God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free will.
The question arises, how can God be sovereign and at the same time man have a free will.
First, let us determine if God is sovereign.
Is God completely in charge of everything? Yes:
Isaiah 46:9, 10 "For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure'".
Phil 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
God has determined whatever shall come to pass by the determinate council of His will.
The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it like this.
"God has freely and unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass: yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established" (Chapter III, section 1).
Notice two parts of this statement, God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass and the statement the will of the creatures.
The first one says that God is sovereign and the second acknowledges that the creature has a will.
Notice the absence of the word “free”. The creature has a will but it is not free.
The Bible makes it quite clear that mans will is in bondage to sin.
When God made man in His image, man was made with a free will, a free will to choose between good and evil. He could make an independent choice, to do one thing or the other.
Adam and Eve were free to choose any fruit from any tree in the garden, except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
God said, “In the day that you eateth of that tree, ye shall surely die”
Genesis 2:17. 16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;
17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."
Using their free will Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and ate of the forbidden fruit.
The moment they did that, just as God had said, “You will surely die”.
Spiritually and eventually physically they died. Their free will ceased to be and the will was now in bondage to sin.
From that day man could not of himself choose good towards God and he had a natural bias towards evil.
Man continued to have a will to choose but he could now only choose between the greater or lesser evil. He cannot of himself choose God goodness. The “goodness” of man is not the goodness of God. It falls short of the goodness of God.
Romans 3:23 - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 5:12,19 - sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned… by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.
Man has a natural bias to evil. He cannot by nature do good.
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
Psalm 143:2 - Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
Mark 7:21-23 - “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Jeremiah 13:23 - Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
1 Samuel 24:13 - “As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’”
Matthew 7:18 - “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” (c.f. Luke 6:43)
Matthew 12:34-35 - “How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”
Romans 8:7 - For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
The Apostle Paul explains the condition of man very well in his letter to the Romans.
Romans 7:21. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Men by nature, are sinners and hostile to God.
We are alienated from God by our sinful nature. Man is hopelessly lost and of himself he cannot save himself or prepare himself for salvation.
Psalm 51:5 - Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Genesis 8:21 - the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
Psalm 58:3 - The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
John 3:6 - “That which is born of the flesh is flesh”
Romans 8:7-8 - Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Man does not seek after God
Man from his own will, cannot and will not seek after God.
Isaiah 65:1 - “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
Isaiah 64:7 - There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
Romans 3:10-12 - “no one seeks for God.”
John 3:27 - John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”
John 14:16-17 - “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.”
John 1:12-13 - But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 6:44,65 - “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
Romans 9:16 - So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
Romans 11:35-36 - “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things.
1 Corinthians 1:30 - And because of him you are in Christ Jesus
Philippians 2:13 - for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Man is dead in sin and separated from God.
Colossians 2:13 - And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses
Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5 - And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked… But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
So we see that to say that man has a free will is not correct.
As Martin Luther put it: Free Will is an empty term and mans will is in bondage to sin.
Of himself, he cannot choose good and neither can he choose God.
Romans 3:11 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 There is no one who understands; no one seeks God.
12 All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.…
John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain:
The conclusion from scripture is that man surely has a free will but it is only free in the sense that he can only choose evil.
He has no capacity to choose good and no capacity to seek after God.
There is, as Luther put it a “Bondage of the will”.
The will is only set free when God in His mercy regenerates the heart and makes it possible for men to respond to the Gospel.
Until that time, man remains dead in trespasses and sins. Man does not seek after God, it is God that seeks men.
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.
John 3:5 Jesus answered "Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
John 3:6 Flesh is born of flesh, but spirit is born of the Spirit.
James 1:18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we would be a kind of first fruits of His creation.
John 15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain — so that whatever you ask the Father, in My name, He will give you.
Ephesians 1: 4 For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love
5 He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will,…