For more than fifteen hundred years the Church has engaged in a heated debate over the freedom of man's will. The major issues came to general attention in the early fifth century when Augustine and Pelagius did battle on the subject. Through medieval times the nature of man's freedom received a great deal of attention. As they studied the Scriptures, Bernard and Anselm made significant contributions to the doctrine of the human will. In the sixteenth century the freedom or bondage of the will was one of the chief issues dividing Reformers and Roman Catholics. To the mind of Martin Luther, it was the key to his dispute with Rome. In the seventeenth century the nature of man's freedom was at the heart of the debate between Arminians and Calvinists. The conflict surfaced again in the eighteenth century during the Great Awakening. Finney's approach to revival in the nineteenth century led the church astray through a misunderstanding of the human will. So too the nature of man's will continues to bring intense disagreement between Reformed and Fundamentalist believers.
GOD never compels us to go, Oh no,
When Saul was converted, the LORD did not compel him to edify the church instead of persecuting it. He added a new factor of inward grace in his soul, consequently Paul changed his decision. GOD may renew the will but He never coerces it.
5.40: 'Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.' And to Jerusalem He sobbed, 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings and ye would not !' There is in the unregenerate hearer of the gospel an obstinate, wilful choice not to come. Hence it is that in flaming fire Christ will come to take vengeance on them that obey not the gospel [2 Thess 1.8]. In the free exercise of their uncoerced wills men have rejected the Son of GOD.
While we address the wills of men in gospel preaching, they are wills bound in the grave clothes of an evil heart. But as we speak, and the LORD owns His word, sinners are quickened to life by divine power. His people are made willing in the day of His power [Psa 110.3]. All who are adopted as sons of GOD were 'born not of the will of man, but of GOD.' [John 1. 13] We stand to preach with no power to make the tree good. The 'trees' before us cannot make themselves good, so no gimmicks or policies of men can persuade them to make the change. But our glorious GOD, by inward, secret, transforming power, can make the tree good, the treasures good, the fountain good. Thus all glory be to GOD and to the Lamb! Salvation is of the LORD!
“ This article reproduced by permission from THE BANNER OF TRUTH magazine, Issue 140, May 1975.”