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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 '14 at 19:17
I don't think it's duplicate, I just think it's worth noting. –  The Freemason Feb 4 '14 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 '14 at 19:33
Actually, the first verse you quote offers a choice to man: he can choose amongst any of the plants what he would like to eat - God doesn't restrict man to say Apples on Monday, Bananas on Tuesday etc. It may not be a choice that has the eternal consequences of Gen 2:17, but it is still a choice. The implication is wide ranging-freedom within the parameters that God sets (not explicit, but God does not grant the freedom to eat animals here). –  bruised reed Jun 2 '14 at 18:55

3 Answers 3

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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I am going to try to approach this from a different angle and just say this that God is sovereign meaning that all things fall under HIS plan and not ours. I purpose that we do not have "free will" as we try to define it but rather a created will. Everything works for what God has planned for man kind not just us each individual. I know we do not like to think of it this way but let me just say this that My King and Lord saves one then he is more graceful than any of us deserve....

We can examine this in many ways but lets look at the most recent in our history and lets look at Hitler we can all agree that this man was no good man and in fact an evil man... Did he choose to be this way I purpose he did not because Hitler had to happen for fulfill Gods plan for Israel to be rebuilt the country of Israel would not exist in today's world without the evil actions of Hitler so again in Gods eternal plan did Hitler have free will no.. We can even look to Judas if he had not betrayed Jesus we would not even have salvation so did he have a choice????

So again lets take God out of the box and put things in perspective we do nothing I repat we do nothing that catches God by surprise in fact he has already chosen who will or will not be saved as demonstrated in Ephesians 1:4 - "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love"

There are many many more that leads to this conclusion so what I say is we have a will however it is a created will meaning God created us for a purpose for the KINGDOM not individual so God is sovereign not just an entity that depends on us to make is plans come true he has already planned it before the foundations of the earth,,,,,

More verses:

2 Thessalonians 2:13 - But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

Romans 8:29 - For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

2 Timothy 1:9 - Who hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

Ephesians 2:8-10 - For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

1 Peter 1:2 - Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

Acts 13:48 - And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

2 Timothy 2:10 - Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

There are more and more read study and have peace knowing that we are in the hands of Christ and God is in control if you know him you are his and have been sense before the foundations of the earth.. Have peace..

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This would be a better answer if it gave more verses talking about our wills rather than God's, whether ours are 'free' or 'created'. (And I think you're right that we do have created wills.) –  curiousdannii May 31 '14 at 0:37

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