TOTAL DEPRAVITY AND INABILITY

By Tom Ross, Pastor

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Chesapeake, Ohio

Copyright 1991, by Tom Ross.



 

INTRODUCTION

      The doctrine of man's total depravity and inability is a most repulsive doctrine to the natural man. People in our day don't want to hear that they are sinners by birth and by choice. They don't want to hear of the awful effects of the fall of Adam and the consequences of sin. They don't want to hear that they are "dead in trespasses and sins", "without hope", "without God", "without strength", and unable to save themselves. They do not want to hear that Christ is their only hope and the only way of salvation and acceptance with God. They would rather hear preachers who will raise their level of comfort and self esteem. The total depravity of man is a fact presented in the Scriptures. The Psalmist wrote; "Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity." (Psalm 39:5) The word vanity means something worthless, trivial or less than nothing which aptly describes every lost man who possesses no goodness, righteousness or holiness to offer unto God. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:20,29 wrote; "For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not... Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright: but they have sought out many inventions." Man is a fallen and corrupt creature that is estranged from God and in love with sin and self. He is unable to please God and unwilling to come to Christ if left to himself. He is helpless apart from the supernatural and divine intervention of God in the new birth. This is the Bible truth about man

      J.C. Philpot stated:

"As no heart can sufficiently conceive, so no tongue can adequately express, the state of wretchedness and ruin into which sin has cast guilty, miserable man. In separating him from God, it severed him from the only source of all happiness and holiness. It has ruined him body and soul: the one it has filled with sickness and disease; in the other it has defaced and destroyed the image of God in which it was created. It has made him love sin and hate God."  1

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THE ORIGIN OF SIN AND DEPRAVITY

      In order to understand man's depravity we must not just examine the symptoms of it, but go to the source and root of his depravity. It is an undeniable fact that our world is infected by the disease of sin. Murder, warfare, covetousness, robbery and rape are common occurrences in our sin sick world. The world is not becoming a better place, as the evolutionists and humanists claim. II Timothy 3:13 states: "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."

      Sin's origin can be traced back to Satan. He was one of the angels which God had created and named Lucifer, son of the morning. His fall from heaven is recorded in Isaiah 14:12-17. Satan's desire was to exalt himself above God and usurp his authority. He wanted to dethrone God and act as sovereign over the creation. Satan's desire then was the same as it is now, he wants people to worship him rather than God. When Satan led his rebellion he left out one major detail, God's throne cannot be usurped by men or devils. He is the Creator, and all of His creation must submit to His purposes. God cast Satan down from heaven along with one-third of the angels. The thing that got Satan kicked out of heaven was his prideful self-will. There are only two created beings in all of God's creation who really had a free will, Satan and Adam. Both willingly chose to rebel against God. So much for the mythical power of free will!

      In tracing sin's origin among mankind we must go back to the fairest spot on earth, the Garden of Eden. After creating the heavens and the earth, the grass and the trees, the moon and the stars, and the animal kingdom in five days, the crowning act of God's creation was to create man on the sixth day. Upon completion of Creation Genesis 1:31 records: "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day."

      God created Adam in his own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27), and gave him dominion over all the animal kingdom. Adam was created a moral, rational, and upright individual. He was without sin and enjoyed fellowship with his Creator. God then placed Adam in the fairest spot in all of Creation, the Garden of Eden and gave him the responsibility to dress and keep the garden. God even created Eve as a helpmeet and companion for Adam. Mankind's original parents were in the most desirable and blissful state that could be imagined. They were dwelling in a world not marred or corrupted by sin.

      God laid down the law to Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:16-17 which states: "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." God was gracious enough to warn our first parents of the consequences of transgressing His holy law. They would be separated from the fellowship and goodness of God. They would be cut off from their source of happiness and joy if they willfully disobeyed the command of God.

      The fall of man is recorded in very plain and simple language in the third chapter of Genesis. Satan, having been cast out of heaven for rebellion, set out to deceive and corrupt Adam and Eve. He came to Eve as an "angel of light", appearing to be something he was not. He was beautiful to look upon and preached a slick-sounding message. The first sentence he spoke to Eve was; "Yea, hath God said...", in which he questioned the authority of God. He then proceeded to lie and give a false promise to Eve by telling her that God had deceived her. Satan boldly said; "Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." Eve should have fled the very appearance of evil. The devil had deceived and seduced her as the scriptures testify in I Timothy 2:14: "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." Eve died spiritually when lust conceived and brought forth sin. Rather than heed the warning of God she was snared by the wiles of the devil and taken captive by him.

      Eve was deceived, but Adam deliberately and willfully chose to disobey the command of God. The only man who actually had the ability to exercise a morally free-will plunged the entire human race into sin and condemnation by transgressing the holy law of God. The very essence of Adam's sin was his competition with God for sovereignty and authority.

      C.D. Cole comments:

"The only possible sense in which man became like God was in spirit and aim-- not in reality. Adam and Eve asserted their independence of God. They would make their own laws and do as they pleased. They rebelled against His will for their lives. They rejected His expressed will as to what they could have. They would determine (know for themselves) what is good and evil--what is right and wrong. They would no longer be tied to God's Word about what they could do. They would be a law unto themselves and do as they pleased. They would do that which was right in their own eyes. Thus, they entered into competition with God for sovereignty. In spirit and aim they made themselves God. They would make their own will supreme." 2

      The day that Adam ate of the fruit he did not die physically but spiritually. His physical death 930 years later came as a result of his spiritual death when he fell and transgressed against God. Immediately Adam and Eve were separated from God. They perceived they were naked and became ashamed. They tried to hide themselves from the presence of God and attempted to cover their sin by sewing fig leaves together. They no longer enjoyed communion with their Creator. They had declared their independence by revolution and the God who had been their friend now was their enemy. They forsook God, his law, and His Word and thus were driven from the Garden of delights.

      Proverbs 13:13-15 declares: "Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded. The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death. Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard." Because of Adam's sin all his descendants are born as transgressors and enemies of God who are condemned by the law which leads us to our next point of consideration; the federal headship of Adam.

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ADAM: MAN'S REPRESENTATIVE

      A representative is one who represents and acts on the behalf of others. When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden he was acting on the behalf of the entire human race, he was our representative, our federal head. In our democratic system of government sinful people elect other depraved people to represent them by popular vote. God who is holy and just elected to create a perfect and sinless man to represent the human race in the Garden of Eden. Adam was the best representative that man could have ever hoped for, but he failed miserably in the Garden and as a result of his sin, all men are born with his nature to sin. Adam is the natural father of the human race, so his corrupt and sinful nature is inherited by all men.

      Adam's sin was justly charged to all men born after him. Romans 5:12 states: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Verse 17 states: "For if by one man's offense death reigned by one..." Verse 18 declares: "Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation..." Verse 19 states; "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners..." Adam's sin has been imputed to all his descendants. From these verses we see that every man has been declared by God to be spiritually dead, with a sinful nature, judged and condemned in Adam.

      A.A. Hodge wrote:

"The guilt of Adam's public sin, is by a judicial act of God immediately charged to the account of each and every one of his descendants from the moment he begins to exist, and antecedently to any act of his own. Hence all men come into existence deprived of all those influences of the Holy Spirit upon which their moral and spiritual life depends...and with an antecedent prevailing tendency in the natures to sin; which tendency in them is itself of the nature of sin, and worthy of punishment. Human nature since the fall retains its constitutional faculties of reason, conscience, and free agency, and hence man continues to be a responsible moral agent. Yet he is spiritually dead, and totally averse to and incapable of the discharge of any of these duties which spring out of his relation to God, and entirely unable to change his own evil dispositions or innate moral tendencies, or to dispose himself to such a change, or to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in effecting such a change." 3

      Man's total depravity is inherent which means that every man inherits the sinful nature of their parents. Psalms 51:5 declares: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Psalms 58:3 says: "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." Job 14:4 states: "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one." Unless you understand this truth there are several questions that cannot be answered. If infants are born without a sinful nature, why do they die? The answer of course is found in Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death..." If sin is not imputed but taught by example, why do children naturally sin without someone teaching them too? Children sin because they are born with a nature to sin. Men are not sinners because they sin, they sin because they are sinners from the time of birth. Who taught Cain to murder Abel? Who taught Lamech to take more than one wife? Why do people who are blind and deaf sin? They can't see or hear others sinful conduct. The answer is that all men are born sinners with a nature that opposes God and His law! Until this doctrinal foundation is properly understood you cannot comprehend the doctrines of grace.

      God sees all men through two representatives, Adam and Jesus Christ. Adam represents all men, his sin is charged and imputed to every man. Jesus Christ represents only the elect, those who the Father chose before the world began and his righteousness is imputed to them by faith. All men inherit Adam's nature by birth. Only the elect inherit the nature of Jesus Christ in the new birth. All men in Adam are described as; "...by nature the children of wrath..." and under the just condemnation of God. Only the elect who come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ are "accepted in the beloved" (Eph 1:6), and "complete in Him" (Col. 2:10). Who represents you dear reader? The question is of paramount importance for the scripture saith: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (I Cor. 15:22)

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TOTAL DEPRAVITY EXPLAINED

      A simple definition of total depravity is that every man is completely ruined and spiritually corrupt. The depravity of man is universal, meaning that it extends to every natural man without exception as Romans 3:23 states: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Depravity is total in the sense that every faculty of the natural man has been tainted and corrupted by sin as Isaiah 1:5-6 declares: "Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment."

      It is important to distinguish between total and absolute depravity. Every man is spiritually dead and sinful, but that does not mean that every man is as sinful as he could be. All men are sinners with wicked hearts, but not all men are as wicked as Adolf Hitler or Charles Manson. There are degrees of depravity. All men are not the same in the degree or amount of sin they commit. Duane Spencer explains:

" It does not mean absolute depravity. This term means that one expresses the evil of his sin nature as much as possible at all times. Total depravity, does not mean that man is incapable of human good. We all know that the most wicked of mankind have some human good about them, just as the finest among mankind have some human bad about them. We have all read stories of gangsters, liquor barons, prostitutes, and pimps, along with dope peddlers and the like, who have done deeds of human good. When man measures himself by man he is always able to find some good in himself or in others." 4

      However, when man is measured by the holy standard of Jesus Christ, he is weighed in the balance and found altogether wanting of any merit or goodness in the sight of God. In fact, Isaiah 64:6 declares: "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind have taken us away

      When you examine the effects of the disease of sin in light of the Scriptures you will find out that man's entire makeup is depraved. The infection of sin runs through all his faculties and renders him helpless and without strength apart from a divine work of sovereign grace. Consider the diagnoses the Bible gives concerning man:

      His heart is bad. The first mention of heart in the Bible is in Genesis 6:5 which states: "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." The heart of man is generally considered to be the seat of his affections, his likes and dislikes. Because every man has a "heart that is deceitful and desperately wicked" he loves sin and self and hates God. If the reader thinks this assessment is too harsh, consider what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:19-20: "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved."

      Man's mind is bad. He cannot understand or comprehend spiritual things. He is described as being in darkness and ignorance concerning the things of God. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus that unless a man is born again " he cannot see the kingdom of God." Romans 8:7 declares: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." I Corinthians 2:14 states: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

      Man's eyesight is bad. He cannot see himself as God sees him and as the Bible describes him. The natural man thinks he is all right as Proverbs 21:2 states: "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts." II Corinthians 4:3-4 describes the natural man's true condition: "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."

      Man's hearing is bad as a result of sin. Jesus told the Pharisees the reason why they had a hearing problem in John chapter eight: "Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word ... He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God."

      Perhaps Paul, the apostle, gives the most comprehensive diagnoses of man's depravity in Romans 3:10-18 which states: "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes."

      The natural man can be likened to a leper in the Old Testament who was considered ceremonially unclean because of the loathsome disease which ran through his body. The leper was an outcast. He was an abomination to look upon because his sores were open and gave a foul odor. Just as the leper was an unclean outcast, so are lost sinners without Jesus Christ who are infected with the disease of sin. Every lost man is corrupt in the sight of a Holy God. In the Old Testament the only thing the leper could do was go to the high priest who could only diagnose the disease. He had no power to heal.

      This is a picture of the law showing man what he is in the sight of God, a corrupt sinner. In the New Covenant Jesus Christ has the power to heal the unclean and make them whiter than snow through faith in His blood. In fact, Jesus healed a leper in Mark 1:40-42 by a mere touch of His hand. Dear reader, if you have been convinced of your depravity and sin in the sight of God, your only hope is to flee to Jesus Christ, who alone has the power to say: "I will; be thou clean."

      The natural man is entirely void of any spiritual life. Because of sin he is totally incapacitated concerning spiritual things. He is wholly unable and unfit to produce any spiritual affections or desires toward God. Apart from a miraculous intervention by the Holy Spirit in the new birth, the natural man is completely helpless. He cannot come to Christ in and of himself because he has no power or desire to come. Such statements in today's religious world would be regarded as repulsive and heretical. Most preachers are proclaiming man as his own savior through his decision making process. However, the truth of the matter lies in the Lord's declaration in John 15:5:11 ... for without me ye can do nothing." Until a person understands this truth they can never subscribe to the theology of Jonah who said: "Salvation is of the Lord." From beginning to end God alone must be credited with an individuals salvation.

      When Adam fell in the garden he didn't just impair his relationship with God; he totally ruined it. The day that he sinned he was spiritually executed and separated from God. That is the state that all of Adam's offspring are born into-a state of spiritual death. I Corinthians 15:22 states: "As in Adam all die..." Ephesians 2:1 declares: "And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." Every lost man is a dead man spiritually, according to the Scriptures. The illustration of a dead man picturing the natural man is a striking one in several ways. Dead men can't move, talk, confess, or repent. They are lifeless corpses that can't even participate in their own funerals. They can't appreciate the beauty of the flowers that were sent, or the eulogy that the preacher gave. They can't see and they can't hear. This is precisely the spiritual condition of every lost man unless God intervenes in sovereign grace. He is buried under the weight of his own sins and in bondage to a nature that opposes God. It would be foolish to suppose that a dead who is buried could somehow stir himself up, push open his casket, and dig through six feet of dirt, freeing himself from the bondage of the grave. Who would deny that such a scenario is entirely impossible? It is just as impossible for a spiritually dead man to stir himself up, rise above the bondage of his nature and call upon Christ for salvation.

      This truth is illustrated beautifully in two passages of Scripture. The first is in Luke chapter 10 in the parable of the Good Samaritan. A certain man had fallen among thieves who had stripped him of his raiment, wounded him, and left him half dead. This is a picture of the fall of Adam. He was stripped of his original righteousness and left half dead. He was alive physically but dead spiritually. The man in the parable made no move whatsoever. The priest and the Levite passed by but neither could help him, showing that the law and religion have no power to save. The only hope that the man had was in the fact that the Good Samaritan came to where he was, had compassion on him, healed him and took complete care of his life and welfare. His life was saved entirely by the work of the Good Samaritan, not by his own efforts. The same is true with lost sinners. Salvation rests entirely upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. The second illustration of this truth is in John chapter 11 after Lazarus had died. He had already been in the grave for four days and was stinking. There was a huge stone rolled over his tomb. Lazarus had absolutely no power to roll away the stone and come out of the grave. It was Jesus who came to where Lazarus was, calling him out of the tomb in a voice of great power. Lazarus was completely passive. It was the power of God alone that raised him from the dead. So it is true of dead sinners. It takes the power of God in the effectual call to roll away the stone of depravity when God "calls us out of darkness, into his marvelous light."

      Another way to prove the total inability of the natural man is to understand what the Scriptures teach concerning the fleshly nature of man. The lost man's fleshly nature is incapable of producing anything remotely spiritual or acceptable to God. John 3:6 says: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh..." John 6:63 states: "It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing..." Romans 7:18 declares: "For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing..." Romans 8:8 states: "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." From these Scriptures we learn that the only nature a person is born with is a fleshly nature that cannot please God.

      It is foolish to suppose that a lost man who is described as being dead in trespasses and in sins, alienated from the life of God, and unable to please God could rise above his corrupt nature and choose Christ! Job 14:4 asks: "Who can bring a clean thing (a desire to trust Christ) out of an unclean (man's fleshly nature)? not one." Can water rise above its own level? 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? The answer to all of these questions is no!

      The source of spiritual life is not found in man's flesh or his will, but in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. A corrupt nature can never give birth to a single affection which is truly spiritual and the Scriptures bear this truth out in several places. John 1:13 states: "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." John 3:6 gives the source of the new birth: "...and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." John 6:63 tells us: "It is the spirit (not the flesh) that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." The fleshly nature is referred to as the old man in Ephesians 4:22 and described as being "corrupt according to the deceitful lusts." The new birth does not stem from corruption, rather from the Word and the Spirit. I Peter 1:23 declares: "Being born again, not of corruptible seed (fleshly nature), but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever." It is interesting to note that man's spiritual life begins with the new birth. There is no such thing as a self-birth in the natural realm, neither is there a self-birth in the spiritual realm. In the new birth a new nature is created by the direct operation of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:24: "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." The reason why the spiritual nature must be created by the Spirit is because there was nothing spiritual in the natural man to enable him to commune and fellowship with God.

      To further prove that man cannot come to Christ in a saving relationship in and of himself, I offer the following plain declarations from the Scriptures themselves: John 3:3,5 declares: "...Except a man be born again, he CANNOT see the kingdom of God...Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he CANNOT enter into the kingdom of God." John 3:27 says: "A man CAN RECEIVE NOTHING, except it be given him from heaven." John 6:44 states: "NO MAN CAN CONE TO ME, except the Father which hath sent me draw him..." John 8:43-44 says: "Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye CANNOT hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." John 14:17 states: "Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world CANNOT RECEIVE, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." Romans 5:6 says: "For when we were yet WITHOUT STRENGTH, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." I Corinthians 2:14 states: "But the natural man RECEIVETH NOT the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: NEITHER CAN HE KNOW THEM, because they are spiritually discerned." (all emphasis mine).

      The most common objection raised against man's total inability is that such a doctrine destroys man's responsibility. It is common for Arminians to try and pit one doctrinal truth against another in order to confuse the issue. It must not be assumed that because of man's moral inability he has no responsibility or accountability to God. God has commanded all men everywhere to repent. Every man is bound to prompt and implicit obedience to the commands of God. Responsibility, however, does not imply moral ability as the Arminians falsely assert. For example, a man goes to the bar and drinks himself drunk to the point of being incapable of driving. While in this incapacitated condition he gets behind the wheel of a car, has a wreck, and kills another man. Will he be able to plead with the judge that he was incapacitated at the time of the accident and therefore not responsible for his actions? Of course not. Even though he was incapable of obeying the laws of the land, he was still accountable and responsible to obey; and because of his accountability he receives a just punishment from the judge. The same is true of every lost sinner who dies without bowing the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith.

      The teaching of the natural man's total inability concerning salvation is not only scriptural, but it is a doctrine that gives all the glory to God in the salvation of sinners. It is a doctrine that shows man exactly what he is, a helpless and corrupt sinner who must depend entirely upon the God of all grace to save him from his miserable state. When the elect of all ages are worshipping the Lamb as eternity rolls, all glory and honor will be directed to Him who alone is worthy of praise.

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THE FALLACY OF FREE WILL

"And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." (John 5:40) "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." (Romans 9:16)

      The truth presented in these two passages of Scripture is in direct opposition to what most men are preaching in our day of humanistic theology. Preachers in our day have made the free will of man into a god. This supposed free will that man possesses is powerful enough to overcome and thwart the will and purpose of God. Many have been led astray by this devilish doctrine supposing that salvation is a joint effort between man's free will and God. When the Arminian notion of free will is taken to its logical conclusion, it makes man his own savior and denies the necessary and miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. Theirs is a salvation of self-movement, ours a salvation that rests entirely upon the Lord from beginning to end.

      It must be stated at the outset that the writer believes that man's will is directly influenced by his carnal mind and corrupt heart. The will of man is bound by his fleshly carnal nature. If man were left to decide whether or not to trust in the saving work of Christ, his decision would always be an emphatic rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ. To put it very plainly, the natural man will not come to Christ apart from the mysterious and powerful work of God in the effectual call. John 6:44 sets forth this truth in striking simplicity: "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." Martin Luther once said: "If any man doth ascribe any of salvation even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright." 5

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THE WILL OF MAN IS INFLUENCED

      The will is the faculty of choice, the immediate cause of all action. Choice necessarily implies the refusal of one thing and the acceptance of another. The three faculties of the soul include the mind, heart and will. The mind and heart of man directly influence the choices that a man makes. The will is not a separate entity that acts as its own sovereign. This truth is illustrated in Genesis 3 when Eve was deceived by Satan. W.E. Best said:

" Eve's sin verifies the order of the powers of the soul. She gained knowledge of the forbidden fruit by seeing it. Her affection went out to the fruit of which she had gained knowledge. She then exercised her will by taking the fruit." 6

      It is important to understand the condition of the fallen man's mind and heart to see what influence they have upon the natural man's decision making process. Genesis 6:5 states: "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Matthew 15:19 declares: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." Romans 8:7-8 states: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Ephesians 4:17-18 states: "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart."

      If man's will is in harmony with his knowledge (mind) and affections (heart) it will always choose that which is contrary to God and inclined to evil. To suppose that a man whose heart is desperately wicked and filled with madness, acting in concert with a mind that is carnal and darkened by spiritual ignorance; can somehow rise above his nature and choose that which is holy and righteous is not only unscriptural, it is illogical.

      G. S. Bishop said:

"Man will not because it is not in him to will; he is stunted, and set in a fallen direction; and man cannot, because an evil eye affects the heart, and a deceived heart turns him aside, ever aside, from the mark of the prize of God's calling ... Man can no more originate a right desire than he can create a universe." 7

      C.H. Spurgeon once said:

"Man is impotent as to his will. He has no will favorable to God. We may as well expect the river to cease to run into the sea, as to expect the natural man to turn from the current of his sins."

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THE FALLEN MAN'S WILL IS IN BONDAGE

      Every lost man is a slave to his depraved nature and to the will of Satan, the god of this world. In short, he is in bondage to sin and the devil, unable to free himself from their captivity.

      Man's will is free only within the boundaries of his nature. It is free in only one sense; it is free to act according to its sinful nature, but totally free from holiness. Romans 6:19-20 states: "I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded (willfully submitted to) your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now (now that you are saved) yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were FREE FROM RIGHTEOUSNESS" (emphasis mine). Jesus taught precisely the same truth in John 8:34: "...Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." Jeremiah 13:23 states: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil."

      This truth can be illustrated in several ways.

      A.W. Pink wrote:

"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 the 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 ... 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." 8

      G.S. Bishop gave the following illustration:

" A man is free to use his hand. The man is free, but the hand is not free; the arm and muscles control it. The hand is the slave of the muscle, and acts as the muscle compels. In like manner, man is free to use his will, and is therefore always a free agent; but the will itself is not free. It is controlled by the affections, which are evil and earthly and sensual, and these again are controlled by the understanding and judgment, which call evil good and which are perverted, blinded, deluded, by the god of this world." 9

      If you were to offer a hungry lion a choice between raw flesh and salad, he would choose the flesh every time because his nature dictates his choice. The same is true with the lost sinner, he will always choose to reject Christ because he is bound by his evil nature, unless God makes him "willing in the day of his power" in an act of sovereign grace.

      The natural man's will is not only bound by a nature that opposes God, it acts in concert with the will of Satan to do evil. Ever since the fall of Adam the strong man armed (Satan, Matt. 12:28-30) has had dominion over the natural man. He is controlled and influenced by the god of this world, the devil. The Scriptures are very plain in asserting this truth. John 8:43-45 states: "Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. (Why?) Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father YE WILL DO. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not." Verse 47 states: "He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God."

      II Corinthians 4:4-5 says: "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: IN WHOM the god of this world (Satan) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."

      Ephesians 2:2-3 declares: "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, ACCORDING TO THE PRINCE OF THE POWER OF THE AIR, THE SPIRIT THAT NOW WORKETH IN THE CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."

      II Timothy 2:26 says: "...and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, WHO ARE TAKEN CAPTIVE BY HIM AT HIS WILL." From these Scriptures it is plain that the natural man is in bondage to do the will of Satan. The will of Satan never includes repentance of sin, and saving faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the only hope a lost sinner has is for Jesus Christ to come and spoil Satan's goods, and deliver him from captivity through His great power!

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WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURES?

      I have used only a sampling of verses to prove that man's will is in bondage to his corrupt nature and is in the captivity of the devil. Man's will is free only in the sense that he is free to sin and free from righteousness. Proverbs 21:4 declare: "An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin." If left to himself every lost man will despise the gospel of free grace and continue in sin and rebellion to God. This fact is asserted throughout the entire Bible as the following Scriptures attest:

      Judges 2:17-19 states: "And yet they NOT HEARKEN unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them; they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so ... And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; THEY CEASED NOT FROM THEIR OWN DOINGS, NOR FROM THEIR STUBBORN WAY."

      Psalms 10:4 declares: "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, WILL NOT seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts ... He hath said in his heart I SHALL NOT BE MOVED." Psalms 58:3-5 states: "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; Which WILL NOT to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely."

      Proverbs 1:24-30 says: "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and WOULD NONE OF MY REPROOF: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh: When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and DID NOT CHOOSE the fear of the Lord: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof." Isaiah 65:12 and 66:3 state: "Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and DID CHOOSE THAT WHEREIN I DELIGHTED NOT... Yea, they have CHOSEN THEIR OWN WAYS, and their soul delighteth in their abominations." Jeremiah 6:16, 7:26, and 8:6 state: "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye, in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. BUT THEY SAID, WE WILL NOT WALK THEREIN ... Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers... I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? EVERY ONE TURNED TO HIS COURSE AS THE HORSE RUSHETH INTO THE BATTTLE."

      John 3:19-20 states: "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and MEN LOVED DARKNESS RATHER THAN LIGHT, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, NEITHER COMETH TO THE LIGHT, lest his deeds should be reproved."

      Luke 19:14 says: "But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, WE WILL NOT HAVE THIS MAN TO REIGN OVER US."

      Romans 3:10-12 states: "As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, THERE IS NONE THAT SEEKETH AFTER GOD. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one."

      Perhaps the reader is wondering why I have quoted so many passages of Scriptures to prove the point in question. The Word of God is a sword which is able to cut down the prevailing opinions and errors promoted by free-willers. From the Scriptures quoted we can plainly see that the natural man is self-willed, in a condition where he loves his sin more than he has a desire to come to Christ. This condition can only be changed in the new birth when God creates in us a new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:22). James 1:18 states: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." Spiritual life depends on the free will of a holy and sovereign God, not in the corrupt will of fallen man. Psalms 100:3 rings true in salvation: "Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture."

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PROPONENTS OF FREE WILL ARE IN AGREEMENT WITH ROME

      It is necessary at this point to prove that Arminian Baptists and Protestants who tenaciously adhere to the doctrinal myth of free will are in complete agreement with the "Mother of Harlots and abominations of the earth", the Roman Catholic Church who is the bride of Satan. The Council of Trent in 1563 gave the following decrees:

"If any one shall affirm, that man's free will, moved and excited by God, does not, by consenting, cooperate 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 man, without a thing, and fiction introduced by Satan into the church; let such an one be accursed." 10

      How different is the scriptural language of two Baptist confessions of faith, the London (1689) and the Philadelphia (1742), which state:

"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." 11

      (Incidentally, the Westminister Confession of Faith is also in agreement on this point).

      Most Baptists and Protestants today agree more with the unscriptural doctrines of Rome, than with their own faithful forefathers who valiantly waged spiritual warfare against the "old whore". It is the height of inconsistency and hypocrisy to falsely profess a Baptist creed with the mouth, and then actually practice the heresies of Rome! Revelation 18:4 says: "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."

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CONCLUSION

      The biggest danger that I see in the popular free-will doctrine is that instead of sinners being at the mercy of a Sovereign God, God is placed at the mercy of a sinner's free will. In free will theology God cannot be immutable and his purposes fixed, because he is dependent upon the decisions and choices of sinners. It is little wonder then why people in modern day Christianity do not take Bible truths seriously, they have been fed the tommyrot of free-willism and self-salvation for nearly a century. Preachers are telling sinners that God has done all that he can do, and now it is up to them to accept Jesus and complete the salvation process. How different was the preaching of Jesus Christ when he said: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3)." "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 (John 6:44)." We need to get back to the kind of preaching where sinners see that Christ is their only hope, and that they are without strength. The kind of preaching where sinners loathe themselves and their sins by abandoning all their self-righteous efforts and sue God for peace and mercy through the finished work of Jesus Christ.

      The free will doctrine that is preached today is nothing more than secular humanism in religious garb. It is a product of the social gospel which is based on the supposition that if man's environment is improved, he will be in a more favorable, savable state. The problem with this thinking is that the problem is not so much what is around man, the real problem lies within man. Free will makes man his own savior and his own god. If every man possesses a free will that is powerful enough to resist the will of God in salvation, what would prevent that same man from choosing to resist the will of God in damnation at the great white throne of judgment?

      If man is corrupt, unwilling, and unable to come to Christ, in and of himself, how then can he come and be saved? Only by the sovereign grace of God. He can come only when the Holy Spirit draws him in power, slaying the enmity of his will and leading him to repentance of sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. What saith the Scriptures about this mysterious and omnipotent drawing of the Spirit? Psalm 110:3 says: "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power..." Song of Solomon 1:4 states: " Draw me, and we shall run after thee..." Philippians 1:6 states: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 2:13 declares: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Only when these Scriptures are understood can we ascribe all of salvation to the Lord from beginning to end, giving Him all the glory, who alone is worthy of our praise and adoration. Amen.


END NOTES

Click On the Highlighted Area To Return To Your Reading

  1. Pink, A. W., Gleanings from the Scriptures (Chicago, ILL: Moody Press, 1979) p. 11.
  2. Cole, C. D., Definitions of Doctrine, Volume II, (Bryan Station Baptist Church, Lexington, KY: 1968) p. 78.
  3. Boettner, Lorraine, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, (Phillipsburg, NJ: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1932) p. 78.
  4. Spencer, Duane, Tulip: The Five Points of Calvinism, (Grand Rapids, MI: 1979) p. 24.
  5. Spurgeon, C. H., Free Will -- A Slave in the New Park Street PulpitVolume I (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1981) p. 395.
  6. Best, W. E., Free Grace Versus Free Will (Houston, TX: South Belt Grace Church, 1984) p. 11.
  7. Bishop, G. S., The Doctrines of Grace, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1977) p. 147.
  8. Pink, A. W., The Sovereignty of God, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1977) p. 168.
  9. Bishop, G. S., The Doctrines of Grace, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1977) pp. 146-147.
  10. Pink, A.W., The Sovereignty of God, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1977) p. 172.
  11. Ibid., p. 176

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