Most Christians - and
non-Christians - believe that human beings have "free will." They
reason that if we don't have free will then we must embrace the
doctrine of fatalism, meaning, there's nothing we can do about
anything anyway because it's all worked out ahead of time - as in
the doctrine of predestination. Because this issue has an important
bearing on the character of God, we must find out what the Bible
God's word does not support the doctrine of "free
will" , nor does it support the concept of fatalism. The
Bible does speak of "free will" offerings, but on the other hand,
God says He is operating ALL in accord with the counsel of
His own will." (Eph 1:11, Rom 8:28) But these two doctrines,
though seemingly opposites, can be harmonized. One doctrine happens
to be the divine viewpoint and the other, the human viewpoint.
If God "is operating ALL in accord with the counsel of
His OWN WILL," then everything must be pre-arranged. "If
everything is pre-arranged, then what is the use of doing
anything?" you may ask. How can God be running EVERYTHING,
and yet human beings also have "free will"?
We must understand that man does not have "free will" even
when he thinks he does. Why do
corporations pay a million dollars per minute to advertise during
the Super Bowl game? Because it works! Why does it work? Because if
you repeat something often enough, people will respond to it and do
what you want them to do -- buy your product. They will be
influenced consciously or subconsciously, to change their mind and
do something they hadn't intended to do. Their "free will" has been
manipulated by someone else!
Sophisticated research has been carried out for many decades to
develop methods to change peoples minds about a product or an
issue, political or religious. We make our decisions based on a
combination of what we see and experience as well as what is in our
subconscious. Yet we have very little control over what is in our
subconscious. Many circumstances in our lives are not under our
control, yet these same circumstances, in conjunction with our
subconscious mind, are a large part of our ultimate
Many persons imagine that they are carrying out their own free will
when, in fact, they are really carrying out the will of
another who has a subtler intellect than their own.
Here's an illustration. Americans think we live in a free country.
However, you are "free" only as long as you remain politically
correct, you pay your income taxes, you don't speak about a bomb as
you go through airport security, and many other restrictions of
"freedom" we have learned to accept. We have accepted these
restrictions, and the loss of many rights, yet we still consider
Man's will is a product of heredity and environment. We were all
born sinners. None of us has the freedom "not to
sin." Therefore, we are NOT truly free! The Bible
says, "ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans
When a man makes up his mind, his will, he subconsciously considers
his own ego, the contacts he has made in the world about him, the
psychology of the moment, including at times, the state of his
stomach, and the condition of his finances. If you are wise enough,
you could probably make up his mind for him.
In fact, wise men have always acted on this principle. They do not
attempt to capture the will of others by a frontal attack. They
know that "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion
still." So they execute a flank movement around the side. They seek
to change or modify one or more of the factors which compose man's
will. If a child will not eat healthful food, then let it go hungry
for a while. If a child refuses to give up a sharp knife with which
it might cut itself, then you offer it a more desirable
Few men and women ever attain maturity in such matters as these,
and all people may be made to change their mind by the very factors
which have formed it in the first place.
God is in control of everything that takes place in the universe.
If He were not in control, the universe would be a madhouse.
Throughout the Word of God, man's will is always
subordinated to the will of God. Temporarily man's will appears to
oppose God and is contrary to God's revelation in the Bible, but
ultimately man's will works God's way. The Bible says that God
"hardened" Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 9:12) to do exactly the
opposite of what
God appeared to want done. This is the way God works. God
provides opposition to His Word in order to manifest
In order for God to reveal Himself to His creatures, it is God's
will that His revealed will be opposed. In other words, God gave us
the 10 Commandments, knowing that we would not be able to keep
them, knowing that our carnal nature would be in opposition to this
revealed will of His.
Have you ever wondered why God, Himself, put the Tree of Knowledge
of Good and Evil right in the middle of the Garden of Eden, where
Adam and Eve couldn't possibly avoid it? Where they would be
repeatedly enticed into eating from it? Where their temptation
would be overwhelming?
If we don't want a little child to handle, and possibly break,
fragile glass objects, we don't place those objects in easy reach
of the child. We put them in a closet or on a high shelf where they
will not be tempting to the little child. Yet God did exactly the
opposite with Adam and Eve. He placed the forbidden tree right in
the middle of the Garden, where they couldn't possibly avoid it.
Then He told them "Don't eat of it." What was God's motive?
Think about this. We are told the Lamb (Jesus) was "slain from the
foundation of the world," (Rev. 13:8) meaning that the Plan of
Salvation, including Jesus' death for sinners, was planned
BEFORE man was ever created. The Plan of Salvation REQUIRED
that Jesus die on the cross. Therefore, Jesus had to come in the
form of being that had the "ability" to die. Before Adam and Eve
sinned, they were incapable of dying. They did not become subject
to death until after they had sinned. If Adam and Eve, or
their offspring had not sinned, neither they, nor Jesus would have
been subject to death. Jesus could not have died and no
one would have needed a Saviour anyway.
Therefore, sin and death had to have been an integral part
of the Plan of Salvation.
God plants impulses in the human heart and surrounds men with
influences that impel men to oppose God's revelation, just like God
did with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is imperative that
God should clash with His creatures. It is essential that their
wills withstand His will. Men imagine that they are in control of
their own will and that no one can break their resolution, not even
God. But this is foolishness. Men have no greater control over
their will than the captain of a sailing vessel has over the set of
the sails. If the captain is not demented, he will set his sails to
suit his course, and that is determined by the wind.
To suggest that God has created a world of little gods, with
absolute wills, is to dethrone God. However, God does give mankind
the consciousness that he has self-determination. It is
essential to God's purpose that His creatures should be oblivious
of the power which impels them, for their response must be without
God, is the only Being in the universe who is unhampered by the
chains of circumstance. God CREATES the circumstances in the lives
of all of us. It is by this method that we walk in the steps which
He has created for us before we were born. (Eph. 2:10) The highest
and most powerful of earth's leaders play the part that God assigns
them, though they don't know it.
Proverbs 21:1 says, "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord as
the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will."
There is only one independent "free"
will in the universe, and that is the will of God. In
order to bring about His purpose, men must not be aware that they
"live and move and have their being" in Him. The false "free will"
that men believe they have, is the result of man being oblivious to
God's ways. God provides opposition to His truth in order to make
Himself known. Men imagine that their will is independent of God's
will. Since they are unable to understand the intricacies that make
up their own decisions, they delude themselves into thinking that
their will is independent.
The story of Joseph and his brothers is a perfect example of God's
way of working in our lives. Joseph's brothers were opposing the
"will of God" by selling Joseph into slavery. They broke several of
the Commandments, including "Thou shalt not kill" as Jesus said
hating your brother in your heart is the same as murder. In
addition, they lied to their father about what had happened to
Joseph. But by resisting "God's will" they actually fulfilled God's
ultimate INTENTION! For by selling their brother Joseph into
slavery, they eventually produced their own earthly "saviour", who
saved them from death by famine and who protected and nurtured the
very origin of God's fledgling nation, Israel. Joseph, after he
became the leader of Egypt under Pharaoh, was able to sustain his
entire family by providing food for them and by providing a fertile
area for them to live in, to multiply and begin the entire nation
When the whole episode was over and their father Jacob had died,
the brothers then thought Joseph would take revenge, and they
pleaded for their lives. They went before him and fell before his
face, terrified that he would now have them killed. But we are told
in Genesis 50:19,20 that Joseph said unto them, "Fear not, for am I
in the place of God? But as for you, you thought evil against
me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this
day, to save much people alive."
There's the answer. That's the way God
works. He sets us up against Him, and our sin ultimately leads to our
salvation. God always
brings good out of bad. The more we resist Him and the farther down
we go, the more we will realize our ultimate need to depend
entirely on Him.
Throughout this story of Joseph's brothers selling him into
slavery, we can see that their own evil against Joseph ultimately
led to their own conversion, repentance and salvation. It was a
hard struggle and a lifetime of grief and guilt, but the entire
family was saved and God had worked out His ultimate
To summarize, we CAN resist God's will as revealed in the
Bible (The 10 Commandments), but we CANNOT resist His
intention, which is to save us all.
One way to understand this whole issue is to study the WORD
of God -- The WORDS of God! The specific words in the
original Greek and Hebrew scriptures are very meaningful and have,
in many places, been mistranslated in the King James Version of the
Bible, and in many other versions as well. In Paul's letter to
Timothy (2 Tim 1:13) he tells Timothy "to have a pattern of
For instance, God's "will" is often watered down to a mere
"wish" or changed to only a "desire." These
mistranslations assure us that God does NOT "WILL"
that all mankind be saved (1 Tim 2:4) but that He merely
"desires" it. And since man WILLS otherwise,
God is apparently powerless and impotent in the face of this
"superior force" of man's human determination. How absurd!
Yet Philippians 2:13 says that "it is God who is operating in us to
WILL and to DO HIS good pleasure."
Let us look at the original Greek words.
Will is thelo or thelema
Wish is euchomai
Desire is epithumia, and has to do with feelings, rather than with
To be disposed is phroneo, and expresses the bent or bias.
Intend or intention is boulomai.
Each word has a specific meaning, yet the Bible translators have
translated these words as they chose, rather than as to their true
meaning. The exact meaning of each word can be understood by
studying EVERY place in the Bible that the specific word is used,
then making sure that the same English translation is used
in EVERY instance that the specific Greek word is used.
But mistranslations abound. For instance, The word will is
mistranslated into counsel, opinion, wish, about, eagerness,
delight, accord and voluntary.
The word "wish" is euchomai, which lacks entirely the
sense of determination that is essential to the word "will",
as is shown by this word's occurrences in the following texts:
Acts 27:29 (KJV): When Paul was on the ship, right before it was
going to be shipwrecked, we read the following: "Then fearing lest
we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the
stern, and wished (euchomai) for the day (daybreak)."
Romans 9:3 (KJV): "For I would wish (euchomai) that myself
were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to
3 John 2 (KJV): "Beloved, I wish (euchomai) above all things
that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul
We can see that when the Bible wants to say wish, it has a
special word for wish, and that is euchomai. The word will, which
is the Greek word thelo or the derivative thelema is a totally
different word from the word wish, which is euchomai. Thelo or
thelema means will - it does NOT mean "wish", although the Bible
translators take improper literary license to make it so.
The words intend and intention (from the Greek word boulomai) have
a more far-reaching significance. They come from the verb "to
plan", which means to look beyond the immediate action to the
ultimate result. This is very important in the passages where it
occurs, such as in the following texts:
Acts 27:42,43 (KJV): " And the soldiers' plan (counsel or intention
= boule, from boulomai) was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them
should swim out, and escape." "But the centurion, willing (bouloma,
which means intending - yet the margin actually reduces the word to
"wanting") to save Paul, kept them from their purpose (boulomai =
In the literal translation from the Greek, the word is actually
boulomai, which means intention or intending. It shows the ultimate
result and the determination. And this is how verse 43 actually
reads: "Yet the centurion intending to bring Paul safely through,
prevents them from their intention."
Romans 9:19 (KJV): "Thou wilt say then unto me, why does He (God)
yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?"
A direct translation from the Greek reads as follows: "Why then is
He (God) still blaming? For who hath withstood His intention?"
As we can see, the word for will is thelo or thelema, the word for
intention, is boulomai. These are both very different from the word
for "wish", which is euchomai! Again, it is no wonder Paul tells us
in 2 Timothy 1:13 that we should "have a pattern of sound words"
when we are dealing with Scriptures.
It is obviously impossible to understand God's mind through man's
mistranslations. Confusion with these terms has arisen on all
sides. As a result, each one interprets to suit his own system of
Translators tend to define the word
thelo as will when it is used to describe man, and
then to define the same word, thelo, as wish when it
is used to describe God. Men are determined to have their own
"will" and they deny that God is entitled to anything more than a
"desire"! This is a direct result of man's
inclination to exalt himself and to degrade God.
If you study
all of the occurrences of the Greek word thelema, or will, you will
find that out of about 60 occurrences, at least 50 of them speak of
the will of God!
Man's will is not very important, according to the Scriptures.
Christ's whole mission is found in the text. "For He
came to do the WILL of God." (Heb 10:7,9). In John 5:30 He
says, "I am NOT seeking My will, but the will of Him who
sends Me." It is NEVER found in the Bible that Jesus exercised His
own will, except when it was in complete accord with His Father's
will. Jesus did NOT do His own will, He did His Father's
will. We do not need vigorous determination in the
crisis of our lives, but we need strength to acquiesce to
God's will for us.
If we want to see where OUR "free will" leads us, look to the
crucifixion. Whenever you hear human determination exalted, let
your ears hear that cry of 2000 years ago, "Crucify Him! Crucify
Him." This was the "will" of God's supposed church of the
time, those who had God's revelation, the religious nation of the
Jews, who had been trained by the law and knew the "will" (Romans
We have NO will of our own. If we haven't acquiesced to the will of
God, we are controlled by the will of Satan. There is NOTHING in
between! Most human beings are controlled by their wants and
senses, and find their wills powerless to resist their carnal
desires. The main purpose of this "earth walk" journey of ours is
to allow us, with God's help, to understand and overcome our
fleshly nature. It's called the process of sanctification. If we
don't overcome our fleshly nature and learn to live like Jesus, we
are not fit to live forever with the Lord.
In Romans 9:9-18, Paul informs us that "It is NOT of him who is
WILLING, nor of him who is RACING (running), BUT
OF GOD THE MERCIFUL." "It is a sad sign of the times that the
perversity of mankind persists in injecting passages on other
subjects in order to nullify this very decisive declaration of God.
In Revelation 22:17 it says 'Whosoever will' are invited to take
the Water of Life freely. The use of this phrase in preaching the
Gospel is a most flagrant perversion. Also, to reason that because
some will not
come to Christ (John 5:40), therefore only those
who WILL are
saved, is only one more instance of the depravity of the human
intellect. In truth ALL men will NOT come to Christ. There
"WILL" prevents them. Only the
superior power of God's will actually brings men to Him.
Remember Jesus said "No
one can come to Me unless the Father draws him." (John 6:44)
Philippians 2:13 says, "It is GOD Who is operating in you
TO WILL as well as to work for the sake of His
delight." By means of God's Spirit and God's Word, our own
"will" is superseded by God's determination." (1)
"But there are those who cry out greatly against making puppets, or
mere automatons, out of men. At all hazards, we are told, we must
maintain human individuality and the godlike attribute of "free
will." What is the meaning of this? It is nothing less than a
revolt of the creature against the Creator, the desire to be as
God, even though it is always presented under the guise of
religion. This doctrine of "free will" is found nowhere in the
Scriptures, but it is the basis of most interpretations of the
Bible...In their proud repudiation of the position of puppets, men
are acting merely as phonographs, for they repeat a well worn
record made by the spirit that is operating in the 'sons of
stubbornness' before man imagined he had a 'free will' in the
Garden of Eden, "You shall be as God." Satan provides the record -
and Satan turns the handle - and man speaks! What a wonderful
little god he is!" (2)
Few of us understand what it is to be a creature, a created being.
If we have so much "free will" why weren't we consulted when we
were born, regarding our place of birth, our nationality, who our
parents would be, our face, our body build. All of these were
forced on us. Even our body functions are involuntary. They are not
controlled by our "will." We eat our food, and it is digested and
the nutrients sent to the proper place in the body without us being
able to exert any influence over the digestive and assimilation
process. We breathe in the air, almost unconsciously. We may want
to be tall, but we are small. No one can "add a cubit to his
But just because the Scriptures clearly teach us that a man has no
free will does not prove that man cannot be judged by God for his
actions. Rom 3:9-19 says that ALL are subject to His just verdict.
We are not discussing man's relation to God's judgement, but
God's absolute will to save all of His lost creatures.
Because of God's WILL, no creature has any jurisdiction over his
own destiny, in order to be lost eternally. Look at the story of
the Potter and the clay in Romans 9:16-21:
"So then it is NOT of him that willeth, NOR of him
that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. (Comment: It is
NOT our will that is in charge, but it is of ALL of God!)
"For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, "Even for this same purpose
have I raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that
my name might be declared throughout all the earth." (Comment: God
raised Pharaoh up precisely for God to show His own power.)
"Therefore He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He
will, He hardens. (Comment: God decides on whom He will have
mercy and whose heart He will harden.)
"You will say then to me, 'Why does He (God) find fault? (Comment:
The question asked here is "How can God hold US responsible, if He
is the one doing it?") For who has resisted His will?
"But who are you to reply against God? Shall the thing that is
formed say to Him that formed it, 'Why have you made me so?
"Has not the potter power over the clay, to make from the same lump
one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?"
God says He makes one vessel for honor and one for dishonor and no
one has a right to tell Him what to do because He is the Creator.
God, and ONLY God, is in charge!
The theory of man's "free will" actually
elevates man ABOVE God!
There is NO question about God. He WILLS that ALL men
be saved (1 Tim 2:4), but, according to Christian theology, He is
impotent to carry out His will. Yet, on the other hand, when man
wills NOT to be saved, he apparently is omnipotent, and God Himself
can do nothing! This is deification of man and dethronement of
God can manage even the greatest of men with ease as seen in
Revelation 17:17. Everyone today knows how difficult it is to get
the rulers of various nations to agree. Yet the ten kings are led
by God Himself in their opposition to His will! "God imparts to
their hearts to form His opinion," and to be unanimous in it. If
God can do that with ten world powers at the zenith of their might,
it will be nothing at all for Him to turn human hearts toward
Himself. Undoubtedly, the ten kings will pride themselves on
carrying out their own "free will." No man is conscious of what is
put in his heart. It is God Who "locks all up together in
stubbornness" (Romans 11:32). He Who locks, can also unlock.
"The case of Pharaoh is the classic example of the gulf between
God's will and God's intention. God's revealed will was very plain.
He said, "Let My people go!" Eventually, Israel was liberated. But
the account clearly shows that God's intention included more
than His revealed will, and that it also involved
opposition to His will. God's revealed will, what Israel
understood, was limited to the release of Israel. But His intention
was to display His own power and glorify His Name in all the earth
through the process. This is given to us as an example of God's
complete purpose - and of the process by which He will attain it.
God uses both ignorance of, and opposition to, His
will, to bring about His final object.
"But it is obvious that God could not have revealed His intention.
He could not tell Pharaoh that while He asked him to let the people
go, he really did not want him to comply, but desired to use him as
a foil for the revelation of God's power. This would actually make
a mere machine out of Pharaoh. Instead, it was the ignorance of
God's ultimate object, which made the whole procedure real to the
actors in it. They did not by any means feel or act as mere
puppets. Notwithstanding that each and every one was doing
precisely what was needed to accomplish God's final goal." (3)
The highest expression of God's wisdom
lies in His ability to transform every effort against Him
into that which is not only favorable to His plan, but
absolutely essential to His purpose. Truth needs opposition for
its development and dissemination.
God always brings something good out of something bad. When all is
over, there will be a perfected universe. We will not be worrying
about our past sins, but we will be overwhelmed with God's wisdom
and love in their vindication. He will bring good out of every
sinful act. In absolute reality, every sin will be justified by God
turning it into something good. This is true "Justification."
This teaching gives us stability, and a calm confidence in the face
of chaotic conditions that surround us. But we are not worried as
we once were by the awful opposition to God's will. We know that
God will fulfill His purpose. The deluge of evil and sin, however
contrary it may be to His will, is essential and
indispensable to His ultimate intention.
God is a Deity infinite in power,
matchless in wisdom, limitless in His affections, Who is
"operating ALL in accord with the counsel of His OWN WILL."
In Old Testament times, "God hardened Pharaoh's heart (Ex 10:20).
So also today, "whom He is willing, He is hardening." (Rom
God's ultimate intention is to become ALL in His
creatures. (1 Cor 15:28) Will He accomplish this by giving each
person an independent "will" so that they may be His rivals in the
regulation of the universe? Is total chaos the end that God has in
view? Of course not. That's why every
creature in creation now "lives and moves and has their being in
God!" (Acts 17:28)
God created every one of us. He is responsible for us, just as
parents are responsible for the children they bring into the world.
We had no choice to be anything but a sinner. God's plan is to
reconcile ALL to Him (Col 1:20)
When parents give birth to children, it is their obligation to take
care of them. By the same reasoning, God created us and He knew we
would all be sinners, surrounded by darkness. He too, has an
obligation to care for us, just as we have an obligation to care
for our children.
It would be cruel for God to give us total free will, to allow us
to be completely on our own when He knows we are incapable of
running our lives. We don't know what's going to happen in the next
year, in the next day, nor even in the next hour. But God does. To
leave us on our own would be the same as taking our 7 year old
child to the center of New York City, leaving him there and saying,
"You're on your own!" No responsible parent would do that. Neither
would God leave us in a similar situation.
How comforting to know that God cares so much for us that He is not
willing to let us drift through life with our own "free will."
Instead He is in control. He is operating ALL in accord with the
counsel of HIS OWN WILL" (Eph 1:11) and His WILL is that NONE
should perish, but ALL should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
God will eventually lead EVERY ONE He has created, back to
There is room for ONLY ONE "WILL" in this world. God WILL
be ALL in ALL (1 Cor 15:28). His WILL alone, is
irresistible. His will is the ONLY will that will prevail.
Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I WILL DRAW ALL unto
The question is, do you know your