It wasn't until about a year ago that the ideas of free will and election even ever crossed my train of thought, but once the Lord began to reveal what the Scriptures said about it, it was like the floodgates opened up. Suddenly I saw that I had been blindly (I didn't know it at the time) holding on to my self-righteousness because I believed that I had something to do with my own salvation (even though it was God went 99.9% of the way and I went the .1%). I saw that this little bit of righteousness of my own that I held was the breeding area of a life lived full of pride and selfishness, and ultimately I was led into much godly sorrow and repentance. It is for that reason that I am writing about this, because I know the freedom that these truths can bring. Once I saw that I was dead in my trespasses and sins and that my natural, depraved will could not get me out of that state, Christ began to quicken my Spirit to life through the preaching of the Word. It wasn't until Christ regenerated my soul and replaced my stony heart with one of flesh that I was able to choose that which was pleasing to Him. Preaching man's free will is very dangerous, and we are beginning to see the results of it taking over our churches as the gospel is being watered down to make Christ more appealing so more people "choose" Him. I pray that this post will allow you to see the importance of knowing the Biblical explaination of how God converts the human soul.
The following is a long excerpt from the book "The Sovereignty of God" by Arthur W. Pink. It is from the chapter called God's Sovereignty and the Human Will. I know that it is lengthy, but please hear me when I say that it is welll worth the read.
The freedom or bondage of the will was the dividing line between
Augustinianism and Pelagianism, and in more recent times between Calvinism and
Arminianism. Reduced to simple terms, this means, that the difference involved
was the affirmation or denial of the total depravity of man. In taking the
affirmative we shall now consider the impotency of the human will.
Does it lie within the province of man’s will to accept or reject the Lord Jesus
Christ as Saviour? Granted that the Gospel is preached to the sinner, that the
Holy Spirit convicts him of his lost condition, does it, in the final analysis,
lie within the power of his own will to resist or to yield himself up to God?
The answer to this question defines our conception of human depravity. That man
is a fallen creature all professing Christians will allow, but what many of them
mean by "fallen" is often difficult to determine. The general impression seems
to be that man is now mortal, that he is no longer in the condition in which he
left the hands of his Creator, that he is liable to disease, that he inherits
evil tendencies; but, that if he employs his powers to the best of his ability,
somehow he will be happy at last. O, how far short of the sad truth!
Infirmities, sickness, even corporeal death, are but trifles in comparison with
the moral and spiritual effects of the Fall! It is only by consulting the Holy
Scriptures that we are able to obtain some conception of the extent of that
When we say that man is totally depraved, we mean
that the entrance of sin into the human constitution has affected every part and
faculty of man’s being. Total depravity means that man is, in spirit and soul
and body, the slave of sin and the captive of the Devil—walking "according to
the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children
of disobedience" (Eph. 2 :2). This statement ought not to need arguing: it is a
common fact of human experience. Man is unable to realize his own aspirations
and materialize his own ideals. He cannot do the things that he would. There is
a moral inability which paralyzes him. This is proof positive that he is no free
man, but instead, the slave of sin and Satan. "Ye are of your father the Devil,
and the lusts (desires) of your father ye will do" (John 8:44). Sin is more than
an act or a series of acts; it is a state or condition: it is that which lies
behind and produces the acts. Sin has penetrated and permeated the whole of
man’s make-up. It has blinded the understanding, corrupted the heart, and
alienated the mind from God. And the will has not escaped. The will is under the
dominion of sin and Satan. Therefore, the will is not free. In short, the
affections love as they do and the will chooses as it does because of the state
of the heart, and because the heart is deceitful above all things and
desperately wicked "There is none that seeketh after God" (Rom. 3:11).
We repeat our question; Does it lie within the power of the sinner’s
will to yield himself up to God? Let us attempt an answer by asking several
others: Can water (of itself) rise above its own level? Can a clean thing come
out of an unclean? Can the will reverse the whole tendency and strain of human
nature? Can that which is under the dominion of sin originate that which is pure
and holy? Manifestly not. If ever the will of a fallen and depraved creature is
to move Godwards, a Divine power must be brought to bear upon it which will
overcome the influences of sin that pull in a counter direction. This is only
another way of saying, "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent
Me, draw him" (John 6:44). In other words, God’s people must be made willing in
the day of His power (Ps. 110:3). As said Mr. Darby, "If Christ came to save
that which is lost, free will has no place. Not that God prevents men from
receiving Christ—far from it. But even when God uses all possible inducements,
all that is capable of exerting influence in the heart of man, it only serves to
show that man will have none of it, that so corrupt is his heart, and so decided
his will not to submit to God (however much it may be the devil who encourages
him to sin) that nothing can induce him to receive the Lord, and to give up sin.
If by the words, ‘freedom of man,’ they mean that no one forces him to reject
the Lord, this liberty fully exists. But if it is said that, on account of the
dominion of sin, of which he is the slave, and that voluntarily, he cannot
escape from his condition, and make choice of the good—even while acknowledging
it to be good, and approving of it—then he has no liberty whatever. He is not subject to the law, neither indeed can be; hence, they that are in the flesh cannot please God. " The will is not sovereign; it is a servant, because influenced and controlled by the other faculties of man’s being. The sinner is not a free agent because he is a slave of sin—this was clearly implied in our Lord’s words, "If the Son shall therefore make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). Man is a rational being and as such responsible and accountable to God, but to affirm that he is a free moral agent is to deny that he is totally depraved—i.e., depraved in will as in everything else. Because man’s will is governed by his mind and heart, and because these have been
vitiated and corrupted by sin, then it follows that if ever man is to turn or
move in a Godward direction, God Himself must work in him "both to will and to
do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). Man’s boasted freedom is in truth "the
bondage of corruption"; he "serves divers lusts and pleasures." Said a deeply
taught servant of God, "Man is impotent as to his will. He has no will favorable
to God. I believe in free will; but then it is a will only free to act according
to nature. A dove has no will to eat carrion; a raven has no will to
eat the clean food of the dove. Put the nature of the dove into the raven and it
will eat the food of the dove. Satan could have no will for holiness. We speak
it with reverence, God could have no will for evil. The sinner in his sinful
nature could never have a will according to God. For this he must be born again"
(J. Denham Smith). This is just what we have contended for throughout this
chapter—the will is regulated by the nature.
Among the "decrees" of the
Council of Trent (1563), which is the avowed standard of Popery, we find the
"If any one shall affirm, that man’s free-will, moved and
excited by God, does not, by consenting, co-operate with God, the mover and
exciter, so as to prepare and dispose itself for the attainment of
justification; if moreover, anyone shall say, that the human will cannot refuse
complying, if it pleases, but that it is inactive, and merely passive; let such
an one be accursed"!
"If anyone shall affirm, that since the fall of
Adam, man’s free-will is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing titular,
yea a name, without a thing, and a fiction introduced by Satan into the Church;
let such an one be accursed"!
Thus, those who today insist on the
free-will of the natural man believe precisely what Rome teaches on the subject!
That Roman Catholics and Arminians walk hand in hand may be seen from others of
the decrees issued by the Council of Trent:—"If any one shall affirm that a
regenerate and justified man is bound to believe that he is certainly in the
number of the elect (which, 1 Thess. 1:4, 5 plainly teaches. A.W.P.) let such an
one be accursed"! "If any one shall affirm with positive and absolute certainty,
that he shall surely have the gift of perseverance to the end (which John
10:28-30 assuredly guarantees, A.W.P.); let him be accursed"!
In order for any sinner to be saved three things were indispensable: God the Father had to purpose his salvation, God the Son had to purchase it, God the Spirit has to
apply it. God does more than "propose" to us: were He only to "invite", every
last one of us would be lost. This is strikingly illustrated in the Old
Testament. In Ezra 1:1-3 we read, "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of
Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled,
the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a
proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing saying, Thus
saith Cyrus king of Persia, the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the
kingdoms of the earth, and He hath charged me to build Him an house at
Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? his God
be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the
house of the Lord God of Israel." Here was an "offer" made, made to a people in
captivity, affording them opportunity to leave and return to Jerusalem—God’s
dwelling-place. Did all Israel eagerly respond to this offer? No indeed. The
vast majority were content to remain in the enemy’s land. Only an insignificant
"remnant" availed themselves of this overture of mercy! And why did they? Hear
the answer of Scripture: "Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and
Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all whose spirit God had
stirred up, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem" (Ezra
I :5) ! In like manner, God "stirs up" the spirits of His elect when the
effectual call comes to them, and not till then do they have any willingness to
respond to the Divine proclamation.
The superficial work of many of the professional evangelists of the last fifty years is largely responsible for the erroneous views now current upon the bondage of the natural man, encouraged by the laziness of those in the pew in their failure to "prove all things" (1 Thess. 5:21). The average evangelical pulpit conveys the impression that it lies wholly in the power of the sinner whether or not he shall be saved. It is said that "God has done His part, now man must do his." Alas, what can a lifeless man do, and man by nature is "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1)! If this were really believed, there would be more dependence upon the Holy Spirit to come in with His miracle-working power, and less confidence in our attempts to "win men for Christ."
When addressing the unsaved, preachers often draw an
analogy between God’s sending of the Gospel to the sinner, and a sick man in
bed, with some healing medicine on a table by his side: all he needs to do is
reach forth his hand and take it. But in order for this illustration to be in
any wise true to the picture which Scripture gives us of the fallen and depraved
sinner, the sick man in bed must be described as one who is blind (Eph. 4:18) so
that he cannot see the medicine, his hand paralyzed (Rom. 5:6) so that he is
unable to reach forth for it, and his heart not only devoid of all confidence in
the medicine but filled with hatred against the physician himself (John 15:18).
O what superficial views of man’s desperate plight are now entertained! Christ came here not to help those who were willing to help themselves, but to do for His people what they were incapable of doing for themselves: "To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house" (Isa. 42:7).
Now in conclusion let us
anticipate and dispose of the usual and inevitable objection—Why preach the
Gospel if man is powerless to respond? Why bid the sinner come to Christ if sin
has so enslaved him that he has no power in himself to come? Reply:—We do not
preach the Gospel because we believe that men are free moral agents, and
therefore capable of receiving Christ, but we preach it because we are commanded
to do so (Mark 16:15); and though to them that perish it is foolishness, yet,
"unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18). "The foolishness
of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor.
1:25). The sinner is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), and a dead man is
utterly incapable of willing anything, hence it is that "they that are in the
flesh (the unregenerate) cannot please God" (Rom. 8:8).
To fleshly wisdom it appears the height of folly to preach the Gospel to those that are dead, and therefore beyond the reach of doing anything themselves. Yes, but
God’s ways are different from ours. It pleases God "by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Cor. 1:21). Man may deem it folly to prophesy to "dead bones" and to say unto them, "O, ye dry bones, hear the Wordof the Lord" (Ezek. 37:4). Ah! but then it is the Word of the Lord, and the words He speaks "they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). Wise men
standing by the grave of Lazarus might pronounce it an evidence of insanity when
the Lord addressed a dead man with the words, "Lazarus, Come forth." Ah! but He
who thus spake was and is Himself the Resurrection and the Life, and at His word
even the dead live! We go forth to preach the Gospel, then, not because we
believe that sinners have within themselves the power to receive the Saviour it
proclaims, but because the Gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation to
everyone that believeth, and because we know that "as many as were ordained to
eternal life" (Acts 13:48), shall believe (John 6:37; 10:16—note the "shall’s"!)
in God’s appointed time, for it is written, "Thy people shall be willing in the
day of Thy power" (Ps. 110:3)!
What we have set forth in this chapter is
not a product of "modern thought"; no indeed, it is at direct variance with it.
It is those of the past few generations who have departed so far from the
teachings of their scripturally-instructed fathers. In the thirty-nine Articles
of the Church of England we read, "The condition of man after the fall of Adam
is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and
good works to faith, and calling upon God: Wherefore we have no power to do good
works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ
preventing us (being before-hand with us), that we may have a good will, and
working with us, when we have that good will" (Article 10). In the Westminster
Catechism of Faith (adopted by the Presbyterians) we read, "The sinfulness of
that state whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the
wont of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his
nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all
that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually"
(Answer to question 25). So in the Baptists’ Philadelphian Confession of Faith,
1742, we read, "Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all
ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural
man, being altogether averse from good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own
strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto" (Chapter 9)...
...In what does the sinner’s freedom consist? The sinner is ‘free’ in the
sense of being unforced from without. God never forces the sinner to sin. But
the sinner is not free to do either good or evil, because an evil heart within
is ever inclining him toward sin. Let us illustrate what we have in mind. I hold
in my hand a book. I release it; what happens? It falls. In which direction?
Downwards; always downwards. Why? Because, answering the law of gravity, its own weight sinks it. Suppose I desire that book to occupy a position three feet
higher; then what? I must lift it; a power outside of that book must raise it.
Such is the relationship which fallen man sustains toward God. Whilst Divine
power upholds him, he is preserved from plunging still deeper into sin; let that
power be withdrawn, and he falls—his own weight (of sin) drags him down. God
does not push him down, anymore than I did that book. Let all Divine restraint
be removed, and every man is capable of becoming, would become, a Cain, a
Pharaoh, a Judas. How then is the sinner to move heavenwards? By an act of his
own will? Not so. A power outside of himself must grasp hold of him and lift him
every inch of the way. The sinner is free, but free in one direction only—free
to fall, free to sin. As the Word expresses it: "For when ye were the servants
of sin, ye were free from righteousness" (Rom. 6:20). The sinner is free to do
as he pleases, always as he pleases (except as he is restrained by God), but his
pleasure is to sin.
(from the footnotes of the book)
The doctrine of inability does not assume that man has ceased to
be a free moral agent. He is free because he determines his own acts. Every
violation is an act of free self-determination. He is a moral agent because
he has the consciousness of moral obligation, and whenever he sins he acts
freely against the convictions of conscience or the precepts of the moral
It is often assumed that man cannot be held responsible for his response to
the Gospel unless he is capable of choosing Christ; thus it is
generally taken for granted that "freewill" and human responsibility are
synonymous and that you cannot deny one without denying the other. On the
basis of this confusion the Reformed Faith is frequently charged with not doing
justice to man's responsibility because it denies his "freewill." The
Biblical and Reformed view of man's responsibility is in fact much more profound
than the popular Arminian conception. man is responsible not merely for his
will, but for his whole nature, and as long as his nature remains what sin
(not God) has made it, he "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" (1
Corinthians 2:14) and he "will not come" to Christ that he might have life (John
5:40). Consequently, while it is every man's duty to receive Christ, it is only
the will of a man renewed in his nature by the Holy Spirit that responds to the
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