Sunday, November 02, 2008

"Believe...!" Does Not Imply That We Actually Can

This is a follow-up to a previous blog.


We have heard a thousand times people respond to us saying, “Because God commands us to do something, it must imply that we can do it. Otherwise, why would he command it?” As we will show, this logic does not hold up. Those who hold to “Free Will” do not show explicit Scriptures for this position, nor can they very well define “Free Will”. In truth, it’s a philosophical position fought for based on what they think the Scriptures infer (though don’t actually say). [This blog is also a follow-up on the Martin Luther series since it’s drawing from his book “Bondage of the Will”.]


It ought to be a plain to us that in Scripture God’s demands to us do not necessary imply our ability to obey them. (I will offer a very simple, daily life example in a moment.) Rather, God’s laws are meant to expose our sin, in particular our sinful inability, that our natures are unable to delight or heed his law (Gal. 3:19-21; Romans 3:20, 7:7-13). Romans 7:7-9 especially makes the point that God’s giving of the command does not merely show us past flaws in us, but provides the occasion by which sin is provoked to exert its power. Therefore, giving law does not at all imply ability; rather, it is the tool God uses to humble us, showing us our moral inability.


It is like giving a large hammer to a small child who pleads to swing it though he’s clearly too weak to even hold it. Yet, the father gives it to his son that the son may be silenced in humility and in awe of the work of grown-ups. Likewise, how many physicians tell their patience to do things they know well they can’t do. Such “futile” exercises are meant to reveal our inability, NOT our ability.


The belief in “Free Will”, if taken to its logical end, comes dangerously close to denying half the gospel. How so? The New Covenant, which we see in Luke 22, 2 Corinthians 3, and Hebrews 8, is what Christ’s life, death, and resurrection brought ought. It says that we will (1) be forgiven of sin and (2) given a new spirit such that we will have new hearts causing us to obey {for example, see Ezek. 36:26-27; Jer. 31:33-34}. Everyone knows about forgiveness, but people rarely relish the second part of the New Covenant (thus the “good” of the gospel): He gives us new hearts that CAUSE us to obey!! If we already had “free wills” to obey God, why do we need a new Spirit to cause us to obey? If our wills necessarily need the Spirit to obey, then it’s not free in itself!


Rather, we should agree with Romans 6, we are all slaves...either to sin or to righteousness. There is no room for “free will” in between these two categories. Without the Spirit’s saving grace, all of our wills are enslaved, not free. That’s why it says in Romans 8:7-8, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.


Thus, God’s commands are not given in vain. They achieve their purpose—that we might learn our impotency! And thus be saved.



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