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Holman Bible Dictionary

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The ability the Creator gave people to make meaningful decisions, especially concerning their relationship to God. Because humanity was created in the image of God, freedom is an inherent part of human nature (Genesis 1:26). Since this freedom is like God's freedom, it includes the power of choice. Mankind's actions thus derive from the voluntary actions of the human will. Outside forces can influence the human will to take a particular course of action but cannot force it to do so. Free will has been the subject of considerable debate over the years. Biblical evidence indicates that God Himself does not predetermine the choices that mankind will make. This is especially true in relation to God's will (Matthew 23:37; John 7:17).

Mankind has the rational power to choose between good and evil and to bear full responsibility for that choice (Deuteronomy 24:16, Job 19:4; Jeremiah 31:30; Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). This freedom gives to humanity the power to be deliberate, determinate, and creative in choosing the plans, purposes, and directions of life. It creates the possibility of true relationships with other people and with God.

The human will, while free, is subject to the influences brought upon it from within (Mark 7:23; Romans 12:2). Sin became an inherited part of the inner nature of mankind at the fall in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6). The influence of sin upon the will of mankind is so vast that it modifies and limits the freedom God gave to humanity (John 8:34). The impact of sin upon mankind's will is such that believers still face hard moral choices and often feel frustrated by the power and compulsion of sin in their lives (Romans 7:19-24).

Through Jesus Christ and the salvation, regeneration, and sanctification that He brings, the will can be freed to function as God created it (John 8:32-36). The freedom that Christ gives allows the will to make its choices following the guidance of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17) and not the requirements of the law (Galatians 2:16-20). The chief influence upon the will for the Christian should be Christlike love (2 Corinthians 5:14). Out of the seedbed of this love will grow other influences that will enable the will to make more and more Christlike choices.

Christ bought freedom of the human will. However, that is no excuse to use freedom as a way to live selfishly (1 Peter 2:15-16). Freedom of will is to be used to choose to obey Christ in all things and to serve His purposes on earth and thus to glorify Him (Romans 6:17-23). The chief use of the free will of mankind should be to seek to know and follow the will of God (Matthew 12:50; John 7:17; Ephesians 6:6; James 4:15).

Since God gave mankind the privilege of a free will and then intervened through Jesus Christ when sin changed this freedom to bondage, He gives mankind the privilege to make individual choices. This includes the relation of mankind to God. Salvation and obedience are left to mankind's free will (Romans 10:12-13). God elects all people to be saved who will call upon His name (Romans 10:1-21). It is left up to the individual's free choice to accept or reject salvation and to accept the consequences of the choice.

Bob Sheffield

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'HUMAN FREE WILL'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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