The Will of Man / The Grace of God

The object of this blog is to show that the will of man is bound in sin and therefore cannot be considered to be a free will.
This truth of scripture prompted Martin Luther to write his work “The Bondage of the Will”.


Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will was published in December 1525. It was his reply to Desiderius ErasmusDe libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio, or On Free Will, which had appeared in September 1524 as Erasmus' first public attack on Luther after Erasmus had been wary about the methods of Luther for many years. At issue was whether human beings, after the Fall of Man, are free to choose good or evil. The debate between Luther and Erasmus is one of the earliest of the Reformation over the issue of free will and predestination.

In chapter IX of the Westminster Confession it states:

I. God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil.

II. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.

III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has 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.

IV. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he does not perfectly, or only, will that which is good, but does also will that which is evil.

V. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.

What is being said here is that when Adam and Eve were created by God, they were perfect and without sin. They had free will, to choose between good or evil.
When Satan tempted Eve into disobedience towards God she fell from grace and she in turn caused Adam to sin also and so man’s will became bound in sin.

The day that they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they died spiritually. Their wills became subject to sin.

Gen 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Gen 3:3  But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 

They lost the ability to choose between good and evil and could only choose between the greater or lesser evil.
See III. (Westminster Confession)

Only When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, is he freed from his natural bondage under sin and, by God’s grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.
See IV. (Westminster Confession)

Also, that man's will can only be set free "alone in the state of glory only." 
See V. ( (Westminster Confession)

Reformed doctrine expresses this condition of being bound in sin as Total Inability:
See III (Westminster Confession)

This means that man is dead in sin and his nature is completely corrupt and he is separated from God by his sin.
Man’s will, since Adam is totally enslaved to sin and he is unable to approach God and has no desire to seek God.
Some people argue that man is not dead but just sick, a sin sick sinner and when he hears the Gospel message, he can by his own free will, respond to the Gospel and be saved.
However, the scriptures reveal that man of himself cannot come to God.

John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
Romans 3:10 – 12:  10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one. 
11 There is no one who understands, 
no one who seeks God. 
12 All have turned away; they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one.

JAM 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
ROM 5:6
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

EPH 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).
COL 2:13 And you,
being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all

PHI 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
ROM 6:18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

When one is regenerated by the Holy Spirit, his will is set free and only then can he respond to the Gospel.
Before regeneration by the Holy Spirit, men are dead in trespasses and sins. Not just sick but dead, unable to hear the Word of Truth, see the Way of salvation or seek Christ.
A will bound in sin is not a free will. As Luther says, “free will is an empty term”.

Unless the Holy Spirit quickens a man’s heart, he will continue in his sin and eventually will die in his sins.

In John’s Gospel Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus and He makes it quite clear that new birth is nothing to do with man’s will but that it is solely the work of the Holy Spirit.


Joh 3:5  Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 

Joh 3:6  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 

Joh 3:7  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 

Joh 3:8  The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 

In verse 8. Jesus is comparing the work of the Spirit of God in the new birth to the way the wind moves, and the way the wind causes effects in the world without being seen and without being controlled by us.
verse 6, Jesus has just said, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” So he is making clear that the new birth is the work of Holy Spirit.
When you are born again, you are born by the Spirit. The new spiritual life that comes in the new birth comes through the Holy Spirit. This is really clear in
John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” So the new birth — and the new life that comes with it — is the work of the Holy Spirit.
John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

So in conclusion, the question is this.

Can a man now, in the same way that he separated himself from God, return to God by his own strength and ability, can a man by his own will, in this fallen state, accept the grace of God and recover himself to the position he had before the fall.


The Pelagian (Pelagius (c. AD 360 – 418) answer is yes, they would say that there is enough grace remaining in man that he is able by his own will to return to God and obey His call.
This teaching is also taught by the Arminian’s  (the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609), Finneyism (Charles Finney) an the Roman Catholics.

However as we have seen in the scriptures quoted, that this not the case.

Without the work of the Holy Spirit by regeneration, man cannot return to God in his own strength.

This is what most of the Reformers taught, they did not believe that man’s will was neutral but on the contrary, they taught what the Bible teaches. That man is totally unable to call on the name of Christ without the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit.
This maintains the Sovereignty of God and and shows concord with the Word of God, that God is the author of our salvation through CHrist.

Psalm 51:5 Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Hebrews 12:2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Salvation is all of God and not of ourselves.

Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 
Eph 2:9  Not of works, lest any man should boast. 
Eph 2:10  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. 

Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

Just like Jacob and Esau in Genesis.
Romans 9: 11 For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;

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