Am I Not Free?

Am I not free? This is the most common question I receive when dealing with the reality of how God’s saving grace comes to anyone. Some ask, “Am I not free to choose or to reject Christ? Didn’t God give me my own free will to accept His offer of salvation as a free creature? Didn’t Christ accomplish His work at the cross on Calvary and all I have to do is to accept it or else I will not be saved?”

Yes, we have free will in the sense that we are not forced to do what we do every day. We freely choose what to eat, wear, drink, etc. In one way or another, our surroundings and circumstances influence our choice, but normally on a daily basis, we are not forced to choose what we want.

But the answer is quite different when we talk about salvation. Our confession is clear about free will that it gives a chapter dealing with this topic (which is the basis of our freedom to choose daily as mentioned above). The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith on Man’s Natural Liberty states,

God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil.  (1689 LBCF chapter 9, para 1)

The next four paragraphs of the confession provide the context in order to answer this question on free will properly. We need to ask, what is the current state of man? We need to answer the question in light of what happened after the fall, man is in the state of sin. a With the current condition of man in sin the question must be rephrased, “Are we free to reject or choose Christ as fallen and guilty sinners?” Let us see our confession once again:

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

The confession is clear in its assertion that man’s freedom is not the same as the freedom that it had before the fall. He has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation. Actually, even before the fall, we can hardly call it free will in a libertarianb sense. Only God is totally free. We have a creaturely will. Now, all men in the state of sin cannot convert themselves to Christ because they love their sins. Our natural choice is to reject Christ and His gospel message of salvation.

Now, what is the testimony of the Scriptures as summarized in the confession?

Genesis 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.

Romans 3:10-18 10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

Romans 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

When we survey the Scripture’s testimony from Genesis to Revelation, the list could go on, but from the above passages, it is clear that the fall affected our totality (Eph. 2:1, Gen 6:5). We see here the depths of the total depravity of man by nature.c We are totally depraved, which means that there is no aspect of our human nature that’s not affected by the fall. According to Martin Luther, our will is in bondage. Every one born of Adam is born a slave. John MacArthur says men are neither willing nor able.d They are not willing to come to Christ since they are hostile to God (Rom 8:7) and they lack the ability to come to Christ since it is not in their sinful nature to do so, they are slaves of sin. They will always choose what is evil unless God’s common grace or saving grace works in them.

Let us not exalt man’s free will to choose God, but let us depend on God’s gracious work of regeneration, causing men to be born again to choose Christ and be saved (John 3:3-8, 1 Peter 1:3).

Men are dead in sin, there is no fear of God before their eyes. So, men will always reject the gospel because they hate God. None will choose Christ, men love darkness (John 3:19). Men are free in the context of their bondage to sin. Men are free to do anything according to their human nature only, that is our sinful nature. We cannot do anything beyond our sinful nature any more than a dog can fly.

However, the saving grace of God is so effectual that it can overcome men’s rejection. The Father will have to bring the elect to Christ, for unless He does so, no one will come to Him (John 6:44). In the accomplishment of redemption, The Father chose His people (Eph. 1:4), The Son died for them (Matthew 1:21, 10:28), and the Spirit powerfully applies the work of redemption in their hearts so that they will willingly come to Christ for pardon (John 3:3-8). The atonement is sufficient for the people whom God has chosen for Christ and they will be saved to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).

Whenever we preach or evangelize men, we do not depend on their natural ability to believe in Christ. They will certainly reject the gospel if left to their own. They cannot initiate to believe in the gospel. There must be a miraculous work wrought in their hearts so that they will willingly come to Christ. Praise be unto God because He changes hearts and He draws undeserving sinners to His Son, Jesus Christ.

Ezekiel 36:25-27 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Notice from the passages above that God has to cleanse them, give them a new heart, and put His Spirit within them. It is all God’s action. We also read the total inability of man to come to Christ. Truly, salvation is an impossibility if we are to depend on man’s free will. Let us not exalt man’s free will to choose God, but let us depend on God’s gracious work of regeneration, causing men to be born again to choose Christ and be saved (John 3:3-8, 1 Peter 1:3). Our confidence is in the Holy Spirit’s work (Titus 3:5). In all of this, salvation is to the glory of God alone and not to men (Jonah 2:9, Rom 11:36). This is the biblical truth that exalts God and humbles the pride of man.


a This is Thomas Boston’s Human Nature in Its Fourfold State. State of innocency, before the fall; state of sin, after the fall; state of grace, in Christ; and state of glory, in heaven.

b For a detailed critique of Libertarian Freewill, see John Frame’s Critique of Libertarianism., and for reasons to reject it, see John W. Hendryx Eleven (11) Reasons to Reject Libertarian Free Will.

c The author strongly recommends Thomas Goodwin’s An Unregenerate Man’s Guiltiness Before God. According to Monergism (you can get a free copy here), “with great thoroughness, Goodwin explores the depths of the total depravity of man by nature. Goodwin is the only author we are aware of who ever wrote more thoroughly on the subject of man’s depravity than A. W. Pink.

d Proclaiming a Cross-centered Theology, Chapter 3: The Sinner Neither Willing nor Able. pp. 81-98

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

6 thoughts on “Am I Not Free?

  1. Amen. It is all about Jesus and His saving mercy and grace. Love this: “let us depend on God’s gracious work of regeneration, causing men to be born again to choose Christ and be saved”. Very well said.

    Blessings from mighty King Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

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