ENSLAVED BY THE WILL


By Akin Ojumu

“On the Bondage of the Will” was written by Martin Luther in 1525 in response to Erasmus of Rotterdam’s “Diatribe on Free Will.” In the book, Martin Luther argued that man could not choose between good and evil through their own willpower, and that salvation or redemption can only be achieved by God’s direct intervention.

“For if a man, when he has lost his liberty, is compelled to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion concerning him can be more justly drawn, than that he can do nothing but sin, and will sin?” (Section 50, On the Bondage of the Will).

Here are some truths you need to know about your true self. 

You’ve never, in your whole life, chosen anything against your will. At any given moment, you’ll always choose to do what you think is best for you.

When faced with any decision, and when you consider the options before you, you’ll always choose what your mind deems to be best for you at that particular moment. 

Every voluntary moral act, and every volitional action, you’ve ever taken in your life has always been made according to your strongest inclination. You always carry out the intentions of your will.

Whether good or bad, the choice you make is always determined by what you will to do. Your will always wins. Not only do you always choose what you want, you cannot not choose what you want.

Now, with respect to God and the things of God, your strongest inclination is contrary to what God desires. By virtue of your human nature and fallenness, you have no inclination to do the things of God. Your true self, your Adamic nature, is always predisposed to loving what God hates.

If it depends on you, you are completely disinterested in bowing your will to God. Left to your own devices, you are totally disinclined from conceding to the will of God. You are incapable of making a decision to change your inclination. Your inclination has to change before the decision you make will ever change. 

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit…For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8).

Therein lies the fate of a life not yielded to Christ. Without the intervention of God, you are a slave to the flesh and your will. It’s only by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit that man is able to break free from the stranglehold of his own will. Only by the grace of God can man find the strength within himself to defile his own will.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9-10).

When, in Matthew 22:37, the Lord Jesus told the Pharisees, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” the Lord was letting us know the inevitable role the mind plays in the assent to the salvation message. Nothing enters the heart, that’s not first in the mind. In order to get the heart to change, you’ve got to first get the mind changed.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17).

No amount of motivational speeches, pep talks, or moral boosts can change the mind. Inspirational lectures and uplifting messages cannot bend the will and intentions of man towards God. Neither emotionally stirring music nor pseudo-profound esoteric displays can break the stranglehold of the mind.

The only thing forceful enough to overpower the mind is the Word of God. Transformation comes from the preaching of the truth of God. It’s in the hearing of the Gospel of God that the mind is liberated.

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This commentary borrowed copiously from a message titled, “Have You Lost Your Mind?” given  by R.C. Sproul at the Ligonier Ministry 2012 National Conference, “The Christian Mind.”

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