And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Revelation 22:17
What does this “whosoever will” mean, and how far does it extend? We normally use it as a proof text for the doctrine of the “free will of man”. If “whosoever will” may come, then we must choose Christ. So, really it is up to me to accept or reject Christ, because I must make the choice. “The Savior is waiting to enter your heart. Why don’t you let him come in?” Thus, my job as a pastor, as an evangelist, is to convince men to choose Christ, because man is free to accept Him or reject Him.
That man has some degree of what we call “free will” is undeniable. We see men to some extent choosing to believe or not. 2 Peter 3 tells us about the scoffers who are “willingly ignorant”. But it is impossible to Scripturally prove that man’s will is free in the same sense that God’s will is free. Nor can we possibly prove that God saves a man because of any decision he makes, though God will save men who make decisions for Christ.
For example, Romans 10:13 says, for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. God does not save a man because he called upon the name of the Lord. On the other hand, no man who calls upon the name of the Lord for salvation will be rejected. If you seek God, you will find him, if you search for him with all your heart. Not because you searched for him, or searched with all your heart, but because God is gracious and merciful, and because God has purposed to be found of you. And why do you seek God? “Whosoever will” may come, but what causes them to will? A personal choice? Or something deeper, mysterious?
That is the question I intend to answer in this brief study. We will examine what “whosoever will” means, and then why “whosoever” wills it. Revelation 22:17 is true, but what does it really mean? Is the fact that “whosoever” wills a cause for pride or praise? Does your flesh desire God, seek God, please God? Do you work, or does God work?
First, whosoever will may come.
This is true. Whosoever will, let him drink.
Isaiah 55:1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Are you hungering and thirsting after righteousness? God promises you blessing. You shall be filled. By all means, come. God the Spirit says, “Come”. Our churches say, “Come”. Drink of that water of life from that well of living water, that well from which, if a man drink, he shall never thirst again.
The stream is in the desert, a dry and thirsty land where no water is. You need that water, more than you need anything else. God calls you to come and drink it. And if you want to drink it, that is good. That is all the more reason to drink it. God calls you to drink from that stream. “Whosoever will”.
The word “will” is the Greek word thelo. It means desire, a resolute striving, a decided and convinced seeking. We find that same word, thelo, in Matthew 15:28:
Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
We find thelo in John 7:17:
If any man will (desires to, resolves to) do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
We find thelo in 2 Peter 3:5:
For this they willingly are ignorant of (desire resolutely to be ignorant of), that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
So, “whosoever will” means whosoever desires resolutely. A man who would drink of that stream will “sell out” to do it. And those who sell out may come. They reject everything else, sell all they have, give up every cumbrance, and seek for that living water with all their heart. When a man once drinks it, he will need no more, and he will want nothing else. The more he drinks of it, the more he wants it, and the less he wants of anything else.
“Whosoever will”, let him take the water of life freely. That is the first thing. Desire it. More than anything else, thirst for that.
But secondly, WHY does “whosoever” will?
Can we really take credit for our thirst? Is it really praiseworthy that you were thirsty? Some will argue, “I could have gone after anything else to quench my thirst, but I thirsted for the Right Thing”.
But that is just it, you did go after everything else to quench your thirst. Nothing else worked. You tried other things, but you thirsted again. How did you come across the Right Thing?
That is the question. Why did you will it? What made you desire the water of life? What caused you to resolve to have it?
It was not your own flesh. Your flesh may know what should be done and not done, but it has no power to do right. We find the Greek word thelo again (the word for will – desire, resolute seeking) in the following verses:
Romans 7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would (thelo), that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would (thelo) not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will (thelo) is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would (thelo) I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Your flesh does not know the things of God, does not understand, and does not desire to know. (Thus, Ro 3:10-18; also Ps 14:1-3) And that is why Romans 8:8 says, So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Romans 8:5-8 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would (thelo).
So, the fact that you “willed” (desired, determined, resolutely thirsted) to drink the water of life is no cause for praise or pride. Why did you “will”? Was it not the working of God in your heart?
Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
John 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth (thelo), and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
If God has saved you, it is because God determined to save you. If you desired salvation (are there any saved who do not desire it?), God put that thirst in you.
Proverbs 16:1 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. And verse 9: A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.
Thirst is a natural thing. God put it in there. And thirst is a good thing too, because we must drink to survive. But God gives us the thirst because he wants us to drink. He is calling us to drink. Do you want to drink? God gave you that desire, and by his grace, God gives you the water. In other words, if you will, if you desire salvation, God put that desire there, because God has purposed to save you.
John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
Understand that I am not denying any participation on the part of man. Contrary! I am asserting that there is in fact participation on the part of man. In salvation, man has a part and God has a part. The majority of the work is God’s part. He has done the work already. Man has a very tiny part to play… a cooperative role, but that is all. God does the calling, man does the responding. God does the wooing, man is wooed. We love him because he first loved us.
And even as we look at man’s part, we see God’s hand there too. God is working in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. And thus we see that God does not call us because of any merit he sees in us. Not because he sees in us a willing heart. But because God gave us a willing heart. Not because we desire salvation, but because he purposed that we would desire salvation.
2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
John 5:21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will (thelo).
Romans 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will (thelo) have mercy, and whom he will (thelo) he hardeneth.
On the other hand, before you accuse God of an injustice, remember:
1Timothy 2:4 Who will (thelo) have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
So, whosoever will, may come! But we shouldn’t be puffed up because we desire salvation. After all, who put that desire, who created that longing in your heart? Who steered you towards the object of your longing? Who directed you to that well of the water of life? Was it not God himself? Then give him the glory!