Free Will: Does Salvation Depend on a Person's
Rev. Ron Hanko
At the time of the Protestant Reformation, Martin
Luther wrote a book entitled, The Bondage of the Will. This book
was written against a man named Erasmus and his teaching that man has
free-will, that is, the ability to choose whether or not he would be
saved. Luther told Erasmus that this question about free-will was the
most important issue of the Reformation. He said, "You [i.e., Erasmus]
have not worried me with extraneous issues about the papacy, purgatory,
indulgences, and such like, trifles rather than issues ... you, and you
alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and have aimed for the
In spite of what Luther wrote, the teaching of
Erasmus concerning free-will has become the teaching of most of
Protestantism today. Free-will is:
(1) A denial of predestination.
Predestination means that God's will (God's choice) determines
all things, including who will be saved (Ephesians 1:3-6). Free-will
teaches that man's choice is the decisive thing in salvation.
(2) A denial of the biblical truth that saving
faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-10). Free-will teaches that
faith is a person's own decision to trust in Christ.
(3) A denial of the truth that Christ died only
for His people (Matthew 1:21). Free-will teaches that Christ died
for all without exception and that their salvation now depends on their
accepting Him, that is, on their "free-will" choice.
Belief in free-will also shows itself in the kind of
preaching and evangelism that is most popular today, the kind that begs
sinners to accept Christ, that uses altar calls, appeals, decision
times, raising of hands, and other such tactics to persuade them to do
so. All these things presuppose that a person's salvation depends on his
We believe that man's will is in bondage to sin and
that he not only cannot do good, but he cannot even want (will) to do it
(Romans 8:7-8). Especially he cannot do the greatest good of all, of
choosing God and Christ.
We believe, therefore, that man cannot believe in
Christ unless it is "given him from above" (John 6:44).
We also believe that not man's will, but God's
sovereign and eternal will (predestination) is the decisive thing in
salvation (Acts 13:48; Philippians 2:13).
What, then, is the point of preaching the gospel to
all? It is "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16), the way in
which God gives faith and repentance to all those whom He has chosen
from eternity and redeemed in Christ. May it be that power unto
salvation for many!