Does the Bible teach that we all have freewill? If so, what verses support this belief?
What is Freewill?
Someone who has freewill is someone who is free to do something, of one’s own accord and makes their own decision and does so by their own free choice or can freely decide to make a decision or chose to not make a decision or to do something or not do something. Jesus once said “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28) so are all people able to come to Jesus of their own volition? Jesus did say “Come to me, all who labor and are heaven laden” so this seemingly means that anyone can come to Christ simply by choosing to do so but is there more to this and the other verses in the Bible that use the word “all” as in everyone? Can anyone come to Jesus by their own freewill?
No One Can Come to Jesus, Except…
Jesus once told the Jews who were grumbling at Him that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44) but in the very next verse He says “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:45). So here Jesus says that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him (or her) but then says “And they will all be taught by God.” How can we reconcile the “no one can” with “all who labor?” One key in the second verse is “everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to” Jesus. Next, take a look at the Greek translation of the word “draw” that Jesus uses in John 6:44. The word for “draw” is Greek for “helkō” and means “to drag” or to “impel” so this seems to indicate that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father is involved and He “drags” or “impels” them to and so how can we reconcile freewill with that? Apparently, no one can freely come to Jesus of their own freewill unless the Father impels them.
Since we have scriptural support that we know that all who are called (dragged, impelled) by the Father come to Jesus, we also know that God has ordained those who will freely choose. This is found in Romans 9, Ephesians 1, and in many other places in the Bible. Ephesians 1:4-5 says God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Incredibly, God chooses some to be saved before the world was even created and chooses some to adopt as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ. This is “according to the purpose of his will,” not our will. It is through Jesus Christ, not through you or me. He does the choosing. We do not. Even with the children of Abraham “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls” (Rom 9:11). Did you have any say about when you were born? Did you chose your parents, the time to be born, and where? No, that was beyond your control and in the same way when we are born again, it is fully the purpose and decision of God so that He receives all the glory. Even the phrase, “you must be born again” (John 3:4, 7) is literally, in the Greek, “You must be ‘born from above.’”
How Can Both Be True?
How can a person be free to choose Jesus Christ and yet God predetermined this already before you or the earth existed? Here is the answer to how both of these can be true; God’s Word says so. How can you reconcile them? I don’t know. Paul wrote “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor” (Rom 11:34) and “who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him” (1st Cor 2:16)? I can’t fathom the unfathomable. My finite mind cannot comprehend the finite mind. I don’t have to completely understand something to know that it’s true. I don’t exactly know how electricity or gravity works but I see it in the light bulb’s brightness or my coffee cup spilling down in my lap (and not up). There are some things that are simply a mystery to us and we can’t explain them but just because we can’t explain them doesn’t mean that they are not true.
Freewill is obvious in the Bible as in John 3:16 which says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” but I also know that “whoever believes in” Jesus must first be compelled or dragged to Christ by the Father (John 6:44). We just need to know that all who repent and believe in Him will be saved. I’ll leave it at that because that’s enough for me.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.