The Pathfinder, Elwin & Margit Roach, PO Box 4004, Alamogordo, NM 88311-4004
ofMan's Free Will
(Part 3 of 4)
Although the word free will is not found in the scriptures, the Bible speaks frequently about it, such as, the will of God and the will of man which are both expressions of free will. For instance, "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" 1 Timothy 2:4, and "But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life." John 5:40.
Ah, a war of two wills, one of God and the other of man. Whose do you suppose will prevail? For in these two verses, it is God's will to have all to be saved; but they are not willing! What an impasse, so it might appear! So does this pose a grave problem for the omnipotent God who created his beloved, the very ones who have now become obstinate ingrates? Did He perchance bring about something He had neither intended nor foreseen? Or maybe in the will department He created man with an immutable free will over which God has no influence. Or if not supreme, was man created and given a will His creator simply chose not to interfere with, even if the man chose not to be saved which would eventually result in imprisoning him forever in an inescapable burning hell, or at best eternal separation or annihilation? Could a God who is love let men run forever footloose and fancy free down the primrose path to eternal destruction? Surely such scenarios cannot be; but rather, God applies and will continue to apply His influence by His divine, all powerful grace. His grace upon all the hearts of those created in His image will change the most ardent unbeliever from death to life? Surely so, brethren, surely so!
"You are not willing to come to Me." The reason no natural man is willing to come to Him is simple. When the human creature is left to himself, there is nothing of his nature that is willing. There is no desire whatsoever. It is no more than a dog or cat desiring to be human or a flea dreaming of the day it becomes a dog. They don't have such desires. It is merely a coexistence. All three have the desire to be fed, and the superior creature is able to fulfill those desires; but neither have the wherewithal to desire the higher life or to bring it to pass if such a desire were possible.
I am very certain that dogs, cats, and fleas do not lay around wishing they were human beings so they could go to work five days a week and make enough money to buy a new home and groceries fit for a king. They are incapable of such thoughts and desires, and so it is with people without the influencing, changing, re-birthing presence of the Holy Spirit. When He is not present, no one will come to Christ. This is the biblical teaching on free will: You are not willing, because you are incapable of being willing. It was B.B. Warfield who said that there is no use in arguing about whosoever will; for we live in a world of whosoever will nots. Therefore, no one is willing on their own to be saved, except, perhaps, for the purpose of escaping a fire-burning hell. But there is no desire to be saved to the extent of losing their life, that is, losing the life of their old human man whose father is Adam. This worldwide condition of billions of souls of the will nots is an open door to God's unconditional love and election that leads to salvation.
Preachers might borrow from the eloquence of great orators, they may beg on bended knees, and with heart-rending tears they may display in graphic detailed the horrors of hell while painting sanguine masterpieces of the joys of heaven's bliss. You may feel the searing flames of hell licking at the heels of your soul, and then you may be enraptured by the contrasted beauty of Paradise. All of this and more can be laid out in quintessential perfection; but each of those well-meaning preachers will utterly fail unless the Spirit of Christ should draw you into His warm embrace; for the bondage of the will is just that, in bondage unless freed by the grace of God. Surely, we remember Paul's anointed words:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For 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.
I assume that some of you are questioning: "Brother Elwin, are you saying that there is no way for me to come to Christ and be saved if I grow tired of living this old life of sin, even if it is my sincerest will?" My reply is simple. If you are willing, you are certainly welcome to join the Lord's household; but without that effectual call and influence upon your heart, you won't be willing. Tell me, if you will, without the grace of God working in people's lives, who are willing? Another simple answer--none! The clear fact is, no one ever did nor ever will come to Christ Jesus without the inner presence and power of the Spirit.
Although we often hear a number of Christians refer to the time when they found the Lord, as if He was lost and they went out searching for Him; but surely those same Christians will not be heard saying, "I sought Jesus before He sought me." Even the free will-agent (1)Arminian will sing, "0 yes! I do love Jesus because He first loved me." 1 John 4:19. He may sing the song but still does not embrace the truth that it is God and not man who chooses those for His own purpose and in accordance with His will.
From the very beginning God determined to save all who were (2)created in Jesus Christ, which happens to be all. It couldn't be any other way. He had more in mind than for His law to be imposed upon the world and then have the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to only a certain number of his creation who would be elected unto salvation.
There are many who believe that it is God's grace and His will that initiates people's salvation; yet but it is extremely difficult for the same believers to see that it is for the whole human race rather than for a select portion, a definite number according to His choosing while excusing Him for losing more than ninety percent because of their free will. Sadly, it is frequently written off as the mystery of antinomy.
Notwithstanding, whether they know about God's infinite plan for all or not, they should know that there are no merits nor works on anyone's part that have to do with salvation. It has absolutely nothing to do with who they might be in the church or the world, and it matters not if it is an individual, a nation, a class of people, or the religiously pious; works will not work it out, and the worldly value of a person has no place and is certainly of no worth in God's Kingdom. Their good works are useless along with their outward appearance of holiness and excellent character. Their faith is also worthless; for it is by HIS FAITH that people are justified (Habakkuk 2:4). Salvation is by election, and it can never be had except by His faith! If there is to be genuine salvation that will be manifested in glory, it is by His faith and grace, not of works. It is according to His good pleasure, lest anyone should boast.
Election does not destroy the will as the argument might go. We would think that a man, any man, must have some say and will in the matter. We would be amiss to say that an unchanged man of the world can be made to believe in and love Jesus as his Lord when he is unwilling to do so. No one can be compelled to love when it is not in their will, and until those of the first Adam are moved inwardly by the Holy Spirit, his will is that of the world and not of Christ. The man, therefore, has no choice but to will the way of the world. He is a prisoner of his carnal mind and his will can be nothing other than to take the broad way. He cannot take the narrow way until he is born from above, and no one in the natural or in spiritual can choose to be born. The timing and realm is always the Father's choice.
Man's will cannot stray from the nature of his carnal soul, and since the day he was expelled from the Garden, his will has been set against the truth. It is opposed to God and His Word in every way. Moreover, there is nothing in the world that can cause him to change, and whether consciously or un consciously, He cannot help from hating the things of God. He needs no outside force to make him reject the truth. It comes naturally from within. He refuses the truth by nature. He hates it with his whole heart; for it is totally contrary to everything that he is.When a man receives the truth, how do you suppose it is done? Would he have to first clean up his life so God would except him? Does he renew his own mind and birth himself? Does he decide on his own to change his nature so his (3)carnal mind is no longer enmity against God? Or does the man by his own volition and power change the course of his soul's current. Does he take charge of that which had always been flowing downward and change its course and make it to flow uphill? Impossible! Man's soul is like a river that has flowed downhill for six thousand years, and nothing of man has changed its course, and he would have remained forever in depravity and bondage if another Will much greater and infinitely more powerful than his had not come into contact with it. It was then that both his nature and the course of the soul changed. It was then that (4)"both the will and the to do of His good pleasure" came about. The man's will was contrary before God's will met him head on. He then became willing. It is surely clear that it was God's will meeting and changing the man's will. That is what made the difference. God's will was foremost and man's will lined up with His.
I realize that for some, this thought is still difficult to accept; but the truth remains firm. It is always God's will that begins the good work of salvation which causes the lost to be willing. No one could have exercised their free will to be saved had God not divinely influenced their hearts which made them willing. That is the power of His grace! And "Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power." Psalm 110:3. It is the power of God administered to us that makes us willing. Until that power was shed abroad in our stony hearts, we were unwilling. It was not in our nature to do otherwise. It was always the power of His influence upon every saved person's soul that changed its nature from being bent on carnal death to spiritual life. If it was not this way, people's unwillingness would always abide intact. There is nothing outwardly or inwardly of the human nature that is sufficient to institute a change of man's free will; for he always chooses that which is of the earth. The human being without the Spirit is not willing to allow the application of anything Christ centered until God alters his ego and makes him willing. To say that man can of his own free will choose salvation by that which he flatly rejects is as unreasonable as believing he can be healed by an herb or medicine which he refuses to take. If a leopard could change its spots (Jeremiah 13:23), then this could be possible; but as it is with the leopard which has no desire, disposition, or ability to change its spots, neither does the carnal man.
You might ask, then--"Does God hinder sinners from believing and becoming willing?" Definitely not. He doesn't hinder anyone; for their very nature makes them their own hindrance. Therefore, since no one would be saved if left to his or her own will, God's grace does not forever leave them to their own will. He puts forth His mighty power on them which makes them willing. If it were not for this influencing factor, all would be lost; for all would reject salvation.
If election was not the initiating factor in peoples lives, there would be no salvation. If God doesn't do it, it won't get done. It is that plain and simple. Even if you get rid of the Bible that speaks so much of election, the fact will continue to be the vanguard of every person's induction to salvation.
Of course, election itself is not salvation, but is the undergirding thing that brings a person to it. For instance: He chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4); He foreknew and predestined us that we would be conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29); and from the beginning He chose us to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit. (2 Thessalonians 2:13). You see, election is the predetermined plan and will of God that is carried out unto salvation; but it is not salvation itself. Moreover, if God was not able to perform that which was determined, He would be less than men. For they are well able to carry out those things they desire, that is, unless there is a power greater than theirs at play. Therefore, His elected will and plan of salvation must become a reality, otherwise, they would have no purpose. With this, we can hopefully see clearly that He was the author of our salvation unto good works, and He will finish it. I am certain that we all agree that no one elected themselves to be conformed to the Image of Christ. We did not choose ourselves. It was God. It has always been God. And it will always be God. (See also Ephesians 1:5, 13, 2 Timothy 2:10, and 1 Peter 1:2).
There are many great men and women in the world who do great and wondrous things, and due to these achievements they may assume that God will receive them into his kingdom ahead of prostitutes, skid row bums, and the likes. Contrary to such thinking, no one can be so impressive that God will be persuaded to accept his or her good works and give them credit on their charge card to salvation account. Frankly, God is never moved by men's carnal deeds, and a lump of human clay cannot make itself into a Kingdom pot. "Therefore hath He mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom He will he hardeneth....For who hath resisted his will? 20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" Romans 9:18 -24.
Fame and fortune, human wisdom, and high positions in the world have yet to cause God to respect any person and then place them into His service as Job 34:19, 37:24, Ephesians 6:9 and other scriptures make clear. Neither does He have compassion on and call people because they are downtrodden nobodies. And having or having not carries no weight with God. None can be saved if He does not show grace, and this irrefutable grace does not come except at His own will and season.
I do not want to belabor the reader by quoting many scriptures that have to do with God's sovereignty concerning man's salvation. I will, however, borrow from Ernest Reisinger (1919-2004) whose insight pointed me in the direction of this three part series on the subject of man's free will. Following is a list of what election is not:
"Election never shuts the door of salvation, but it opens the door... (John 6:37, 44, 63; 10:9; 14:6).
"Election is not an enemy to the gospel but assures it of success. ( Isa. 55:11; John 10:27; 6:37, 45; 17:20, 21; Acts 15:14; 16:14; 18:27; 2 Tim. 2:9, 10).
"Election is not fatalism but is the work of God (1 Thess. 1:4; Rom. 8:28, 30).
"Election does not destroy man's so-called 'free will.' The will of man is his desire, whether wish or choice. His choice is sin (John 3:19, 20; 5:40; 3:11; 2:2, 3; 4:17-19; Jer. 17:9; 13:23).
"Man 'freely' chooses sin, and by God's grace, the elect freely chooses Christ (Ps. 65:4; 110:3; John 6:44, 65; Acts 13:48).
"Election is not anti-missionary but gives the foundation for missions (John 6:37; 17:20, 21; 2 Tim. 2:10; Isa. 55:11; 2 Pet. 3:9, 15).
"Election does not destroy the responsibility of man. Men are responsible with whatever light they have, be it conscience (Rom. 2:15), nature (Rom. 1:19-20), written law (Rom. 2:17-27), or the gospel (Mark 16:15-16).
"Election does not discourage convicted sinners but welcomes them to Christ. 'Let him who thirsts come' (Rev. 22:17), and the fires of election will certainly cause them to thirst. The God who saves is the God who has elected men unto salvation. He is the same God who calls.
"Election does not discourage prayer. To the contrary, it drives us to God, for it is He alone who can save. True prayer is the Spirit's prompting; and thus will be in harmony with God's will (Rom. 8:28).
"Election is not of man. Some say, 'God votes, the devil votes, and man votes.' The Bible teaches that election is neither of the devil nor man but of God" (1 Thess. 1:4; John 10:16; 1 John 4:10, 19).
"Election is not of mental reasoning but of revelation. At first it does not appeal to man's reason; but when man embraces God's Word, it is seen to be the only thing that could be 'reasonable' (Matt. 20:15)."
Many people do not know that the sovereignty of God's election is in the Bible, and this is no mystery. At best, the subject has been only discussed, taught, or preached in scant measures. How liberating it would be for those who delight in the truth to know that election is one of the primary things by which God quickens, generates, sanctifies, saves, and glorifies the lost. For instance, He elected to save Adam from the dust of the earth. He, therefore, breathed His breath of life into the dead man's nostrils, and so it has been with the lost since the day of Pentecost. From that time in the upper room, He has elected to save those of His choosing from the dust of carnal death by quickening the life of Jesus Christ in them.
The disciples chose to freely follow Him after He called them for His service. They were conscripted, drafted, and so were we. After we heard His call, we willingly joined his service, but not before receiving that notice which changed our carnal minds to spiritual minds.
Since this truth is found throughout the Bible, surely everyone who believes the Bible would believe in election, but as you know, such is not the case. Regardless of how many seeds of this plain truth are sown, many do not believe, and they can't believe until there is a revelation, an apocalypse if you please, by the holy Spirit that opens their spiritual eyes. There have also been seeds sown into hearts from these few pages which are not dissimilar to those King Solomon and Isaiah wrote about, and there will be a reaping when the war of the wills is won and understanding dawns:
War of The Wills
"In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether it shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." Ecclesiastes 11:6. And "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, But watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower; and bread to the eater; so shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but is shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" Isaiah 55:10, 11. The doctrine of man's free will has been, for the most part, a sacred cow; and please note, that this is not a putdown in any way. It is simply a fact. It is a human thing and is as natural as breathing air. Frankly, the proclivity of the mind makes it almost impossible to think otherwise, and for one reason among others, we can see why this is so. Since they believe the majority of humanity will be lost forever, it is easier to lay the blame on them rather than God. It is believed that He gives them a few years on earth's plane to accept his provision of escape, and if they refuse to do so, God is not at fault, but the hardheaded, self-indulging people are to blame. They were given a chance, they were forewarned, they knew the consequences; therefore, this heavy load of eternal damnation is upon their shoulders, not God's, as it has been said. There are many far fetched and convoluted ideas concerning man's free will which are major portions of most all of the foundational doctrines of Christianity.
Notwithstanding, the mind of natural man is very much like a sieve or a pail full of holes, and truth, like water, can be poured into it; but the pail of man's natural mind cannot contain the liquid life of that truth. However, if enough soil (natural thinking) is mixed with it, the water of the truth is mixed with the error of carnal imaginations and the consistency of the mixture thickens, so much so that the water does not necessary leak out. Although the pure word of truth remains in the vessel, it is so diluted by the soil of man's ideas that there is little, if any, life to be had from it. Although the truth can be diluted and solidified by mixing man's ways and ideas with it, the truth does not change; for the God who is True cannot change. Man's understanding of truth may change, but truth never changes. "For I am the LORD, I change not..." Malachi 3:6.
It matters not if men of high esteem in the world and the million membered churches flood the earth with muddied waters of their own making, like a flood to swallow the woman in the wilderness, the doctrinal truths of God abide in her as she is protected from those impure doctrinal waters. God and His truths forever abide, especially the truth that all will be elect and saved! None lost! None forsaken! None left behind, period! He is not this little God who just encourages and helps people to save themselves. Election is in our Father's hands. Salvation comes in no other way but by His first born Son--our Lord Jesus!
People do not go to Jesus when it is convenient for them. It is He who calls them, and they will know the calling when the Spirit draws them, or drags them unto Himself if need be, as the Greek word implies. If there is a man in the universe that can resist forever God's will and power to save to the uttermost, then God will never be All in all, and the creature would be greater than the Creator who is omnipotent. If that scenario were true, He would surely step down and let that man be God and take the position of being the King of kings, Lord of lords, and rule over all throughout the galaxies forever. But even though people of religious hierarchies have portrayed "man's free will" as being supreme over God's, we know there is no such man or creature anywhere or at any time.
Let us, therefore, with a warm heart embrace the truth that gives all the glory of saving the lost to Jesus and see Him as the beginning, the source, and the end of everyone (Romans 11:36). We will take a great stride by doing so, and the apocalypse God's will and man's will shall dawn upon our inmost being. We will know that the eons past are nothing less than part of Him working out His predestined plan that was set in the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, the one who is the Beginning and the End of all things. It was all established by God in Jesus, the Beginning, the sovereign Creator, sovereign in the creation of man, sovereign in his redemption, and sovereign in providence. Since all came form Him, God has always had the foresight and care for his prized creation of the ages past and at this very moment He is fulfilling His elections that were foreordained in the Beginning. He is saving and tending them with much care.
It is exciting to know that Jesus, who is a Redeemer and Savior, actually paid the price and is saving those for which He died--WHICH ARE ALL! His salvation is by purpose, design, and power. Jesus did not die to save people to only be hamstrung and have His hands tied behind His back by the lost refusing His atoning blood life of the ages. Brethren, it is time to proclaim a God who saves, one who r-e-a-ll-y saves, and not just a smidgen of humanity, but all! Declare to everyone that He keeps watch over His creation, also that He justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners--and He loses none in the process!
God saves sinners, and He does this according to His will, not man's! We must not weaken this great truth that God saves sinners by saying that it depends upon their will and/or merits. A good example of this can be noticing Jonah perilous journey. After He was in the belly of hell forever, he had an apocalypse of His Savior. He knew by excruciating experience that he could not be saved according to his own will. He knew that without some help greater than his, there was no escape. After the apocalypse of his powerless will awakened him to his grave dilemma, he cried out a clarion truth that is continuing to be heard by those God elects to salvation: "...SALVATION IS OF THE LORD." Jonah 2:9. Prior to his time in hell, which was forever (three days and three nights), and like so many today, he thought he could save himself, and he tried. Oh, Brethren, he tried! He set sail in the opposite direction. He really thought his salvation from the Ninevites hinged on his free will, but he learned the hard way, that his free will carnal and only led to death. At the end of his days in everlasting hell, he came to know that his will and might could not save him. Job learned the same, as did Joseph while in prison, along with all the prophets, apostles, and godly saints over the past ages who knew suffering and imprisonment. And so it is with our salvation from sin and death, vice and corruption, sickness and depression, and especially our own selves.
This simple truth traces the source of all spiritual blessings, which includes faith. The Spirit's gift is not just an enlightening, apocalyptic, work, it is also the generating power, that is, birthing the life of God in men. He removes their stony hearts and replaces them with hearts of flesh (not carnal, but hearts that are pliable, submissive, workable). He changes their wills from carnal to spiritual. By His determined will and immutable power, He compels them to come, and this is in no way against their will. They freely come as they exercise their free will that is a result of the powerful work of His Spirit of grace. As quoted earlier: "Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning..." Psalm 110:3. And "Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in Your courts" Psalm 65:4. With this it is apparent that God's grace proves to be irresistible, that it brings to naught man's power to resist. We can also see in these verses that it is not first the man's idea and free will to enter the hallowed courts and approach the King. It is God who bids one to come, and it is the same in the world. If you think not, go ahead and try to saunter into the President's Oval Office without an invitation or summons of some sort. No one just decides that he or she wants to become a part of the President's Cabinet, and all they have to do is to walk into those guarded chambers of the Commander and Chief and announce that they are showing up for work. And, brethren, there is no difference with carnal men and the King of glory. If their natures have been changed and they are invited to come, or they receive a compelling summons, they can and will come, but not before and not on their own.
As we draw to a close to this wonderful, liberating truth of The Apocalypse of Man's free will, let us reflect:
This sovereign work of God in changing the man, thus changing his free will unto salvation, does by no means leave him passive and indifferent. That which takes place is very much the opposite. God's grace does not kill the man; but it does possess him in the same way the Spirit of Life possessed Lazarus. Grace does not leave a man as an unthinking, inanimate object, or a motorized robot of some sort. But rather, it lays hold of his whole being, and with all his faculties intact, yet transformed. Grace annihilates man's powers but only in the sense of our Lord's spiritual powers swallowing up his natural powers. It in no way destroys his free will, but liberates it from sin and death so it freely wills to be one with God in His Kingdom. And God's grace, His wonder working power of grace, recreates him in his entirety, to be that which he was in the Beginning of Jesus Christ. This immutable power of grace causes him to love and give himself to His Savior freely. He still has a free will; but now it is not unto himself but unto God his Father and Jesus Christ his Lord forever!
Election and God's grace to all is an unveiling that the cross and the empty tomb are not only God's inexhaustible love but also His power to save. There is no slackness here, as some muse, and certainly no impotence by any means. And please know, my friends, the cross was not a place to make salvation merely possible. It was the time and place that actually secured and guaranteed the salvation of all! It was God's embossed seal that was set deeply into the bleeding flesh of His beloved Son. This, of course, fulfilled that prophecy: "He shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied." Isaiah 53:11. If it was any different, God would surely be frustrated that the cross will only be instrumental in saving a small fraction of His cherished creation. But He is not frustrated, not by any measure; for His satisfaction is made full in the salvation of all for whom Jesus died, which should go without having to be said again, but we well say it--ALL! And as we know, His in-working grace will make it so in ALL!
Therefore, after the war of the wills is won, truths such as these will surely drive us hard to declare to every person and the world that ALL are sinners. And men, good or evil, are not sick and in need of healing; but they are dead and need life. And please be assured, our Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who is able and is extremely willing to save every soul from the least to the greatest, from the worst to the best. He is no respecter of persons. That which He will do for one He will do for ALL. Is this not a great word of truth? Is this not another portion of the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ, and especially knowing that no man can come to Him except the Spirit of the Father draws Him? Absolutely! Yes and Amen!
Elwin R. Roach
1. The Arminian view is that election is conditioned upon man's will, and they do not believe that his will is limited or bound by man's nature, i.e. free will to chose God if he wills of his own accord.
2. "Because in him were the all things created, those in the heavens, and those upon the earth, those visible, and those invisible, whether thrones, whether lordships, whether principalities, whether authorities; all things through him, and for him, have been created," (Col. 1:16 Young's Literal Translation)
3. "...the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Romans 8:7
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