Is “Free Will” Really Free?

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let Me.” (Luke 13:34 NLT)

While the terms “free will” do not appear in the King James Version of the Bible, and only once in the New Living Translation, in reference to the Macedonian believers who gave an offering to the believers who were suffering in Jerusalem, there are dozens of examples of the necessity of having and exercising free will if we’re going to follow Jesus and have eternal life.

There are theological positions that argue against what I will advocate in this post, but I can only write what I understand the Bible to say. As I’ve asked in other articles, please prove me right or prove me wrong, but do your own research and draw your own conclusions.

C. S. Lewis wrote: “Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” In the verse above Jesus is pointing out the dilemma of every human being – to decide whether they will respond to His invitation to have eternal life that is found in Jesus alone or refuse His gift and walk away.

In John 5 Jesus is speaking to the Jewish leaders and in verses 39-40 He says: “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to Me! Yet you refuse to come to Me to receive this life.” What is refusal but an act of our will?

In John 3:16 Jesus says: “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Believing is an act of our will that sets our life on a course designed and led by our Savior, but it’s a course we must choose for ourselves. Of what value would “belief” be if we had no choice? Or if belief is a position I didn’t choose, yet by which I must abide, that’s not freedom, that’s slavery.

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on

Yet, ironically, once I’ve exercised my will to receive God’s free gift of eternal life, and I, by an act of my own volition, allow Jesus to become the Lord of my life, then I am no longer my own, but His. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20: “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”

There is a very real sense in which freedom from sin, which can only be accomplished by being united with Christ, equals being united with Christ. Our “freedom” to be in bondage to sin is traded for our allegiance to Jesus who has redeemed us through the sacrifice of His own life. Our new life in Christ thrives to the extent we voluntarily yield our will to God’s will, just like Jesus did.

We exercise our will every day in a thousand ways – what we have for breakfast, what we wear, who we spend time with, where we live, what we drive, where we work, who we marry, and on and on it goes. Yet, I’ve found that to the extent I bring all my decisions to Jesus, asking Him to guide, inform, and enable me to make decisions that align with His will and purpose for me, to that extent I find life much more bearable and enjoyable.

Is “free will” really free? Yes, and no! “Yes,” in the sense that I control my own destiny. I can choose Jesus or the world; heaven or hell; life or death. But “No” in the sense that my freedom from sin cost my Savior His life. And because of His sacrifice I willingly align my will with His and pray every moment of every day that I will be guided and enabled by the Holy Spirit to choose His will, not mine.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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