ASK Commentary
August 1, 2006 

Free Will And Salvation

Commentary for August 1, 2006 — The Newsletter and Article for August 2006 
 
This month’s article by Dr. Ernest L. Martin is titled “Free Will and Predestination” from a 1995 audiotape. You can listen to the recording directly from the ASK website. However, first read my “August 2006 Newsletter” which will provide additional information about the subject of Free Will. 

This information in the article by Dr. Martin shows that God controls all aspects of salvation of humanity. He does this not from beginning to end, but He does this from before the beginning to the end, the consummation of all things (1 Corinthians 15:28). He does this not only for others but also for you.  

Think about that for a moment. If God left salvation up to you, truly, would you louse it up? Of course you would. After all, your heart (like everyone else’s) is deceitful above all things, which is just how God created you to be

You express your free will through your heart. Let’s look at your heart (and my heart). Your heart lies to you; it rarely tells you the truth. Not only is your heart deceitful, but it is desperately wicked! This also is how God created you!

“The heart is deceitful [crooked] above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? [Only God can know it.] I the Lord search the [deceitful and wicked] heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” 
  • Jeremiah 17:9–10

This verse not only describes Israel, but it describes you and me and every human being who ever lived. You will notice the reference (often overlooked) in this passage to “reins.” This is God’s way of saying that you are like a wild wicked beast that needs to be guided and trained for your own good (which is exactly what He will do) for your salvation, and so you will not be too destructive in this life. 

What did Jesus think about the human heart? Read this sad but true list:

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” 
  • Mark 7:21–22

This is why the phrase “free will” never occurs anywhere in Scripture. What freedom we possess is expressed from an evil heart. 

Free Will Increases Evil

Jeremiah writes in a passage earlier than the Jeremiah chapter 17 verses above:

“And you have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, you walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me.” 
  • Jeremiah 16:12

Is this not a description of every generation compared to the one before? Is this not a description of our generation? Yes it is. It certainly is a description of the time of the end (2 Timothy 3:13). 

So, what faith should we put in our own hearts, our expression of our free wills? “He that trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26). Madness is in your heart, and in your free will: “The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live” (Ecclesiastes 9:3). 

God Decreases Evil — For a Time 

There are occasional exceptions to the progress and increase of evil. Those exceptions come from God. One exception is when God intervenes to reduce evil and wickedness by substantially reducing the population. That means killing people, in fact just about everyone. 

The most obvious example is the flood in the time of Noah. Remember what caused the flood?

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” 
  • Genesis 6:5

Similarly historical events like the Black Plague killed off so many people that it is easier to be virtuous simply because there are so fewer people — for a while. Sometimes wars are so terrible or natural disasters are so devastating that the survivors are more virtuous — for a while. Yet remember that even that virtue has nothing to do with salvation. And the next generation, true to form as God created us, is worse than the previous generation. Mankind is degenerating. Look how Job described mankind:
“What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? … How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinks iniquity like water?” 
  • Job 15:14, 16

So think about it, if we had true freedom or true control (of even the tiniest amount) over any aspect of our salvation, given our deceitful — “above all things” — heart NO ONE would attain salvation through even the greatest work or exercise of free will. 

Free Will = Works 

Plainly and simply, if you have any notion that you can exercise any of your free will with regard to salvation, that notion is salvation by works. Works without faith is dead (James 2:18–20), yet faith comes as a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8–9). This is not tricky logic. This is simply in line with the biblical revelation as Dr. Martin will show in this month’s article. 

Note what the apostle Paul says (referencing and citing Psalm 14:1, 3 and 51:1, 3):

“… 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:  
there is none that understands,  
there is none that seeks after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable;
there is none that does good, no, not one.”
  • Romans 3:9–12

So much for free will. That is rather inclusive. That means everyone at every time. Paul later said that we do indeed have freedom from something, but it is not what you would expect: “when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness (Romans 6:20). Yes, you were free, free to sin and free from righteousness. That is the normal state of you, me, and everyone. 

When Will We Be Free? 

Some believe that the Free Will we enjoy is just an illusion, that we have no free will at all. They think that God guides every move and action we make in life, even down to the most trivial. I do not think this is the situation at all.  

While the salvation of the world is indeed in the hands of God and Christ, you do have free will. Have you ever had a problem having the free will to do evil? Probably not. And to be sure, you probably had little problem doing good, particularly if there was some benefit to yourself or others. You can do good in life. We all can. We all have done so. And that is perfectly fine and noble. But your heart is another matter. Sin pollutes us so much that even the good we do does not make us good (Romans 3:12, above). Being righteous according to God’s standard; that is impossible. 

In a sense the story of salvation is a story of increasing free will, to be attained in its fullest form in our resurrection from the dead. 

Christ has made us free (Galatians 5:1). He made us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 6:18, 7:22, 8:2) which is the expression of our hearts until God’s Holy Spirit changes our hearts. Christ did this through His life, death, resurrection and the gift of His Holy Spirit. To be sure, you cannot have a “free will” until Christ makes you free, as He summed it up, speaking in the context of slavery:

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. … If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” 
  • John 8:32, 36

David Sielaff
david@askelm.com

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