By the grace of God they were freely willing

Pocketwatch inner workings I believe in the complete sovereignty of God over all human decisions and actions, but this doesn’t mean I believe we never make decisions or choices or that we lack our own will. This position is known as Compatibilism because it asserts that free will and determinism are compatible. I was reading 2 Corinthians 8 yesterday and two passages stuck out to me with respect to this issue.

2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (emphasis mine):

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

So, Paul says right at the outset that he’s going to tell us about something God is doing in the churches of Macedonia. The Macedonian’s generosity, despite their great poverty, was a grace that originated from God and not from man. But then he turns right around and says the Macedonians were doing this “of their own accord”. Other translations say the Macedonians were “freely willing” or that they did this “entirely on their own” or “of their own free will”. He then turns right around again and says that the Macedonians submitted themselves to the Lord and to their leaders “by the will of God”.

So was it the Macedonian’s will or God’s will that accomplished this? It was both! Or perhaps, more accurately, it was ultimately God’s will to put it into the minds and hearts of the Macedonians so that they would will, even delight, to give so generously.

The other passage makes this connection even more explicit. 2 Corinthians 8:16-17 (again, emphasis mine):

But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

Again, other translations have phrases like “by his own choice” or “of his own initiative”, but the meaning is the same. God, in his sovereignty, put the care into Titus’ heart so that Titus himself would freely will to visit the Corinthian saints.

I love the few passages in the New Testament that mention free will. They do not in any way deter me from glorying in the absolute sovereignty of God.