Saturday, October 25, 2008

Of Free Will

Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter 9: Of Free Will
1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil.
2. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which is good and well-pleasing to God; but yet mutably, so that he might fall from it.
3. Man, by his Fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.
4. When God converteth a sinner and translateth him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and, by his grace alone, enableth him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so as that, by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.
5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutable free to good alone, in the state of glory only.

(from Creeds of the Church, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Is the will of man free or bound? Most Christians are more influenced by the world than they realize. But the only question we need to ask is, what does the Bible say? Take for instance what Paul says in the book of Romans, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Rom. 8:7)." According to Paul, the carnal mind cannot please God. Once this specific chapter of the confession is covered, it would be most beneficial to go back through the chapters concerning God's Decree's, The Gospel, and Original Sin; the reason being, the process of developing the theology of free will is done best through conferring with the whole council of God and not this aspect alone. Also, when done in this way, it shows the harmony of the biblical canon.

To deny free will is wrong. If that happens, what is left is fatalism or determinism. This will inevitably keep a person from a deep and intimate relationship with Christ. It is crucial to understand that we are made in God's image and as a result we have freedom under His governing. There is freedom of will. As those made in God's image we are given liberty which indicates we have no outside force to act upon us. Notice what Jesus says in John six forty four, "No one comes to me unless the Father draws him." God draws us. He does not hit us over the head or drag us kicking and screaming. God works within our being in such a way that there is a true move of the will, and that movement is not from the outside in but from the inside out.

The Bible reveals to us, that mankind in his innocence was free and had the ability to do God's will. There was no sin to cause shame or guilt. Man was open and transparent to God, there was nothing to hide, a real communion with God existed, wherein God walked with Adam in the garden. There was freedom to choose and we learn very quickly that man had the capability to sin. Through Adam's disobedience that sin entered into the world and death came. Death and sin spread to all because in Adam all sinned (Rom. 5).
Man in his present state does still have a freedom to some degree, however, that original freedom (spoken of in the above paragraph) is lost. Man is now in spiritual bondage to sin and death. A will still exists to be sure, but the will of fallen man is incapable of any good or even any inclination to good. Paul speaks of this throughout the book of Romans. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." All mankind is dead in sin, enslaved to sin, and under the control of sin. Therefore, man cannot make himself believe, he cannot prepare himself. The heart is deceitfully wicked, who can know it? As a bird that has clipped wings cannot fly, but only hops around in a vain attempt to fly, so it is with a sinful being that hops around with "choice," however, there is no real flying because he cannot do what is contrary to his condition.
God is the one who converts sinners. How does this work in relation to the will of man? God translates him into a new state. A new being is created, a being with a "new" will. A will that agrees with the things of God and finds delight in the things God delights in, and an ability to say yes and amen to the truth. It should be no mystery that God does all the work, just as Lazarus was raised from the dead, so too are sinners raised from spiritual death. In the new man the old man still exists. The one who is born again will struggle with sin, however there is no longer an enslavement to it.
To end, it is important to say only that true freedom exists in him who has been freed from sin. Man will truly be free, in the fullest sense only in glory. When we see Jesus we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

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