Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

Free Will and Jesus

Author: Rachel Kidd

What is free will? 

Writing on or discussing free will can feel more like playing the game Operation than a relaxing day at the beach. Tedious like a dissection, trying to understand free will can end in a pulsing headache rather than clarity. Here, we are discussing the issue of choice and what Jesus tells us about the power of free will, as well as the freedom and responsibility that comes with it to provide you with a clearer understanding of free will.  


Free will is the power to decide how you will react or what you will do in any given situation. The beauty of being human is the freedom to make new decisions daily, to make and commit to our promises, and to practice personal autonomy. If you’re miserable at your job, there’s nothing stopping you from quitting. If you feel stuck in your hometown, you can move tomorrow. If you want to get back into running, you can tie on sneakers right now and hit the pavement.  


Yet, our choices usually have limitations placed upon them, whether they be circumstantial or capped by wisdom. You might not be able to quit your job, because you need to be able to pay your bills and support yourself. You might not be able to afford to move out of your parent’s house. You might not be physically able to run anymore, due to injury or age. Maybe these choices are all technically within your power, yet it isn’t wise to make them right now or at all.  


You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial”  

–1 Corinthians 10:23 


This verse reminds us that all choices have consequences. Just because you can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. We should be thinking about the implications of our decisions and if they are wise. Considering the timing and prayerfully considering God’s will can help us make good decisions and exercise responsibility with the great freedom we are given.  


But as Chrstians, we are also committed to make decisions with love and consideration for others. Our choices don’t just impact our own lives, but they can reverberate to the lives of others. When we make a big move or quit a job, we might be alienating friends and family or inconveniencing your team. While it may be a good choice for you, it might be negatively impacting people around you.  


The very next verse in the chapter tells us this, reminding us that we are to also be considerate of others.  


Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others  

—1 Corinthians 10:24 

Verses on Free Will  

Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 

John 7:17 


John tells us that we have the ability to choose to do the will of God, confirming that if we choose to do so, we will find truth. The key word here is choice, indicating that we have the ability to follow the will of God or not.  


For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified —Romans 8:29-30 


In Romans, we are told that God knew beforehand who will be saved by His son. He then predestined them for sanctification and salvation. This aligns with what we know about God, that He is omniscient and just. We see that God is not pre-selecting, rather He simply knows what will happen. This allows people to still be held responsible for their actions on earth, while still revering God as the ultimate authority.  


No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. –-1 Corinthians 10:13 


Paul reminds us of God’s faithfulness through temptation and the promise of His power. I think about the fact that Jesus became man and faced all the same trials and temptations as us. He shares that common humanity with us and is truly able to empathize with our plights. He is both God and man, understanding the struggle to remain in the will of God and possessing the ability to spare us.  


This verse embodies the free will question to me, explaining that we have the choice to succumb to temptations, but that God also provides a way out for us. We are not merely puppets controlled by a distant puppet-master, rather we are autonomous individuals with the ability to seek guidance from the almighty God.