Question and Answer

Free Will

Question:

I was curious to know about your specific beliefs on free will. Thank you.

Answer:

We are grateful for your recent inquiry.

The simplest way to answer your question is to cite the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 9, entitled "Of Free Will." We in the OPC consider the Confession of Faith to be a reliable summation of the teaching of Scripture. This is important, for the Bible is our primary standard of faith and practice. Any Confession of Faith to which we would subscribe must be measured by the Word of God. The Chapter from the Confession "Of Free Will" reads as follows (click on a small superscripted letter to see supporting Scripture; click on the same letter to return to the text of the Westminster Confession):


Chapter 9
Of Free Will

1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil.a

2. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God;b but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.c

3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation:d so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good,eand dead in sin,f is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.g

4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin;h and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good;i yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.k

5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone, in the state of glory only.l

a. James 1:13–14. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Deut. 30:19. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live. Isa. 7:11–12. Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. Matt. 17:12. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. John 5:40. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. James 4:7. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

b. Eccl. 7:29. Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. Gen. 1:26, 31. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.… And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Col. 3:10. And [ye] have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.

c. Gen. 2:16–17. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Gen. 3:6, 17. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.… And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.

d. Rom. 8:7–8. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. John 6:44, 65. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.… And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. John 15:5. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. Rom. 5:5. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

e. Rom. 3:9–10, 12, 23. What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.… They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.… For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

f. Eph. 2:1, 5. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.… Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) … Col. 2:13. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.

g. John 6:44, 65. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.… And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. John 3:3, 5–6. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.… Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 1 Cor. 2:14. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Titus 3:3–5. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

h. Col. 1:13. … who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. John 8:34, 36. Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. … If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. Rom. 6:6–7. … knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.

i. Phil. 2:13. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Rom. 6:14, 17–19, 22. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.… But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.… But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

k. Gal. 5:17. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Rom. 7:14–25. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. 1 John 1:8, 10. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.… If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

l. Heb. 12:23. … to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. 1 John 3:2. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. Jude 24. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy … Rev. 21:27. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.


I hope this helps.


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