In Need of Help
Sharon lay in the hospital bed, beads of sweat forming on her face, streaming down her neck. Her breaths came in short, painful gasps and her brain spun as a cyclone of thoughts and emotions dizzied her senses. She was dying. She knew it. Not only did she know it, but the doctors knew it, her parents and family knew it, her friends knew it. But, this traumatic circumstance was not without hope. See, Sharon knew she was dying, but she also knew that there was a cure, a miraculous cure to her seeming chronic condition. Her doctors had begged her to accept the treatment. Her family and friends also had desperately cried to her and implored her to accept the cure and be healed. Just about every argument and plea had been used in an attempt to try and convince her to just accept the medicine and be saved from inevitable death. There was still hope! All she had to do was accept it…
Sounds pretty heart-wrenching, doesn’t it? A young woman, sick and dying, for whatever reason unconvinced to accept a life-saving cure. And yet, doesn’t this sound vaguely familiar? Couldn’t this be reflective of something more important than just a story about a girl’s medical condition? Yes, it is. The short anecdote is really an analogy, an analogy that depicts the seeming spiritual condition of man. Many circles in evangelical Christianity view mankind as spiritually sick and in need of healing. The sickness is sin and the cure is the Gospel. Thus, the thrust of evangelism is then to persuade people to accept the “medicine” and be saved from death. However, by much reading, prayer, and study of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit has led me to different conclusions and a much different perspective concerning man’s spiritual condition than what is depicted above. Therefore, this post will hopefully provide a basis for two, interrelated issues which seem to be at the very core of contrasting views concerning unregenerate man: (1) A Biblical perspective on the spiritual condition of man before salvation and (2) a Biblical perspective on the spiritual abilities of man before salvation. My convictions, based upon my study of God’s Word, mankind’s spiritual state before salvation is much worse than sickness, and because of his true, unregenerate nature, man’s ability in regards to spiritual matters (apart from Christ) is similarly bleak. But don’t take my word for it! Let’s look at the Scriptures and see what God has to say about man’s spiritual condition and ability.
The Spiritual Condition of Man
When investigating the biblical account of man’s spiritual condition, it is always best to begin where it all started, and to do that we must look at the book of Genesis. By incorporating the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, I hope to briefly and concisely establish a starting point and set Scripture as the context for reasoning. As we know, God’s creation was originally perfect, without sin or blemish, physically and spiritually. Man was in perfect harmony with the Creator God and because there was no sin, there was nothing to hinder the God-man relationship. God could truly say that His creation was “very good.” However, sin destroyed that perfect fellowship. God’s warning to man, found in Genesis 2:16-17 was that man should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in that day, man would surely die. The Hebrew word for “die” in this context is “muth” and it can carry the connotation of physical death, spiritual death, or a combination of the two. The spiritual death was immediate and the physical death was inevitable, and here is what I mean by that. We know that when man sinned, he did not physically keel over dead on the spot, but after all, God did say “…for in the day that you eat of it [“it” being the fruit] you shall surely die.” (vs. 17) Thus, the death was two-fold: spiritually immediate and physically inevitable. Why spiritually immediate? Because some kind of death occurred immediately (“…in that day…”). Otherwise, God is a liar, and the immediate death wasn’t physical, so according to the Hebrew allowance for physical death, spiritual death or both, we can conclude that the spiritual death was the immediate death. This spiritual death brought by sin is not just an Old Testament concept however; New Testament Scripture also speaks of man’s spiritual death and how this death was passed on to the entire world through Adam. According to Romans 5:12, sin came into the world through one man (Adam) and through sin, death came to all the world. According to Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death. According to 1st Corinthians 15:21-22, death came to all men through Adam. Ephesians 2:1 also states that before salvation, man is dead in trespasses and sins. These passages have led me to believe that mankind is not spiritually sick, but spiritually dead.
The Spiritual Ability of Man
This next portion of the discussion is a commonly disputed topic amongst evangelical circles. Many affirm the spiritual deadness of man as I do and believe that it is evident from the Scripture. However, when it comes to beliefs about man’s spiritual ability, the disagreements are many and can be quite intense.
Note: I know that this is an extremely sensitive topic so I will prayerfully tread with caution in how I use my words. My goal is to present truth, not cause division; however, since this issue is such a hot button in Christianity, I realize that there will most likely be disagreement. My prayer is that you would examine the Scriptures and be willing to allow God to work in your heart and mind. I have much to learn myself and I don’t propose in the least to be any better than anyone else because I believe a certain way because that would be nothing more than gross pride, but this is a topic that I love to discuss and a topic that the Lord has laid heavily on my heart to proclaim boldly.
So, we will now delve into man’s spiritual ability in regard to salvation and in doing so, we must address man’s free will. With any discussion, the first and one of the most important steps is to define your terms. When we talk about the will, we are referring to the will as a concept of desire combined with determination to achieve the desire. Another way to understand the will is to view it as the vehicle by which one obtains his desires. So let’s use a hypothetical situation. Let’s say that I want a cheeseburger. Really, REALLY want a cheeseburger! If I were to take certain steps of action to obtain the desired cheeseburger, my will would go into action. Because of my desire for a cheeseburger, my will would enable me to do what I must to get that cheeseburger. Notice that there is a dependency. What is first necessary for my willing to obtain the cheeseburger? What is required before I can act? I must have desire. If I didn’t first have the desire for the cheeseburger, I wouldn’t have willed to get the cheeseburger. The point is simply this: Man’s will is determined by his desires. This applies to any circumstance, not just whether or not someone wants something particular for lunch. If you obtained something you wanted, your will enabled you to take the necessary steps of action to get what you wanted. Will is determined by desire.
Knowing this, when we talk about free will in regards to salvation, we can conclude that in order for one to will and to make the choice to be saved, one must also have the desire to be saved. Now at this point you might be saying, “Okay, hello duh!!! Of course you have to desire to be saved before you can choose to be saved!” Yes, you do have to want to, but can you “want to” by yourself? I believe that based upon Scripture, the answer to this question is, no. The following are a list of Scriptures which I believe support this conclusion and demonstrate that (1) Man cannot choose God, (2) it is God who draws men to Himself, and (3) it is God who gives men the ability to believe in Him.
Man Cannot & Does Not Choose God
Psalm 14:2-3 “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”
Psalm 53:1-3 “The fool says in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:10-12 “As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
God Draws Man
Matthew 11:27 “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
John 3:27 “John answered, A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”
John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 6:65 “And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
Acts 2:39 “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Belief (faith) is a Gift from God
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Let me make a quick note here: This passage is often disputed as to the reference of “the gift.” Some say that it refers to grace, but others say that faith is the gift. I believe that the gift is referring to faith, and here is why. The gift is being contrasted with works. Many, many times in Scripture, faith and works are contrasted, showing the futility of works-based salvation and how salvation through faith is the only true salvation (as seen in the books of Romans, Hebrews, and James for example). Based on the many Biblical writings of faith versus works, I believe that we are seeing the same contrast here in Ephesians. This is further confirmed by the preceding phrase, “and this is not your own doing.” The things of your own doing are your works; so based upon these arguments and the rest of God’s Word, I believe this passage indicates that faith is a gift.
So thus far, we can conclude that 1) man is dead in sin; 2) no man by himself seeks after God; 3) no man can come to God unless God draws him; and 4) it is through God’s enabling gift of faith that man respond to Him. Our will is free to choose, but our desires are in bondage to sin. Before salvation, we are spiritually dead beings with no ability or desire for Him. In this state, only God can save us and make us new in Him and it is through His love and mercy and grace alone that we can come to Him. What an amazing and humbling view of the Gospel! Knowing that God, rich in mercy, shed His blood so that dead, sinful, wicked men could come to Him should make us fall to our knees in gratefulness, not get all in a huff because we are told there’s something we can’t do!
There is so much more that I wish I could say on this topic, and I will be saying much more in the proceeding parts of this series. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way I can say everything in just this one post. The issue of the will reaches into many other areas that I will be covering in the days to come. In the posts to come, I will be furthering examining man’s will and how it plays out in salvation, but in a different context. We’ve established that man in and of himself cannot come to God; Part three will be dealing with how we come to God, God’s work in salvation, what He does to us when He saves us, and how we are made different through that salvation. In a sense it will be finishing this post of how the will plays a role in salvation, and it will also be starting entirely new topics concerning salvation and the sovereignty of God.
Some may still disagree with me that man can’t choose God by his own free will and may have certain Scripture passages that seem to support that idea. Let me say now that I am very well aware of many of those passages and I will actually be setting aside a specific portion of this series to address those Scriptures. I will most likely even designate a complete post to examine many major passages, in their appropriate contexts, and undertake them in the light of the rest of the Bible. There are no contradictions in God’s Word, and yet there are many different beliefs supposedly based on Scripture. When the time comes, hopefully I will be able to effectively communicate how each passage fits into the entirety of Biblical truths, based upon their contexts and based upon the original linguistic meanings of the Hebrew and Greek. But until that time, search the Scriptures and examine your beliefs. Don’t let your opinions be the final say; let it be God’s Word and that alone. Maybe some of you have a lot to think about. I pray that this would be received with an open heart.
In Need of Help
- Average will never suit me. Perfection may never define me. The former is too often accepted and the latter often only desired. I cannot resign to complacency and I cannot simply DESIRE perfection. I must PURSUE it! Though an impossible task, a man named Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life, and He commands others to do the same. I am proud to bear His standard and will strive to meet His charge. Until my race is over and I’ve written my last line, I will seek perfection in all areas of my life, not because the goal in and of itself is a worthy end, but because of the One who gave it.
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Sites I Like!
- Blue Letter Bible
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