Five: It discourages efforts for the salvation of sinners.
Answer: Since it is a secret decree, it cannot hinder or discourage such efforts. On the other hand, it is a ground of encouragement since it guarantees that some sinners will repent and believe. It is a stimulus to effort; for, without election, it is certain that all would be lost.
Be not afraid, but speak…For I am with thee….for I have much people in this city (Acts 18:9, 10).
William Sasser-Objections to Election
A. They plainly teach us that our Lord Jesus Christ will come a second time; which is the joy and hope of all believers. (Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism
Outward and Effectual Calling
The atoning work of Christ was not sufficient for the salvation of man.
That work was only Godward, and removed only all the obstacles in the way of God’s pardon of the sinner.
But the sinner is also at enmity with God, and must be brought to accept salvation, and must learn to love and serve God.
The first step here is to make known to man the gospel, which contains the glad tidings of this salvation, under such influences as ought to lead to its acceptance.
The Gospel is, therefore, commanded to be proclaimed to every creature, inasmuch as there is in the work of Christ a means of redemption for every one.
This is the external call of the Gospel.
This proclamation, however, meets with no success because of the willful sinfulness of man, although, in itself, it has all the elements which should secure its acceptance.
God knowing that this is true, not only of all mankind in general, but even of the elect whom he purposes to save in Christ, gives to these such influences of the Spirit as will lead to their acceptance of the call. This is called Effectual Calling.
1. The Gospel is commanded to be preached to all. This is proved
(1.) By such passages as show that the outward privileges of God’s word are no longer to be confined to Israel, but are to be extended to the Gentiles also. This had been foretold in prophecy.
Gen. 18:18; 26:4; Psalm 2:8; Isa. 42:1-4; 49:6, 7, 8; 55:5; 60:3; 65:1-12; Jer. 16:19; Mal. 1:11.
It is also taught in the New Testament in various ways.
Matt. 8:11-13; 12:18-21; 21:33-41; 22:1; 28:19; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 4:20-27; 14:16-24; 20:9-16; John 3:16; 4:20, 21, 39.
(2.) By the history of the extension of this gospel to the Gentiles by the Apostles and their contemporaries, who so preached it, as to show that the Gentiles were not first to become Jews in order to be made partakers of that gospel.
Acts 10th Chapter. Peter sent to Cornelius.
Acts 11:1-18. Peter’s report of that visit.
Acts 11:19-30. The gospel sent to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch.
Acts 13th Chapter. The labors of Paul and his companions.
Acts 15th Chapter. The conference at Jerusalem.
Rom. 1:13-16, and generally the whole of the epistle and of Paul’s other epistles to the churches, especially Galatians.
The above two classes of passages serve to show how the universal preaching of the gospel was impressed upon the early Christians, and consequently that they would be led to give full meaning to other unlimited expressions.
(3.) By such passages as directed the gospel to be preached to all. Mark 16:15; Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13.
(4.) By such as show the freeness with which salvation was offered to all as individuals. Acts 2:39; 11:14; 16:31; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; 1 Tim. 1:15; Tit. 2:11; Rev. 22:17.
(5.) The restrictions which separated the Jews and the Gentiles being removed, the universal offers of salvation made previously to the Jews, may now be applied to all men in general. Isaiah 1:18; 55:1-7; Ezek. 18:21, 32; 33:11.
(6.) The language of Christ to those to whom he spake may also be thus applied. Matt. 11:28; John 7:37.
The above classes of passages show that this call of the gospel is made indiscriminately to all men. No differences of nation, or class, or condition; no question as to election, or non-election, nor as to the purpose to make it effectual, enters into this call. It is made to every one. Nothing is known to those who are to proclaim the gospel which can make its offer to one any more sincere than to another. Whatever differences men may make from personal feeling, or national sympathy, or local attachment, are not only not commanded by it, but are often inconsistent with it.
2. This offer of the gospel meets of itself with no success.
(1.) The testimony of all who have preached it has been that, without special influence of grace from God, the preaching has been in vain. The prayers made to God constantly for such aid furnish universal evidence of such convictions.
(2.) The same testimony is as universally given by those who have received the gospel. Each one ascribes his salvation to the special influences of God.
(3.) This also is the teaching of the Scriptures which declare this fact. Eph. 2:8, is only a specimen of the universal teaching, which will appear more fully elsewhere.
3. This failure is not due to any deficiency in the gospel.
(1.) None can doubt the fullness of the scheme of redemption contained.
(2.) None can question the facts as to personal sin and need of Christ which are made known.
(3.) None can deny the freeness with which it is offered.
(4.) No one can deny that he is one of those to whom it is offered.
(5.) All persons admit that God will give it to any who will forsake sin and strive to lead a new life trusting him for help.
(6.) Every one is convinced that he can turn away from all acts of sin and live the contrary life of holiness and obedience, if he will.
(7.) It is universally acknowledged that God is worthy to be believed in every statement he makes.
It is because of the above and kindred facts that our Lord says: John 12:48. “The word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
4. The Scriptures teach us why this word is rejected. It is not from want of evidence, nor from intellectual doubt, but always because of something sinful, either in the heart or will.
Some of the reasons which the Scriptures thus give are presented in Hill’s Bible Readings, p. 99, as follows:
(1.) Pride, which may be national, Matt. 3:9; John 8:33; Acts 13:45; 17:5; 22:21, 22; intellectual, Matt. 11:25; John 9:39-41; Rom. 1: 21, 22; 1 Cor. 1:19-21; or social, John 7:48.
(2.) Self-righteousness. Mark 2:16; Luke 7:39; 18:10-14; Rom. 10:3.
(3.) Love of praise. John 5:44; 12:43.
(4.) Love of the world. 2 Tim. 4:10; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15.
(5.) Love of money. Mark 10:17-24; Luke 16:13, 14; 1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
(6.) Cares of the world. Matt. 13:7-22; Luke 10:40.
(7.) Fear of man. John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42.
(8.) Worldly self-interest. Mark 5:16, 17; John 11:48.
(9.) Unwillingness to separate from impenitent friends. Luke 9:59-62.
(10.) Unwillingness to believe what they cannot understand. John 3:9; 6:52-60; Acts 17:32; 1 Cor. 2:14.
(11.) Unwillingness to have their sins exposed. John 3:19-20.
(12.) Unwillingness to submit to God’s authority. Luke 19:14; 20:9-18.
(13.) Prejudice against the messenger. Matt. 12:24; 13:57; John 1:46; 6:42; 7:52; 9:29.
(14.) Spiritual blindness. Matt. 13:15; 1 Cor. 2:14.
(15.) Unfaithfulness to the light which they had. John 12:36.
(16.) Waiting for a convenient season. Acts 24:25.
(17.) Frivolous excuses. Luke 14:18.
(18.) Lack of deep convictions. Matt. 13:5; 22:5.
(19.) Lack of earnestness. Luke 13:24.
(20.) Neglect of the Bible. Luke 24:25; John 5:39; 7:27; Acts 17:11-12.
(21.) Neglect of religious meetings. John 20:24.
(22.) Blindness to special opportunities. Luke 19:44.
(23.) Desire for special signs. Matt. 12:38, 39; 16:1-4; John 6:30; 1 Cor. 1:22.
(24.) Regard for human traditions. Matt. 15:9; Mark 2:23-28.
(25.) Insincerity. Matt. 15:7-8; 21:25-31; Acts 24:26.
(26.) A controversial spirit. Matt. 22:15-40.
(27.) A murmuring spirit. Matt. 25:24.
(28.) Having no desire for God. John 5:42; Rom. 1:28.
(29.) Hatred of God and of Christ. John 15:22-25.
(30.) Hatred of the truth. Acts 7:51-54; 2 Thess. 2:10-12; 2 Tim. 4:3.
(31.) The power of the devil. Matt. 13:4-19; John 8:44; 2 Cor. 4:3, 4.
5. The offer of the gospel thus referred to is denominated the External Call.
It is made to man through the senses, and consists in a declaration of the nature of salvation and an offer of it upon the conditions of faith and repentance. It is enforced by statements as to the sinful condition of man and his need of a Saviour; by the command of God to repent and believe; and by exhortations and threats, as inducements to the acceptance of salvation through it. It is spoken of in the Scriptures, as a call, in passages which have no reference to its becoming effectual, and in some which contrast it with the effectual calling of others. Prov. 1:24; Isa. 65:12; Matt. 9:13.
6. But, in contrast with this usage, is the more common one, by which the called in the Scriptures are those who are actually brought to the reception of the truth and participation in salvation.
(1.) In those passages which speak to church members of their calling as something different from the mere outward call. Rom. 8:30; 9:11-24; 1 Cor. 1:9-26; Gal. 1:6-15; 1 Thess. 2:12; 5:24; 2 Thess. 2:14; Eph. 1:18; 4:1-4, 5; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:9; 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:3-10.
(2.) Christian believers are spoken of as the called. Rom. 1:6; 8:28; 1 Cor. 1:24; Heb. 9:15; Rev. 17:14.
7. The effectual call of these is due to the purpose and act of God. Matt. 11:25; Rom. 8:29, 30; Rom. 9:15, 16; 1 Cor. 1:26-31.
8. The agent by which this is accomplished is the Holy Spirit by whose influences the saved are led to the exercise of repentance and faith. John 6:44, 46; 1 Thess. 1:5, 6.
9. Such an agency is necessary to overcome the moral condition of man as “blind” and “dead in trespasses and sins.” 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:1, 5
10. In connection with this doctrine of the Effectual Calling of some, has arisen a question as to the sincerity of God in making the outward call to those who do not accept. It is said that the fact that it is made by him, knowing that men will not accept it without his efficient grace, and yet not purposing to give that grace, argues insincerity in the offer.
To this the following replies may be made:
(1.) If it be true that he does make the outward call, and does not give to all, but to some only, the efficient grace, the very character of God is an assurance of his sincerity. The real question here, then, is an inquiry into these two facts. If they be taught in the Scriptures, it is impious and blasphemous to doubt God’s sincerity.
(2.) This inquiry would never have arisen, had God only made the general offer and left all men to perish in its rejection. But, if so, his additional grace to some does not in any respect argue his insincerity in the partial grace thus shown to others.
(3.) The very nature of the gospel offer, as before stated, shows God’s sincerity. It is one which has all the inducements for its acceptance which one can imagine, and that acceptance depends simply upon the willingness of each man to take it.
(4.) Lest any should doubt the sincerity of God, he assures us of that fact in his word. Paul describes him, 1 Tim. 2:4, as one “who willeth that all men should be saved.” God himself says, Ezek. 33:10, 11: “And thou, son of man, say unto the house of Israel: Thus ye speak, saying, Our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we pine away in them; how then should we live? Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
Compare this with Heb. 6:13-18: “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And thus, having patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men swear by the greater; and in every dispute of theirs the oath is final for confirmation. Wherein God, being minded to show more abundantly unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed with an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”
11. The attempt has been made by Lutheran theologians, and adopted by some others, to harmonize the sincerity of God’s External Call with the salvation of some only, by supposing that God gives equally to all his Spirit, which makes salvation effectual in some, but that those who reject the gospel resist the Spirit given to them, and thus refuse, while the others yield to it, and thus are saved. They say, therefore, that it is thus true that all have the Spirit equally, and yet that the salvation of the saved may be said to be by the grace of God.
The natural objection to this explanation is that not only is the salvation of men ascribed to grace, but to grace alone, to the exclusion of all merit and work. See Rom. 3:27 to 4:25; 9:11 and Gal. 2:16. But if some do not resist and others do, however much of grace there is, there is certainly some merit in those not resisting by which they can boast over others who resisted. Notice especially Rom. 4:16: “For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace; to the end that the promise may be sure to all the seed.”
Another objection is that the salvation of the saved is distinctly based in the word of God on the Election of some: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” Eph. 1:4, 5, 6.
Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887
Great God, in public and private, in sanctuary and home, may my life be steeped in prayer, filled with the spirit of grace and supplication, each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood. Help me, defend me, until from praying ground I pass to the realm of unceasing praise. Urged by my need, invited by Thy promises, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence, worshipping Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love.
I am all poverty as well as all guilt, having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee, but I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy thy justice. I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the lest sin deserves infinite punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep. Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits, by causing Thy goodness to pass before me, by speaking peace to my contrite heart; strengthen me to give Thee no rest untiI Christ shall reign supreme within me in every thought, word, and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world, works by love, fastens me to Thee, and ever clings to the cross.
Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett. Reformatted by Eternal Life Ministries.
16. I come now to monstrous impieties, which it is strange they ventured to utter, and twice strange that all men did not protest against with the utmost detestation. It is right to expose this frantic and flagitious extravagance, and thereby deprive the worship of images of that gloss of antiquity in which Papists seek to deck it. Theodosius Bishop of Amora fires oft an anathema at all who object to the worship of images. Another attributes all the calamities of Greece and the East to the crime of not having worshipped them. Of what punishment then are the Prophets, Apostles, and Martyrs worthy, in whose day no images existed? They afterwards add, that if the statue of the Emperor is met with odors and incense, much more are the images of saints entitled to the honor. Constantius, Bishop of Constantia in Cyprus, professes to embrace images with reverence, and declares that he will pay them the respect which is due to the ever blessed Trinity: every person refusing to do the same thing he anathematises and classes with Marcionites and Manichees. Lest you should think this the private opinion of an individual, they all assent. Nay, John the Eastern legate, carried still farther by his zeal, declares it would be better to allow a city to be filled with brothels than be denied the worship of images. At last it is resolved with one consent that the Samaritans are the worst of all heretics, and that the enemies of images are worse than the Samaritans. But that the play may not pass off without the accustomed Plaudite, the whole thus concludes, “Rejoice and exult, ye who, having the image of Christ, offer sacrifice to it.” Where is now the distinction of latria and dulia with which they would throw dust in all eyes, human and divine? The Council unreservedly relies as much on images as on the living God.
John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 11-Henry Beveridge Translation
Again, “The Lord is far from the wicked” (Proverbs 15:29), yet in Acts 17:27, we are told He is “not far from every one of us”—words which were addressed to a heathen audience! These two statements seem to contradict one another, yea, unless they be interpreted they do so. It has, then, to be ascertained in what sense God is “far from” and in what sense He is “not far from” the wicked—that is what is meant by “interpretation.” Distinction has to be drawn between God’s powerful or providential presence and His favorable presence. In His spiritual essence or omnipresence God is ever nigh unto all of His creatures (for He “fills heaven and earth”—Jeremiah 23:24) sustaining their beings, holding their souls in life (Psalm 64:9), bestowing upon them the mercies of His providence. But since the wicked are far from God in their affections (Psalm 73:27), saying in their hearts “Depart from us: for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways” (Job 21:14), so His gracious presence is far from them: He does not manifest Himself to them, has no communion with them, hears not their prayers (“the proud He knoweth afar off”—Psalm 138:6), succors them not in the time of their need, and will yet bid them “depart from Me, ye cursed” (Matthew 25:41). Unto the righteous God is graciously near: Psalms 34:18; 145:18.
Once more. “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true” (John 5:31)—
“though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true” (John 8:14).
Another pair of opposites! Yet there is no conflict between them when rightly interpreted. In John 5:17-31, Christ was declaring His sevenfold equality with the Father: first in service, then in will. Verse 19 means He could originate nothing that was contrary to the Father, for they were of perfect accord (see 5:30). In like manner, He could not bear witness of Himself independently of the Father, for that would be an act of insubordination. Instead, His own witness was in perfect accord therewith: the Father Himself (v. 37), and the Scriptures (v. 39), bore testimony to His absolute deity. But in John 8:13, 14, Christ was making direct reply to the Pharisees, who said His witness was false. That He emphatically denied, and appealed again to the witness of the Father (v. 18). Yet again. “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30)—“My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). In the former, Christ was speaking of Himself according to His essential being; in the latter, in reference to His mediatorial character or official position.
Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures
Chance and the Sovereignty of God by Vern Poythress (Pdf)
Marrow of Sacred Divinity (1639) by William Ames (eBook)
Available in epub , .mobi & .pdf formats
Thanks to Bill Gross for his painstaking efforts to hand-type this true classic Christian book which he also mildly updated for modern readers. The 1279 footnotes alone would have been quite a task.
A Brief Premonition or forewarning of the Author touching the reason of his purpose.
Although I do not assume to comprehend in my mind all the thoughts of evil speakers, yet I foresee diverse exceptions which this, my endeavour, will fall into (proceeding certainly from a very good intent) pro seculi genio, according to the disposition of the world – the chief of which I purpose to address briefly.
Some, and those indeed are not unlearned, dislike this whole manner of writing – that the sum of Divinity should be brought into a short compendium. They desire great volumes in which they may loosely either dwell or wander. I desire to consider those who do not have so great a leisure, nor so vast a wit, as to hunt the partridge in the Mountains and the Woods. But the condition of many rather requires that the nest itself, or the seat of the matter which they pursue, be shown without any more ado.
Some do not dislike this way, if the chief heads are handled in a rhetorical way; they think that every particle is not to be insisted on so punctually.1 But indeed, when the speech is carried on like a swift stream, although it catches many things of all sorts, yet you can hold fast only a little, you can catch only a little; you cannot find where you may constantly rest. But when certain rules are delivered, the Reader always has, as it were at every pace, the place marked where he may set his foot.
There will also be some who condemn the care of Method and Logical form as curious 2 and troublesome. But to them a sounder judgment is to be wished, because they remove the art of understanding, judgment, and memory from those things which deserve only to be understood, known, and committed to memory.
On the other side, there will not be lacking some who require more exactness in the art of Logic, whom, through my own imperfection, I could not fully satisfy even if I would; nor indeed would I do so much as I could, because of the weakness of others. I imagine there will not be a few who will think that
setting forth such institutions as these is superfluous, after so many labours of learned men, of the same kind; and it is to do only what has been done before. I would readily be of such an opinion if anything of this kind were extant, and which pleased all in every respect.
Notwithstanding this, I would not have so taken to hope any such thing of this writing, as if it even came into my mind. But I am not out of hope that it may come to pass that two or three or so, may fall upon this work of ours, who may find something here more fitting to instruct and stir them up to piety, than they have observed in the more learned writings of others. If this conjecture does not fail me, I will think I have done a work worth the labor.
I can only expect to be blamed for obscurity by those who are not so skilful, whom I desire would learn from Cyrus, Radiorum ta<v dia fa>seiv latis luminibus non tam esse suaves, that is, ‘The diffused brightness of the beams of the Sun is not so pleasant in large windows.’ Certainly a contracted light, though it may seem small, yet it enlightens more (if a man comes near and observes) than that which is, as it were, dispersed by being enlarged too much.
The dryness of the style, and harshness of
some words will be greatly blamed by the same persons. But I prefer to exercise myself in that heresy, that when it is my purpose to Teach, I think I should not say in two words what may be said in one; and that key is to be chosen which opens best, even though it is made of wood, if there is not a golden key with the same efficacy.
Lastly, if there are any who desire to have some practical things more largely explained, especially in the latter part of this Marrow, we shall endeavor to satisfy them later (if God gives leave) in a particular Treatise which at this time we have an affection for, touching questions which are usually called cases of conscience.
If there are any who still find fault with this, or who desire other things, I would entreat them to candidly impart their thoughts to me, which may afford desired matter for a just apology, or a due amendment.
An Incorrect View of the Human Will
Inherent in Arminianism’s deficient view of the impact of the sin nature upon the unbeliever is a corresponding view of the human will that does not comport with Scripture. Olson states that prevenient grace liberates the will from its bondage to sin and allows it libertarian freedom. He states, “All classical Arminians believe in libertarian free will, which is self-determining choice; it is incompatible with determination of any kind. That seems to amount to belief in an uncaused effect – the free choice of the self to be or do something without antecedent.”27 In the libertarian conception of free will, choices that are caused are choices that are coerced and coercion is a hindrance to freedom. In other words, free will means the absence of any hindrances (impediments) to the choices one makes (i.e. it is freedom from hindrances). Hindrances and impediments are primarily the various internal and external influences or causes that may direct the will towards a particular choice including one’s desires, his nature, or arguments in defense of a particular choice. Olson states that free will “includes being able to do other than one wants to do and other than one does.”28 He states that free will is “the personal power of choice over motives and between alternatives.”29 Thus, the will must have the power to override any motives that might direct our choices.
Libertarian free will also affirms that the power of God’s Word and even the powerful gracious influence of the Holy Spirit cannot determine choices that are made. They can have an influence and must have an influence in persuading the will if one is to be saved, but the will is the final arbitrator in whether to resist or embrace the influence God and His Word may have upon it. Olson says, “God’s influence lies directly on every subject so that nothing can happen without being pulled or pushed by God toward the good. However, free and rational creatures have the power to resist the influence of God. This power was given to them by God himself.”30 Nothing can determine choices except the self-determining power of the will. Anything else that would determine the choices the will makes is regarded as coercive. Without such freedom Arminians believe human beings cannot be responsible for their actions.
But Scripture nowhere teaches a libertarian concept of free will. First, it teaches that God ultimately determines all that takes place. As the Psalmist says, “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psa. 103:19). And again, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psa. 115:3). The Psalmist also notes God’s ownership rights upon the world: “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Psa 24:1; cf. Deut. 10:14; Exod. 19:5; Job 41:11). Paul says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). One cannot argue with the Supreme Lord of all. The Potter has the right to do as He pleases with the clay (Isa. 45:9-11; cf. Matt. 20:1-16). God’s sovereignty extends from the broad flow of history (Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:7) to the most minute detail of everyday existence. “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt. 10:29; cf. Luke 12:6-7). All God’s actions and future plans are unconditionally made. “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it” (Isa. 46:9-11). “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19; cf 1 Sam. 15:29). God’s sovereign plans are irrevocable by anyone or anything. Nebuchadnezzar after being humbled by God acknowledged His sovereignty in this regard saying, “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’” (Dan. 4:34-35). This indicates that God’s sovereign determination extends to the choices and actions of human beings (Prov. 16:1, 9; 19:21; 21:1; Isa. 46:9-11).
Scripture also rules out libertarian freedom by teaching that we cannot act apart from what our natures dictate. God never acts in such a way as to mitigate the immediate causes of one’s actions. Those secondary and immediate causes are connected directly to our human natures. The Biblical concept of human nature refers specifically to the spiritual disposition of the heart and mind. It is mission control central (Prov. 4:23). We are bound to our natures that determine the sorts of choices we are capable of making. In this regard, both Jesus and Paul make it clear that unregenerate mankind is in bondage to sin (John 8:34; Rom. 6:17). Paul says to believers in Titus 3:3: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” This enslavement to the sinful nature is the normal disposition of all unbelievers. There is no possibility of being inclined to repentance, faith or any truly undefiled act of righteousness in such a state of existence. In other words, the will remains in bondage to the sinful nature and all one’s choices are directed by such a sinful nature. A bad tree cannot produce good fruit (Matt. 7:17-18; 12:33-35; 15:18). Jeremiah communicates this truth in a memorable manner: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23). Mankind has no freedom to act contrary to his nature. And the sinful nature never inclines a person to seek God or exercise faith and repentance. Furthermore, these passages do not support the notion that some superintending grace mitigates the impact of the sinful nature. Salvation in no way depends upon the will of man (John 1:13; Rom. 9:16). The consistent affirmation of Scripture is that men are in unmitigated bondage to sin. They have no universally divinely endowed freedom to escape it.
Scott Christensen-Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism
27 Arminian Theology, p. 71.
28 Ibid., p. 129.
29 Ibid., p. 174.
30 Ibid., p. 131.