God's Purpose for Man's Will

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

Man differs greatly from animals in that he is able to worship God and to think creatively.  Animals are unable to worship God, and are very limited in their creativity.  Man is able to make moral decisions, while animals follow their instincts. Man's will is very important to him. Although he places great emphasis on making right decisions, he often finds himself in a dilemma.

Let's look at Adam, the first man; he was formed from the dust of the ground.  God blew His breath into Him and he became a living soul.  Our soul is composed of our mind, emotions and will, and these give us our sense of being. It became quite evident that Adam and Eve had a will that could oppose God's will when they ate the forbidden fruit.  Why did God give humanity a will, even though He knew they would not use it properly?

The present-day popular church teaches that man has a free will.  It says that man is free to make right moral choices.  Therefore, since man is free to make a correct moral choice, it is his responsibility to choose heaven instead of hell.  Also, if he does not make the right choice, he deserves the torture of hellfire for all eternity.

Is this really what the Bible teaches?  Does it say that man is free to make the right choices? Have you ever thought about the meaning of a free will?  A free will is one that cannot be influenced.  It is free to make objective choices regardless of the circumstances and the pressures that are being applied.  We readily agree that man has a will, but is it a free will?  At the beginning of a New Year, many people make good New Year's resolutions, but before they know it, they have broken them.  Why? Didn't they will to keep them?  Of course they did, but circumstances arose which influenced them to break their good resolve! 

If Adam and Eve had a free will - a will that could not be influenced - why did they not eat of the forbidden fruit before the serpent spoke to them? The fruit had not changed - it looked just as inviting before the serpent lured them into eating it.  Why did they not refrain from eating the fruit when the serpent so craftily pointed out the virtues of the fruit, and the power of their own choices?  God had even warned Adam and told him that disobedience would result in death!  In spite of that, they were disobedient and ate of the forbidden fruit!  Why?  It was because they listened to another voice - a voice that was not God's voice!  They listened to the voice of the serpent, and his words influenced them to disobey God. If the serpent could influence them, did they have a free will?   Were they free moral agents? Since their will was influenced by the serpent's words, we know that they were not free moral agents.  Had they believed God, they would have been obedient, and they would not have been plunged into death, nor would they have brought death into this world!   Their choice replaced obedience! 

Very often the verse in Joshua 24:15 is quoted to illustrate our need of making the right choice.  It reads: "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  Again, notice that choice replaces obedience.  If we do not want to serve God, it does not matter which god we choose to serve and obey.  We can serve the god of greed, or religiosity, or riches, pride and power, or whatever.  None of these gods is the true God.  Choice resides in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - the tree that is rooted in disobedience.

Another good verse for choice is found in Deuteronomy 30:19-20.  "For I call heaven and earth to witness against you today; that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you should live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him…"  Here we notice that the choice Moses spoke of is equated with loving God, obedience and holding fast to Him.  This is not a choice between good and evil; it is not a choice between two things that appeal to one's pride, honor or appetite.  Moses is saying that the only way we can have life is by loving God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him.  This is impossible for those who are holding on to their self-life and trying to make a right choice without being obedient . It is not possible to do this apart from Christ, for He is the only way to life and truth! 

We all know that we are influenced by both good and bad circumstances, pressures and feelings.  Businessmen are well aware of their power to influence people.  They would not invest so much money in advertising and billboards if they were not effective.  Organizations, churches and tele-evangelists advertise their needs, and proclaim the good your money will do if you give it to them!  Not only will they be blessed, but God will pour out financial blessings on you!  Why do they do that?  They know that our will can be influenced to serve their interests.  Threats and promises influence children as well adults.  If we had a free will we could make objective choices, and nothing could influence our decision-making process.  

Before Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, they lived in obedience to what God said.  As soon as they exercised their own will, they opposed God's will for them. Their own will surfaced through the stimulus of the serpent's words that came from a mind that was opposed to God's will. Their will now flowed with the serpent's will, for it was authored by the serpent!  No wonder Paul wrote that the flesh always opposes the Spirit, and the Spirit opposes the flesh. (Galatians 5:17)  We see that this law operated in Adam and Eve's life, and it continues to work in all of us. 

The fleshly carnal mind always operates in the death realm. This is not a physical death, but a spiritual death. After Adam and Eve sinned, their concept of God changed; they no longer thought of Him as being their friend!  They tried to hide from God, and made coverings of fig leaves for themselves. Adam and Eve no longer had a will that could perform the will of God!  Do you think that our will is better than theirs and that it can accomplish the will of God?   Have we learned from their experience?  If we have, we will recognize that our own will is always against God's will! 

What do the scriptures teach us?  They teach that Adam and Eve received the devil's mindset when they sinned.  The serpent's mind only functions in death.  This mind has been passed on to all the succeeding generations. Paul said, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world; according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." (Eph. 2:1-2)  He also said, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the Law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom. 8:6-8) ­ Since this mind functions in death, it cannot please God.  It cannot make right decisions!  It cannot please God by making right choices because it is in death - and death cannot produce life.  Therefore, the carnal mind cannot birth a will that can please God. It cannot function in life; it cannot bring us into life!

Let's just theorize for a moment.  What would be the result if God had given man a free will, and he could not be influenced?  Wow!  This would abolish God’s sovereignty, for then the Holy Spirit would not be able to influence man, and man would be left to his own devices.  Humanity would then be solely responsible for its decisions and destiny.  Since humanity does not possess truth or omniscience, it could not make right decisions.  God would not have any part in his life, and he could never be changed into the image of Christ.

The Jews who were opposing Jesus were functioning in their natural, fleshly mind - the mind that cannot know God.  Had they known God, they would not have opposed Him who is the image of God.  Even though they were God's chosen people, they were ignorant of the essence of God's being. They were under the devil's rule instead of under God's rule!  So Jesus said, "Why do you not understand what I am saying?  It is because you cannot hear My word.  You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.  Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:43-44)  The natural mind always crucifies Christ Jesus.  Jesus was murdered by those who were fathered by the devil, for humanity always acts in accordance with its father's nature. 

This shows us the importance and necessity of being birthed from above and receiving our heavenly Father's nature.  Our new birth gives us a new nature - the nature of our new Father.  It's so important that we have the right DNA!  Those who are not birthed from our heavenly Father carry the serpent's nature, and will speak and act according to that nature. 

Those who do not believe in Christ are not His sheep. "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:26-28)  Jesus told the Jews that they could not hear Him.  Christ's words are spiritual words, and the natural man is unable to hear them.  That is why Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…"" (John 6:44)  This is the good news!  The Father can put a longing into our hearts to know Christ!  "For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13)  How thankful we are that God is able to give us a new will and new desires!  What a blessing it is that we are not free moral agents!  

God's plans are always good and perfect!  God made man for relationship and intimacy!  Someone who is programmed to do good does not provide relationship.  The robots that man designs and then programs do not provide a relationship with their maker.  They respond to certain stimuli according to the responses that have been programmed into them.  They can do nothing else.  God wanted a spiritual image of Himself with whom He could have relationship.  To do this, He first formed an earthy image of Himself. This image was not the finished product.  We all know the story of man's disobedience and how he brought death into this world. 

To achieve His plan, God needed to send His Word made flesh, into this world, to redeem humanity out of its darkness and death.  In sending Christ, He brought a new spiritual humanity into this world.  Through faith in Christ we are born of the Spirit, and become a new creation that consists of Christ's humanity of life. This new creation is entirely different from the old humanity that we received in Adam.  In Christ we have received His mind and His desire to do the will of God.  But we still live in this physical body, and our natural mind is ever tempting us to please the flesh and to live by self-effort. 

To help humanity realize that its fleshly will is unable to please God, He gave us the law.  The law was not given in order to reveal God; it was Christ who was sent to reveal God. The law was given to show us our inability to attain to God's standard of righteousness through exercising our will power and by making right choices.  It was to show us our need of Christ.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit to bring our will into agreement or alignment with God's will! 

Jesus never did His own will; He only did what He saw the Father doing.  He only functioned in obedience!  In the garden of Gethsemane we get a glimpse of how difficult this was for Him.  In this struggle He even sweat drops of blood!   There He gained the victory over every fleshly desire that was tempting Him to be disobedient!  After He had passed this horrendous test, in obedience to the Father's will, He allowed Himself to be crucified.  After He was resurrected out of death, He ascended far above the heavens (Eph. 4:10; Heb. 4:14), and God gave Him all authority!

God wants obedient sons with whom He can have relationship; sons who will serve Him because they love him and trust Him!  An intimate Father-son relationship cannot emerge out of right choices; it can only take place when there is love, trust, and obedience!  Both parties must have the same goal and the same desires!

Since humanity is not omniscient, it has to rely on the good Shepherd for leadership and guidance.  Jesus, the pattern Son, did not exercise His own will; He only did what the Father showed Him to do.  Since Jesus had to rely on the Father to show Him what to do, how much more do we have to rely on Him to show us the way!  Jesus did not choose for Himself; He did not live by His own choices; He submitted His will to the Father's will and walked in obedience to what the Father showed Him to do!  

It is man's pride that exalts itself to the place where it thinks it can do God's will by making the right choices.  It was the serpent who injected this thought into Adam and Eve, and it is the same serpent that puts this thought into us! 

So why did God give us a will?  Since God has a will, a man in God's image also has to have a will.  The first man, Adam, was an earthy image of God, and his will was opposed to God's will.  To make us into a spiritual image of God, He gave us the man Christ Jesus, the exact spiritual image of God.  His will flowed in unison with God's will!  By faith in Christ Jesus we receive a new humanity - a spiritual humanity that desires to do the will of God.   However the flesh is always warring against God, trying to deceive us by presenting God's way as being too difficult or too boring, thus luring us into disobedience.  Jesus Christ was not enticed into disobedience because He believed God, and therefore He could do the Father's will!  He only obeyed the Father's voice!   This is the pattern given to us by Christ Jesus, the pattern Son! 

Our new birth makes us a new creation!  We now have a will that desires to do the will of God.  The serpent knows that we can be influenced to do his will if he can get us to listen to his voice, so he does his deceptive work by trying to influence our will.  He uses it as a point of contact to get us to disobey God by pointing out the advantages of  operating for self and in the seen realm.  If we listen to him we will sin, for everything that is not by faith in Christ is sin. 

We need obstacles and difficulties in order to grow strong in faith and obedience. So God, in His omniscience and omnipotence, uses that which looks advantageous to the serpent to our advantage.  God knows that difficulties and trials are stepping stones to learning obedience.  Although Jesus was a Son, He still had to learn obedience from the things which He suffered. (Heb. 5:8)  So we too have to learn obedience from the trials and difficulties we have to face. Obedience brings us into victory.  The serpent tells us that we, the King's Kids, should not have to suffer and face hardships.  God tells us that we need them in order to grow strong in faith and obedience! 

To help us understand our need to obey God instead of depending on our right choices, let us explain it in this way.  We are all familiar with the law of gravity and how it keeps us connected to the earth.  Let's compare our will to the law of gravity.  Our will, directed by our desires, focuses on the advantages of riches, power, ease, and freedom from pain and discomfort.  So if the serpent can keep us focused on these earthy things, we become attached to them, and thus he keeps us in disobedience.   It is very inviting to follow our natural inclinations! 

But there is another law - the law of lift!  This law enables us to overcome the law of gravity.  The pilot of a plane makes use of this law during takeoff. He heads into the wind that is contrary to him - and wonder of wonders, the plane is lifted off the ground and soars into the heavens!  Spiritually speaking, obedience to God can be compared to the law of lift. It uses adversity to teach us obedience, and obedience takes us off the ground and causes us to soar in heavenly places.  Obedience takes us into a higher heavenly realm.  We are now free to move in heavenly places because the earthy things have lost their attraction and fascination for us! Obedience enables us to do the will of God!   It overcomes and releases us from our slavery to our own desires; it does away with disobedience!  As we live in obedience to His word to us, we will be overcomers!  We will be the people God desires us to be.

It takes faith to believe that God's ways are better than our ways.  By believing God instead of yielding to our own desires, we learn obedience.  As we grow spiritually, the tests become more difficult, and our obedience becomes greater!   God is very thorough in His cleansing process, making sure that we are cleansed from all earthiness!  Praise His wonderful name!

Return to the Insights into Living Articles Index