In the previous post I wrestled with the question of whether God’s sovereign overruling of my will makes me merely a robot, or whether my will can still be free even in a glorified body where there is no more sin. In this post I will explore what God brings about through the New Covenant.
This is what the New Covenant guarantees: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27) God Himself will give the new heart. God Himself will put His Spirit within. God Himself will remove the heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. God Himself will cause His people to walk in His statutes. God Himself will do it. Does that mean that my will was not free in that transaction? Perhaps. But whether my will was free or not, praise be to God for His indescribable gift of grace!
What Christians are given through the New Covenant is an entirely new nature. Therefore since our freedom is always in accord with our nature, in Christ we are given a nature that is now free not to sin (Romans 6:14). Instead of being slaves to sin, we are now slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18). Our new nature is gradually being sanctified—being made more and more holy—as we behold the glory of the Lord and His Spirit transforms our hearts from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18). This process of sanctification will one day end in glorification in the very presence of God, where the new nature will be complete and therefore fully free to worship God only, without any pull toward autonomy from Him.
There is tremendous security in God’s promise in Romans 8:30 that “those whom He justified He also glorified.” Piper again says this: “Eternal security is based on the new covenant oath of God that he will cause the obedience which he requires in those whom he has called and justified.” (emphasis added) Christians are not robots—we are still responsible to obey and follow and trust—yet we can do so with the confidence that God Himself has given us a new nature, and God Himself is going ensure our obedience in order to keep us for all eternity. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14, emphasis added)
So perhaps the question still remains then: Does God overrule my will in election? And does He overrule my will in glorification? I would say that yes, God does overrule my will in both electing me to salvation and in glorifying me so that I can no longer sin. Apart from His merciful intervention, I would not be saved. And apart from His merciful keeping power, I would not remain saved. But does that then make me a robot? Do I have no will of my own? I don’t think so. But maybe that’s not even asking the right question. Maybe instead I need to consider whether God has so changed my nature that I no longer even desire to have a “free will” that acts in autonomy from Him, but instead “I delight to do His will” (Psalm 40:8) and my will is finally free to only do what it was designed to do, namely to humbly worship and joyfully obey my King.
Perhaps it can illustrated this way: If a little boy is starting to run into the street as a speeding car approaches, and the boy’s father forcefully grabs him and pulls him out of the way of the car, did the father overrule the free will of the boy? Yes—very clearly! Does that mean the little boy is merely a robot under his father’s control? Not at all. In fact, the boy was exercising his free will, but it was a will to disobey his father, and if his will was carried out it would have resulted in his destruction. Therefore the father’s act of overruling the boy’s will was actually an act of great mercy and love.
Doubtless there is much more that I have to still wrestle with in understanding the immensity of God’s sovereign grace toward me, but one thing I know, and in this I find great comfort, that if indeed God overrules my free will through His election and justification and glorification of me, then it is done as an act of great mercy toward me. And for that I am eternally grateful.