Free will: “Whether free will exists, what it is and the implications of whether it exists or not are some of the longest-running debates of philosophy and religion.” This is well-stated from Wikipedia. A search on “free will” brings all kinds of philosophical debates, opinions and definitions.

For our purposes, we simply want to examine what Scripture says about our free will to decide for ourselves about anything, but in particular, about deciding on our own to obey God. Can we freely believe that Jesus was the Son of God? Can we exercise free will in choosing to turn from sin and follow Him?

how Scripture answers "Do we have free will?"

We do have free will to chose a path of good/righteousness1,3,5. God has put the option in front of all mankind3 and wishes that everyone respond5,6. Unfortunately, not all will7,8, and some may even choose it and then fall back2,9.

It’s actually tough to limit the passages that speak to our free will. For example, the many passages that teach we will be judged by our works all assume that man has free will to choose. To say we don’t have free will makes God a liar1…it makes Jesus disingenuous3,6…and it makes the apostles and their message ridiculous4,5. Statements like that in Jeremiah7 are pulled out of context to argue we don’t have free will, but the entire message of the Bible assumes its reader is a free moral agent from beginning1 to end6 and all the pages in between2,3,4,5,8.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.
God commanded Adam, telling him that he may eat of all the trees of the garden except one.  If he ate of the tree providing knowledge of good and of evil he would die.

The account of creation and God placing man (Adam) and later creating woman (Eve).

How does it inform?

God establishes a rule in the Garden of Eden that Adam (and later Eve) could choose to obey or disregard.

Does it apply? Yes

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

It’s impossible to restore to repentance those that have fallen away after coming to understand and experience salvation – having shared in the Holy Spirit and the goodness of God’s word and the power to come – since they crucify all over the Son of God, putting him to public shame to their own harm.

The Hebrews writer is arguing the “better” things in Christ, contrasting with things from the Old Law these Hebrew Christians had turned from, but apparently were at risk to turn back.  He is chastising them for having become “dull of hearing” (5:11) and requiring someone to still need to teach them these “basic principles” (5:12).
How does it inform?

A situation is described where those that have been saved can choose to “crucify once again the Son of God” by their actions.

Does it apply? Yes

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Go out and make followers of all the people, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to abide by all that I [Jesus] have commanded.  Behold, I will remain with you to the end of this age.
The very close of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life on earth.  This address was made to the eleven apostles (vs 16) and similar accounts are given at the end Mark (
Mk 16:15-16
) and Luke (
Lk 24:45-47
How does it inform?

The “Great Commission” from Jesus is premised on the idea that “all nations” (e.g. everyone) has free will to “observe” (or not to observe).

Does it apply? Yes

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

When they heard these words, they were pierced in the heart and asked Peter and the other apostles what they should do [to be saved].  Peter told them that they each should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins, and they would then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This “gift” was the promise made for all that the Lord calls to himself, even those far off.

Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Clearly, they believed his message (that Jesus was the Christ). More were continuing to be saved and they began meeting together as the Lord’s church (

vss 41-47

How does it inform?

Peter instructs the crownd to repent (turn) and be baptized for forgiveness of their sins. He gives them a choice to make of their own free will.

Does it apply? No

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

This is good and pleasing to God our Savior, who wishes that all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

Paul’s letter to a young preacher, Timothy.  This chapter begins with specific instructions on various matters beginning with praying for all.
How does it inform?

If God’s sovereignty is absolute, then God would not need to “desire” that everybody be saved.

Does it apply? Yes

The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let the one who hears say, Come. And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
The Spirit and Bride [Jesus] invite all to come.  Anyone that hears is invited to come.  Anyone that is thirsty and desiring can take the water of life freely.
The closing verses of John’s apocalyptic vision.  These are the words from Jesus continued from verse 16 (and continuing through vs 19) providing several warnings and promises.
How does it inform?

The invitation is open to anyone that “desires” to “take the water of life”.

Does it apply? Yes

Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.
The Ethiopian can’t change the color of his skin nor can the leopard change his spots.  Likewise, you can’t do good when you are accustomed to doing evil.

God is instructing the prophet Jeremiah what to preach to the people of Judah.  His message was largely ignored by the people of Judah, as God had foretold it would be.

How does it inform?

The point here is that the people had fallen so far into sin and were so “accustomed to do evil” that it would be nearly impossible to repent and turn away (e.g. “change his skin”). God had already told Jeremiah that the people of Judah had grown even more sinful than “Faithless Israel” (Jer 3:11) and they were’nt going to listen to him (Jer 7:27) — but God still sent him to preach repentence to them.

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? No

Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
As a result, God sends a strong delusion in order that they will believe what is false and so be condemned from not believing truth but instead practicing deeds of unrighteousness.

Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica where he is warning them about coming destructive forces to the faithful.

How does it inform?

God, Himself, may allow/permit/provoke someone that is already intent on taking “pleasure in unrighteousness”.

Does it apply? Yes

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
They would be better off remaining in their sins and worldliness, if, after turning from them because of the knowledge they have about Jesus their Savior, they turn back and again are ensnared.  In other words, they would be better off never knowing the way of Christ and His holy commandments if they will only reject them later.

Peter is concluding a lengthy instruction/warning about false teachers (2:1) rising up among them.

How does it inform?

A very similar statement to what the Hebrews writer states2, describing a condition in which a person has chosen a path of righteousness and then turned back and rejected it. In this context, it is specifically the result of a false teacher.

Does it apply? Yes

Do you agree? If so, share this question and the Bible Study Framework with others.

If you know of some other verses or you have something to add to the verses already listed for this question please leave a comment below! We welcome the public discussion and will incorporate your input into the Framework above. We have nothing to hide and invite your help in considering all that God’s word has to say.

what do you think?

Send Us Your Question