PART 1: Introduction
PART 2: Defining The Will
PART 3: Dividing The Will
PART 4: Denying The Will
PART 5: Displaying Free Will




In Jonathan Edwards' classic work on the will, he gives us a concise and worthy definition: [1]


Will: That by which the mind chooses anything  .


In order to rightly understand our will, one must rightly understand the biblical principle which teaches that the will, (that which does the choosing), is the effect of something greater. It is not the cause. The cause, (the agent), is rooted elsewhere. The word used in Scripture to express this deep truth is heart. In the Greek it is kardia, from which we derive the English word, cardiac. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines heart in this way:


Heart: (Kardia; Gr.) Man's entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and emotional elements.


            Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament expands this definition:


Kardia:denotes the seat and center of all physical and spiritual life. Regarding the latter it states, the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, and endeavors.


            Charles Hodge, in his Systematic Theology, [2] defines heart as, the man itself, the soul, the seat and source of life…It is that out of which good or evil thoughts, desires, and purposes proceed…It is that which is abiding, which determines character. Hodge goes on to explain that "it bears the same relation to acts that the soil does in its production. As a good soil brings forth herbs suited for man and beast, and an evil soil brings forth briars and thorns, so we are told that the human heart (human nature in its present [unregenerate] state) is proved to be evil by the prolific crop of sins which it everywhere and always produces."




Evil choices manifest an evil heart

Good choices manifest a pure heart


            "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matt. 5:8).


In Matthew 15:18, the Lord teaches that which proceeds out of one's mouth (that which we will to speak), proceeds forth from the heart. He reiterates in v.19,  for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies. The cause is in the heart, which speaks to the seat and center of one's soul, one's innate nature, one's essence, one's character, one's desires. It is the heart which moves the will to choose. It is the heart which rules the will. The will must always obey its master. The choice one makes is the effect of one's will, which is caused to move in the manner that it does by its master, the heart. The heart never desires contrary to its nature. The will never overrides the heart, but always chooses accordingly.


"For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." (Luke 6:43).


A pure heart will always bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. An unclean heart will always bring forth the carnal works of the flesh.


“Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt. For the tree [including its root] is known by its fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things. And an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” (Matt. 12:33-35)


If the heart is polluted and evil, its desires will be evil, causing the will to make wicked choices.


"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do."                                                                (John 8:44).


Jesus declared the religious Pharisees the Seed of the Serpent, the Sons of Satan, inheriting their father's disposition, nature and desires. They would only do that which comes naturally - murder, steal and lie. But, on the other hand, if the heart is pure and good, its desires will be holy, causing the will to make godly choices.


            "….I speak to the world those things which I have heard of [the Father]…..I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things….for I do always those things which please him." (John 8:26-29).


Jesus clearly demonstrated His pure, good and holy heart by His words and actions. His heart was not of Mary, an impure, fallen sinner, but of God the Father.

The choices professing Christians make are the visible fruit by which they may be judged by other Christians, using the rules of conduct as given in Scripture. [3]



A new heart is mandatory


Jesus knows man's will is not the root cause of man's sin problem. It goes deeper……to his heart. For man to choose Christ, love Christ and follow Christ requires a new heart. This new heart is the miraculous creation and free gift of God to His people.


"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Ezek.36:26-27).


"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21).


"Except a man be born from above [i.e., given a spiritual heart by God because He wills it], he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3).


Out of this divinely created new heart can now flow the genuine desire to love and follow Christ, where once flowed the desire to hate and rebel against Him. Once regenerated, born from above, we can truly say, ‘Yes, Lord.’




Scripture teaches original sin inherited from guilty Adam the initial cause

Hatred, unbelief and rebellion against God the effect


            "And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth." (Gen. 5:3).


            "….Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." (Gen. 4:8).


            "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…by one man's offence death reigned by one……by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation….for by one man's disobedience many were made sinners…." (Romans 5:12-19).


            "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me."

                                                                                                        (Psalm 51:5).


            "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." (Job 14:4).


            "For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." (John 3:20).


            "There is none that doeth good, no, not one." (Romans 3:12).


            "…the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Romans 8:7).


            "….[ye] were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." (Eph. 2:3).


            "And that [Christ] might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." (Eph. 2:16).




The heart never desires contrary to its nature


"That [heart] which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that [heart] which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6).


"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God…neither can he know them…" (I Cor. 2:14).


"The first man is of the earth, earthy. The second man is the Lord from heaven." (I Cor. 15:47).


Carnal man is born at enmity with God, hating Him. Except a man be given the free gift of the new birth which includes a new heart, he will always hate the Lord. To prove this point, unregenerate man's heart is deliberately denounced in the Bible as making no contribution whatsoever toward man's salvation. And how can it? His heart is only evil, as must also be the ungodly choices of his will.


"Every imagination of the thought of his heart is only evil continually." (Gen. 6:5).


"..the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." (Gen. 8:21).


"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer.17:7).


The Word of God, we are told, judges men's hearts - not their wills:


 “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-        edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12; NASB).


Furthermore, John 1:13 discounts the errant notion that man's will plays any part in his salvation. For the children of God are ‘not born of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of [the will of] God.’ John 3:8 confirms this teaching, as Jesus teaches the similitude of the operation of the wind with man's regeneration by means of the Spirit. Both are effected by the good pleasure of God, at His discretion. It is the will of God which chooses and regenerates God's Elect, not the will of man.




Man can choose nothing but what his heart dictates


            "And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." (Acts 8:18-21).


We reiterate emphatically: man's will, in and of itself, can determine nothing. The will is subject to the motives brought to bear upon it, and these motives originate in the heart.


Motive: (root: to move) - some inner drive, impulse, intention, etc. that causes a person to do something or act in a certain way… (Webster)


Desire: to wish or long for; crave; covet. (Webster)


 Whichever desires of the heart are the strongest are those which move the will to make those choices which most readily achieve those desires. If the heart is deceitful, it will tend toward deceitful desires, making deceitful choices. Though the one making the deceitful choices may sincerely believe they are good, ethical choices, he is, nonetheless, still deceived. If the heart is spiritually reborn, it will tend toward godly desires, making godly choices, agreeing with God's Word, glorifying God. In either case, the heart must sort out the desires, prioritize them, and then command the will to make the proper choice in order to fulfill the desire of the heart. That which one desires, covets and strives for is his treasure. This treasure reflects the condition of the heart.


"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matt. 6:21).


The treasure of the Christian is to be spiritual and heavenly, not carnal and earthly. Unregenerate man always chooses that which glorifies man, not that which glorifies God. Regenerate man prays, 'Not my will, Lord, but thy will be done.'

"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth that which is good: and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil. For of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." (Luke 6:45).              


Though the unregenerate man may do relatively good and kind deeds, the motives of his heart are not pure, nor are they done in the Spirit, to the glory of the true God. The carnal man is ruled by his fleshly and selfish motives.  Thus, his good works cannot save him from judgment. (Cf. Rev. 20:11-15).

Understanding these truths, (1) that the will determines nothing of itself, but is a slave fulfilling the desires of the heart; and (2) that the desires of the heart of the unregenerate man are not toward God - for all we like sheep have gone astray - are vital to understanding that man is so utterly lost that he cannot and will not make a spiritual decision for Christ, lose his life, pick up his cross, following Him through suffering trials and tribulations, enduring unto the end. We do not deny that man can and often does make a fleshly decision for Christ, but his endurance is temporary. (Cf. The Parable of the Soils.)

[2] Part 2, chap. 8, sec. 13, sub-sec. B, par. 4.

[3] Although never fully eradicated in this carnal body, the true Christian is expected to make more mature, spiritual, biblical choices as he grows in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. We have sound reason to disbelieve the regeneration of one whose lifestyle and outward faith consists of evil choices made time and time again.