CHAPTER 9: Of Free Will
Parts One and Two
God has given human beings the natural liberty and power of acting upon choice. In their state of innocence (before sin and the fall), the first humans had freedom and power to will and to do what was pleasing to God. But they also had the freedom and power to do what displeased God.
When they chose to do what was displeasing to God (disobey and sin)
(Genesis 3), they, and all their descendants after them ever since, lost the ability to desire what is truly pleasing to God, and instead were left with an innate desire to please themselves above God (Romans 5:12-21). The Bible refers to this state as being “dead in trespasses and sin” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
In this state of spiritual deadness, no human being seeks God (Romans 3:10-18). Those who are spiritually dead have neither the desire nor the ability to do anything to make themselves acceptable to God (John 6:44), who demands perfect holiness from those He created in His image (Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, Matthew 5:48, 1 Peter 1:16). This is why we need God’s grace, or unmerited favor, to be forgiven of our sins, to receive a heart for God, and to be reconciled to Him. God gives this grace by regenerating, or giving new birth to His people. As Jesus put it, “You must be born again” (John 3:3-8).
Being “spiritually dead,” human beings are incapable of not sinning. Thankfully, that does not mean that we are as sinful as we could be. It does mean, however, that we are (a) incapable of doing anything that cannot be improved upon, and (b) that we never do anything solely for the glory of God.
Beyond what people do or do not do, our greater problem is that of the will. Sinful people act sinfully because we want to. Our affections are not inclined toward perfect righteousness. It is, therefore, our wills and our affections that are at the core of our sin problem. We are slaves to sin because we are bound by our own prevailing sinful desires and affections.
We must choose to believe and repent; but no one who, dead in sin, ever will. Why? Because being dead in sin we have neither the will nor or the desire to believe in Christ, or to repent of sin.
How then can one be saved? We must choose to believe and repent; and God does neither for us. But to the praise of His benevolence, without violating our wills, God sovereignly and most graciously changes His people’s wills and captures His people’s affections so that we believe and repent most willingly and even eagerly.