If there is one "sacred cow" in the modern church it is "freewill." Amost every person I meet in the modern church assumes that 1) man has freewill, 2) that man can use his freewill to choose salvation, 3) that God is a perfect gentleman who would never force salvation on man.
Deny "freewill" and you will hear objections:
1. You are making man to be a robot!
2. God would never do that!
3. That is a horrible doctrine!
4. Why bother?
The problem is that most objections are based on emotional responses, knee-jerk reactions.
Let us be clear what we mean.
1. The only ultimate "freewill" is God's. Only God can say, "I will do all my pleasure" (Isa. 46:10) Only of God can it be said that He works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). Our wills, whatever else they might be, are the wills of creatures and necessarily limited.
2. Man has a will. Man's will (not "freewill," but will) is his faculty of choice. Man, whether a sinner or not, has this faculty of choice. A robot and a puppet do not. No one teaches that man is a puppet. Therefore, man can make real choices between options presented to him. He can choose tea over coffee; he can choose to buy one model of car over another. Of course, his choices are limited by various factors. I might choose to buy a 2012 BMW car, but if I don't have the money I will have to settle for something cheaper. In addition, man is free to choose in that he is not forced by God to make a choice one way or the other.
3. Man was created (in Adam and Eve) with freewill. This freewill was a faculty of Adam's mind according to which he made choices. Adam's mind and whole being (and therefore will) were perfectly upright and holy. Adam willingly and with delight served God his Creator. God made man that way in His own image, but with the possibilty of falling. We know, of course, that man fell into sin. The contentious issue is this: did man's fall affect his nature, and especially his will?
1. The Pelagian denies that the nature of man was afffected by the Fall. According to that view, Adam fell but it was a very minor affair. Man became guilty, but his mind, soul and will were basically unaffected. And none of his posterity were affected by Adam's fall either. There is no original guilt, or original corruption (original sin). Modern man, as a sinner, is still in the image of God and still able to serve God. You ask: why does no man live a life without sin? The answer: all men sin because of the evil examples of parents and other human beings. Sin is not in the nature, but in the "nurture."
2. The semi-Pelagian admits that man was seriously affected by the Fall. He lost many of the powers of his original nature. Man is "weakened" but not ruined by the Fall. Now it is much more difficult to serve God and to choose good. This view teaches that man is "sick" but not "dead." But man still has the power to cooperate with the grace of God.
3. The Bible teaches that the Fall ruined Adam and also all his posterity. As a result of the Fall man became a slave to sin (John 8:34), totally corrupted and depraved, and he lost the image of God (knowledge, holiness and righteousness [Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10; John 8:44] ). Now man does not have a "free" will (he has the faculty to choose but that has been corrupted also). He has a corrupted will.
The Choices of a Fallen Man
1. What is will? What is faculty of choice? Are you, as a sinner, completely free to choose, and entirely uninfluenced in that choice? No! A man chooses that which he loves, that to which he is attracted, that which pleases him. Why do you choose to drink coffee, perhaps, whereas that would not be my choice? Because you like coffee, and I cannot stand the smell of it! Why does a sinner choose to sin? Because the sinner loves sin!
2. A sinner when faced with the choice of righteousness or sin, holiness or depravity, loving God or loving self will always choose the latter. Why? Because he has a totally depraved heart, a twisted mind, a perverted will and a ruined, fallen nature.. Therefore, sinners choose willingly to sin. They follow sin greedily (Eph. 4:19) even when they know that sin will destroy them. Sin is irresistible to the sinner. God does not force a person to sin against his will. Sin is his natural choice exactly because he has a fallen nature.
a. Man is dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-3)
b. Man hates light and loves darkness (John 3:19-20)
c. Man's carnal mind is enmity [hostility] against and cannot even be subject to God's Law (Rom. 8:7-8)
d. To the natural mind the Gospel is foolishness and he cannot receive it (I Cor. 2:14)
e. There is none who does good, seeks God, understands, etc (Rom. 3:10ff)
f. man drinks sin up as water (Job 15:16)
The Bible is FILLED with testimonies such as that. And when the Bible does talk about sinners seeking God, longing after God, etc., it speaks of saved, regenerate, belieivng sinners. Do not confuse the two!
3. So, offer to the will of the sinner (who is dead in sin, hates light and loves darkness, finds spiritual things foolishness and cannot receive them, does not do good, understand or seek God, and whose very mind is hostlity to God) the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and what will the reaction ALWAYS be? Rejection! Unbelief! Refusal to repent! Why? Because the unbeliever freely, willingly and in accordance with his fallen nature ALWAYS hates Christ and is never atracted to Him.
4. Does that mean that conversion is impossible? Yes, for man it is. Man is as the Bible describes him: totally depraved. Does that man that God cannot convert a man? Of course, not! God can convert the most hardened sinner. Does that mean we should not preach to sinners? No, of course not! We must preach to sinners, but in preaching we do not rely on our abilities to appeal to man's will, but we preach knowing that it is God who gives life to sinners. God is pleased to use means to bring elect sinners to salvation.
5. What about you, believer? Is it not true that you were also like the unbeliever described above? Consider the analogy of the so-called "perfect gentleman" Jesus knocking at your heart (there is not one word in the Bible about this "gentleman Jesus" by the way; and Rev. 3:20 is not about Jesus knocking on the door of an unbeliever's heart but about Christ knocking on the door of the church in Laodicea!). If you love darkness and the light of the world is knocking at your door will you ever in a million years open the door? Will you not like a darkness-lover lock the door and get away from Him as far as you can? Did you overcome your own depravity, your own slavery to sin, your own enmity against God? Of course not!
6. Why do some believe? Because God by His Spirit works, opens the closed heart (Acts 16:14), opens the blinded eyes, unstops the deafened ears, and even gives life from the dead, and gives a new heart. Does He give that to everyone? Clearly not! He gives it to the elect.
We do not deny that man has a will. Man has a will, a very active will, a will actively and greedlly set on evil, only evil, always evil. His will is corrupt and disordered because his whole nature is corrupt and because the whole man is enslaved to sin. That is why we need salvation: God frees our will, and changes our nature, and then we believe. Salvation is not of man's freewill (man's will is bound to sin). Salvation is of God's grace, free, sovereign, efficacious, amazing grace!
And, in heaven, when our will shall be finally delivered from the corruption of our nature, we will no longer even be able to choose sin. That will not mean that we will be robots, only able to chose good and never evil. We will be free, perfectly free, happily and gloriously free, to serve God forever without even the possibility of sin!
How did you become convinced there was no "freewill"? And have you experience strong opposition as you expressed these beliefs?