I know I belabor the issue of free will quite often on my blog. I do so because I feel that the point of free will that is held by Arminians glorifies man, whereas the point that I and other Calvinist hold to glorifies God. Let me explain: Arminians hold the view that when it comes to the gospel of Christ, that every man has the freedom of the will to decide for himself whether or not to believe in Christ or not. The typical line is that God provided salvation for us, all we have to do is reach out and accept this.
My problem with this is that the Bible doesn’t teach this. It doesn’t teach freedom of the will at all. When it does discuss the will, it is usually God’s will, and on rare occasions, the will of man and it NOT being about our decision to believe in Christ. John 1:12-13 But as many as received Him, to them He gave them the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Arminians love to focus on those who received Him without looking at the condition that must take place first for that reception to occur. The condition: they must be born of God, or born again. The new birth must occur before reception of Christ can occur.
The Bible really doesn’t speak of man’s will, but of our hearts. The will is truly guided by the heart. Now look at what the Bible says about the heart and you can see where I am going with this. It is the heart that guides us. Not some will that we have that is somehow untainted by sin. The Bible shows us to be totally depraved, which means that all aspects of our being are tainted by sin (not that we are as wicked as we can be). So if we were to have a will that was free from the governing of our hearts, it would still be tainted with sin and reject all that there is about God.
In view of this, I would like to quote A.W. Pink from his book The Sovereignty of God, the chapter concerning God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Will. He is making the point that we do not have a will that is free until after God has moved in us and created a new heart that desires the things of God. One of his points is that what the Roman Catholics believe about free will and Arminians, goes hand in hand. This is because the natural indication of man is to slide back into the free-will position. It’ appeals to the flesh, and not the things that are Spiritual.
Among the ‘decrees’ of the Council of Trent (1563), which is the avowed standard of Popery, we find the following: … ‘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! … 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 that ‘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, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put itin writing, saying,
2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia:
All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. 3 Who is among you of all His people? May 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 (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. 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 the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all whose spirit God has stirred up, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” 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.
Pink then turns to the pulpits in the country and shows the blame that those who have stood in them bear because of their lack of teaching the truth of God.
The superficial (Pink’s words…) 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 is 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’ (Ephesians 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 to Christ.’
Pink goes on to point out the foolishness of presenting the gospel as if it were some mere medicine to cure those who are sick in which all the sick must do is reach out and take the gospel, instead of being the radical, life-giving, resurrecting power that it is, Pink continues:
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, 1 Cor. 1:18, 1:25)…
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” (! Cor. 21). Man may deem it folly to prophesy to “dead bones” and to say unto them, “O ye dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:4). Ah! but then it is the Word of the Lord, and the words He speaks “they are spirit, and they are life”… We go forth to preach the Gospel, then, not because we believe that sinners have within themselves the power to receive the Savior it proclaims, but because the Gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, 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” (Psalm 110:3).
In all this, we do see the necessity of the Gospel being preached and the movement of the Holy Spirit for men to be saved. We cannot win them for God in our own strength. It takes a miracle for someone to be saved and that miracle is beyond anything found in us, especially since we are dead spiritually speaking until God moves and brings us to life.
Are you beginning to see why this issue is so important to our faith? To say that we can persuade men by our own strength, wit and power is to bring about a church that is filled with carnally dead church goers. If we are going to be nothing more than carnally dead church goers, then we would be better off becoming Islamic in the long run, for we would be far safer and more comfortable in the short run.
But alas, if we are truly called of God, then let us put aside this foolishness that we have free will. We are saved completely by God’s gracious hand in our lives, not because of our self-righteous free will.