The question of man’s will is often the root of the questions of man’s salvation. What part does man’s will play or is it employed at all. Often the language used is man’s “free” will. This is an attempt to explain what man’s “free” will is and the role it plays in salvation.
1. The State of
Man was created in the image and likeness of God. Inasmuch as God is a thinking rational being man was likewise and possessed the ability to choose between good and evil or rather to obey or disobey the voice of God. God gave man the command of not eating of the tree in the midst of the garden; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The encouragement that God gave to obey this was the consequence of dying the day the fruit of it was eaten (Gen_2:16-17). At this time man possessed the ability to not sin as well as the ability to sin. Both were possessions of man. Man could walk with God freely and talk with him without either the guilt or stain of sin. Man was completely “free” to choose God and refuse evil. At this time man’s will was free and man was free from sin.
2. The State of
When Adam decided to eat of the tree a very strange thing occurred; Adam lived for 930 years. This may seem to be contradictory to the consequences given by God. But it is not. Man died the day he ate of the tree, although he lived to be 930. The thing that died was his spirit. Man’s spirit died in the garden the day he ate of the tree. At the point of death man no longer possessed the ability to choose good; mans thoughts were only evil continually (Gen_6:5). Being in this state man’s fate is death because now man is a sinner. Every one born after Adam is born in sin. This they are not because of something that they have done or not done but because of the absence of the life of the spirit. Apart from the spirit man will not seek after God nor choose God. God is not in all of man’s thoughts. Psa 10:4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. One may say that says the wicked. Indeed. Man’s present state is wicked.
3. Man’s Will
Man’s will is no longer free to choose God. His will is now in a state of being estranged* from God (Gen_6:3). Man’s will is no longer free. Man is a slave to sin, sinful thoughts, sinful passions. Man cannot help but sin. This is because of his nature. It is in the nature of man to commit sinful acts. Cain was not taught how to be envious, or to express bitterness, or even to murder. And, yet, he did these things. Why? Because of the sin nature. This sin nature causes man to commit acts of sin. Due to the sin nature and the patience of God man will not repent for his sinful actions. Ecc 8:11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Man does not recognize that God is being merciful by not punishing them immediately and yet man continues his course. This is all a result of man’s spirit being dead. The scripture says verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Man’s will, will only choose evil.
4. Sirs what must I do to be saved?
Consider the language of the following verse: Rom 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Why did it say that many shall be made righteous? One might say that because they did not choose God and his ways. Please remember that God has conclude all under sin (Gal_3:22) and God has already said that mans thoughts and imaginations were only evil continually. Many are made righteous because of the promise of faith in Christ is given to them that believe. Another place it says “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (Joh_1:12). Those that receive Jesus do so because God has given them the power to believe. God has given them the gift of faith (Eph_2:8). God has made selection of them according the counsel of his own will. Joh 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. God’s grace is all that will save man from the state of sin. This is because man in his own ability and out of his own resources will only choose evil. He will not choose God. So then God has to give grace to man in order for man to receive God and become one of his sons. Man cannot do this on his own. There is no reservoir of goodness or righteousness in man. There is not a hidden supply-house of holiness that man can use to have faith or believe in God. The account has insufficient funds. Only God’s grace can save man. Gal 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. The promise is given to you. If you believe it is because it was given to you. Php 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. You must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. You must believe that he is the Christ, the Son of God. If one believes this truth not only is he saved, never to loose it, but you are chosen and accepted in the Beloved.
Concerning God's unwillingness for any to perish
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2Pe 3:9)
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1Ti 2:1-4)
These two verses are used by some to say that God's favor has been extended to all men and that if they only believe they will be saved. While it is true that God is not willing that any should perish it is helpful that we look at the context in which the verses are given.
The verse in Peter is given believers. The context is that of believers. Believers in the verse are encouraged to look continually at the promises of God and not at their circumstances. The reason why they are going through the difficulties that they are experiencing is because God is not willing that any should perish. Any of who? Any of the saints. Unbelievers are not concerned about the Lord's coming. There is no threat to unbelievers concerning the day of the Lord. This is a real threat for believers. God is not willing that any of his children should miss the kingdom. Consider it another way. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luk 12:32) This, Jesus is saying, that it is God's pleasure to give those that are his the kingdom. For it says it is the Father's pleasure? No but rather "your Father's pleasure." The Father is interested in giving the kingdom to those that belong to him. He is not willing that any should perish. This is the context of 2 Peter 3:9.
1Timothy 2:1:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. The context in which this is given is that we should be praying for men to receive salvation. For kings and all that are in authority for the purpose of living a quiet and peaceable life. In other words as we pray for the salvation of others our lives are quiet and peaceable. As we seek for those who are the chosen of God to hear the gospel our lives are full of peace (Psalm 1, Proverbs 11:30). The life that we live that is concerned with the salvation of others will keep us from wrath and doubting (1Tim 2:8) it will keep women less concerned with the outward appearance and more concerned about the souls of the lost (1Tim 2:9). As believers live their lives in simplicity with thoughtful care for others those that are witness this will give glory to the Father and some will believe (Mat 5:16, 1Pet 3:2).
God has not said that all men will be saved but those to whom it has been given to believe will be.