Nelson’s Bible dictionary offers the following definition for the will. “Wishing, desiring, or choosing especially in reference to the will of God.” Man was created with a will. He was created with the ability to choose. Man has the ability to wish for and look upon with desire.
The fall of mankind in the garden had devastating effects on man’s will. Man’s will became bound because of the nature he inherited. Total depravity affected all aspects of man including his will. Man no longer was free to choice, though he could still make choices, he could only choose from his sin nature. Christ came to set men free. In other words, Christ came to set men free them from the slavery of sin.
The question about free will is a major point of contention in Christendom. How one answers this question shows who it is that they truly see upon the throne. One group of people believe man is able to, some acknowledging with assistance, choose God. Another polar group of people see that except by a work of grace that man is unable to choose God. At this point, a key passage of Scripture jumps out. “We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).”
If it were not for God, in His providence, for His own good pleasure, choosing to save many, no man could be saved. Salvation is all of grace. It is God showing mercy to the sinner and extending (giving) grace. The (His) salvation portrayed in Scripture elevates God, not man.
One of the early Church fathers, St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) made three points about man’s ability:
1. Before the fall man had the potential to sin or not to sin.
2. Since that fall man was free to sin but lacked the ability to do good.
3. In heaven man will be free to do good, but not to do evil.
Was man created with a free will?
Adam (and Eve) was placed in the garden (It is most important to stress Adam since he is the representative head of mankind). He was told that he could freely eat from any tree in the garden except one. He was given the warning that if he disobeyed and partook of the tree of good and evil that he would surely die.
15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
Scripture clearly indicates that Adam had a choice to make in the garden. The choice he made affected all mankind. Mankind inherited original sin. Every aspect of mankind and creation was affected by the fall. This includes the mind, will, and emotions of man. Man’s will therefore become bound. Man became bound to sin. He still made choices but those choices became limited to his nature.
Man’s pride makes it hard for him to be dependent upon another, and not master of his own life. Often times those who reject that man’s will is bound and/or affected by the fall do so on the premise of unfairness. A major argument is that God would not have made man unable to choose. What is not grasped is that God did give man a free choice, and man chose evil. It was God in His sovereign grace who chose some (many) from the foundation of the world to receive salvation. God’s salvation makes man whole. Man is restored to what he would have been had he not chose to disobey and suffered its effects.
24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.