A faithful member of my congregation sent me an email today asking me to explain 2 Timothy 2:24-26 as it relates to the doctrine of “Free Will”. This being one of my favorite doctrines to discuss, and as my new job (yes, I am bi-vocational) has taken up so much of my former writing time that I have not written an article for my Blog in over four months I thought I would post my response.
The doctrine of “The Will of Man” is much misunderstood by the vast majority of Christians today, and sadly this includes most pastors as well.
So you must take much of what you hear from different sources with this in mind… when it comes to this doctrine be very careful who you listen to... men can be very passionate about their beliefs, even when they are wrong. We must always make sure that our opinions concerning any doctrine are grounded in the Word of God and not our own wisdom and understanding.
You give some very interesting verses with which to approach this topic…
1st - Let’s start with a look at what (2 Timothy 2:24-26) is actually saying.
(24) The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
(25) with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
(26) and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
Observation #1 – What is the state of an unregenerate (lost) man’s will? This verse is telling us that the will of an unregenerate man is “held captive… of the devil… to do his will”.
Observation #2 – If the will of an unregenerate man is held captive of the devil then it cannot be free. This is absolutely true. But how can this be right you might ask? I have been making choices all my life. And that also is absolutely true. Notice however that the text did not say that you made no choices as a lost man, what it said is that your will, and therefore your choices, were held captive by the devil to do his will.
Observation #3 – So we must come to the conclusion that while we mistakenly believe that our choices as a lost person are all our own and not influenced by the devil, the truth is far different. The truth is that the choices of an unregenerate man are greatly influenced by the devil. So much so that when the Lord does intervene (v.25) “granting them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” they are then said to “come to their senses”.
No, the unregenerate man may make many choices in this life, but until the Lord grants him repentance by the opening of his eyes that he may come to the knowledge of the truth, his will is firmly held captive of the devil. He is a slave to sin and unless the Lord set him free thus he will remain.
This teaching does not come naturally to the mind of man. And the church of the last century has been greatly negligent in their teaching of the “captivity” of the unregenerate will. Therefore, in the church today we have an entire generation that does not understand, nor fully appreciate, the plight and devastating condition of the lost. Furthermore, because this current generation does not understand the condition of the lost man, they also do not correctly understand salvation.
The lost are not so merely because they have chosen to be so. They are lost because they are “held captive… of the devil… to do his will”. They are prisoners, born into captivity and have never known freedom. Thus salvation is correctly understood as “Deliverance from the power and bondage of sin”… this brings new meaning to the words of John 8:36 “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”