Do we really have free will? What is free will? Can we choose to accept Christ in our natural condition? These are all questions that have raged for centuries. Of course, there is an answer to this debate that is not hard to discover.
What exactly is free will? Well, that depends on what you are talking about. We do have free will in the sense that we can choose to do what we desire. But that does not mean that we can choose to accept Christ on our own. Why? Because that is not the desire of the natural man. Romans 3:10-12 confirms this.
We also know that salvation does not come from the will of man. John confirms this in his Gospel.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13 ESV
It is not the will of man or the flesh. It is the will of God, his sovereign election, that chooses us. It is not the other way around.
Later in John’s Gospel Jesus says:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 ESV
We cannot come to God unless He draws us. This is not a denial of free will. This is actually an affirmation of free will. However, the will of natural man will never desire God.
What is meant by the phrase Total Depravity? This is a question that has been discussed for centuries and the answer from Scripture is clear. Man in his fallen state has no ability to respond to God and His will for salvation.
At first glance, people think this diminishes free will but it does not. It is not a question of the will, it is a question of ability. In our depraved and sinful state, we do not have the ability to seek after God. Paul makes this quite clear:
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12 ESV
Nobody does good. Nobody is righteous. Nobody seeks after God. That is a pretty clear statement. It is an absolute statement. And notice something, the text says as it is written. Why does it say this? Because this is not just the words of Paul. This is an Old Testament quote from Psalm 14 and Psalm 53.
So the idea of Total, or Radical, depravity is not a new one. It is clearly shown in Scripture. In fact, there are many more verses that speak to the depravity of man that we will not go into here.
But this should help us understand the plight of the unsaved. This should give us compassion and patience with them. We need to preach the Gospel with passion. But we should not get discouraged if there is not a response. We should not get frustrated if there is no response. We should continue to preach and to pray that the Holy Spirit will ignite the fire of the effectual call within that individual.