What does free will mean?

Here's the answer:

Free will means being able to make choices.

Conversations about the Bible might involve phrases like "free will," or big words like "predestination." Sometimes, it seems like the two ideas are opposites.

Free will means being able to make choices.
Predestination means God has already made a choice.

It is common to hear people claim that you can only have one, but not the other. According to the Bible, there is at least a little of each involved in our lives. What we don’t know is how much these two affect each other.

"Free will" is the idea that human beings make their own choices. Verses such as Deuteronomy 30:19, 1 Timothy 2:3-4, and Joshua 24:15 show us that God gives us the ability to choose. He also holds us accountable for those decisions. According to the Bible, God even allows us to choose things He does not like (Ezekiel 18:32, 2 Peter 3:9).

"Predestination" is the idea that God knows and causes something to happen. Verses such as Romans 9:15-18 and John 6:43-44 show us that God is in control, and that we are not able to choose Him by ourselves. According to the Bible, God knows what will happen to us before we are even born (Psalm 139:16, Jeremiah 1:5). And, if He decides to make something happen, it will happen (Job 42:2).

So, both of these ideas are taught in the Bible. The problem occurs when we take these words too far. For example, the Bible says that people can’t choose absolutely "anything," since we are limited (Psalm 39:5). And, it says God cannot be the cause of sin and evil (Numbers 23:19, Isaiah 6:1-3). It also says He allows us to make choices He does not like (Psalm 81:12). We cannot use the Bible to say that man is completely free, but we also can’t say that God is ultimately to blame for sin.

If we read everything the Bible teaches, it shows us that people do have free will, and yet God also uses predestination. We have the ability to choose our actions. At the same time, God knows in advance what will occur, and He causes some of those things directly.

There are many different opinions about how this works. What we think about these two ideas does not really affect our salvation. Nor does it alter our ability to live for God. They are interesting to talk about, but they are not the most important things for us to understand. This is why the relationship between free will and predestination is often referred to as a "mystery."

Bible Truth

"Your eyes saw my body even before it was formed. You planned how many days I would live. You wrote down the number of them in your book before I had lived through even one of them" (Psalm 139:16).

"The Lord is not slow to keep his promise. He is not slow in the way some people understand it. Instead, he is patient with you. He doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed. Instead, he wants all people to turn away from their sins" (2 Peter 3:9).