Even if we concede the debate over the nature of man and affirm with our Calvinistic brethren that mankind is born dead, enslaved and totally depraved, does this concession end the debate over Total Inability?
The question is whether or not the nature of the GOSPEL, God’s inspired Word, is sufficient to enable a fallen man to respond to its appeal? Focusing only on the nature of man ignores this question. Is the WORD of God, that which brought everything into existence, sufficiently powerful to accomplish the purpose for which it was sent?
I cannot imagine a bible believing Christian would deny the power of God’s inspired truth to accomplish its purpose. So, what is that purpose?
Why did God have these inspired truths recorded for us and spread into the world? Let’s allow John to answer that question for us:
“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)
Can that be any more clear? If not, maybe this clarifies:
“And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:19-20)
And here is the words of Christ himself:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)
Clearly the purpose of the gospel truth is so that those who hear it may believe. The only people who hear the gospel that would not be enabled to believe it are those that have become judicially hardened or blinded from being able to see, hear, understand and turn (John 12:39-41; Acts 28:27-28; Romans 11).
Obviously Paul felt the inspired scriptures were sufficient to grant mankind the understanding for salvation, as he wrote to Timothy:
“…from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” (2 Tim. 3:15-16)
208 thoughts on “The Nature of the Man vs. The Nature of the Gospel”
By the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the certainty expressed in Phil 2:13: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Great short article Leighton Flowers! 🙂
And what is it exactly that a ‘dead’ man can do?
Return home. (Luke 15:24)
Want to tell that to Lazarus?
Come back to his father (prodigal son story)
If he if not literally dead, but only figuratively. Does Lazarus more fully demonstrate salvation?
Ok… I just had to jump in! 🙂 It is a poor hermeneutic to try to use Bible stories to “prove” meanings of Bible words about salvation when those stories have nothing to do with salvation! The prodigal story is about having a heart of forgiveness towards sinners seeking and the Lazarus story was a sign to confirm Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.
When talking about being dead in sins, it would be good to do a word study on “dead” or “death”, especially how Paul uses those words. Dan, you will have to admit that the person who is “dead in sins” still functions on every level of his nature – with spirit, soul, and body, otherwise he would not even be sinning.
And after regeneration, he is called “dead to sin”, however, you would have to also admit that regeneration does not stop his functioning in the realm of sinning. I believe we have wrongly placed a modern definition of “dead” on a biblical word. We think of the heart stopping or brain waves ceasing because of medical science when someone is “dead”. But the Bible meaning of physically “dead” is primarily separation of the spirit from the body. The person still exists and still functions, just in a different realm.
The one who is dead in sins is separated from God! He will not seek God. But God will seek Him and enable Him through enlightenment to make a decision for or against His mercy. Making his spirit able to function is not necessary. Depravity is not an inability of function, it is an inability caused by the lack of opportunity. But God overcomes that “inability”/lack of opportunity through His grace initiatives in their lives, making them accountable. The one who is dead to sin is separated from sin’s rule, but still has the ability, when presented the opportunity, to yield to sin. In both instances it is not a matter, so much, of ability, but of opportunity.
The one who is dead in sins is separated from God! He will not seek God. But God will seek Him and enable Him through enlightenment (regenerated) to make a decision for or against His mercy. As a dead man, the sinner does not seek God. If through enlightenment, the person is changed so that he now seeks God, then that change can be called regenerated. If the person is enlightened but still is not seeking God, nothing changes – enlightenment accomplishes nothing.
Same old, same old, false dichotomy and affirming the consequent Roger in spite of Scripture evidence to the contrary! Have a good day my friend!
brianwagner writes, “Same old, same old, false dichotomy and affirming the consequent…”
Oh Brian!!!!! Why not just defend your concept of enlightenment such that it avoids the issues I raised? Even you understand the problem – thus the deflection to false dichotomy and affirming the consequent without the effort (I suspect ability) to explain it.
The effort and ability have been “sufficiently” provided for you Roger before. But I can not force your freed will to accept that enlightenment! Blessings!
brianwagner writes, “The effort and ability have been “sufficiently” provided for you…”
Always take advantage of teachable moments to reiterate and build a strong foundation for truth – they are good for both the teacher and the student.
There are some that even a good teacher, Roger, cannot cause to believe the truth they have been presented, even in an understandable way, and multiple times! 🙂
My likening Lazarus’ physical ‘deadness’ to spiritual ‘deadness’ is I believe sound. Just as Lazarus was completely dead physically so is anyone apart from Christ totally and completely dead spiritually, completely unable to assist in raising himself/herself to new life in Christ.
Ok… so Dan you don’t want to respond to the reasoning provided… you just want to say that yours is sound! Are you dead to sin? Do you still sin?
I hope you will take a look at the reasoning I provided once more. But if not, I wish you the best in your free will following of Jesus Christ who paid for the sins of the whole world and enlightens everyman in it for an opportunity to receive His wonderful salvation mercy (1John 2:2, John 1:9, Rom 11:32)!
Well, I did say I think my reasoning is sound, and was not dogmatic about it. I certainly don’t want to wrangle about the meaning of ‘dead’. I know I was completely spiritually dead and unable to please God in my carnal nature (the only nature an unbeliever has). God saved me – graciously brought me to the point of belief by his power, not any natural ability I had. Therefore, any decision I made in the process was not made from a natural born autonomous ‘free will’. That’s what I really believe and I know better at this point in my life than to argue with those who seem to be bowing low and genuflecting to the ‘free will’ god (not saying that you are one) I know what the Bible says about the state of the will of fallen men and it is greatly humbling. It also forms my beliefs about salvation. That’s what I believe.
brianwagner writes, “…the person who is “dead in sins” still functions on every level of his nature – with spirit, soul, and body, otherwise he would not even be sinning.”
Not exactly. To be dead in sin means to be separated from God and governed by the flesh. Paul tells us in Romans 8, “The mind governed by the flesh is death,…The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” In Hebrews 11, we read that a person cannot please God without faith. The person dead in sin has no faith. So, it seems incorrect to make the above comment especially as it pertains to the unregenerate (to which Dan was making application).
What about those who are regenerated and changed in some way that then allows them to hear the word, receive faith, believe God, and begin to please God? They are uniquely different from the unregenerate who have no ability to do these things. When the regenerated believes, he further distances himself from the unregenerate.
Then, “Depravity is not an inability of function, it is an inability caused by the lack of opportunity.”
I think we would have to say that depravity is both an inability of function and lack of opportunity. This is because you require enlightenment without which nothing happens – thus, enlightenment affects a change in function which gives rise to opportunity. Unless you mean to say that enlightenment is opportunity but that doesn’t really change anything – function and opportunity essentially become two different words conveying the same idea.
Lazarus has nothing to do with spiritual salvation at all. He was already a friend of Jesus. He was already saved, spiritually speaking.
Tom Torbeyns writes “Lazarus has nothing to do with spiritual salvation at all.”
True. What the Lazarus event tells us is that Christ has power over death and can give life to the dead. It is no accident that this event is described in the book of John where a major theme is that Christ can give eternal life to those who are dead in sin. One can use Lazarus as a good example to show that Christ can give life to those dead in their sin.
The prodigal son is not an illustration of a dead man. He is very much alive, aware of his circumstances, and able to reason that he once had a better life. If anything, his decision to return to his father is no less selfish than his decision to take his inheritance and waste it. Having wasted his inheritance, he selfishly seeks to return to his father to regain the good life that he enjoyed previously.
The father – a good illustration of God – understands the selfish motives of his son and still loves his son.
Lazarus is a completely different situation. Lazarus is dead and can do nothing about his situation. It is only when Christ calls out, “Lazarus, come forth,” that Lazarus finds himself alive again (regenerated) and then does exactly what Christ commanded. So, it is with sinners. When God regenerates sinners and calls them to Christ and they obey.
Again, the use of Scripture’s stories, Roger, to try to “prove” something they were not intended to teach is a dangerous hermeneutic! If that were the case I could use the Prodigal to teach that Christians can live in carnality for a long period of time and not truly have to repent to be blessed again, and Lazarus proves that regeneration can be lost since he dies again later!
brianwagner writes, “…I could use the Prodigal to teach that Christians can live in carnality for a long period of time and not truly have to repent to be blessed again, and Lazarus proves that regeneration can be lost since he dies again later!”
I agree. However, Jesus did use parables to teach and there is something to be learned from them. The prodigal is not about salvation in any sense. It is about the love of the father (God) for His selfish, ungrateful children. The prodigal does not come back but to regain the good things no longer available to him once he spent his inheritance. That’s one way to understand it.
Lazarus does illustrate the power of Christ to give life to those who are dead. Salvation is described as life (eternal life) and contrasted with death (eternal death) so there is a basis for identifying the real life parable of Lazarus with salvation. Granted, it is just one way to see it.
So, we look at the context in which Christ told the parable and at all the various ways that people propose to understand the parables and we draw conclusions.
The prodigal is clearly one of three stories Jesus is telling to the Pharisees because they should be rejoicing like heaven, angels and the Father do when one sinner repents, even if the repentance or motive for coming is very suspect, like coming to Jesus just to be fed!
The raising of Lazarus from physical death was one of the signs John chose to write about to prove Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31). Using stories to illustrate spiritual truth for which one does not have clear teaching passages in support is dangerous and often harmful.