- About SI
Before posting, please the take the time to review our Comment Policy.
This certainly is going to be a lively discussion. We should all put our body armor on now.
Man has a will and is called to exercise it to (1) believe in Christ and (2) grow in knowledge of the truth. God is sovereign over all and works all things according to the council of His will (Eph 1:11); this includes salvation and sanctification. Man's will, in every respect, is always subservient to God's sovereign decree and only operates inside His sovereign will - in a way we cannot understand, or will ever understand (Deut 29:29). It is un-Biblical to use this as an excuse to degrade the omniscience of God by elevating man's free will on a pedestal.
We can spend endless hours waxing eloquent about the interaction between man's will and God's sovereignty - to no real avail. Our responsibility is to remain faithful and be living sacrifices (Rom 12:1-2) for the God who, by His grace alone, saves men from their sins. The grace of God teaches us to renounce worldly lusts and live godly lives as we look forward to Christ's return. He is purifying His saints as a people zealous for good works in this present age (Titus 2:11-14).
Some people will accuse me of talking out of both sides of my mouth on this issue. My position doesn't satisfy either full Arminians or 5-pt Calvinists. Both would say I'm compromising. That is fine with me. I will resort to a quote from Spurgeon that makes my point on the larger man's will/God's sovereignty issue:
We are bound to believe both sides of the truth revealed in the Scriptures, so I admit that, when a Calvinist says that all things happen according to the predestination of God, he speaks the truth, and I am willing to be called a Calvinist; but when an Arminian says that, when a man sins, the sin is his own, and that, if he continues in sin, and perishes, his eternal damnation will lie entirely at his own door, I believe that he also speaks the truth, though I am not willing to be called an Arminian. The fact is, there is some truth in both these systems of theology; the mischief is that, in order to make a human system appear to be complete, men ignore a certain truth, which they do not know how to put into the scheme which they have formed; and, very often, that very truth, which they ignore, proves to be, like the stone which the builders rejected, one of the headstones of the corner, and their building suffers serious damage through its omission.
I would say the practical outworking of true faith in Christ will produce a desire to grow, which takes willpower to achieve. Nobody ever said growing in Christ was easy. It is obviously a two-part equation. The Holy Spirit changes our hearts so we want to be conformed to the image of Christ, and also works in sanctification to teach us to grow in knowledge of the truth. Man obviously has a part to play; Paul likened it to a race (Heb 12).
I know you were going for something more specific in your question above, but my point was that I'm not sure what benefit there is in theorizing about what role the Spirit and willpower each play in sanctification.
Growth in Christ is spiritual work - hard work. The desire for growth is the practical result of real saving faith in Christ. The Spirit is a helper (Jn 14:6; 16:1-14) sent by God the Father to believers. Man's willpower and the Holy Spirit work together in sanctification in a manner we won't be able to fully grasp. That is why I'm not sure what profit the question has for a believer. I suppose the old adage, "Believe it all depends on God and work like it all depends on you" would sum up the Christian's responsibility on sanctification.
Here is something interesting;
"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor," (1 Thess 4:3-4).
Paul says each Christian must "know" how to control his body in holiness and honor. This implies that personal willpower plays a significant part in sanctification, in this case from sexual immorality. There seem to be several ways to combat sexual immorality in our lives, but whichever way is appropriate for each person, it must be done in holiness and honor.
The Holy Spirit and the Christian work together to accomplish sanctification.
I think the example of Daniel provides some insight into this question. We can, IMO, make a conscious determination to remain steadfast in our faith and practice. We are enabled to do so, however, by the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit.
Hello. New here though I have been lurking for a couple of years. I think that in the op the phrase "as traditionally understood" has bearing on the discussion. "Will-power" is an autonomous and man centered pursuit of ones own goals or desires. For me that is an important distinction. As regenerate believers, indwelt by God we are responsible to fervently pursue a life that pleases God with all our strength (Phil. 3) and yet even that is really God at work in us. My favorite verse on this subject is 1 Corinthians 15:10. Paul apparently outworked all the other apostles but in the end it was God working through him. I think Augustine said something along the lines of (paraphrased extremely) "when I sin, I am to blame. When I do good it is God working through me''
Thanks for posting, Josh!
Tend to agree... much hinges on definition. There's not really any power in will, but the NT (and Old even more so, really) is full of appeals to the will. So, if "willpower" means "trying hard is required," yes. If it means "the power actually comes from our will," no.
For that reason, I'd never use the term "will power" to describe any part of growth in grace.
Just stumbled onto this one I'd overlooked.
Interesting question. I think I have to go with self and say that the Spirit's role does not replace the role of self.
Some reasons why:
So, to summarize, I think the right model is "we make real choices--acts of the will and self--but we do so as people with a new nature, a new relationship with God, and having new power."