Man's Free Will
(Part 4 of 4)
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, or the hidden things of hell will ever be exposed, or 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 as taught by some, then that holy life would never be quickened within the womb of any human soul. Mankind would be forever doomed to the fate of what the carnal mind would choose, which would be to continue in the status quo of spiritual darkness and death.
Before you were awakened to Christ, you were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1), dead to God, dead to truth, dead to purity, dead to anything that pertains to the life from aboveó"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 choose 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 they will it, choose it, or give consent to it. All were born by it and in it. So I ask, is man a free moral agent? Absolutely not! Man is not a free moral agent, at least, not in the sense that it has been taught. However, he is free to choose, but only in the carnal realm wherein he was born. He is an agent, but he is the agent of death, not life. He can be moral on the human level of decency, but not when it comes to godliness. His will always has to do that which comes natural; that is, he has a free will to choose 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!
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 seeking God and desire to choose Him as their center of life rather than themselves. You see, the Greek word pselaphao for feel in this verse carries the thought of manipulation. However, the Greek word ekzeteo for seek is much stronger and has no ulterior motives. It means to search out, to crave. Many will manipulate rituals, beliefs, creeds and doctrines with attempts to reach the stars of glory; but how many crave that which is contrary to their fallen nature? The scriptures say that without the influence of the Spirit of grace upon the heart that there are none.
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 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 spirit of Adam habitually pursues those things that satisfy the appetites of self, those things of the earth that produces nothing but death. In his natural thinking he will attempt to shine as the son of the morning. He will promote his own ascension to the heights of the heavens, and by his own cunning power 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 man is a slave to sin and death. He cannot escape on his own.
Armed only with the spirit of the world, carnality, man devises elaborate plans with which to soar beyond the distant galaxies of his imaginations. Some of the methods used to such exalted aspirations may be presumption, lying to himself, or even self-condemnation. He often thunders the law with great conviction, or establishes concrete dogmas that are followed to the letter. 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 human might, yet still, he fails to live. The plain truth is that it is impossible to elect himself to the royal path of life. Religion will fail him, adulation of self and condemnation of others will profit nothing. Belonging to a certain church, club, or crowd will prove futile. Until God comes with his grace and causes him to live, there is nothing he can do but to remain dead. Whether he lays in the grave dead or dead in trespasses and sins, he will stay that way until the quickening Spirit of Christ Jesus overflows and calls him forth. When the Voice of the Son of God is heard, then he will live John 5:24-25. This is election! It is conscription! This is not a volunteer army by any means! It is the draft unto life evermore!
Before Jesus Christ draws/drafts/drags anyone, he or she is in no position to make a free-will choice to be saved. For they have been sold as slaves under sin and death, and slaves have no free will other than to exercise their will in the realm under which they abide, and to what degree and direction their owner mandates. 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." But praise God! 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 between the north and the south: "How much control did you have in your sale and purchase while standing on the deplorable auction block? If we could hear them, their trumpeting cry would beóNONE! We had no control or say whatsoever. We were like dumb sheep being led to the slaughter," and it is the same with both Adam and Jesus, our father of death and of life. We had nothing to do with our death and we have nothing to do with our life. It was God! It was God and His infinite plan of the ages that envelops us all, first under sin and death by Adam, and then under righteousness and life by Jesus. Both Adams covered the sum total of humanity by the power of their agencies, the first the agency of death and the last the agency of life. None could escape the first and none will escape the last.
We all were sold under sin. We were slaves to sin. There was nothing we could do to be delivered from it. It was not left to our own volition. There was nothing in us that was free to change our state of death. Even if we had wanted to, we could not help ourselves. If we had the inclination to do so, it would be in accordance with what our own minds would have imagined that which we could do to be saved. Before Godís grace touched our hearts, we thought being saved meant that we would be going to heaven rather than hell, and we would be singing and playing harps in heavenís choir, going on celestial picnics, living in expensive mansions next door to Jesus, and, of course, walking on literal streets of gold. But such were only the imaginations of the first man who abides in the reservoir of the world. They who are held in those confines cannot understand or bring living truth; for, you see, they are dead! They are dead in trespasses and sins. They are dead to the high things of God, and we should know that dead men can only do what dead men doóremain deadóthat is, until the breath of life is breathed into them. Only then will they seek after God!
Dead men cannot resuscitate themselves. Whatever they do while they are dead, whether it is good or evil, is still from the same sourceóthe tree of the knowledge of good and evil that brought death to Adam in the first place. That is the only tree from which they have the liberty to eat. Until the Spirit draws them to Jesus (and no man can come to Him unless he is drawn by the Spirit John. 6:44), they are slaves to the nature they bear. They are subservient to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience Ephesians 2:2. Therefore, whether they are making good choices or evil ones, they are not free, and neither is their will free. They and their free will are slaves, bound, tied up if you please, in the carnal 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 certain people, or perhaps some are bypassed for some reason or another? Or they crossed the forbidden line of Godís tolerance, and they are just set aside, just awaiting their turn in and place in the lake of fire? 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, it is emphatic! Jesus, who is the beginning of all creation, shall love, correct and care for all men until every soul is gathered unto Himself. Of course, some come by hearing His gentle voice, while with some it may take a thunderous storm of severe dealings; 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? Not in the way it has been thought. For there has never been a soul born that is free. Mankind was sold under sin, and this sale was finalized when the gates of the Garden closed behind Adam and God sealed the contract by embossing His flaming cherubim thereon, and that contract has been in effect to this very moment.
Now to bring this legal point home to practical understanding, 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 manís 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. In addition, there is not one human being who is worthy to be an agent of good; for Romans 3:12 is clear about this: "there is none that doeth good, no, not one" The simple fact is, Jesus Christ alone was the first man to be free. He was completely moral and was the worthy agent of life. He was the manifest author of freedom and morality. This made Him the perfect agent of it all. This is why He is the mediator between God and man, 1 Timothy 2:5. Also, now that 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 in whom we are one is the Agent; that is, the Mediator to a dead world that is buried in sin and waiting to be called forth and made alive in Him! Surely, we can hear their groan while they are waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. Surely, we can feel their pain, and know their sorrow. If not, then perhaps we are dead to the world of such anguish, but we shouldnít be.
Notwithstanding, although suffering the death of Adam, due to the nature by which man is born, he cannot help from attempting to lift himself above the God who made him. He was born with it, and try as he may, he cannot escape it. It is in this that 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 a free will; but carnal gods can only have a will toward their own earthy godhood which ends not in immortality, but in mortality! 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 plan and lay out their own destiny, while the God of all creation, with hands tied, would sit on His laurels and have nothing to do with it. With this scenario, these so called free moral agents would have to rely upon themselves, the creature, rather than the Creator for deliverance from sin and death. If this were remotely true, then every man would be mapping out and piloting his own destiny with Jesus merely as his co-pilot just 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 through the dark valley of death, the Lamb would have been slain from the foundation of the world as John wrote in Revelation 13:8? The answer is obvious! If he slew His precious Lamb, He would have no qualms in slaying His creation; but His Lamb was the provision for the higher life than they knew in the Garden.
If man had chosen of his own accord to walk the dreary path of death, it is unlikely Paul would made this clear statement: "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" Romans 8:19-21 (NAS). You see, in Adam humanity was subjected to death. They had no choice in the matter; but this was for a good reason. Paul explains that they would be set free from the slavery of corruption because of it, 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, and this is what the end would be for every soul. Thus, they wait for the manifestation of the Sons of God so they too can live by His inherent nature and have authority and dominion over the heavenly works of God's fingers, as Psalms 8:3-6 and Hebrews 2:6-10 so plainly states. Humanity would remain bound to the earth and would never be lord of anything but of the earth. Lords of the dust, if you please, would be their maximum achievement. For being of the earth, they could never be masters of the heavens. But in Jesus they will rise and rule in their own individual heavens, and then outwardly in the eons to come as well.
After we muse over the prospect of what the eons might bring, let us give some thought to what might happen today if the serpent, the woman, and then the man had exercised free will and upset God's plan in the beginning when everything was running so smoothly. If free will is such a sovereign possession of man, what assurance would we have for it to not happen in the future? If His plan could be foiled once, what guarantee do we have that it could not happen again? The fact is, it was not foiled, his plan has never been foiled, and it will never be foiled. Period!
No, brethren, man will not and cannot circumvent Godís plan any more than he can lead himself into divine godhood. He is impotent in that matter, and his will is not free in this respect. It is not free to will anything but that which ministers death; for he was driven out of the Garden wherein was the tree of life. It is not until after God's will and grace becomes a reality to and in him; that is, being born of the Spirit, that he can will that which is divine. 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 his expulsion from paradise. In Christ man's will is compassed about by His life; but in Adam, it is a shackled slave in the confines of death.
Let us notice some very clear and well known, yet often overlooked, Biblical records of truth: "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 His 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 imagine that God would really predetermine what would transpire in their lives or in others worldwide. If this were the case, it would mean that God's will would be greater than their own, which to some is unthinkable. Of course, most 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 known can be very unsettling. Besides, if their will is not supreme, God might take them places where they would not 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.
Some years ago the subject of demon possession came up. A brother expressed the thought of someone being possessed by the Spirit of Christ. He questioned, "If a man could be possessed by a demon, could people be possessed by Christ, but in the sense of good?" He 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 much like robots of some sort, with virtually 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 before, and "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 to being called and chosen, Paul did not choose to be born of God no more than a child chooses to be born of its parents, and surely we remember that 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, and it is the same for those called to life today. They are not dictated robots, but living children of God who willingly choose righteousness by nature rather than being robotically told to do so."
The following day, my younger 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 free will becomes that of his Master. His will is always the will of the One who owns him, especially if he loves his Master, which for us is Jesus." Yes! Amen! (We miss you, Tim.)
What a simple, yet profound truth! Who can resist the One who paid the full price, no mere down payment, but bought him lock stock and barrel, as the old saying goes? Jesus paid that seemingly impossible price, which was His life. The debt was paid in full. It was enough for Him to buy back the whole world, the fullness thereof, and they that dwell therein, Matthew 13:46 & Psalm 24:1. Prior to the purchase, humanity was sold into slavery and under the control of sin.
Before the Spirit of Christ illuminated any of us, although slaves, we freely gave ourselves to sin. An oxymoron for sure, slaves yet free; but we had no choice of the matter. We were free will slaves to sin. But praise God, and disregarding the antinomy of this, there was a day when a new Master purchased and possessed our souls. It was then that our slaveship turned to sonship. We were free from the bondage of sin unto death and were made new slaves of righteousness unto life. How horrid it was being a slave to sin unto death; but how great it is to be a son unto life.
There Is a Will in Man
It may have seemed that after this birth and allegiance to a new Lord, our will was free to choose whatsoever we desired, whether godliness or otherwise. 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" Romans 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 of Godís grace penetrated deep into his dead heart that he could be free to choose 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 the lives of our brothers and sisters, 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.) *robe of righteousness; ring of authority; shoes of godly walk in life.
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 not some sort of easy street salvation and free ticket to heaven. A good indication of this can be seen in what Jesus 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. God will never coerce a quivering confession of love from anyone, nor will He save a person against his or her 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 and deals love and justice to each person accordingly. 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, 1 Corinthians 15:25-26, 28. Be assured that this reign over sin and death 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. It is first in us and then the world.
There is a season that men will rebel against the authority of the King, and since they are slaves to the carnal mind 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 not to do that, they will do it because they want to, because they love Him. They will not be robots who are void of a will or a sound mind. You see, they will have been born of God whose will is their will, and their will is His 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.
We can be assured that in the abundance of Godís grace that the works of His hands, all of creation, will be brought to perfection, and it shall not be by might nor by power of man exercising his carnal 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.
The Lord will perfect that which concerns Him; 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?" You know the answer as do I. There are none! There is not one, not the first man nor can any be found 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 confess Him as Lord and our lives to manifest the sure word that every manís will shall be His will, and we will all shout togetheró"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
It is then that every manís free will is Godís will, and there will be the outpouring, the manifestation, the unveiling; that is, the Apocalypse of Man's free will!
Elwin R. Roach
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