Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Grace of God and the Bondage of the Will

"For God is the one who works in you both to will and to work for the sake of his good pleasure." Philippians 2:13

Arminians often tout the importance of the freedom of the will while often forgetting the importance of understanding the bondage of the will. I've met seminarians who did not understand that we are not born with the freedom to will rightly and to will in such a way that is pleasing to God. Philippians 2:13 is instructive in this situation.

First, the will, and any freedom it might have, is understood as a gift in this passage. Paul has just exhorted the Philippians to live out the salvation that Christ has secured through his obedient life, death, and resurrection. Paul's command to work out, or live out the implications of, our common salvation is grounded in the fact that God is already at work in us enabling our wills. This, of course, means that our wills lack ability in their natural state. If God has to do the work so that we can will, then we do not have freedom of will when we come into the world. It's all gift. This means that when we reject this gift, we are rejecting freedom of the will. To resist grace is to run to slavery.

Second, God does this work for the sake of his own good pleasure. It pleases God to free our wills so that we can will what he wills. It pleases him that we would share his pleasures. It is a good and comforting thing to know that God is at work in us to give us freedom because he enjoys it.

Arminians need to strive for clarity with regard to the biblical teaching on freedom of the will. We need to acknowledge that, apart from grace, our wills are in bondage to sin. Only through the God's good pleasure to work in us to will as he wills are we able to experience the freedom of our will's natural bondage.