Man is said to have “free will” which is the sole reason given that prevents God from saving everyone. We are told that God cannot violate people’s free will, so if they never respond to Him, He has lost them for good. The blame, they say, is not on God, but on the person because the person had free will and should have made the right decision. This is the underlying apologetic given for both the doctrine of Eternal Torment and Annihilation.
I have addressed the irreconcilable issues with these doctrines elsewhere, but here I want to explore this omnipotent “free will” man is said to have. But before we do, let’s remind ourselves of God’s will concerning all the unsaved.
- I Timothy 2:3-6 – For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Man’s will, they say, is so powerful and untouchable that it can defeat God’s deliberate and declared will that all be saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth.
|God’s Will||Man’s Will|
|God who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth|
(I Timothy 2:3-6)
|Most men will not be saved because man has free will to believe the gospel or not, and many refuse it – God cannot violate man’s free will. (And what about the billions who have never even heard?)|
Now, only one “will” can succeed on this issue, so which is it, God’s or man’s? God says He “will have all men to be saved…” Man says “God can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be.” I don’t know which you believe, but I choose to believe God.
God gave man the choice to obey Him or not. This gives man the freedom of choice between two different options: obey; or do not obey. Obedience puts man in line for God’s blessings while disobedience requites with loss. We have all suffered terrible loss at that hands of our first parents.
This freedom to choose and the resulting blessings or consequences man receives because of his decisions is evident on the less significant level as well, such as choosing what to eat for dinner. Over time, healthy food will help sustain your physical body which affects your energy level, your attitude and more, but eating unhealthy food over the same period of time carries with it a higher risk of detrimental effects.
A person’s “will” is the product of their heredity and their environment. We all inherit mortality from Adam so we are all dying. Because we are dying, we sin, whether we “will” to or not. This alone influences most of the decisions we make.
We had no choice whether to be born or not. We didn’t choose where we would be born or who we would be born to. We didn’t have any say in the spiritual, economic and religious environment we were raised in. We make decisions based upon our education and experience which is largely determined by the culture we grow up in and the people we grew up with, principally the family we were raised in. Whether someone is a Christian or a Muslim or a Buddhist or whatever, his or her belief system is often determined by where the person was born, who the person was raised by and with, and the culture where the person was raised. All these decisions were made for us. We just “landed here,” broken, without any knowledge of God or spiritual matters and adopted our surroundings.
All of these things influence man’s will.
Behind all these earthly things, God is in control. He determines when and where each person is born and to whom they are born. He is involved with each person’s life in ways He only knows, most of the time unknown to the person. He is the great Potter; he makes some for destruction and others for glory, but in the end, He glorifies all and He is thereby glorified by all. This is the magnificence of His plan. He structures everything for a purpose and successfully achieving that purpose is what necessitates the methods God uses.
Man’s will is not absolute. It can be changed with a whisper from someone close. It can be changed when fear raises its fury. The human will is frail and inconsistent. We are influenced constantly by our internal state and our external environment. The currents of the spirit of the world influence how we think and the decisions we make because they shape the very world in which we live.
What we call “free will” is more accurately understood as simple “choice.” We do not have absolute unrestricted determination as God does. Because of that man’s will is relative, not free. All our available choices are within limits already established by the Creator. No one can “will” anything that is not within mankind’s power to will – and only if God wants it so. God did not make little gods who can do whatever they want within His creation whenever they want to do it. He has before determined the bounds of our habitation in space, time, power, and in our very actions in this world. We are severely limited in the grand scope of life. God is always in total control.
Man’s will is relative, not free.
Quite a number of prominent Christian leaders raised a protest against CERN’s Large Hadron Collider claiming it could “open portals to let demons in” and that it “could destroy the universe.” If they only knew the demons are already here! To fear anything is to not believe God is in control. Would God let man destroy the entire planet when He has already revealed the entire end-time scenario and how He will destroy this world to make way for the new one? Nothing can thwart God’s plan. He hasn’t given that kind of power to man. There is nothing man can do that God hasn’t already accounted for.
It’s good for man to know his limitations. Man’s will is virtually powerless beyond blindly leading him to make most decisions by impulse rather than contemplation. God can easily influence someone’s will because He alone knows all that goes into his decision-making process. Since He is the God of love, all He does is and will prove to be for the ultimate good of all, though it must come through the sufferings of this present time.
We can’t hope to understand the fullness of the depth of the wisdom in God’s plan because we are looking at it from a severely limited human point of view. But we can see how God has worked with mankind throughout His Word, and with the revelation of His complete purpose and also His plan for accomplishing it, we can see both the light at the end of the darkness, and the process God is taking us through. God is doing all He is doing for the express purpose of blessing all when He brings all into one. Then He will fully accomplish His purpose in creation to be All in all.
To claim man has “free will,” or “free moral agency” glorifies man such that it makes man a god. There is only room for one will in the universe, and that is God’s. His creatures must submit to Him or all is chaotic, all is lost. But God’s creatures must submit by their own choice.
God will lead every person who has ever lived to Christ as only He knows how. Many, if not most of have never even heard of Christ and are now dead. They will rise again. They will meet Christ. They will then believe by sight. Through God’s process, they will be changed even as those who believe now will be.
True freedom is found in forsaking one’s own will for God’s will. As Jesus said, “…not my will, but yours be done.” Acknowledging God’s sovereignty and dying to self to do His will breaks the shackles of bondage to self, to sin, to the elements of this world, and to the wicked spiritual forces that govern it.
But most people, at this time, do not want to know God. They reject learning about Him outright. They are deceived by the god of this world, God’s Adversary, and are bent on doing his will though most of them are unaware of it. They think they are in control of their own lives and traverse their own paths. Little do they know they are merely subjects carrying out another’s will.
But we who believe have been freed from the law of sin and death through the death of God’s Son. We did not “will” to be saved; God had to reach down through the cross to save us. We believe only because He granted us the faith to believe. Now we have the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus our Lord in the Holy Spirit within us. God is conforming us to the image of Christ as we renew our minds to His Word and live the truth. God works within us to will and to do of His good pleasure, even now.
- Philippians 2:13 – For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
We subjugate our will to God’s will because we realize that our own will only leads us away from God and into bondage. God works within us to will and to do of His good pleasure. We experience Philippians 2:13 now and will experience it in full during the coming eons and beyond.
The past is done, the future lies before. Our heredity has changed – by the Spirit within we are the children of God; He is our Father. Our physical environment has not changed yet, but we now have the light of the written Word of God and the Spirit of God within to navigate our course. We know our environment will drastically change when Christ returns.