As Christians, we believe that the Bible is the ultimate authority on all matters of faith and practice. From the nature of God to the purpose of human existence, the Bible provides us with a clear understanding of the Christian worldview. One of the most fundamental concepts in the Christian faith is that of free will. This concept has been debated and discussed by theologians for centuries and continues to be a source of tension for many Christians.
In this blog post, we will explore what the Bible has to say about free will. We will examine the biblical basis for free will, the tension between free will and God’s sovereignty, the implications of free will for our lives as Christians, common misconceptions about free will in the Bible, and practical applications of this concept. By the end of this post, you will have a clear understanding of what the Bible teaches about free will and how you can apply this concept to your life as a Christian.
Whether you are a long-time Christian or are just beginning to explore the faith, understanding the concept of free will is essential. By grasping the biblical basis for this concept, you can make wise choices, take responsibility for your actions, and grow in your relationship with God. So, let’s dive in and explore what the Bible has to say about free will.
The Biblical Basis for Free Will
The concept of free will is deeply rooted in the Bible. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, there are numerous scriptures that affirm free will as a biblical concept. Here are just a few examples:
- Deuteronomy 30:19-20: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.”
- Joshua 24:15: “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
- John 1:12-13: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
- Revelation 22:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
These scriptures and many others like them affirm that God has given human beings the gift of choice. We are not mere robots or puppets, but rather, we have the ability to make real choices that have real consequences.
The Tension Between Free Will and God’s Sovereignty
While the Bible clearly affirms free will, it also suggests that God is in control of human affairs. This tension between free will and God’s sovereignty can be difficult to reconcile. Here are a few scriptures that suggest God’s control:
- Proverbs 16:9: “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
- Ephesians 1:11: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”
- Romans 9:16: “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”
These scriptures suggest that God is in control of all things, including our lives and our decisions. The concept of predestination is also sometimes used to suggest that God has predetermined our salvation or our fate. However, the Bible also affirms the reality of free will. So, how do we reconcile these seemingly conflicting concepts?
The answer lies in understanding that God’s sovereignty does not negate our free will. Rather, it means that God is able to work all things together for good, even in the midst of our free choices. We are still responsible for the choices we make, but God is able to use those choices for His purposes. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” So, while we have the ability to make choices, God is able to use those choices to accomplish His will.
Additionally, it’s important to understand that the concept of predestination in the Bible does not necessarily mean that God has predetermined our salvation or fate. Rather, it refers to God’s foreknowledge of those who will accept Him and be saved. As Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” God desires for all people to be saved, but ultimately, it is our choice whether or not to accept His offer of salvation.
The Implications of Free Will
The concept of free will has important implications for our lives as Christians. Here are a few key ideas to consider:
- We are responsible for our choices. We cannot blame our circumstances or external factors for the choices we make. Rather, we are accountable for the choices we make and the consequences that follow. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”
- Disobeying God’s commands has consequences. Just as we are responsible for our choices, we are also responsible for the consequences of those choices. When we choose to disobey God’s commands, we open ourselves up to the negative consequences of sin. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Free will plays a role in our salvation and spiritual growth. While our salvation ultimately comes from God’s grace, we still have a role to play in accepting that grace. We must make a choice to believe in Jesus and follow Him. Additionally, our ongoing spiritual growth requires us to make daily choices to obey God and submit to His will. Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
It’s important to note that while we have free will, we cannot earn our salvation through our own efforts. Rather, it is a gift from God that we must accept by faith. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Common Misconceptions About Free Will in the Bible
Despite the Bible’s clear teachings on free will, there are still some common misconceptions about this concept. Here are a few to be aware of:
- Humans have absolute freedom of choice. While we do have the ability to make choices, our choices are not unlimited. There are some things we simply cannot choose to do. For example, we cannot choose to be God or to create the universe. Our choices are limited by our nature and our circumstances.
- Free will conflicts with the idea of God’s plan. While it may seem like free will and God’s plan are at odds, the truth is that they can coexist. God is able to work all things together for good, even in the midst of our free choices.
- Free will undermines the concept of divine foreknowledge. Some people argue that if God knows everything that will happen, then we cannot truly have free will. However, this misunderstands the nature of foreknowledge. God’s knowledge of the future does not determine our choices. Rather, it simply means that He knows what we will choose to do.
It’s important to remember that while our choices are not unlimited, they are still significant. Our choices have real consequences, both for ourselves and for others. We must be careful to make wise choices that honor God and lead to positive outcomes. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
So, what are some practical applications of the concept of free will for our lives as Christians? Here are a few ideas:
- Make wise choices. As we’ve seen, our choices have real consequences. Therefore, we must make wise choices that honor God and lead to positive outcomes. This means seeking God’s guidance and making choices that align with His will.
- Take responsibility for your actions. We cannot blame our circumstances or external factors for the choices we make. Rather, we are responsible for our choices and the consequences that follow. Therefore, we must be willing to take responsibility for our actions and seek forgiveness when we make mistakes.
- Trust in God’s sovereignty. While we have free will, God is ultimately in control. Therefore, we must trust in His sovereignty and believe that He is able to work all things together for good, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
- Share the Gospel with others. Our free will plays a role in our salvation and spiritual growth, but it also plays a role in the salvation of others. Therefore, we must be willing to share the Gospel with those around us and pray that they will accept God’s gift of salvation.
In conclusion, the concept of free will is deeply rooted in the Bible and has important implications for our lives as Christians. While it can create tension with the idea of God’s sovereignty, we can trust that God is able to work all things together for good. As we make wise choices, take responsibility for our actions, trust in God’s sovereignty, and share the Gospel with others, we can grow in our relationship with God and honor Him with our lives.
It’s important to remember that while we have the ability to make choices, we cannot earn our salvation through our own efforts. Salvation is a gift from God that we must accept by faith. By believing in Jesus and following Him, we can experience the freedom and joy that comes from a life lived in relationship with Him.
As we navigate the complexities of life and face difficult decisions, let us remember that God has given us the gift of free will. By seeking His guidance, making wise choices, and trusting in His sovereignty, we can live lives that are pleasing to Him and bring glory to His name.