Not Able Not to Sin

I often see critiques from professing Christians online regarding their deep opposition to the biblical view that, due to a corruption of nature, fallen man has no free will to come to Christ. Recently I even encountered someone with a list of bible verses which allegedly prove that human beings have free will. Before going through these verses with you (so you can have a reference), I would encourage you to all be familiar with the Augustine's helpful four-fold nature of man before and after the fall. Augustine taught that there are four states of humanity:

These four states, which are derived from the Scripture, correspond to the four states of man in relation to sin:  1) able to sin, able not to sin (posse peccare, posse non peccare); 2) not able not to sin (non posse non peccare); 3) able not to sin (posse non peccare); and 4) unable to sin (non posse peccare). The first state corresponds to the state of man in innocency, before the Fall; the second the state of the natural man after the Fall; the third the state of the regenerate man; and the fourth the glorified  man.

It is good to keep these in mind as you look at the following texts of Scripture posted online in an attempt to prove man has a free will.  My response to the uses of these texts will be in bold. 

Phm 14
but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own Free Will. Free will In the Greek ( adv ) means voluntary choice...

First of all.  We affirm that man has a will and he makes voluntary choices, regardless of what state he is in (pre-fall, post-fall, regenerate, glorified).  But here, who is this text aimed at?  According to the context (we should always look at context) it is aimed at regenerate believers, brothers in Christ, the church. In other words these persons have already been set free from sin's bondage and are therefore no longer slaves to it.  In relation to sin they are free (able not to sin) and so, having been redeemed, they can now make choices which are actually good choices. The doctrine of the bondage of the will is specifically a description of persons who are still in their fallen state. It does not refer to Adam, or to the regenerate or to the glorified. It refers to man's condition apart from the Holy Spirit.  Mark this because if you understand that then these discussions would be largely unnecessary.  Fallen human beings are in a state that needs salvation if they are to be restored to God.  Sin keeps them from God.  Apart from the Spirit, they think of Christ and the gospel as foolish (1 Cor 2:14)

Remember, Jesus declared that those who sin are slaves to sin but if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed. (John 8:34)  As you can see, Jesus himself defines freedom relative to sin.  It does not mean that man has no will or that he cannot make choices.  As Augustine once said, "to will is of nature, but to will aright is of grace." The text in Philemon is simply saying that, as believers, we can make a choice to do good  ... a choice that is not coerced or under compulsion but willingly to please God. 

Jos 24:15…. "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, CHOOSE for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.".....

Please go back read the passage in context.  Four verses later after the people agree to choose God "Joshua immediately said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God." Joshua 24:19.   Both in the Old Testament and the new, people do not just serve God with the grit and power of their own native ability. Just declaring they will serve a holy God is something impossible for man. apart from grace. Only God can change their hearts (Deut 29:4, 30:6; Ezek 36:26) so they will want to believe and obey.  Furthermore, "choose this day" this is an imperative. It simply tells us what we OUGHT to do, but says nothing about our ability to do it.  And as you can see, Joshua points out their inability to do so regardless of their protestations otherwise.

Job 9:14 "How then can I answer Him,And CHOOSE my words before Him?..

Job 34:4..."Let us CHOOSE for ourselves what is right;Let us know among ourselves what is good.

There are a couple of different points here.  One of these statement are Job's own statement and the other is one of his companions'. Both are the mere assertions of men in dialog and therefore do not demonstrate whether what they have said is true or not.  You cannot derive doctrine from statements in a dialog that were not meant to demonstrate a doctrine.

Next, those of us who reject free will do not deny man has a will and makes voluntary choices whether fallen or not.  The problem with FALLEN MAN is that, apart from grace, he will not make the right choice. In the text of Job we learn that Job was God's servant so we can assume that he was regenerate and could, by grace, actually make right choices. In the case of  Elihu his assertion proves nothing. I am not sure we know his condition spiritually.  But even if he is fallen he can still choose his words before God ... he has a will ... he simply would not choose aright.

Pro 1:29 Because they hated knowledge And did not CHOOSE the fear of the LORD…

God condemns sinners because they choose to reject Him.  That is the classic, standard Calvinist position.  It is not because someone else rejects him.  No one is coercing him to reject God. He does so of necessity due to a corruption of nature.  He willfully chooses to do so.  John 3:19-20 says of the unregenerate that they "love darkness and hate the light and do not come into the light..." they choose to hate God, love darkness and walk away from him. That does not prove free will, it proves bondage of the will.  That their will is so corrupted that they will not choose God.  Remember, the Bible defines freedom relative to sin.  So when we say a person has no free will to come to Christ we do not mean that God is holding him back. It means, rather, that a person does not make choices contrary to his own nature.  A leopard does not change its spots. A rock does not unharden itself.  A sinner is captive to his lusts and sinfulness. He cannot escape without supernatural intervention.  

Isa 7:15 .."He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and CHOOSE good.

You do realize this passage is a prophesy of our Lord Jesus. Need I say more?

Isa 56:4 For thus says the LORD,"To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, And CHOOSE what pleases Me,And hold fast My covenant,

Those regenerate people who are in covenant with God can choose to please God.

Phl 1:22 ...But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to CHOOSE.

This is speaking of a regenerate Christian, Paul. And a person in this state, with God's help, can make right choices.

Isa 66:4 So I will choose their punishments And will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered;I spoke, but they did not listen. And they did evil in My sight AND CHOOSE THAT IN WHICH I DID NOT DELIGHT."

Not listening to God is natural to people who don't know the Lord.  And yes, they choose not to listen, willfully and voluntarily. God is not coercing them.  He does not need to comes naturally to them.  To do evil and choose what God does not delight in is what unbelievers are good at.

John 7:17 - If any man will do his will, ( free choice ) he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or [whether] I speak of myself.

Any sentence that starts with "if you will" is a verb in the subjunctive mood which declares, not our ability, but our duty. It asserts nothing indicatively. Jesus is just stating a fact.    Similarly "If you will obey God" ... "if you will love him with all your heart" .... be holy... are statement which do not demonstrate what man is morally able to do on his own, apart from grace. Remember Paul declared, "through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Rom 3:19)  So when God commands something or gives one of these "if" statement he is merely presenting our responsibility before God to obey but, as he says, it revels our sin (our inability). Men will do well to quickly learn that their only hope in coming to Christ is the grace of God which was the subject of the previous chapter 6 of John's gospel. ""the Spirit quickens, the flesh counts for nothing...that is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me grants it." (John 6:63, 65)

Revelation 3:20 - Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, ( free choice ) I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Here is another one of those "If" statements which do not prove anything. It especially does not demonstrate that it is possible for anyone to do this apart from grace... but in this case it is addressed to a body of believers in the church so the regenerate, at least, will respond and repent of their lukewarmness. The call of Jesus may be used to awaken others as well.  The Spirit opens deaf ears and disarms hard hearts. 

John 1:12-13 - But as many as received him,( free choice ) to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:

I noticed that you posted the verse numbers 12 & 13 but actually left the second verse out.  ... lets post the ENTIRE verse:

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood NOR OF THE WILL OF THE FLESH nor of the will of man, but of God."

Born not of the will of man but of God.  Indeed they are justified when they believe in Christ, but their coming to faith is not because they willed to, but because God had mercy. Remember John 6:63, says "the Spirit quickens, the flesh counts for nothing."  Quickening is a synonym for regeneration, giving life. Something that the Spirit does entirely apart from the will of the flesh.  There are two types of people in the world, regenerate and unregenerate.  The unregenerate man is the person of the flesh which can do nothing, apart from the quickening of the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 2:26 - And [that] they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, ( free choice ) who are taken captive by him at his will.

Again you forgot verse 25 for context. Lets add what comes before so you get a full picture  "...correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps GRANT THEM REPENTANCE leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."

That changes the meaning dramatically from your isolated "recover themselves".  We recover ourselves only because God first granted repentance.  Vast difference.

Galatians 5:16-17 - [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

A verse given to regenerate believers.  Commands are something possible for believers BECAUSE the Spirit indwells them. Their will is no longer in bondage to sin but has been set free by Christ.

Romans 10:9-10 - 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.

This is a text I use frequently.  When we preach the gospel to our friends and family we call people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel.  We get the message to their ears, God alone can get it to their heart.  We plant and water, God causes the growth.   Calling people to repent and believe the gospel does not assume ability ... it is just a summons ... If a man rejects it, it is not because God holds him back. He does so willfully.  Now this summons may bring a man to lose all hope in himself as the Holy Spirit enables him to see he is unable to do as commanded.  Then stripped of all hope in his own righteousness he will, by grace, flee to Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts, regenerates and converts a person. Salvation is by grace through faith and this is not of ourselves but is a gift of God  (Eph 2:8). Grace always taking the lead.  And what does that grace look like? 3 verses before Paul said, "While we were still dead in sin, He made us alive (quickened us) (Eph 2:5). There is that word again which we know is apart from the will of the flesh.

Genesis 2:16-17 - And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

This is before the fall. Adam and Eve were not in bondage to sin. Their wills were free from sin's captivity at the time.  So this is irrelevant to the discussion of whether fallen man has a free will or not.  The free will debate is specifically speaking of man's condition after the fall and before regeneration.

Romans 13:2 - therefore whoever resists the authorities (free choice) resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment..

A command given to believers to obey government. Regenerate people are able to obey God.

Mark 8:34 - And when he had called the people [unto him] with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, ( free choice ) let him deny himself, ( free choice ) and take up his cross, and follow me.

The same as above.  We indiscriminately call all people everywhere to obey the gospel summons. This does not mean people are morally able to do so apart from grace. As soon as you acknowledge that people need grace to believe then you acknowledge that, apart from grace, he can do nothing and therefore, apart from grace he has no free will to believe the gospel.  He is not being coerced but his falleness makes his choice a necessity, so it is not free.  If you think a person can come to Christ apart from the Holy Spirit then you are ascribing your repenting and believing, at least partly, to to your own wisdom, humility, sound judgment or good sense and not to Christ alone.  Give glory to God. "it is because of Him that we are in Christ Jesus who became for us wisdom from God ... therefore let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." 1 Cor 1:29-31


Just so you don't think I am making this stuff up about Calvinism which is what I think is the closest thing we have to biblical Christianity, here is a quote from Calvin himself about the definition of free will and whether we have one. He does not teach coercion. Read it. I highly recommend it.

Does Man Have a Free Will? by John Calvin


Fri, 05/26/2017 - 17:16 -- john_hendryx

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