Some believe that man does not have a free will given by God. They say that all is predetermined for man by God apart from any personal choice of his own - even his eternal destiny. Man is more or less a robot which does whatever God has programmed. Not only is this position unScriptural, it is completely contrary to the very nature of God.
We dealt briefly with this error in the previous article on predestination, however let's look a little more into how free will is addressed in the Scriptures.
The first thing I will reiterate is that what is commonly called "free will" is not completely free. It is constrained by the sovereignty of God. As with any child, the choices available to us are only those options which the Father has given us. It is not possible for man to make choices beyond the latitude that God provides.
So what does Scripture say about free will?
Free Will is Free Will
In an attempt to dispel the reality of free will, it is often asserted that such a word doesn't exist in the Scriptures. However, the question is not whether the words we use are in Scripture, but whether the concept being discussed is Scriptural.
Throughout Scripture, there are examples of man making choices and being told by God to choose. Some may note that the word "Trinity" is not in the Scripture, but that does not mean that the reality of God being three persons in one being is not present in the text.
However, the word "freewill" is seen in Scripture, often in describing man's offerings to God. This poses a particular problem for those who claim man has no free will.
If man has no free will, then how could "freewill" be applied to anything man does? By virtue of believing that man has no free will, this mandates that everything man does is predetermined by God apart from his choice. For Scripture to say man has free will in any area proves that, 1) Man has a will and; 2) Man is given some latitude by God to make choices.
The Scriptures on freewill show specifically that man is making decisions which impact his interaction with God of his own free will. If free will exists, then free will exists.
With that in mind, let's review the use of the word "freewill" in Scripture.
Present Your Bodies a Living Sacrifice
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word nĕdabah literally means a "freewill, voluntary offering". It is often used to describe the type of burnt or peace offerings Israel brought to the temple.
The Jewish Encyclopedia defines a "free will" offering as:
"A term applied to gifts presented out of the benevolence or religious impulse of heart of the giver, and not in fulfillment of any obligation, promise, or vow."
A"free will" offering is one that is given voluntarily, NOT resulting from any command or obligation. So what does that have to do with us? There is Scriptural relevance between the "free will" offerings of the Old Testament and the offerings we bring to God in the New Testament. WE ourselves are an offering.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." Romans 12:1
It is our lives which are on the altar as "WE" present ourselves as a living sacrifice. God does not keep or place us on the altar. We must present our own bodies as this living sacrifice. God puts responsibility for this offering of ourselves on us. And what is the altar upon which our sacrifice is made? It is the cross.
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23
Not if any man has been predestined to come after God. Not if any man has been programmed or forced to come after God. If any man "will". Again, we see man's will in operation in connection with offerings presented to God. Not only so, but after "willing" to come after God, man must deny himself, take up the cross, and follow. Because our free will does not go away after salvation, we must continue to deny, take up, and follow.
The way that we present ourselves as living sacrifices is by taking up our cross daily. God does not force us to do this. In fact, Jesus states that one who does not take up his cross (present his body sacrificially) is not worthy to belong to Him (Matthew 10:38).
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Romans 6:6
It is the daily presentation or sacrificing of our bodies on the cross which destroys the body (old man) of sin. There is a direct correlation between us carrying our crosses and us overcoming sin. The victory over sin was accomplished once and for all in Jesus Christ's death on the cross and is applied to our lives individually as we take up our cross and follow Him. This is the offering believers are to give in faithfulness to Christ.
Scripture also confirms this relationship between the offerings submitted to God in the temple and the offering of our lives to Him as both being "free will" sacrifices. David declared that he was a "free will offering" to God.
"I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O LORD; for it is good." Psalm 54:6
In this text, the words "I will freely" is the word nĕdabah which again means a freewill voluntary offering. David's sacrifice unto God is of his own free will.
Silver and Gold
We continue to see this same confirmation that we are free will offerings depicted symbolically in Ezekiel Chapter 8:
"And I said unto them, Ye are holy unto the LORD; the vessels are holy also; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering unto the LORD God of your fathers." Ezekiel 8:28
In discussing the "the offering of the house of our God" (Ezekiel 2:25), the text states that the vessels of gold and silver in that house are "freewill" offerings unto the Lord.
In the New Testament, God says that we are called the vessels of gold and silver in the Lord's house.
"Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work." II Timothy 2:19-21
The vessels of honor in this great house are the vessels of silver and gold. These represent those who belong to God and have departed from iniquity. Letting Scripture explain Scripture, it can be clearly seen that God is comparing the believer to the "freewill" offerings of gold and silver in the Old Testament temple. We are these holy, freewill offerings.
The pattern for the Christian is what we see reflected in Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is denying our own will in submission and obedience to the will of the Father.
"Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." Luke 22:42
By examining the use of the word freewill in Scripture, it can be clearly seen that God's people can offer sacrifices to God freely without compulsion, including the sacrifice of one's self. God not only gives man freedom of will to choose, He implores us to exercise this "will" in following Him by presenting ourselves as living sacrifices.