Recently, I received a comment from someone who suggested that we should still teach "free will" because it practically helps encourage people to behave ethically. This was the statement:
The belief that one can choose to do good freely... significantly impacts upon the idea that the Golden Rule is worthy of practice ... and will significantly help to lead one to behave accordingly.... and to encourage treatment of others with the dignity of self-determination. It is better to promote the idea of free will ... the belief is important. Hopefully, whatever one defines as "good" is in agreement.
How do we respond to this? The truth is, freedom entirely depends on which side of grace we are on. There is no biblical concept of free will before grace. Better to be as biblical as we can and explain freedom the way Jesus does: "whoever practices sin is a slave to sin ... [but] if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed." (John 8:34, 36) To teach that the natural man has a free will, therefore, is to overthrow the gospel. That our will and affections were in bondage to sin (as natural men) is precisely why we needed the gospel in the first place. But now that we have been set free by Christ, we are free to obey and live according to the principles like the golden rule that the comment mentions.
When we give God's commands to an unbeliever, however, it is not because he is able to obey them. Paul rather says the purpose of divine commands is to reveal sin (Rom. 3:19) - and when men and women despair of themselves then they are in a perfect position to receive grace.