Jonathan Edwards' classic work on the will, he gives us a concise
and worthy definition:
Will: That by which the mind chooses anything.
order to rightly understand our will, one must rightly understand
the biblical principle which teaches that the will, (that which
does the choosing), is the effect of something greater. It is
not the cause. The cause, (the agent), is rooted elsewhere.
The word used in Scripture to express this deep truth is heart. In the Greek it is kardia, from which we derive the English
word, cardiac. Vine's
Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
defines heart in this
Heart: (Kardia; Gr.) Man's entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and emotional
Thayers Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament expands this definition:
denotes the seat and center of all physical
and spiritual life. Regarding the latter it states, the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions,
desires, appetites, affections, purposes, and endeavors.
Charles Hodge, in his Systematic Theology, defines heart as, the man itself, the
soul, the seat and source of life
It is that out of which
good or evil thoughts, desires, and purposes proceed
is that which is abiding, which determines character. Hodge
goes on to explain that "it bears the same relation to
acts that the soil does in its production. As a good soil brings
forth herbs suited for man and beast, and an evil soil brings
forth briars and thorns, so we are told that the human heart
(human nature in its present [unregenerate] state) is proved
to be evil by the prolific crop of sins which it everywhere
and always produces."
CHOICES OF THE WILL REFLECT THE
NATURE OF THE HEART
Evil choices manifest an evil heart
Good choices manifest a pure heart
"Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God." (Matt. 5:8).
Matthew 15:18, the Lord teaches that which proceeds out of one's
mouth (that which we will
to speak), proceeds forth from the heart.
He reiterates in v.19, for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications,
thefts, false witness, and blasphemies. The cause is in the
heart, which speaks to the seat and center
of one's soul, one's innate nature, one's essence, one's character,
one's desires. It is the heart
which moves the will to choose. It is the heart
which rules the will. The will must always obey its master.
The choice one makes is the effect of one's will, which is caused
to move in the manner that it does by its master, the heart.
The heart never desires contrary to its nature. The will never
overrides the heart, but always chooses accordingly.
a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a
corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." (Luke 6:43).
A pure heart will always
bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. An unclean heart will always
bring forth the carnal works of the flesh.
make the tree good, and its fruit good; or else make the tree
corrupt, and its fruit corrupt. For the tree [including its
root] is known by its fruit. O generation of vipers, how can
ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance
of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good
treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things. And an evil
man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
If the heart is polluted
and evil, its desires will be evil, causing the will to make
"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your
father ye will do." (John
Jesus declared the religious
Pharisees the Seed of the Serpent, the Sons of Satan, inheriting
their father's disposition, nature and desires. They would only
do that which comes naturally - murder, steal and lie. But,
on the other hand, if the heart is pure and good, its desires
will be holy, causing the will to make godly choices.
speak to the world those things which I have heard of [the Father]
do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak
.for I do always those things which please
him." (John 8:26-29).
Jesus clearly demonstrated
His pure, good and holy heart by His words and actions. His
heart was not of Mary, an impure, fallen sinner, but of God
choices professing Christians make are the visible fruit by
which they may be judged by other Christians, using the rules
of conduct as given in Scripture.
MAN'S HEART IS NATURALLY EVIL
A new heart is
knows man's will is not the root cause of man's sin problem.
It goes deeper
to his heart. For man to choose Christ,
love Christ and follow Christ requires a new heart. This new
heart is the miraculous creation and free gift of God to His
"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will
I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of
your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will
put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes,
and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Ezek.36:26-27).
"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call
his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins."
"Except a man be born from above [i.e., given a spiritual
heart by God because He wills it], he cannot see the kingdom
of God." (John 3:3).
Out of this divinely
created new heart can now flow the genuine desire to love and
follow Christ, where once flowed the desire to hate and rebel
against Him. Once regenerated, born from above, we can truly
say, Yes, Lord.
MAN IS BORN WITH A CARNAL HEART
AT ENMITY WITH GOD
Scripture teaches original sin inherited
from guilty Adam the initial cause
Hatred, unbelief and rebellion against
God the effect
Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his
own likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth."
.Cain rose up against Abel
his brother, and slew him." (Gen. 4:8).
as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;
and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned
one man's offence death reigned by one
by the offence
of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation
by one man's disobedience many were made sinners
I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive
can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." (Job
every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to
the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." (John 3:20).
is none that doeth good, no, not one." (Romans 3:12).
carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to
the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Romans 8:7).
were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
that [Christ] might reconcile both unto God in one body by the
cross, having slain the enmity thereby." (Eph. 2:16).
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR AN EVIL HEART TO LOVE THAT WHICH IT HATES
The heart never desires contrary to its nature
[heart] which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that [heart]
which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God
can he know them
" (I Cor. 2:14).
first man is of the earth, earthy. The second man is the Lord
from heaven." (I Cor. 15:47).
Carnal man is born at
enmity with God, hating Him. Except a man be given the free
gift of the new birth which includes a new heart, he will always
hate the Lord. To prove this point, unregenerate man's heart
is deliberately denounced in the Bible as making no contribution
whatsoever toward man's salvation. And how can it? His heart
is only evil, as must also be the ungodly choices of his will.
"Every imagination of the thought of his heart is only
evil continually." (Gen. 6:5).
"..the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth."
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately
wicked: who can know it?" (Jer.17:7).
Word of God, we are told, judges men's hearts - not their wills:
For the word of God is living and active
and sharper than any two-
edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul
and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to judge
the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12;
Furthermore, John 1:13
discounts the errant notion that man's will plays any part in
his salvation. For the children of God are not born of
the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of [the will
of] God. John 3:8 confirms this teaching, as Jesus teaches
the similitude of the operation of the wind with man's regeneration
by means of the Spirit. Both are effected by the good pleasure
of God, at His discretion. It is the will of God which chooses
and regenerates God's Elect, not the will of man.
We reiterate: MAN'S WILL THE SLAVE
OF HIS HEART
Man can choose nothing but what
his heart dictates
when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands
the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give
me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive
the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with
thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be
purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this
matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent
therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the
thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." (Acts 8:18-21).
We reiterate emphatically:
man's will, in and of itself, can determine nothing. The will
is subject to the motives brought to bear upon it, and these
motives originate in the heart.
Motive: (root: to move) - some inner drive, impulse, intention, etc. that causes a person to do something or act in a certain way
Desire: to wish or long for; crave; covet. (Webster)
Whichever desires of the heart are the strongest
are those which move the will to make those choices which most
readily achieve those desires. If the heart is deceitful, it
will tend toward deceitful desires, making deceitful choices.
Though the one making the deceitful choices may sincerely believe
they are good, ethical choices, he is, nonetheless, still deceived.
If the heart is spiritually reborn, it will tend toward godly
desires, making godly choices, agreeing with God's Word, glorifying
God. In either case, the heart must sort out the desires, prioritize
them, and then command the will to make the proper choice in
order to fulfill the desire of the heart. That which one desires,
covets and strives for is his treasure. This treasure reflects
the condition of the heart.
where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
The treasure of the
Christian is to be spiritual and heavenly, not carnal and earthly.
Unregenerate man always chooses that which glorifies man, not
that which glorifies God. Regenerate man prays, 'Not my will,
Lord, but thy will be done.'
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart the
mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart
bringeth forth that which is good: and an evil man out of the
evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil.
For of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh."
Though the unregenerate
man may do relatively good and kind deeds, the motives of his
heart are not pure, nor are they done in the Spirit, to the
glory of the true God. The carnal man is ruled by his fleshly
and selfish motives. Thus, his good works cannot save him from judgment.
(Cf. Rev. 20:11-15).
these truths, (1) that the will determines nothing of itself,
but is a slave fulfilling the desires of the heart; and (2)
that the desires of the heart of the unregenerate man are not
toward God - for all we like sheep have gone astray - are vital
to understanding that man is so utterly lost that he cannot
and will not make a spiritual
decision for Christ, lose his life, pick up his cross, following
Him through suffering trials and tribulations, enduring unto
the end. We do not deny that man can and often does make a fleshly
decision for Christ, but his endurance is temporary. (Cf. The
Parable of the Soils.)