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 Free Will (In Greek)


The most common used word in the Greek New Testament for the will of man, that I have found, is “thelo ethelo” which is to “determine, choose, prefer, desire, wish, incline, will, delight in, intent, or love”.

This helps to understand with better light some very intriguing passages.

[b]Here are a few:[/b]

[b]Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34[/b] - “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would [thelo ethelo] I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathered her chickens under her wings, and ye would [thelo ethelo] not!”

Here we have insight into the heart of God. It was His will for Jerusalem to come unto Him, but Jerusalem did not want to come. We see the conflict between the will of God and the will of man. God’s will is that people voluntarily come unto Him for grace (Rev 22:17). He want’s to protect them from sin and it’s consequences (2Peter 3:9), and have a loving relationship with them (John 7:3, Php 3:8). But man is choosing sin over God (John 3:19), not submitting their own will to the will of God (Matt 6:24, John 7:17), and this leaves God’s will unfulfilled (1John 5:19), God’s heart broken (Gen 6:5, Eph 4:3), and the souls of men in peril! (1Corinthians 6:9-10)

[b]Matthew 22:3 [/b]- “And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding and they would [thelo ethelo] not come.”

Here we see the will of man rejecting the invitations of God. God is calling all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30) because He doesn’t want them to perish (2Peter 3:9). The Holy Spirit is convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, (John 6:18) trying to draw all men unto God (John 12:32). The revealing of the truth by the Spirit to the mind is irresistible, the intellect is under the law of necessity (Acts 6:10).But the grace of God is not irresistible, but just as though who stoned Stephen, many men always resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51) because the will is under the law of liberty. The grace of God is the most resisted thing in the whole universe (1John 5:19). Man’s will is rejecting God’s will, even God’s will for their own salvation (John 3:16-19).

[b]Luke 19:27[/b] - “But those mine enemies, which would [thelo ethelo] not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”

The problem of sin is a problem of the will (1John 3:4). The general root of all sin is self-will (Isaiah 14:13-14). Sinners do not want or will for God to reign over them (Luke 19:14), to govern them (2Peter 2:10), because they are self willed (2Peter 2:10). Before salvation can occur, the Spirit of God must change the will of man through the influence of truth (John 6:44, John 15:26).

[b]John 5:40[/b] “And ye will [thelo ethelo] not come to me, that ye might have life.”

Those who perish, perish because they are not willing to come unto Jesus. Not because they couldn’t (1 Corinthians 10:13), but because they wouldn’t.

[b]Revelations 22:17[/b] “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will [thelo ethelo], let him take the water of life freely.”

God will not save anyone, not even Jerusalem, against their will (Luke 13:34). If anyone is to receive God’s grace and mercy, they must receive it willfully (Heb 10:26). If anyone is to respond to the gospel message, they must respond voluntarily (Rev 22:17). Nobody has ever been saved yet who did not want to be saved (Deu 30:19. And nobody has ever rejected God and His grace, who did not want to reject it in order to keep their sin (John 3:20).

“Thelo ethelo” is translated in the bible either as “would”, “willingly” or as “willing”.

[b]Verses translated as willingly[/b]: John 6:21, 2Peter 3:5

[b]Verses translated as willing:[/b] Matthew 1:19, Luke 10:29, Luke 23:20, John 5:35, Acts 24:27, Acts 25:9, Romans 9:22, Hebrews 13:18

[b]Verses translated as would: [/b]

Matthew: 2:18, 5:42, 7:12, 12:38, 14:5, 18:23, 18:30, 22:3, 23:37, 27:15, 27:34
Mark: 3:13, 6:19, 6:26, 6:48, 7:24, 9:30, 10:35, 10:36
Luke: 6:31, 15:28, 16:26, 18:4, 18:13
John: 1:43, 6:11, 7:1, 7:44, 9:27, 12:21
Acts: 7:39, 10:10, 14:13, 16:3, 19:33, 24:6, 23:09
Romans: 1:13, 7:15, 7:16, 7:19, 7:20, 7:21, 11:25, 16:19
1Corinthians: 7:7, 7:32, 10:1, 10:20, 11:3, 12:1, 14:5
2Corinthians: 1:8, 5:4, 12:20
Galatians: 1:7, 3:2, 4:17, 5:17
Colossians: 1:27, 2:1
1Thessalonians: 2:18, 4:13
2Thessalonians: 3:10
Philemon: 1:14
Hebrews: 12:17

[u]There are other greek words used for the will of man:[/u]

“Boulomai” literally means “to be willing” or to “intend”.

This word is translated as “would” or as “willing”.

[b]Places “boulomai” is translated as “would”:[/b]

Acts: 17:20, 19:30, 22:30, 23:28, 25:20, 25:22, 28:18,
Philemon: 1:12, 1:13
2John 1:12
3John 1:10

[b]Places “boulomai” translated as “willing”:[/b]

Mark 15:15
Luke 22:24
Acts 17:43
Heb 6:17
2Peter 3:9

[u][b]2Peter 3:9[/b] is a scripture of particular interest:[/u]

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

It is not God’s will, not God’s intention for anyone to perish. This is the benevolent reason God has for not pouring out His wrath yet. He is waiting patiently, or is longsuffering, with the hope and will that more sinners will repent and be saved.

“Euchomaia” is another which mean’s “to pray, will, or wish”. It is used only in Acts 26:29

“Euokeo” is another word that means “willing”. It is used in 2Corinthians 5:8 and 1Thessalonians 2:8

“Prothumia” mean’s “willing mind” and is used in 2 Corinthians 8:12 and 1Peter 5:2

“Hekousios” mean’s “voluntariness” or “willingness” and is used in Hebrews 10:26 and 1Peter 5:2.

[b]Hebrews 10:26[/b] says that if a person sins willfully “hekousios” or voluntarily, after they have received “lambano” or have “accepted” or “attained” or “seized” the truth, the blood of Jesus Christ does not cover their sin, but they are heading towards judgment.
“Authairetos” is a word which means “self chosen” or “voluntary” or “willful”. It is used in 2Corinthians 8:3

“hekown” also means “voluntary” or “willingly”and is used in Romans 8:20 and 1Corinthians 9:17

“hekousion” means “voluntariness” or “willingly” and is found in Philemon 1:14


Surprisingly to some, the Early Apostolic Church universally held to the doctrine of free will for the first four to five centuries without debate.

Here are some quotes from the Early Church Fathers which I thought were note worthy:

“If it happen by fate that men are either good or wicked; the good were not good , nor should the wicked be wicked.” Justin (the) Martyr

“Every created being is so constituted as to be capable of vice and virtue. For he can do nothing praise worthy, if he had not the power of turning either way.” Justin (the) Martyr

“Unless we suppose man has the power to choose the good and refuse the evil, no one can be accountable for any action whatever.” Justin (the) Martyr

“God had not made man, like the trees and the brutes, without the power of election.” Justin (the) Martyr

“Man being appointed for God’s judgment, it was necessary to the justice of God’s sentence that man should be judged, according to the deserts of his free will.” Turtullian

“Man, a reasonable being, and in the respect like God, is made free in his will, and having power over himself, is the cause that sometimes he becomes wheat and sometimes chaff.” Irenaeus

“They who do good shall obtain honor and glory, because they have done good when they could forbear doing it. And they who do it not shall receive just judgment of our God; because they have not done good when they could have done it.” Irenaeus

“What is forced is not pleasing to God, but what comes from a truly virtuous motive, and virtue comes from the Will not from Necessity.” Basil

“The will depends on what is within us, and within us is free will.” Basil

“Forasmuch as God has put good and evil in our power, he has given us free power to choose the one or the other; and as he does not retain us against our will, so he embraces us when we are willing.” Chrysostom

“After a wicked man, if he will, is changed into a good man; and a good man, through sloth, falls away and becomes wicked; because God hath endowed us with free agency; not does he make us to do things necessarily, but he places proper remedies before us, and suffers all to be done according to the will of the patient.” Chrysostom

“God hath endowed us with free will. We are not necessarily drawn either to virtue or vice. For when Necessity rules, there is no room left either for d**nation or crown.” Jerome

“Even to those who shall be wicked, God gives power to repent and turn to him.” Jerome

“Our will is kept free to turn either way, that God may dispense his rewards and punishments, not according to his own pre-judgment, but according to the merits of everyone.” Jerome

“Let the man who condemns it [free will] be himself condemned.” Jerome

“It would be more just to punish the stars, which make a wicked action necessary, than to punish the poor man, who does that wicked action by necessity.” Epiphanius

“The soul does not incline to either part out of necessity, for then neither vice nor virtue could be ascribed to it; not would its choice of virtue deserve reward; nor could its declinations to vice punishment.” Origen

“How could God require that of man which he had not power to offer Him?” Origen

“Ten thousand things may be found both in the gospels and authorities of the apostles, clearly manifesting the liberty and self election of man.” Theodorite

“For how can He [God] punish a nature which had no power to do good, but was bound in the hands of wickedness.” Theodorite

Neither promises nor reprehensions, rewards, nor punishments are just, “if the soul has not the power of choosing or abstaining, but evil is involuntary.” Clemens of Alexandria

“This opinion”, the doctrine of necessity, “absolves sinners, as doing nothing of their own accord, which was evil; and would cast all the blame of the wickedness committed in the world, upon God, and upon His providence.” Eusebius

Regarding free will, “this is not only ours, but the opinion of all who speak orthodoxy, of rational being.” Didymus

“God does not command impossibilities” Augustine

“They that came to Christ ought not to impute it to themselves, because they came, being called: and they that would not come, ought not to impute it to another, but only to themselves, because they are called, it was in their power of their free will to come.” Augustine

“What man ought to do, he can do.” Pelagius

[u][b]Here are some quotes after the Early Church Fathers:[/b][/u]

“What man ought to do, he can do.” A. W. Tozer

“Does God give commands which man cannot obey? Is he so arbitrary, so severe, so unloving, as to issue commandments which cannot be obeyed? The answer is that in all the annals of Holy Scripture, not a single instance is recorded of God having commanded any man to do a thing, which was beyond his power. Is God so unjust and so inconsiderate as to require of man that which he is unable to render? Surely not! To infer it is to slander the character of God.” E. M. Bounds

“Everyone knows that the peculiar doctrines [necessity] to which the victory was assigned by the Synod [of Dort] was absolutely unknown in the first ages of the Church.” Mosheim

“The Church teachers agreed unanimously, in maintaining the free will of man as a necessary condition of the existence of morality.” Neander

“the earliest Christian fathers unanimously ascribed to man freedom of will, according to which he can choose either the good or the bad.” Bredschneider

The “Ancient Fathers held to autexousion, understanding by this, or the term liberum arbitrium, the power of man to choose the good or evil freely without compulsion.” Knapp

“All the Fathers differed from Augustine and agreed with Pelagians in attributing free will to man.” Wiggers

“The Greek Fathers above others, and among them especially Chrysostom, have exceeded bounds in extolling the power of the human will…they attribute to man too much power to become virtuous.” John Calvin

 2007/3/22 21:50

Joined: 2006/8/12
Posts: 313

 Re: Free Will (In Greek)

There is nothing 'free' about man's will.

The bible says that men are BOUND by their sin. Or BOUND by God.

One or the other.

There is no freedom.

The only 'freedom' man can experience is freedom from sin UNTO slavary with Christ.

This is the echo-ing theme of the book of Romans. The entire book, it has a great list of Scriptures.

 2007/3/22 23:13Profile

Joined: 2004/11/21
Posts: 362
Tulsa OK


Freedom of the will means freedom of choice and not freedom from sin. It's a God given faculty.We are humans beings and not "machines" or puppets.The power of choice has been with man undestroyed from the fall of adam.

The only beings who dont have a second choice in life are the fallen angels not humans.


 2007/3/23 0:38Profile

Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 1519
Santa Cruz California


I cannot believe one would quote Pelagius and Augustine as agreeing with one another.

Brother Jesse, please go back and read what happened between these two men. Pelagius was declared a heretic by the Church. I understand that his teachings influenced Finney to a large degree, but the debate between he and Augustine culminated in Augustine's views being held as Scriptural.

Of course Erasmus picked up some of the free-will ideology and challenged Luther, and the fruit of that was a wonderful book entitled "The Bondage Of The Will"

I would encourage all to read this document on Pelagius and Augustine.

patrick heaviside

 2007/3/23 0:39Profile

Joined: 2002/12/11
Posts: 37521
"Pilgrim and Sojourner." - 1 Peter 2:11


“The Greek Fathers above others, and among them especially Chrysostom, have exceeded bounds in extolling the power of the human will…they attribute to man too much power to become virtuous.” John Calvin

Here is a classic example that brother Jesse is displaying to us. Some aremenian believers that put too much credence on freewill because of the apparent success of their virtous lifes apart from the Spirit of God. But in reality their entire sanctification was being wrought [i]in[/i] God. But the calvanist can most easily say its all God working but their free will was in operation. Both of these are principles that the divine economy puts forth to man. Free will and Gods will and power. the quote by Calvin gives credence to "some" freewill that man can display. And surely the truth is there is "some" freewill that we have but I would say it is hindered within slavery from sin and thus begets only the ability to sin. Yet we also have the cry of mercy and repentance that our free wills allow us to excercise within this slavery. But how can a man by his own freewill deliver himself from a undeliverable situation.

SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2007/3/23 1:26Profile

Joined: 2006/6/28
Posts: 3405
Dallas, Texas


But how can a man by his own freewill deliver himself from a undeliverable situation.

What comes to mind here is Zac Poonen's message on reality in the Christian's life. Man needs the "antibiotic" to hit the root of sin...not merely the supressing ointment of human willpower. I've seen people reform their lives independant of Christ by stopping smoking, cussing, cheating, lying. Violent inmates in the prison system connect with Muslim clerics and suddenly get cleaned up and become philanthropical giants, setting up orphanages and foodbanks and succeed in outshining most Christians in terms of good deeds and exuberance of faith.

But the finger of God is required to extirpate the "root" of sin. Something like this can not be freewilled at the behest of man, and anything short of this mysterious work of the Spirit is a false mortification of sin, a false hope, and consequently, a false salvation. It's a reliance on the ointment of the law instead of the antibiotic of grace.

As Poonen so beautifully states: "Once you have the antibiotic, you can throw the tube of ointment away." Trying to freewill mortification is like putting a band-aid over a herpes outbreak. You can cover it up, hide it, and perhaps it will eventually go back into latency, but the virus is still laying dormant in the host cell's DNA. What man needs is the ax to the root, the Holy Spirit death blow administered to the root of Sin - a blow which can never be inflicted by our own striving choice; this mysterious death blow is a product of grace, and preachers who proclaim otherwise do incalculable damage.

Brother Paul

Paul Frederick West

 2007/3/23 1:54Profile

Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK


I have sometimes surprised folks here by questioning whether or not we have 'a will' at all; bound or free. I still question the notion that we have some discrete faculty of the soul which we call 'the will'.

I just do not see the concept of 'a will' in scripture. I see references to desire and willingness but I think the notion of 'my will' almost as a self-functioning faculty is not scriptural.

I wonder how much space and time we might have saved over the centuries if we had not taken this route?

Ron Bailey

 2007/3/23 3:45Profile

Joined: 2004/11/21
Posts: 362
Tulsa OK


My minds 'aches' sometimes when i think of such deep truths like the will of man and sovereignity of God.I'm such a babe when it comes to experimental knowledge of truth and God.
I Corinthians 13 comes to my mind, in our zeal for more knowledge there is the danger of being puffed up, even though sincere may be our quest of truth the moment our hearts "backslide" from love and our mind turns hot with discousion i feel like we lose something.

Knowledge in this side of eternity is partial we look like in a mirror. If knowledge is partial can we grasp the mysteries of God and explain them in such a away as their is no more wonder for us, no, the more we know Him the more aware we will be of our ignorance of Him.

Without the grace of God we are totally under the bondage of sin, the question is - do we have a free choice when the gosple is proclaimed to us? Can we resist the grace of God when he calls us? Why their is an invitation included in the gosple? Being dead to sin does it mean that we are not even abel to hear?

When Moses lifted up the brass serpent in the wilderness, all those who were biten by the snakes, if they wanted to be healed and live they had to lift up their heads and see the serpent.Seeing was their responsability,God didnt made them see, but He saved all those who were willing to see.


 2007/3/23 6:07Profile

Joined: 2007/1/21
Posts: 528
Southern USA

 Re: Free Will

Reply to Lazarus1719

Free will is forbidden fruit to me spiritually.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

I confess I am not without this sin in my body of flesh.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Again the battles Christians fight is a spiritual battle, that great fight of afflictions of over coming the will of the flesh. Eddie


 2007/3/23 7:38Profile

Joined: 2005/7/11
Posts: 1131


I just do not see the concept of 'a will' in scripture. I see references to desire and willingness but I think the notion of 'my will' almost as a self-functioning faculty is not scriptural.

I have heard you say this before and it does surprise me to hear it again.

I might sound like an Arminian here for a moment, but if their is no Will of man, then why or how does man choose to follow Christ? How does a man have faith if he doesn't have a Will?

 2007/3/23 10:17Profile

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