Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Salvation and Man's Will

I am continually amazed by those who teach that man has a part in his salvation. It blows my mind that the same person who will say that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, will also say that even though they were dead in sin with a corrupt fallen nature, they somehow had the ability--on their own--to exercise faith toward Christ.

It doesn't even make good, garden-variety, common sense. If a person is dead, he is completely incapable of responding to anything. He cannot take action of any kind. He can do nothing that will bring new life to himself. And that is precisely the status of mankind as stated in Ephesians 2:1-3. Yet my dear Arminian friends (and I have many) will say, "But somehow man has a part in choosing to exercise faith in Christ. After all, man has a free will to choose or not to choose." But there are serious problems with that perspective.

No creature ever exercises any kind of willful choice that violates its nature. A pig will choose to eat slop and wallow in the mud because that is its nature. A dog returns to eat its vomit because that is the nature of a dog. And fallen, depraved sinful human beings will never will or choose on their own to follow Christ because that would violate their very nature. It is only when God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, regenerates a person and changes his nature that he is able to exercise a willful choice to follow Christ.

From the human perspective, it seems like it was man's choice, but the truth is that it was the Holy Spirit who changed the heart of the man and drew him to Christ so that he then exercised the willful choice of his new nature and chose to follow Christ. So, it is impossible for man to exercise any effort toward his salvation, including the faith to believe. Every aspect of salvation comes wholly and only from our sovereign God who draws those whom He has chosen to His Son. To believe anything else takes away some of the glory from God who deserves all praise for His incomprehensible and marvelous work and gives it to man.


Unknown said...

Bruce - I can recall several conversations we've had over the past few years regarding this and other related topics. For many, myself included, God's sovereignty and man's "will" seems to me to be a matter of spiritual maturity. I wrestled with this issue for quite some time, but when I got it, it stuck like "white on rice". Once I came to a basic understanding of this doctrine, I could not imagine understanding God's work in my life any other way. In light of Phil. 2:13, it truly was God who worked in my life, granting me the ability both "to will" and "to work" for His good pleasure! And that ascribed to Him, in my humble opinion, the glory due. Having said all that, let me ask you two questions: 1) how do we (Calvinists) combat what I will call "spiritual pride" - pride that seperates from those who believe otherwise? and 2) how can we Calvinists combat the perception that at times we are the "frozen chosen" - that some of us may tend to sit back and wait for Jesus' return without loving people and spreading the Gospel? Thanks for the BLOG and helping to make Christians think!

Bruce Mills said...

My answer to your first question is that we battle spiritual pride by building in the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and a spirit of humility (1 Peter 5:5) into our lives. If those virtues characterize us, we will not be proud of our superior knowledge toward others and seek to separate ourselves from them.

The answer to your second question is that we combat the perception by getting out there in the real world and evangelizing the lost. We have no idea who the elect are, but God does, and He has chosen through the foolishness of preaching to save the lost. When we fail to evangelize the lost, we are simply being disobedient and we are in sin.

catia said...

We can take no spiritual pride in being chosen. The goodness is not ours but our Sovereign Lord's alone. It is amazing, to me, that
true purity and good would chose to save any man.


Danny said...

Hey Bruce!

First time here. Great summary of the "will" of man and God's sovereignty. It's hard to put it into such concise words to get it into three paragraphs. Well done.