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Theology

What Kind of Free Will Exists?

In my morning study of 2 Peter today, I was camped in 1:5-7.  Here, Peter writes,

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knoweldge, and knowledge with self-control, and sef-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

As I studied this passage, I was referencing Calvin’s commentary on 1 Peter.  At the end of verse 7, he made this note:

It may, however, be here asked, whether Peter, by assigning to us the work of supplying or adding virtue, thus far extolled the strength and power of free-will? They who seek to establish free-will in man, indeed concede to God the first place, that is, that he begins to act or work in us; but they imagine that we at the same time co-operate, and that it is thus owing to us that the movements of God are not rendered void and inefficacious. But the perpetual doctrine of Scripture is opposed to this delirious notion: for it plainly testifies, that right feelings are formed in us by God, and are rendered by him effectual. It testifies also that all our progress and perseverance are from God. Besides, it expressly declares that wisdom, love, patience, are the gifts of God and the Spirit. When, therefore, the Apostle requires these things, he by no means asserts that they are in our power, but only shews what we ought to have, and what ought to be done. And as to the godly, when conscious of their own infirmity, they find themselves deficient in their duty, nothing remains for them but to flee to God for aid and help.

The only kind of free will that exists is that will which God frees in order to follow him.  God is completely sovereign and will always work “in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Heb. 13:21).  God began a good work in us and “will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  God has given us grace so that we might inherit the gift of faith (Eph. 2:8-9).  Truly no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him (Jn. 6:44).

With that said, there is still the cosmic mystery of how God’s sovereign reign over this world and our lives meshes with our responsibility.  It may be a mystery, yes, but not a contradiction, for it’s plain that Scripture teaches both!  We have the responsibility, as Peter urges us, to furnish our faith with moral excellence.  But as we saw in the few verses above, God is ultimately in control.  Without works, our faith is mere demon faith — it is dead.  But without God’s grace, there would have been no faith in the first place.

Augustine was quite right when he said, “Pray as though everything depended on God.  Work as though everything depended on you.”  May we do that today so that we might walk in the good works that God has prepared beforehand for us to walk in.