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.

  • 1
  • @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, 2014 at 19:17
  • 2
    I don't think it's duplicate, I just think it's worth noting. Feb 4, 2014 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, 2014 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). Jun 2, 2014 at 18:55

5 Answers 5



The scriptures tell us we do not have free will. We cannot choose Christ unless God supernaturally causes us to desire him and so causes us to choose him. Further, we cannot make even the smallest day to day decisions differently from the way we do make them, right down the to the words I'm typing. "The lot is cast into the lap but its every decision is from the LORD." (Pv 16:33)

Some thoughts:

All men make choices based on their desires (or preferences). No man has authority over his desires. Therefore no man has authority over his choices.

No man is an island. No event happens in a vacuum. All things are connected. If God is sovereign over any outcome he must be sovereign over every outcome.


All text is from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

In the New Testament

Mark Mk 13:20-27

20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

24 "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

John Jn 1:9-13
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Jn 6:35-44 NIV

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day."

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42 They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?"

43 "Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered. 44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

The Father gives the Son all those whom he saves. They all come and none are lost. None that are not given come.

Jn 6:63-65 NIV
"The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them."

Jn 12:37-40
37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled
Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

40 He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,

lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.

How can they turn to God of their own free will if they cannot believe? If their eyes are blind, how will they see? If their hearts are hard, how will they desire Him?

Jn 15:16-19
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another. 18 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."

Jn 17:1-12

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

6 "I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

What can be said about this? Jesus says the Father has given him authority to give eternal life to those that the Father gave him out of the world. They belonged to the Father, the Father gave them to the Son, the Son gave them eternal life and not one was lost except the son of destruction as prophesied in Scripture. Where then is free will? Where is their power to turn to or from God of themselves? Perhaps it will be said that Jesus is here referring only to the apostles. Will we then say that the apostles did not have free will but everyone else does?

Acts Ac 2:22-23 NASB
Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

Ac 4:23-28

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

"'Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed'—

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Ac 13:48
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

None believed that were not appointed. All that were appointed believed. Where is free will?

Romans Rm 8:5-8
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 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. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

If we, born in the flesh, are hostile to God, cannot submit to God's law and cannot please God, how then can we welcome God, submit to Him and please Him by turning to Him of our own power?

Rm 8:28-30
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Rm 9:10-24

And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13 As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Rm 10:14-21

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.

19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.

20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.

21 But of Israel he says, All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.

So to call on God they must believe and to believe they must have faith and to have faith they must hear. But not all who hear understand. "Hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."1 Those to whom he has shown himself did not ask for him and were not seeking him. "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God." 2

    Matthew 13:13 Romans 3:11

Rm 11:1-8

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life." 4 But what is God's reply to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,

God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.

If the gift is given to those who choose it for themselves then it isn't by grace at all but rather by the merit of the choice. If the gift is given to those who do not choose it then it is by grace that it is given.

Rm 11:17-32

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob;
27 and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

What branch choses to be grafted in or cut out? The cultivator makes those decisions.

Rm 12:3
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Faith is required to believe and God assigns it.

Galatians Gal 1:13-17
For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

Paul, so far from seeking God, was bent on destroying God's ekklesia. He did not seek Him or ask for Him yet He came to him because He purposed before he was born to use him for His glory.

Ephesians Eph 2:8-10
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Philippians Php 2:12-13
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

In the Old Testament

Proverbs Pv 16:1
The plans of the heart belong to man,
  but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
Pv 16:4
The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
  even the wicked for the day of trouble.
Pv 16:9 NKJV
A man’s heart plans his way,
  But the Lord directs his steps.
Pv 16:33
The lot is cast into the lap,
  but its every decision is from the Lord.
Pv 22:2
The rich and the poor have this in common,
  The Lord is the maker of them all.
Psalm Ps 31:14-15
But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
Ps 37:23-24
The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
  when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
  for the Lord upholds his hand.

Possible Rebuttals

Jn 5:39-40
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The KJV translation reads "40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." When it says "ye will" or "ye will not" it is taken to imply that ye just as easily may have willed differently had ye so chosen. But isn't that begging the question? When it says "you will not come" it does not follow that this means you might have come had you so chosen. Rather, this is merely stating what your will is. Your will is to not come.
Spurgeon had this to say about it:

…no man by nature ever will come to Christ, for the text says, "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." So far from asserting that men of their own wills ever do such a thing, it boldly and flatly denies it, and says, "Ye WILL NOT come to me, that ye might have life."

Free Will–A Slave, REV C.H. Spurgeon
Rm 10:8-9
But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

This is the best example that I know of to illustrate this issue. Here Paul says if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart you will be saved. It goes on to say, in verse 13, "13 For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" Here again, the assertion that this implies free will is begging the question. This in no way indicates that a person has the freedom to will or to not will confessing and believing. It simply says that those whose will it is to confess and believe will be saved regardless of how it came to be their will. The reason why this is such a good example is because of the larger context in which it's found. If we simply go on to read the rest of the chapter we see that Paul is clearly saying that believing and confessing is not something men can do.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us? 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
  and their words to the ends of the world.
19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
  with a foolish nation I will make you angry.
20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
I have been found by those who did not seek me;
  I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.
21 But of Israel he says, All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.

Notice is says in verse 17 that hearing comes through the word of Christ. So it is an action of God that enables one to hear. Without this action, without the word of Christ, no one hears and understands.
Hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."1
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. 2

    Matthew 13:13 Romans 3:11

Further Examples

I think every verse taken to imply free will involves a similar misunderstanding. The following are examples of such verses.
  • Is 41:18
    Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
    Then your peace would have been like a river,
    and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;
  • Jn 7:17
    If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
  • Rev 3:20
    Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
  • Dt 30:19-20
    I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.
    Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,
    20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days,
    that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
  • BTW, welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. When you have a chance, be sure to check out the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. This is not a comment on the quality of your answer, but rather a standard welcome message.
    – ThaddeusB
    Oct 4, 2015 at 15:56
  • Thanks! Thinking that determinism means everything is pointless a common error. It simply means we are who we are and we can't change it. We can't be someone else. We can't make decisions differently from the way we make them. It may still be useful or interesting to know how and why they are made. The weather is a purely deterministic system that cannot be anything other than what it is but I may still want to know what's it like if my will is to go outside or how it came to be that way if my will is to predict it. :)
    – dev_willis
    Oct 4, 2015 at 16:06
  • BTW, this question is closed because answers will supposedly be too "opinion-based" and not based on facts or references. I submit my answer above as proof that this is not true.
    – dev_willis
    Dec 15, 2015 at 21:27
  • No, your answer is your interpretation of scriptures, not "facts." Site guidelines require questions to ask for a specific point of view to prevent bickering over interpretation (which was a common problem before this guideline was added).
    – ThaddeusB
    Dec 15, 2015 at 22:03
  • Those are direct quotes, friend. Nowhere did I interpret anything for anyone. The text speaks for itself.
    – dev_willis
    Dec 16, 2015 at 17:29

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.


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.

  • "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." Most Christians I believe would disagree with this statement.
    – Flimzy
    Oct 4, 2015 at 19:00
  • @Flimzy - I'm afraid you may be reading more out of that sentence than is written. It wasn't intended to be controversial. I'm sure most Christians agree that salvation involves choosing good. Christians may disagree on other details of how one is saved but that wasn't the subject of this answer.
    – Calvin
    Oct 19, 2015 at 5:20
  • No. "I'm sure most Christians agree that salvation involves choosing good" -- A large number don't agree with this, no both sides of the issue. That is to say, some believe that humans cannot choose good (a large number of Calvinists), and others say that all will be saved, regardless of their choices (universalists).
    – Flimzy
    Oct 19, 2015 at 6:15
  • @Flimzy - Thank you for clarifying the points you take issue with. I acknowledge that certain Christian schools of thought hold contradictory views. I won't debate which schools have a greater number of adherents but this answer provides scriptural support for the view that agency is the ability to choose good or evil with eternal consequences.
    – Calvin
    Oct 22, 2015 at 3:06

Romans 6 is the definitive chapter on man's free will.

Pay particular attention to 6:15-23, for in these verses we see the issue of free will from God's perspective. The issue of sin in us is that it provokes us to consistently choose not to obey God. If we can surrender to God and obey him, then we are not slaves of sin. If we cannot surrender to God, then we are slaves of sin. This is the Bible's point of view of free will - having the freedom to obey God or not, not simply the freedom to choose, period. We are always slaves of something, whether slaves of sin or slaves of God.

6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

6:16 - We are a slave to whatever we obey, whether it is to our sinful compulsion or to God.

6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed

6:17 - It's clear that though the readers were slaves of sin, yet they were able to turn from sin and obey God from the heart. Not merely grudgingly, but willingly.

6:19-20 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

6:19-20 - There are definite consequences for the choices we make when we obey God or not. Negative judgments for disobedience, and righteousness for obedience. We don't normally associate consequences with the free will of men, do we? Consequences are not considered, yet they must be connected to get the full picture. Our choices matter because God sees them as for him or against him. We live for him or we live for ourselves. There is no middle ground here. The greatest commandment applies.

6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

6:22 - These verses are to persuade us to choose to obey. There is no compulsion from God in these verses. God's people are not presented as helpless to choose. Obey and reap the reward; Christians can do it because due to their identification with the resurrected Jesus, they are no longer slaves of sin (6:1-14). God does not make them obey; he rather has given to his people the provision for it in Christ. He puts the consequences before them and hopes that they will daily make a wise choices that leads to life.

In any discussion regarding biblical free will, these verses should always be the foundation.


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..

  • 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, 2014 at 0:37

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