One of the problems we face today when speaking to people about the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man is correcting the view that man has a free will. We need to be very clear about what the Bible teaches about free will; no one has one except God. Yes, man was originally created with one but lost it in the Fall.
The Bible is clear about this. For instance, in Rom. 3 the Word of God says that no man seeks after God or is capable of doing any good thing. Now think about this. If I am by nature incapable of doing good then I am incapable of choosing to do good. My will is corrupted in some way in which I cannot choose to do good. It would be better to say that I cannot do good because I will not do good because I don’t want to do good.
One might think within himself, “Wait just a minute, I am free to think and choose whatever I want to. No one is telling me what to think. When I get up in the morning I am free to pursue whatever I want. If I want to choose God I can and if I don’t want to, I won’t.” One reason people have a hard time understanding free will is because they don’t detect any force or influence in their minds expect their own will.
But to claim the freedom of the will to do either good or wrong is akin to saying that a dog has the freedom to bark or not. There is a fundamental problem with this logic. A dog does not have the freedom to choose between barking or meowing or mooing because he is a dog by nature. Thus he is incapable of doing anything other than being a dog and dogs bark.
Romans 3 is saying that this applies to humans as well. We are by nature sinners and so the only thing we are capable of doing is sinning. To insist on being able to exercise our will in a way that chooses God or obeys him is to insist to be able to do what sinners cannot do.
One way fallen man has made this confusing is by changing the definition of sin and righteousness. We redefine sin and lower God’s standards so that it appears that we are doing things that please him but we have only set ourselves up as the standard which means that everything we do is in rebellion to the Lord.
Rom 6:17 says, “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.” Here is another place where we learn that before God gives us a new nature we were under bondage to sin. For the natural man to claim to have a will that is free is to claim to be his own boss independent of his sin nature. But if the will is under bondage to sin, then it is not free; there is no third option, you are either free or a slave; you are either in jail or out of jail. One cannot be in a middle position.
It will be much easier to understand and explain the Bible when we don’t start with unbiblical presuppositions. Understanding that we are totally corrupted by and in bondage to sin will immediately cause us to realize that we are totally dependent on God for every step of salvation. And this is true of the rest of life also. We need him each step of the way for without him we can do nothing; nothing but sin that is.