What is free will and does everyone have it?
A “free will” means that a person has the freedom to exercise his own will of choice. God did not make man like robots or computers that only make pre-programmed decisions. Man weighs his choices, and then chooses what he wants to do — whether it is right or wrong.
We see that all people, right from the beginning, have been able to exercise their own will and make a choice based upon it. Consider Adam and Eve. God told Adam, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 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. (Genesis 2:16,17). Despite what man was told, he ate of the tree anyway. Genesis 3:1-6 says, “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 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. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” Adam and Eve both knew that God did not want them to eat of that tree, but they both exercised their own wills and ate of it anyway.
Some people just cannot reconcile in their minds the fact that man has a free will, and then understand how God can still be sovereign over His creation. This is especially true of those who hold the view of “Calvinism.” They believe that if God “wills” and “draws” a person to be saved, then that person cannot resist. After all, God is all-powerful. Their problem is that they are not taking into account the whole of Scripture when considering this matter.
First, it is God’s will that all people be saved. I Timothy 2:3,4 says, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; WHO WILL HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, NOT WILLING THAT ANY SHOULD PERISH, BUT THAT ALL SHOULD COME TO REPENTANCE.”
So it is clearly GOD’S WILL that ALL PEOPLE BE SAVED. But the Bible itself tells us that few people are going to be saved. Matthew 7:13,14 says, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW THERE BE THAT FIND IT.”
Luke 13:23,24 says, “Then said one unto him, Lord, ARE THERE FEW THAT BE SAVED? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”
The Lord does draw them to be saved. John 12:32 says, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, WILL DRAW ALL MEN UNTO ME.” But they reject His love.
Mark 10:17-23 says, “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then JESUS BEHOLDING HIM LOVED HIM, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And HE WAS SAD AT THAT SAYING, AND WENT AWAY GRIEVED: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” The Lord Jesus loved that young man was was drawing him to salvation, but the young man walked away and rejected the Lord.
The Jewish people did the same thing to Him. John 1:11,12 says, “He came unto his own, and HIS OWN RECEIVED HIM NOT. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
God is all powerful, but He does not force Himself upon anyone. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” He stands at the doors of people’s hearts. He does not force His way in, but must be invited in personally. Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Because God does not force Himself upon people, does not mean that He has lost his sovereignty. He still rules over all. Yes, Satan is said to be the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:3,4 says, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”), but even in that, Satan cannot do totally as he pleases. He is only permitted to do what God allows.
Remember the situation with Job? Satan had to come and answer what he had been doing, and he could only go as far with Job as God allowed. Job 1:6-12 says, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.” So Satan was limited in how far he could go.
God is sovereign today, though some may wonder whether He is. Psalm 76:10 says, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” Yes, there is much wickedness taking place, but God will only let it go so long, and then He stops it and judges it.
That will be seen to be a fact in the judgment day. Revelation 20:11-15 says, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Everyone has a free will — to reject the Lord, or to receive Him — to do His will, or to do their own will. Have you decided that you will repent of your sin and receive Him as your Savior? Have you decided to serve Him with all your heart and life?