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God’s will vs. Man’s will?
Bible Questions - VBVM Staff - July 15, 2010
In various teachings you discuss how we have a sovereign God Who has every detail of life planned. If God has every detail of your life planned to the finest detail, where does our free will fit in?
The question of how God's sovereignty and man's will work together is challenging to any Bible student, but we can rest in what the Bible teaches and leave the rest to God. First, we know that the Bible never mentions man's "free will." In fact the words never appear in Scripture, because the Bible teaches the opposite. The Bible teaches that men are born "slaves" to sin (Rom 6:17; Gal 4:8), which means we are incapable of moving beyond our sinful nature on our own. Furthermore, the Bible says that through faith God delivered us from sin and into a relationship with Christ, which Paul describes as slavery to Christ (Eph 6:6).
In other words, we have a will to make our own choices, but that will is not free in the full sense of that word. Our nature determines the choices we make, and we are only free to make choices consistent with our nature. As an unbeliever, we were slaves to a sin nature and we were unable to do or say or think anything that might please God (Heb 11:6). So we didn't have the will to live without sin, so in that sense we were not truly free. All unbelievers are without free will in the sense that they are all slaves to their sin (Rom 16:18).
After being brought to faith by the Spirit, we were given a new nature that is no longer a slave to sin (Gal 4:7), but now we are slaves to Christ (Rom 6:18). Again, we have a degree of freedom to choose disobedience or obedience, but we are still Christ's regardless of our decisions, and as such God may use us however he desires. Though we are not necessarily conscience of God's direction in our lives, the Bible assures us that God's plan will play out in our life without fail (Job 14:1-5; Psa 37:23; Prov 16:9).
Having said that, there is a role for our will in the course of God's plan for our life. Our willful obedience to the Lord is the basis for His awarding of eternal reward. Romans 12-16 discusses the importance of our obedience to the Lord as we make choices and decisions to follow the Spirit. Nevertheless, when we determine to accomplish good works for the Lord, we are still fulfilling God's purposes as He determined from the beginning of time (Eph 2:10).
So our will is important in how we obey Christ to please Him, but we can never see man's will as competing with or changing God's plan. We simply do not have that power within us.
We recommend consulting additional resources on this topic found on our website, including The Sovereignty of God, a teaching series devoted to exploring God's sovereignty in the lives of men. Also, please read the article, Wrestling with God, which offers a in-depth explanation of predestination.