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I have been given many different opinions as to what having free will actually means. Some have said that it means only that we have a choice of whether or not to accept salvation, others have said it is the choice of whether to choose good or evil. Others tell me it is both. It seems that there are as many opinions as there are people.

So I tried to find out if there were some Scriptures which would answer that question, but so far there has not been any answer given me by the Holy Spirit.

So I have decided to ask if you can point me to some Scriptures which will clear this up.

All Scriptures quoted are from the King James translation.

These are the Scriptures I have already considered, and what I have discerned from them so far.

Genesis 1:29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

At this point God has not put any restrictions on what to eat, and so no free will is indicated.

Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

Genesis 2:17 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.

At this point; and I am unsure if this is the same as verse 1:29 or not; God has placed a restriction on what to eat and therefore man has a choice, however he does not at this juncture have the knowledge of good and evil. That sort of leads me to dismiss the parts about choosing salvation, and whether or not to choose good or evil.

My consternation comes from the fact that if man did not have free will at this time, why would God place the restriction in the first place?

Then I considered that free will was just another way of saying that man had the ability make choices. Choosing entails reasoning, and reasoning entails having knowledge. And not only does it require knowledge, but it requires that we have knowledge of more than one option.

So prior to verse 2:17 even though man may have possessed the ability to choose he did not have an option based on the fact that he had no knowledge that there were repercussions for eating from that one tree.

So; erroneously or not; I have concluded that free will is actually a process in which man is alternately infused with options and knowledge of consequences.

To this end I have come to believe that up until Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead, that man never had free will as far as salvation is concerned, and even now until all people are given the Gospel they do not have free will as far as salvation is concerned, and may be the reason God has not sent Jesus for the second coming, since Jesus said:

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Are there any Scriptures which I have overlooked that would alter my conclusions.

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@freemason I did consider that question before posting mine, however my question is more to the am I getting this wrong side, and not if God controls things, I have no doubt that he does control those things which are of Kingdom significance. –  Bye Feb 4 at 19:17
I don't think it's duplicate, I just think it's worth noting. –  The Freemason Feb 4 at 19:29
@ The Freemason It is worth noting and that question did clear up some vagaries in my concepts, and thank you for you interest and input. –  Bye Feb 4 at 19:33
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2 Answers

I'm going to take the middle of the road and say that free will (or agency) is the ability to choose between good and evil; those who consistently choose the former will, in the end, be saved. Choosing, like you said, requires knowledge of good and evil options.

It seems that different opinions on the meaning of agency stem from opinions of whether salvation is a one-time choice or involves many right choices. Regardless of the number, however, when a conscious choice is made between good and evil, agency is exercised.

The following verses illustrate that people are given the choice to follow God or not and consequences are tied to each choice:

Deuteronomy 11:26-27

26 ¶Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;

27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day:

28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God,

Joshua 24:15

15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

People who never heard of Christ would not have the free will to accept him, but they would have free will to make choices between good and evil according to the knowledge they posses.

I'm not sure if you are interested in scripture outside the Bible but I'm including a few here because they are very insightful on this topic.

This verse strikes at the essence of free will. Once Adam and Eve transgressed the first commandment (by eating the fruit), Alma 12:41, from the Book of Mormon, says that they came to know...

good from evil, placing themselves in a state to act, or being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good—

Some people are born in circumstances where they don't learn of Christ during their lifetimes. Despite this, the following verse indicates that in God's grand plan, all will have sufficient knowledge provided that they may choose Christ:

2 Nephi 2:27, Book of Mormon

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

To summarize, free will is the ability to act for ourselves; to follow God or not. It requires knowledge of available choices. Salvation necessitates making the choice to follow God.

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Here are some potentially relevant passages:

Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.

Jeremiah 10:23 (NASB)
I know, O LORD, that a man's way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.

These two passages suggest than humans have the power of choice, though not the power to guarantee an outcome. Outcomes are the LORD's purview.

The Biblical authors continually adjure us to choose what's right. That this is the overwhelming testimony of the Scriptures tells me that we have the power to choose and that it must mean something, for our future expectations are said to hang very heavily on the choices we make now.

I don't know that what's written in the Bible attempts to define, directly, what free will is or isn't. That our choices are of supreme importance does have some logical implications, and might add some flesh to any definition we can extract from the words of the text.

You said:

he did not have an option based on the fact that he had no knowledge that there were repercussions for eating from that one tree.

I do not think your premise here is valid. Knowledge, or lack thereof, of the consequences does not nullify the power to choose. Having options seems to be the only requirement for choice, and as soon as God issues a command, there's always a choice: do it or don't do it. It seems logical to conclude that free will comes into play at this point. (I might argue that it existed all along—where to sit, what to eat, what to say, etc.—but that there might not have been an opportunity previous to this for it to have had the same degree of bearing on events.)

I cannot think of any scriptures that say that the ancients ever chose salvation (directly, as if they knew about Jesus). The testimony of the Scriptures is that salvation is found in no one else (Ac 4:12). It seems logical to conclude that these people chose salvation only by doing what they knew to be right (Ro 2:11-16).

I cannot conceive of a meaning for free will that does not apply to all of humanity. Every human (directly or indirectly) chooses salvation by the choices they make right now.

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