For many people, discussion of the role of human will in coming to Christ is a non-issue, while for others it is a hotly debated issue. While it should not remain a point of focal debate, it is nevertheless valuable to rightly divide the Word of God in understanding how and why an exercise of the human will cannot, as John 1:13 says, have a part in bringing a spirit to new birth in Christ—which is because any exercise of will through making a human choice or decision is a human work. Human work can have no role in salvation.

In this letter to a daughter of the Lord, I deal with the common assumptive word association between “believing” and “will” most responsible for this misunderstanding of the role of human will in new birth contrary to John’s founding instruction: “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”      


From: "littleflock"
To: "'Joy A.'"

Sent: 1/11/2014 12:20:54 AM

Subject: Relating Human Will to Salvation by Faith - Dealing with False Presumptions



As I have been listening to the Bible online, the Lord has shown me two false presumptions on which the doctrine of new birth by free will is based which I want to share with you. Both are easily rebuttable from scripture. (The first rebuttal you are already familiar with from our discussions on this.) Again context is everything.

I am using the KJV as my reference for what follows.


False Presumption I:

“To believe” is an expression of will such that the two are synonymous and interchangeable.

For instance, the phrase from John 3:16 “whosoever believes in Him” is thought to interchangeably say “whosoever wills to believe in Him” or “whosoever chooses to believe in Him.” This presumption is made most strongly by linking the “whosoever believes” in John 3:16 to the phrase “whosoever will, let him take the water of life” in Rev. 22:17.

This presumption of the synonymy of belief and will however is refuted within the context of the Book of John where the concept of believing is used most heavily.  This is done in three ways:

A.      The word “believe” or some form of it appears 85 times in John. Of these 85, the word “will” in the sense of “purposing, choosing, determining” appears near the word “believe” only once.  In that one place, it is used in the negative to mean “unbelief.” This is where Thomas determines not to believe until he sees evidence (“I will not believe”). Significantly, three verses later, where Thomas finally is brought to believe, it is not as an act of his determination, but of his near speechless surrender. Thus will(fullness) is seen only in the context of unbelief in John, never in the context of belief. [Note that I have not made similar analysis with respect to the other gospels at this time.]


B.      Where the word choose (i.e., “chosen”) does appear in John (the word “choose” does not even appear in the book), it is always with respect to the Lord’s choosing, never man’s choosing, and in one verse (15:16) it specifically says man does not choose the Lord.


C.      The strongest of all rebuttals however is that the word “believe” is expressly linked to and requisite to the concept of “new birth” (being “born again”) in John 3:5-18 which concept is first introduced and contexted in John 1:13.  In John 1:13, it is expressly stated that spiritual birth is not by human will. Spiritual birth is not the result of any expression of human intention, purposing, choosing or determining (deciding). So, if new birth [is by believing, and new birth] is required for salvation [yet new birth is apart from human will], then this applies to any use of the word “believe” relative to salvation, whether or not new birth is being discussed.


False Presumption 2:

The phrase “whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” in Rev. 22:17 is the invitation to salvation and new birth, being synonymous with the invitation to the “living water” of salvation in John 4:10-14 and elsewhere.  Therefore salvation is an act of free will.  The phrase “whosoever will” [in Revelation] is thus also nicely synonymous with the phrase “whosoever believes” throughout the book of John, meaning that “believing” and “willing” are the same thing.

This presumption is based on a nearly universally accepted flawed equation of “the water of life” in Revelation 22 with  the “living water” of first salvation and new birth in the book of John. This equation is based in the hasty logic of substituting general scriptural context in place of immediate scriptural context.  In Revelation 22:17, immediate context is everything to understanding the meaning and application of “whosoever wills.” At stake is proving by immediate context to what the “water of life” refers and to whom the invitation is given. 

When so examined, it becomes clear that the “water of life” in Rev. 22:17 is not synonymous with the first “living water” of salvation in John 4. The Rev. 22 “water of life” rather is immediately traced to the Rev. 21 “fountain of the water of life” found within the New Jerusalem after the new heavens and earth are established and is specifically available only to the overcomers (21:1-7).  The time, location and access conditions of this water are important.

·         The fountain is not available until after the new heavens and earth are finished and descended.  It is not available now, therefore it is not the fountain of living water of first salvation now available.


·         The fountain is located within the New Jerusalem. Entrance to the New Jerusalem (the pure “bridal city”) is accessible only to the nations of the earth who are already saved (21:24). This means that no one who has not already come into the cleansing of salvation by the blood of Christ (received the first living water of salvation) can even get close to the fountain of the water of life.  Thus it is different living water.


·         The fountain is expressly available only to the overcomers as part of their inheritance (21:7). Therefore it is not the same as the initial living water of salvation.

This context is reinforced in chapter 22.  In 22:16 immediately preceding the invitation to the water of life, Jesus reaffirms He is issuing all these exhortations and promises “to the churches.”  Therefore this invitation to the water of life is not to the lost to come to salvation. (This is the same generalizing that [erroneously] makes Rev. 3: 20 out to be an invitation to the lost—“Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man … open the door (an act of the will), I will come in….”

The point of all this is that the appeal to the will (“whosoever will”) in Rev. 22:17 cannot be connected to believing in Christ for salvation invited in the book of John. The immediate context of Revelation nullifies the generalized context of John’s writings by which a faulty link is made between “whosoever will” here and “whosoever believes” in John’s Gospel.

Exhortations to the will are made to those who have already come into faith and who now, having a “freed will,” are being challenged to rise up to the call to discipleship, overcoming and sonship.  And it is on the basis of such post-salvation “freed will works” led, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit (or the flesh) that we will be judged for proving the realness of our internally born faith.


Beyond these faulty presumptions relating the concept of will to believing, I believe we will see the same faulty connection relative to the cousin term “faith.”  I have not researched this side of it yet so am speaking by general familiarity. But saving faith in John and the other gospels is not portrayed as beginning as an act of the will. Rather everywhere it is portrayed in terms of a quality of being that is in or comes into one’s possession. This is seen for example wherever an exhortation to faith is made through the words “have faith.” “Having” or “being” are not at all “purposing, choosing, determining” through intents of the will. They have to come from somewhere else.

As a quality of “having” and “being,” faith must be divinely inspired and imparted from without [by the spoken word. “Faith cometh by hearing.”] They require input from a Father-er! And that is how Jesus always paints it in John. Faith comes by a pre-planting, a drawing, a choosing and a giving on the part of the Father. This is all preveniently initiated from without the man by God. It is not about man’s executing purpose, choice, determination as John 1:13 clearly affirms.

One cannot will to be saved. One can will to obey the Lord once his heart surrenders to faith thereby freeing his will to take all further actions of obedience. [He can then] grow in the exercise of the freed will to come into conformity to Christ, by which the genuineness of his elect new birth is constantly tested and ultimately proven.



[….] Feel free to use this in any way that is helpful in any discussions you have with others about predestination and “free(d) will.”

Chris Anderson

First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship




Broken links? Technical problems? Please e-mail Webmaster.
Page updated July 28, 2017