The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.1 – WCF 9.5Eph 4:13; Heb 12:23; 1 Jn 3:2; Jude 24
Earlier in our series on Chapter 9 of the Confession, we noted that free will is not the absolute ability to choose anything that comes to your mind and that having less choices does not mean that your will is less free. These commonly mistaken ideas are most amply demonstrated in this last paragraph on the will in the state of glory.
In the perfection of heaven, we will not be brought back into the initial state of innocency in which we are without sin but still able to sin (posse peccare), but we will be both completely devoid of sin as well as entirely unable to sin (non posse peccare), and immutably (or unchangeably) so. Our eternal happiness in heaven depends upon the fact that the threat of falling into sin and suffering the misery it brings will no longer remain a choice or a possibility to us. We will not be under probation like Adam and Eve were, but we will be fully and finally confirmed to and transformed into the righteousness of Christ. We will never again know the slightest taint of sin, or even its temptation. Rather, we will forever be able to choose and to do only what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Rom 12:2).
In other words, the state of glory is where we become fully like Christ in his impeccable righteousness, because then we will see Christ as he is (Eph. 4:13; 1 John 3:2). Heaven is where our wills are most perfectly conformed to God’s own will, who is Himself not only incapable of sin, but so absolutely contrary to it that His only reaction to sin can be to hate and eradicate every trace of it.
This truth is important theologically to help us understand the nature of the will itself. Opponents of the Reformed doctrine of the fallen will often claim that if one is unable to choose to do good, then he does not have free will and cannot be responsible and should not be punished for failing to do good and only doing evil. But if that is true, then the reverse must also be true—that since God cannot choose to do evil, he must therefore not have free will and so is not responsible and should not be praised for only doing what is good! This also means that, of all our previous states, we will actually be the least free in heaven! Surely there must be some misunderstanding here!
But no, we will be most free in heaven, even more than Adam and Eve—free forever from the deception, distraction, and enticements of sin and the fear of its punishment; and free to serve and enjoy God with a will which is able to choose no other than to love him with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind. What a glorious day that will be (and no wonder it is called the state of glory)! Praise the Lord that “free will” does not mean that we will forever still be able to sin and fall again!
This is the fifth in a series of five articles written on each of the paragraphs in Chapter 9 of the Westminster Confession of Faith “Of Free Will”. These articles were originally written to be read before worship services.