MAN -- A FREE MORAL AGENT?
Whose will can go unchanged in the eternal flame of God? What form of death can abide in the presence of Christ, the Lord of Life? How can manís lowly life survive when He who is from above, and above all, invades that which is from beneath? What can remain hidden when He who is Light descends into the lowest regions of our hell and illumines the darkness? And when His unquenchable fire burns until it reaches the extremities of our utmost carnal being, and His blazing glory breaks forth to the outer crust, what realm of corruption can endure? Can the will of combustible flesh withstand the will of His flaming spirit of fire? If it can, then matter is greater than Spirit, wood can resist fire, man is mightier than God, Adam reigns over Christ, darkness is superior to Light, hate is stronger than Love; and there is no guarantee that Life will ever prevail over death, that the hidden things of hell will ever be exposed, or that the captives in the grave will ever go free. If man's will is forever unchanged and is truly free to do as it pleases, then there will never be the complete salvation of any soul, for that subtle thing always lusts after the things of the flesh. It is enmity against the Spirit of God, and is not subject to it in any form or fashion. If man is a "free moral agent," then that burning Life within the womb of humanity's soul doesn't stand a chance to make its way to the surface. It is forever doomed to the fate of what the carnal mind chooses to do.
The mind-set of man being a moral agent who is free to choose as he pleases is no different than the idea of children who from birth to adulthood have unrestrained freedom to do as they please. If children are expected to grow into anything of worth, such disparaging liberty of will simply isn't permitted. Whether they are children of a family or the children of God, restrictions are placed upon them. But how does this apply to those who are not born from above? Are they also chained by the bonds of love and Godly guidance? Before one is awakened to Christ, he is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1), dead to God, dead to truth, dead to purity, dead to reality, dead to anything that pertains to the life from above. The record continues: "In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging in the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as the rest" Ephesians 2:2-3.
In spite of what is so obvious, it is commonly believed that we are sinners by choice rather than being sinners by nature and always chooses to sin; that is, missing the mark of righteousness of Jesus Christ . We were born into this condition because of Adam, the natural father of humanity. By default, the man of sin made us slaves to sin. All who came afterwards had nothing to do about the matter. In no way did we will it, choose it, or give consent to it. We were born b it and in it. So I ask, is man a free moral agent? Absolutely not! Man is not a free moral agent. He is indeed an agent, a mediator, but it is the agency of death, not life. He is not moral, not in the sense of godliness. He is free but only in the realm wherein he was born. His will has to do that which comes naturally. That is, he has a free will to chose that which is enmity against God; but he is not free to choose God whose nature he does not possess. We must, therefore, conclude that man was born an immoral slave to sin and is incapable of mediating anything but death!
Who Freely Seeks After God?
During many people's quest for life, they may "feel after God," as Paul told those on Mars hill Acts 17:27; but we should not think this suggests that they are freely willing to seek God and choose Him as their center of life rather than themselves. For you see, the word feel (pselaphao) carries the thought of manipulation, which is common in religion. TO SEEK, (ekzeteo), however, is much stronger. It means to search out, to crave. Many will manipulate circumstances in their lives with attempts to reach the stars of glory; but how many crave that which is contrary to their fallen nature?
Truthfully, as slaves to sin, man is incapable of doing or desiring anything pleasing to God. Until his spirit is quickened by Christ's Spirit, he is a slave to the yearnings of the flesh, his carnal mindedness is in enmity against God. It is not subject to anything that is godly, and neither can it be (Rom. 8:7). In the simplest of terms, he is an enemy toward God, and this especially includes his religious practices. Man will maintain that he still has a spark of divine good in his heart, but the scripture contradicts him: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9). Man will contend that he is a free moral agent and can accept or reject the Lord by his own will and initiative, but the apostle Paul disagrees: "There is none righteous, no not one. There is none that understands, there is none that seeketh after God" Romans 3:10-11. He may seek glory, or a way to preserve his earthy life, but none seeks God.
The religious mind of Adam pursues those things that satisfy the appetites of self, those things of the earth that fathers nothing but death. In his carnal mind he will attempt to shine once again as the son of the morning. He will promote his own ascension back to the heights of the heavens, and with much religion exalt his earthen throne above the stars of God. He will desire to sit in the sides of the north among the heavenly host, but like in the beginning, he will be cut down to the grave Isaiah 14:12-15 -- for it is a slave to sin and death. It cannot begin to escape it on its own.
Man with this mind-set devises elaborate plans with which to soar beyond the distant galaxies. Some of those intrigues involve scourging himself with searing lightning bolts of "fire-burning" scriptures, self-flagellation, and damning condemnation. They often thunder the law with great conviction, establishing concrete dogmas that are followed to the letter. His plans of salvation swing in the other direction as well. He has assembled all the self-praises that can be imagined, while collecting and preaching to himself all the loving words of promise that the Bible contains. He has believed with all his might, yet still he fails to live. The plain truth is, he can't call himself to the royal path of Life. Religion will fail him, adulation of self and condemnation of others will profit nothing, and belonging to the "right" church, club, or crowd will prove futile. Until God comes with his grace and makes him live, there is nothing he can do but to remain proud and dead. Whether they lie in the grave dead or are dead in trespasses and sins, they will stay that way until Life overshadows them and calls them forth. When the Voice of the Son of God is heard, then they shall live (Jn 5:24-25). This is election, conscription! This is not a volunteer army by any means! It is the draft!
Before Christ drafts/draws/drags anyone, he or she is in no position to make a free-will choice toward salvation. For they have been sold as slaves under sin and death, and slaves have no free will other than to be exercised in the realm under which they abide. For instance: "For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin (unto death). For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I."
We have now been sold again; but this time it has been under righteousness (unto life). We have a new buyer who bought us with a great price, His very life, and we had no more of a choice in the matter than we did with the first sale! Ask the slaves who were sold prior to the Civil War: "What control did you have in your sale and purchase? If we could hear them, their trumpeting cry would beóNOTHING! And it is the same with both Adam and Jesus. We had nothing to do with our death and we have nothing to do with our life. It is God! It is God and His infinite plan of the ages that envelops us all, first under sin and death, and then under righteousness and life.
Man is sold under sin. He is a slave to sin. There is nothing he can do about being delivered from it if it is left to his own volition. There is virtually nothing about him that is free to change his state of death. Even if he want to, he cannot help himself, and if he had the inclination to do so, it would be in accordance with what his own mind conceives to be salvation, such as, playing harps, celestial picnics, expensive mansions, and perhaps walking on streets of literal gold. He then assumes that he can work his way into his creative presumptions and misinterpretations of holy writ. So he still seeks not after God, but only his own natural appraisal and appeasement.
Some men, like rebellious teenage children of a household, may appear that they cross the line at times to where they can never be restored to a wholesome life; but by experience many families come to know that in due time most often those children come back to good standards of living, especially when love, care, and sometimes severe corrections are administered. Likewise, it is with those called of God to serve Jesus Christ.
Those in the reservoir of the world, however, are not expected to live Godly. They who are held in those confines simply can't exude true holiness; for you see, they are dead in trespasses and sins. They are dead to the high things of God. Frankly, dead men can only do what dead men do -- remain dead until the breath of life is breathed into them. They cannot self-resuscitate. Whatever they do while they are dead, whether it is good or evil, is still from the same source -- the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that brought death to Adam in the first place. That is the only tree he has liberty to eat from. Until the Spirit of the Father draws him to Jesus, which no man can do unless he is drawn by the Spirit (Jn. 6:44), he is a slave to the one who beguiled him, or her. He is subservient to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2). Therefore, whether he is making good choices or evil ones, he is not free, and neither is his will free. He and his will are bound slaves, tied up if you please, in the nature and death of Adam.
Who, then, can be saved and delivered from this bondage of death if it depends entirely on the Spirit to draw the people? What if God should never choose to draw a man, or perhaps some are bypassed for some reason or another? Or they crossed the forbidden line of tolerance, and they are just set aside and forgotten about? Rest assured, beloved, there is no cause for concern, for Jesus said this: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth (signifying His death upon the cross), will draw all men to Myself" (John 12:32). More accurately from the Greek manuscripts it reads, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will drag all men to myself." Sounds fairly emphatic, doesn't it? The fact is, you are right! It is emphatic! Jesus, who is the beginning of all creation, shall love, care for, and correct until every soul is gathered along side Himself, and, of course, some gently and some severely; but they will all be drawn and dragged to where He is. Now, that is good news!
Again the question, is man a free moral agent? Please be reminded, there has never been a soul born that is free. Mankind was sold under sin. And when a person is sold, he or she becomes a servant/slave, and they are only free to the degree the owner permits. So anyone sold under sin in not free, and with the stroke of rebellion flowing through the veins of mankindís soul, there are none who are moral. Not one soul has ever been moral, for we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. And furthermore, there is not one human being who is worthy to be an agent of good, i.e. of mediating between men and God. The simple face is, Jesus Christ alone was the first man to be free. He was moral and was an agent of righteousness but Him. He was the manifested author of freedom and morality. This made Him the perfect agent of it all. This is why He is the mediator between man and God as the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:5. And now we are joined to Him, we are one in Him, we are inseparably fused to Him. Therefore, being in such a united condition with Him we can be called free and moral, and He who is in the midst of us is the Agent, the Mediator, to a dead world that is buried in sin and waiting to be called forth and made alive with Him! Surely, we can hear their groan while waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God.
Due to the nature by which man is born, he cannot help from attempting to lift himself above the God who made him. He is born with it. Try as he may, he cannot escape it. In this he makes himself like God, as the serpent told the woman she would be if she ate of the tree of the knowledge of good an evil. Of course, gods have free will; but carnal gods can only will their own earthy godhood which ends not in immortality, but death! If such a notion of willing, believing, and entering into divine godhood were true, then men would be the captain of their own salvation. They could lay out their own destiny, while the God of all creation, with hands tied, sits on His laurels and has nothing to do with it. With this scenario, these free moral agents would have to rely upon the creature, themselves, rather than the Creator for deliverance from sin and death. If this were remotely true, then man would be mapping out and piloting his own destiny with Jesus sitting as his co-pilot to be used only in case of an emergency.
Do we for one moment think that if it had not been in the plan of God for Adam and his generations to walk the avenue of death, the Lamb would have been slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8)? If man had chosen of his own accord to walk the perilous path of death, it is unlikely Paul would have written: "For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, NOT OF ITS OWN WILL, but because of HIM WHO SUBJECTED IT, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Rom. 8:19-21). You see, in Adam humanity was subjected to the futility of death. They had no choice of the matter, and this was for a good reason. Paul explains that they would be set free from the slavery of corruption, no longer to be a mere formation of the earth, but that they would be BORN OF GOD! It is one thing to be formed from the earth, but it is another matter to be born from above. Thus, they wait for the manifestation of the Sons of God so they too can by nature and authority have dominion over the heavenly works of God's fingers, as Psalms 8:3-6 and Hebrews 2:6-10 tells us so plainly. Humanity would remain bound to the earth and would never be lord of anything but of the earth. Lords of the dust would be their maximum achievement. For being of the earth, earthy, they could never be masters of the heavens. But in Jesus they will rise and rule in their own individual heavens.
Also, if Adam was able to exercise free will and upset God's plan in the beginning, what assurance would we have for a victory in the future? If His plan could be foiled once, what guarantee do we have that it can't happen again? Frankly, there would be none.
No, brethren, man will not, and cannot, lead himself into divine godhood. His will is not free at all in this respect. It is not free to will anything but that which ministers death. It is not until after God's will and grace becomes a reality in him; that is, being born of the Spirit, that he can will that which is heavenly. It is then, and not before, that he can echo the words of Jesus, "I always do that which pleases My Father." Beforehand, the man is bound in death by sin, and this is according to God's pronouncement in the beginning of the fall. In Christ man's will is compassed about in Life, transforming his mind; but in Adam, it is a shackled slave in the confines of death.
We will notice some very clear, yet often overlooked statements: "It is GOD which worketh in you both to will and to do of HIS good pleasure" Philippians 2:13. "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him..." John 6:44. "It is not of him that wills or of him that runs, but of GOD that shows mercy" Romans 9:16. "WHO will have all to be saved..." 1 Timothy 2:4. And "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of HIM who worketh all things after the counsel of H-I-S OWN WILL" Ephesians 1:11.
The thought of predestination, as mentioned in the verse above is not embraced by everyone. There are various reasons for this; but for some it is difficult to imaging that God would really predetermine what would transpire in peopleís lives. If this were the case, it would mean that God's will would be greater than their own. Of course, they may tell you that His will is greater than theirs; but their doctrine denies it, and the thought that manís will does not have the last say in the matter is very hard for the carnal mind to accept. If predestination is true and their will is not sovereign unto itself, it would mean that they lose control of their destiny. To think of their lives being placed into the hands of someone they have never come to know can be very unsettling. Besides, if their will is not supreme, God might take them places where they would no choose to go. By nature, they are much more confident in their own "law abiding" ways of bondage than the gamble of freedom which comes through the inworking gift of God's grace.
I was in a quite some years ago, and the subject of demon possession came up. A brother then expressed the thought of someone being "possessed by the Spirit of Christ." If a man could be possessed by a demon, it was questioned, could he also be possessed by Christ, but in the sense of good? One felt that if we were "possessed," even if it was by the Spirit of Christ, that we would lose our free will, which would make us "robots" of some sort with no will at all. To him the possibility was out of the question. I then shared from my own experience of not choosing Christ until after He chose me. Prior to me having been chosen by Him, I had no desire whatsoever to chose Him. I also referred to various scriptures relating to His sovereignty, especially that God "...works all things after the council of His own will" Ephesians 1:11, as mentioned above. And Jesus said, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you" John 15:16. I pointed out how it was God who chose Paul and separated him from his mother's womb, namely, the confines of his former religious order, and revealed Christ in him Galatians 1:15-16. It was made clear that prior being called and chosen, Paul did not choose to be born of God no more than a child can choose to be born of its parents. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual.
Afterwards, I was asked, "What you are saying then, is that everyone is where they are supposed to be; it's just that they have to be called of God, placed in the body of His choosing, and then grow to maturity?" My reply was simply, "Yes." Before there can be any maturity, they have to hear the Life-giving, Quickening Voice of the Son of God. Jesus must first be revealed, and then the process of maturing begins. Until then, they are dead and with no desire toward God whatsoever, yet they are right where they are supposed to beódead in Adam, deep in the grave of humanity's death, waiting like Lazarus to be called forth.
The following day, my brother Tim, who was also at the meeting, shared some tremendous thoughts that the Spirit had stirred in him. He brought out how the writers of the New Testament very often referred to us as servants, and in the Greek it is even stronger, i.e. slaves. He then said, "If someone is a servant/slave then his will is no longer an issue, it is not a factor. In reality his freewill becomes that of his Master. His will is always the will of the One who owns him."
What a simple, yet profound truth! Who can resist the One who bought him? Jesus paid the price with His life, purchasing the whole world, the fullness thereof, and everyone in it, as we read in Matthew 13:46 and Psalm 24:1. Prior to the purchase, humanity was sold into slavery under the control of sin, according to Paul in Romans 7:14. Before Christ illumined our minds, we gave ourselves to sin, we were slaves to it; but praise God, there was a day when a new Master possessed our souls, and our slaveship, that is, sonship was to another.
There Is a Will in Man
It may have seemed that after this new allegiance in Christ, our will was free to choose whatsoever we desired, whether life or death. Truthfully, for a season that element of choice did exist: "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (Rom. 6:16-18).
After one's eyes are opened to the truth he may then be able to exercise his will in a way he had never known. It was not until the powerful rays Godís grace penetrated deep into his dead heart that he could be free chose to be one with His eternal purpose for him. Of course, as he travels down the path of Life in Christ Jesus, he is allowed to freely go to the left or to the right, but only as far as the Lord permits. Regardless of what we may see in our brothers and sisters lives, please know that His will continues to prevail, and all is well, really! Sometimes, a man or woman seemingly goes a long way off course. They may stray so far as to live with the pigs; but even so, this works for his good. It produces in the soul the ultimate victory over his wanderlust. It is a part of the workings of God that ends his desire and lure of the world upon his unregenerated soul. Such hardships help to make his heart true and whole as it directs him homeward and prepares his heart to hear the voice of his Father, "Welcome home son. Take My robe, My ring and My shoes. Now, come, let us and all My household eat." (Oneness and communion of the Word and Spirit throughout the body of Christ.)
Experience teaches us that we can either yield ourselves to the lust of the flesh unto death, or once His voice is heard, to the obedience of the Spirit unto life. This lends to the thought that man can exercise his free will unto his eternal demise, and if he chooses, as it is supposed, he can do so forever. People can submit to sin and death, but it is seasonal and at the most, for an age. For there will be a time for every soul of being drawn by Jesus unto Himself. Or have we forgotten John 12:32? "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all...unto me" John 12:32. But please know that this is some sort of easy street salvation and free ticket to heaven; for Jesus also said, "For every one shall be salted with fire..." Mark. 9:49. This includes you, me, and everyone else in the world. Everyone in every language means everyone, entire, the sum total, none left out, . Simply putóALL!
The Free Will Confession of Every Tongue
A day will come when every tongue will worship and confess that Jesus is Lord as stated in Philippians 2:9-11, and we know that is what one must do to be saved (Romans. 10:9); but please know that not one soul will ever be forced to make such a declaration. One can certainly be forced to utter the words that Jesus is his or her Lord; but neither can be forced to confess that He is their Lord. In the same way no one can be saved from hate by being forced to love his enemy. Being forced to say "I love you" cannot change the root of hatred that embeds ones soul against another. And God will not save anyone against their will. However, we are assured that all men will at some time or another be 100% percent willing, and this comes when God reveals Himself to them. The presence of Christ will awaken every dead soul, and His fire will ultimately change the carnal will of all dust to that of the fresh Spirit of life. Paul said it this way: For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, God shall be all in all. 1st Corinthians 15:25-26, 28 makes this very clear. And be assured that this reigning is not only in the world outwardly but is the world in us as well, in us individually and then in His multi-membered body, and then outward to the world.
There is a season that men will rebel against the authority of the King, since they are slaves to the carnal mind and they have no other choice. This, however, is not the end of the matter. Jesus will reign in them until He finally reigns over them. He shall subdue all things unto Himself. He will then not only be their King but also their Lord whom they will dearly Love. No longer will they have to be told to do this or that, they will do it because they love Him, and they will not be robots who are void of a will or a sound mind. They will have been born of God whose will is His will, and His will is their will. They shall be one in Him, flowing in the river of His eternal Love and Life without end. The sting of death in sin will no longer be an issue; for the strength of sin (the law) will have been fulfilled by God's inworking grace, which gives them the victory through and by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Before closing, let us borrow from the apostle Paul and of the apple of Godís eye, David: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" 1 Cor. 15:58. For "The LORD will perfect that which concerns me: Thy mercy, O LORD, endures for ever: forsake not the works of Thine own hands" Psalm 138:8. In the abundance of His grace He will bring the works of His own hands to perfection, especially at the end of the age, and it shall not be by might nor by power of man exercising his free will; "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" Ephesians 2:8-10.
Let me reassert, as surely as the Lord will perfect that which concerns Him in this late hour, and nothing can stop it, just as assuredly there is not one person who can perfect themselves into it. Think about it. It is by the power of God's grace. It is not of ourselves. We are His workmanship. If it is left up to manís carnal free will, it will never happen; for he cannot will something that is contrary to his nature. If he could do so, it would not be Godís will, it would cease to be grace, we would no longer be His workmanship, and the impossible task would be laid upon manís shoulders to perform. A manís performance lies in believing what he hears when Christ's Voice sounds, and then giving himself to it as the transforming power of His grace begins an inner work.
Now, "Who is the man or where is the woman that can save him or herself? Whose adamic will can prevail over God's sovereign will?" There are none, of course! There is not one, not the first man nor any today: "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" 1 Corinthians 15:57. It is He who makes it possible for our lips to declare and our lives to manifest the sure wordó"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
Elwin R. Roach
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