Free will–I’ve thrown the term around, but it’s really a little hard to define. Does anyone truly have complete free will? Not really. Of course we are limited by physical things–we can’t simply will ourselves to fly like a bird–but we are also limited by our characters. Just as God cannot sin or be unjust, we don’t have the capability to be perfectly holy, no matter how much we will it.
Within certain physical limitations, we all have free agency to make decisions in our natural lives: whether to take this road or another, whether or not to obey a command. However, when it comes to our spiritual lives, perhaps our will is not so very free as we think.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Rom 8: 29-30
“Foreknew” means not only to have knowledge ahead of time, but also to have power over that knowledge, and of course, predestined means that God determined how it should end. So according to this passage, God knew before I was born who I was and what I would become, and he decided to save me. Before he called me, he knew the outcome.
Another thing that stands out in this is the “he also.” It’s almost like an “of course.” God made a decision, so of course, these things followed. Because God knew me before I was formed in the womb, he also went through the rest of this process. Because he foreknew, he predestined and called and justified and glorified. And do you notice that all the verbs are past tense? To God, it’s done! He has finished. Of course, to him, everything is done. To God, there is no future, because he has already seen it.
But what does that do with free will? If the future is already written, which it surely is, how can I say that I have free will? It’s already been decided!
Perhaps the key is that WE do not know the future. These verses are written from God’s point of view. He knows what’s going on, of course, and what will be in the future, but we do not. And since we lack that vision, we must live based on the limited view that he has allowed us.
So when I “decide” to follow Jesus, is it really my decision? Technically, God made that decision ages ago! Yes, I choose it now, but did I really have a choice? If *I* am the one who decides, then that makes me in control of my salvation, doesn’t it? And that doesn’t agree with Eph 2: 8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
We really don’t even have the power to make a decision without God’s enablement, since it is in him that we “live and move and have our being.” So the decision is his, or rather it was his. It’s already been made. God is sovereign.
Conversely, if I DID make the decision to accept salvation, then does that put me (rather than God) in control of whether I am saved or not? And if I am the one who made the final choice on my salvation, am I also able to sin my way out of salvation?
Just some ponderings for consideration, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Go ahead and point out the flaws in my logic–I’d appreciate the input.