Free Agency - The state of acting freely, or
without necessity, or constraint of the will . - Webster's
Does a person ever have a free and unconstrained
will? Is it not true that the will is always fixed by
circumstances, conditions of persuasion?
A normal person can never have a will to take
strychnine in sufficient quantity to cause death. Not only does he
not will to do this, he CANNOT so will. When a person does will to
do it, everyone knows that something abnormal caused it. Hi will
is different from what it once was, and HE DID NOT CHANGE HIS
WILL. Some distressing condition changed it.
I cannot will to associate continually with a man who
thinks, talks and acts in a way that is obnoxious to me, and who, I know
loves the very things that I hate. If I love sin, I will to live
in sin, and I have no will to be continually with a person who hates sin
and, by his conversation, makes me feel uncomfortable. In such a
case, can I will to love the association of such a one? Someone
may say, "You can will it if you will to will it." But
can I will to will it? The answer may be, "You can will to
will it if you will to will to will it." But can I - Oh,
well, why go on with this? It has already become
I was once in the condition described in the
foregoing paragraph. But the time came when my will was exactly
the opposite. I willed to be in the presence of saints, and to
hear them talk of Christ and His love and His righteousness. Did I
change my will? I did not. The operation of grace in my
heart, and the power of the spirit of Christ in my spirit make the
change. Paul says, "The grace of our Lord overwhelms with
faith and love in Christ Jesus," I Tim. 1:14.
Just as I do not and CANNOT will to associate with a
person in whom I have no confidence, and for whom I feel no attachment,
so a sinner does not and CANNOT will to associate with Christ, until the
grace of the Lord has implanted love and faith in his heart.
"You will not be coming to ME that you may have
life," said Christ to certain Jews. What was the matter with
those people? They had a (k)not in their will. It is useless
to say they could have willed to come, and could have come. Christ
answers such a statement by saying, "No one can come to ME if the
Father Who sends Me should not be drawing him," John 6:44.
Just before that, He had said. "Everyone whom the Father is
giving Me shall be reaching to me," John 6:37. Those who have
a will to come, are being drawn by the Father. It is He Who
changes their will. They cannot do it them selves.
The foregoing paragraph deals with Israelites.
But here is something for us, Paul says that in Him Jesus Christ
displayed all patience for a pattern of those who were about to be
believing on Him for eonian life. I Tim. 1:16. Did Saul of
Tarsus have a will to come to Christ and ask Him for salvation?
The history of the case as given in Acts 9, shows that his will was to
do the exact opposite. Did he change it? No! Christ changed
it. Paul did not take the first step in the matter. The
grace of God came into his heart and overwhelmed him with faith a love,
and he, without question hesitation, did what Christ told hem to
Paul later spoke of himself as an apostle through the
will of God. I Cor. 1:1. He became willing to be an apostle
when God acting in accord with His own will, changed Paul's. We
cannot change God's will, but He can change ours.
"If man cannot freely change his own will, why
should he be held responsible?" We are sometimes asked.
Well, who said man is held responsible? The scriptures do not say
so. Jesus Christ said that God had hidden the things contained in
His evangel, from certain ones, Matt. 11:25. Who was responsible
in that case? If anyone was, it was God! He accepts the
responsibility, and Christ acclaims Him for it. It is on the
grounds of God's responsibility that He can justify sinners. If
all callousness is the result of God's doing, we can be sure that He can
and will remove it when it suits His purpose. But if He has
nothing to do with it, and it comes apart from His purposes, He can make
no promise on which we can confidently rely. If man can defeat God
once, he may do it in every case. All uneasiness concerning the
future is based on the unsound doctrine of man's
A good brother once said to me: "Man is a free
agent, and can and should put himself in position to be saved. But
if he doesn't, God will save him in the end, anyway." It was
a little embarrassing to him when I told him that if man is a free
agent, God is not, and, in that case, man may not only keep God from
saving him, but may even push Him over the brink into hell. Such a
statement as I have made some times calls forth the retort, "Oh,
you believe God will save sinners by the hair of the head."
To this I reply,, "No, He works in the heart, not on the
head. And His work always makes the sinner not only willing, but
extremely anxious to be saved. He does not save sinners against
their will, neither does He consult their will. The same operation
that places a sinner in touch with Christ, also changes his
But the scriptures do teach that man is
accountable. Why should he not be? He is conscious of
nothing except the free exercise of his will in his sinful doings.
'What he does, in the main, is just what he wants to do. Why
should he not be accountable for his acts and the result of them?
Accountable is not the same as responsibility. A man may inherit a
murderous trait. For this he is not responsible. But when he
puts that trait into execution, the courts hold him accountable, even
while they recognize that he inherited the tendency to crime.
Neither do the courts argue that, having the will to murder, he could
have changed his will. But the fact of inheritance may temper the
sentence of the court.
There is great suffering and devastation in the
war-torn countries. We regard certain war-lords as mad. It
seems that no crime is dastardly enough to satisfy them. I do not
for one moment believe that such men can change their will. But
this does not cause me to excuse their crimes. Moved and directed
by evil spirits beyond their control., these men are, nevertheless,
accountable to God, and must face His judgment. He has not
justified them, and will not do so, until after He has judged
them. Christ died for them, as He did for all mankind. Their
judgment is not to make them pay for their crimes. It is to enable
them to appreciate God's grace which will finally be extended to them.
After all this is done and they are vivified in Christ we can then
pronounce them just. For their justification will then be a fact,
seeing that through one just award all mankind shall have life's
justifying, Rom. 5:18.
What is said of them is true, also, of all mankind
who go on in sin and unbelief. We are not to try to justify
them. Leave it up to God. He knows how to do it.
If the human family had remained sinless, they would
have had no spontaneous love for God. He knew it, and created in
Adam a love for his wife, which led him to eat the forbidden fruit when
she asked him to do it. In this way sin entered into the world
through one man. Rom 5:18. Since God is responsible for this
condition, He also assumes the responsibility for their salvation.
On the ground of God's responsibility, He will justify sinners.
His righteousness demands it. But His honor demands that this be
not done without a cleansing of sins. So the justifying is done
through the deliverance that is in Christ Jesus, Rom. 3:24, Who
makes a cleansing of sins, Heb. 1:3.
But there must be another step in the process.
For saved man must have what Adam did not havean appreciation of
God and His goodness. So He employs His grace to work this in the
hearts of His saints, and will employ judgment for the same purpose, in
the case of others.
When it is completed God will have what His heart
hungers forthe spontaneous love of all.
Mrs. Screws and I thank all our friends who sent us
cards or presents during the Holiday Season. It may not be
possible to acknowledge each one separately.