chose what we desire the most. That is not the issue of the free will debate...

    Problem is that the person without the Holy Spirit (the unregenerate) always desires that which is contrary to God. Nothing he does proceeds from a heart that loves God. The issue of free will or not is to ask this:, left to themselves as fallen human creatures who are in bondage to a corruption of nature, does anyone have a free will to believe in Jesus Christ? We all have a will, but we use it wrongly ...we do not have the will to believe in Christ, apart from grace. The need for grace does away with free will altogether because if man's will was naturally free he would not need grace at all. He could come to Christ on his own. But ask yourself, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit will anyone freely come to faith in Christ? If your answer is no, then you reject free will the same way I do. So to teach man has a free will in this sense, i.e. that the natural man has a free will overthrows the gospel ... it is precisely because man is in bondage that he needs Christ to set him free." (John 8:34, 36)

    The discussion about free will has always historically been about the bondage of the will and affections. And that which is in bondage is not free. We are not talking about not being free to choose which toothpaste we are going to use tomorrow morning. We are talking about does a fallen person have the ability to make a good saving choice apart from the work of the Holy Spirit? The Bible seems pretty clear on this. Hope this helps clarify a bit.

    Solus Christus

    I believe that if everyone relied on free will too much, we would all be more lost than ever. In my experience, everyone needs to have a little bit more coaxing to be able to make the right decision and choose the right path.

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