Has WELS always believed in "free will" in the works of this life? I grew up WELS and I thought I distinctly remembered that WELS did not believe in free will. I see the website says: Human beings have a free will in works of this life. But only the Holy Spirit, working through God’s Word, can lead a person to love God. So now I'm confused. Maybe I have just misunderstood the secret of my life's choices the last 55 years?
Ever since the fall into sin in Eden, the free will that people have is limited to making decisions about their earthly lives. So, people choose to marry or remain single, enter into this or that vocation, live in a certain area, etc. Of course, when it comes to making decisions like those, people may not always get what they want.
After the fall into sin, people by nature can choose only evil in the spiritual realm. “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7). “Every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). “Every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). Because of natural sin and unbelief, people are God’s enemies; they want to do only that which displeases God.
Then, when we consider passages like 1 Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13, we understand that even if we wanted to choose to believe in Jesus, we could not do that because we were spiritually blind and dead by nature. All we could do was sin and reject God.
Thankfully, God did what we could not and did not want to do: he connected us to Jesus Christ in faith so we could enjoy all the blessings he won by his holy life and innocent death, and which are guaranteed by his glorious resurrection from the dead.
As a child of God, my free will is much different than before my conversion. Now my new self wants to use the means of grace to strengthen my faith; now I want to follow God’s law as a tangible way of showing my thankfulness to him for my salvation in Jesus his Son. However, even when I, as a child of God, want to do those things in life that are good and godly, I recognize that it is God working in me: “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
As you look back on your life as a child of God, and as you look ahead, thank God for the wonderful freedom he gives you to determine each day how to serve him and others.