Does the Bible Teach Prevenient Grace?

Something that popped up again. I already have various articles and commentaries  that speak to the question, some more easily understood than others. I still favor R.C. Sproul’s response to the question. He merely asks a series of questions followed by his conclusion in the matter. Enjoy!

Does the Bible Teach Prevenient Grace?

by R. C. Sproul

As the name suggests, prevenient grace is grace that “comes before” something. It is normally defined as a work that God does for everybody. He gives all people enough grace to respond to Jesus. That is, it is enough grace to make it possible for people to choose Christ. Those who cooperate with and assent to this grace are “elect.” Those who refuse to cooperate with this grace are lost. The strength of this view is that it recognizes that fallen man’s spiritual condition is severe enough that it requires God’s grace to save him. The weakness of the position may be seen in two ways. If this prevenient grace is merely external to man, then it fails in the same manner that the medicine and the life preserver analogies fail. What good is prevenient grace if offered outwardly to spiritually dead creatures?

On the other hand, if prevenient grace refers to something that God does within the heart of fallen man, then we must ask why it is not always effectual. Why is it that some fallen creatures choose to cooperate with prevenient grace and others choose not to? Doesn’t everyone get the same amount?

Think of it this way, in personal terms. If you are a Christian you are surely aware of other people who are not Christians. Why is it that you have chosen Christ and they have not? Why did you say yes to prevenient grace while they said no? Was it because you were more righteous than they were? If so, then indeed you have something in which to boast. Was that greater righteousness something you achieved on your own or was it the gift of God? If it was something you achieved, then at the bottom line your salvation depends on your own righteousness. If the righteousness was a gift, then why didn’t God give the same gift to everybody?

Perhaps it wasn’t because you were more righteous. Perhaps it was because you are more intelligent. Why are you more intelligent? Because you study more (which really means you are more righteous)? Or are you more intelligent because God gave you a gift of intelligence he withheld from others?

To be sure, most Christians who hold to the prevenient grace view would shrink from such answers. They see the implied arrogance in them. Rather they are more likely to say, “No, I chose Christ because I recognized my desperate need for him.” That certainly sounds more humble. But I must press the question. Why did you recognize your desperate need for Christ while your neighbor didn’t? Was it because you were more righteous than your neighbor, or more intelligent?

The question for advocates of prevenient grace is why some people cooperate with it and others don’t. How we answer that will reveal how gracious we believe our salvation really is. The $64,000 question is, “Does the Bible teach such a doctrine of prevenient grace? If so, where?”

We conclude that our salvation is of the Lord. He is the One who regenerates us. Those whom he regenerates come to Christ. Without regeneration no one will ever come to Christ. With regeneration no one will ever reject him. God’s saving grace effects what he intends to effect by it.

Excerpt: R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God

Why I Believe Regeneration Precedes Faith

The short answer is that scripture teaches it:

1 Corinthians 2:14

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14)

A natural person, one born of flesh only, is incapable of understanding that which is spiritually understood. Salvation (repenting and believing the gospel) is a spiritual transaction that requires spiritual understanding, for which regeneration is an absolute requirement.

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. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:7-8)

A mind can be fleshly (carnal), spiritual, or in the case of believers, in whom sin still resides, BOTH carnal and spiritual. The unbeliever is controlled by a fleshly mind and cannot please God. True repentance and belief in Christ pleases God, Therefore spiritual regenerating must precede faith.

Ephesians 2:1-5

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Eph 2:1-5)

What can a ‘dead’ man do? WHEN WE WERE DEAD, we who now believe were made alive in Christ. That’s the very definition of ‘regeneration’.

2 Corinthians 4:1-4

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,[a] we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice[b] cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Who is perishing? All who have not received and believed in Christ. Why have they NOT received and believed in Christ? Their minds have been blinded by the god of this world. Regeneration opens blind minds and necessarily precedes faith.

John 1:12-13

”But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

The children of God are those who receive Christ and believe in his name. Those who receive and believe in Christ are those born of God, not by any form of human desire or will. To be born of God is to be regenerated. Note that no one is regenerated by an act of human will.

John 3:3

”Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.””

To ‘see’ the kingdom of God in the above passage means “to perceive” Just as we must have been born naturally to physically see, we must be born spiritually (regenerated) to spiritually see.

Those who believe that human faith precedes regeneration generally fall into two groups:

  • We are all ‘naturally’ capable, without divine assistance, to make a genuine decision for Christ, by an act of human free will.
  • While we aren’t ‘naturally’ capable of such a decision, God, by an act of ‘prevenient grace’, grants the ability to make a free will decision to accept Christ, and then be ‘regenerated’.

I believe the above passages refute the first proposition, on its face. I also believe the second proposition to be in error simply because prevenient grace, in the Wesleyan sense is nowhere taught in the Bible. The thought is that God bestows prevenient grace to the lost sinner, who is then able to consider the claims of the gospel message and either freely accept or reject them by an act of natural human will.

Additionally, I can find NO language in all of the Bible that discusses some sort of decision making process in the process of the salvation of men. Even IF true and a human free will decision determined the eternal destiny of anyone, that person will have saved himself/herself, although God made it possible to be saved through the death of Christ.

It is my belief, based on the above passages, that the human will must ‘itself’ be changed for the natural man to desire to repent of sin and believe in Christ.


NOTE: For more in-depth discussions concerning ‘Prevenient Grace’ See:

1. Does Scripture Teach Prevenient Grace n the Wesleyan Sense?

2. Is Prevenient Grace in the Bible?

3. What is Prevenient Grace?

We Recognize No One According to the Flesh

by Mike Riccardi

Source: The Cripplegate

from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:16–17

Paul speaks about regeneration in this passage. If anyone is in Christ—if anyone has become united to Jesus Christ by saving faith in the Gospel, if anyone has died to sin and self in union with the One who died to sin once for all—he is a new creation. Working backwards, from cause to effect, the second half of verse 16 notes that the very first result of regeneration is a new view of Christ. As unbelievers, we all once regarded Christ from a fleshly point of view, according to worldly standards, paying special attention to the way things looked outwardly and externally rather than internally and spiritually. But the regenerate regard Him in this way no longer. When Almighty God issues His sovereign decree for light to shine forth in the heart that is dead in sin, when the eyes are opened and the ears unstopped, when the heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh, the first thing that changes is the sinner’s view of Christ. We see Him for who He is, in all His beauty, glory, and suitableness to our need.

Working backwards even further to the first half of verse 16, Paul speaks of a second result of regeneration. Not only does the regenerate sinner have a new view of Christ, but he also has a new view of everyone else. When we’re transformed from the inside out in regeneration, and our assessment of Jesus changes, so does our assessment of everyone else in the world.

The Wrecking Ball of Regeneration

In regeneration, the entire person is renovated. The old things have passed away; new things have come—in every aspect of our life. Murray Harris says, “When a person becomes a Christian, he or she experiences a total restructuring of life that alters its whole fabric—thinking, feeling, willing, and acting.” John MacArthur writes, “Old values, ideas, plans, loves, desires, and beliefs vanish, replaced by the new things that accompany salvation. . . . God plants new desires, loves, inclinations, and truths in the redeemed, so that they live in the midst of the old creation with a new creation perspective.” In other words, when you become a new creation in Christ, all your ambitions and your hobbies and your joys—everything about you—are like a building that has been leveled to the ground by the wrecking ball of regeneration. And in its place is an entirely new creation, built by the Spirit of God on the foundation of Christ, with new tastes, new affections, and new joys, and new ambitions!

New Canons of Appraisal

And along with all of that newness comes new ways of assessing other people, new canons of appraisal, new standards according to which we arrive at our estimation of people. Just as Paul once knew Christ according to the flesh—just as he once esteemed or appraised or evaluated Him according to the world’s preoccupation with the outward appearance—so also he “recognized” or “regarded” or “viewed” or “appraised” or “valued” other people according to the flesh as well. “But,” he says, “from now on”—that is, since the time of his regeneration and conversion to Christ—“from this point forward, we recognize no one according to the flesh.” By definition, then, the one who has become a new creation in Christ has put off those fleshly canons of appraisal which judge men only on the basis of superficial, external matters.

This is a lesson the church needs to learn. It’s an especially valuable lesson for us given the aftermath of the U.S. Presidential election, and the tensions that exist in American society today. Far too often, Christians have not distinguished themselves from the unregenerate in their personal standards of judgment and evaluation of others. Virtually instinctively and subconsciously, we regard men and women according to the flesh. We appraise people on the basis of their physical attractiveness, their style of dress, their educational achievement, their social status and level of “success,” their political affiliation. And one of the saddest truths concerning the visible church is that so many professing believers still allow their opinions of others, as well as their understanding of their own identity, to be shaped by the color of their skin.

eyeBut the Holy Spirit of God, by virtue of the inspiration of 2 Corinthians 5:16–17, tells us that none of those things has any place in the mind of the one who has been regenerated and united to Christ. None of them. They are not the basis by which we evaluate others, and they are not the sources from which we derive our own identity. No, in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek.” In Christ “there is neither slave nor free.”

Neither Jew nor Gentile

Think about what a radical statement that is from the pen of Saul of Tarsus. This was the most promising young rabbi in Jerusalem, educated under Gamaliel, supervising the persecution and execution of Christians. This is the one circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; a Pharisee, a persecutor, and blameless according to the ceremonial law. Time was when his only canon of evaluation was whether or not someone met the strict Pharisaical standards of Mosaic ceremonialism. If he did, he was a brother. If he didn’t, he was a dog. And now: “There is neither Jew nor Greek.” What happened?

I’ll tell you what happened: Regeneration happened. The one who boasted in his eighth-day circumcision says: “For neither is circumcision anything, nor [is] uncircumcision [anything]; [the only thing that matters is] a new creation” (Gal 6:15). Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised: doesn’t matter. Your ethnicity doesn’t matter. Your religious rituals don’t matter. What matters is whether or not there has been a new creation. What matters is: Is this person regenerate or not? Is he united to Christ or not? Is he a child of God or not? Does he stand yet in need of forgiveness of sins or not?

Colossians 3:10 and 11: Paul says we’ve laid aside the old self, and have put on the new self (the old has gone and the new has come, 2 Cor 5:17). And that new self is “being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all and in all.”

See, the regenerate person has been so dominated by Christ that the only point of reference for his view of anyone is whether or not they are in Christ. The new view of Christ that is born in those who have been made a new creation necessarily issues in a new view of others.

And this reaches even to the level of family. Someone lets Jesus’ know his mother and brothers were waiting to speak with him. His response is just stunning: “But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother’” (Matt 12:48). Jesus regarded no man or woman after the flesh. Not even His own family. What mattered is whether or not they believed in Him.

The Blood of Christ is Thicker than Water

Nationalism means nothing. You have a deeper connection to true Christians in Iraq, in Iran, in Syria, in Afghanistan, than to any unbeliever in America.

Ethnicity is nothing. You have a more intimate union with genuine believers who are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, than to any unregenerate person who shares the color of your skin.

Even family, in comparison to Christ, is nothing. Jesus says He has a thicker bond with the children of God than He does even with His own mother!

Now, of course, that doesn’t mean that national citizenship doesn’t exist, that ethnicity is somehow erased, or that familial ties vanish. But all of those things are absolutely inconsequential in determining one’s status before God or his place within God’s kingdom. They are not how we see others, and they are not how we see ourselves. We regard no man after the flesh. We are not those who take pride in appearance rather than in heart (2 Cor 5:12).

Where this really intersected for Paul was how the false apostles were persuading the Corinthians to regard him after the flesh—to look down upon him and judge him accursed because of how severely he suffered in the cause of ministry. But Paul says, “Those who are truly united to Christ have been born again! They’ve been totally renovated! Entirely renewed! And as a result, they don’t judge men and ministries on the fleshly basis of external appearance, of outward success, of worldly power and prestige! If they did, they’d have to judge Christ and His cross to be a failure!” Paul’s saying, “The false apostles are judging me the same way I used to judge Christ—after the flesh—and in so doing they reveal that they have not experienced the transformation of regeneration that marks all those who are united to Christ in saving faith.”

And brothers and sisters, we make the same error anytime we look at a man or woman and allow their appearance, their résumé, their political affiliation, or their skin color to determine our estimation of them, rather than the state of their heart before God. In our time, when accusations of racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and other epithets are being hurled back and forth, may Christ’s people live out the reality of their regeneration, and regard no one after the flesh.

‘Decisional Regeneration’ Defined and Discussed

This might be the best treatment of the subject I have read. It is rather length, but definitely worth of a careful reading and serious consideration. – Dan C.

Decisional Regeneration

James E. Adams


What is Regeneration?

Except a man be born again1, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Our Lord Jesus Christ taught that the new birth is so important that no one can see heaven without it. Mistakes concerning this doctrine have been very destructive to the Church of Christ. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God. It is not a work of man. It is not something that man does but something that God does. The new birth is a change wrought in us, not an act performed by us. This is stated so beautifully by the Apostle John when in the first chapter of his Gospel he speaks of the children of God as those “which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (v. 13).

What is “Decisional Regeneration”?

The history of the Christian Church has seen many errors concerning the new birth. These teachings depart from Scripture by attributing to man the ability to regenerate himself. When these false concepts of man and the new birth are adopted, churches soon become corrupted with false practices. The Roman Catholic church, the Anglican church, the Lutheran church and many other churches have all been corrupted at different times and to different degrees with the teaching of Baptismal Regeneration. Because of this erroneous teaching on regeneration, these churches have embraced false practices.

In the nineteenth century few controversies were so heated as the one over Baptismal Regeneration. It is interesting to note that C. H. Spurgeon (1836-1892), the most prolific preacher of that century, had printed in 1864 more copies of his sermon denouncing Baptismal Regeneration than of any other sermon. Baptismal Regeneration teaches that the new birth is conveyed by the waters of baptism. The sacrament is performed by man and is in his control.

But the twentieth century Church has, in “Decisional Regeneration,” a more subtle falsehood to combat. “Decisional Regeneration” differs from Baptismal Regeneration only in the fact that it attaches the certainty of the new birth to a different act. This doctrine, just as Baptismal Regeneration, sees the new birth as the result of a mechanical process that can be performed by man. What is here called “Decisional Regeneration” has in its deceptive way permeated much of the Christian Church.

Our Purpose

The methods and theology of those that practice “Decisional Regeneration” need to be examined — not with a malicious spirit, but with a fervent desire that all of God’s people may be one in doctrine and practice for the glory of God. We love all that are in Christ. But we agree wholeheartedly with Charles Spurgeon that:

The best way to promote union is to promote truth. It will not do for us to be all united together by yielding to one another’s mistakes. We are to love each other in Christ; but we are not to be so united that we are not able to see each other’s faults, and especially not able to see our own. No purge the house of God, and then shall grand and blessed times dawn on us,”2.

So then our purpose is not to question the sincerity of some Christians or to malign them, but to unite Christians in the truth as it is in our Lord. This alone is true Christian unity.

As we earnestly seek to bring unity to the Church of Christ let us turn from falsehood unto God’s truth. The practice of “Decisional Regeneration” in the Church must be exposed in order to save men from the damning delusion that because they have “decided” or “signed a card,” they are going to heaven and are no longer under the wrath of God. The purity of the gospel is of extreme importance because it alone is the power of God unto salvation and the true basis of Christian unity.

Decisional Regeneration and Counseling

Some may still not understand exactly what is here meant by this term “Decisional Regeneration.” Perhaps some are unfamiliar with the counseling courses that are being taught by many organizations in this country and abroad, and with the numerous “Soul Winning Conferences” that are taking place. In these meetings counselors are instructed that successful counseling must conclude with an individual’s absolute assurance of salvation. Counselors are often instructed to assure an individual that his salvation is certain because he has prayed the prescribed prayer, and he has said “yes” to all the right questions.

We have an illustration of “Decisional Regeneration” when a popular present-day preacher prescribes a counseling procedure. He directs “Mr. Soul Winner” to ask an unconverted “Mr. Blank” a series of questions. If “Mr. Blank” says “yes” to all the questions, he is asked to pray a prescribed prayer and is then pronounced saved3. For the most part this counseling results in an individual being “regenerated” through a decision. This is essentially the same counseling method used in large evangelistic crusades across the world. These campaigns are like huge factories turning out as many as ten thousand “decisions” in a week.

Mr. Iain Murray, in his timely book The Forgotten Spurgeon, points out that this same type of counseling is used in youth work:

For example, a booklet, which is much circulated in student evangelism at the present time, lays down ‘Three simple steps’ to becoming a Christian: first, personal acknowledgment of sin, and second, personal belief in Christ’s substitutionary work. These two are described as preliminary, but ‘the third so final that to take it will make me a Christian. . .I must come to Christ and claim my personal share in what He did for everybody.’ This all-decisive third step rests with me; Christ ‘waits patiently until I open the door. Then He will come in….’ Once I have done this I may immediately regard myself as a Christian. The advice follows: ‘Tell somebody today what you have done.’4

There are many variations of this type of counseling, but they all have in common a mechanical element such as the repeating of a prayer or signing of a card upon the performance of which the individual is assured of his salvation. Regeneration has thereby been reduced to a procedure which man performs. How differently did Jesus Christ deal with sinners. He did not have any instant salvation process. He did not speak to people with a stereotyped presentation. He dealt with every individual on a personal basis. Never in the New Testament do we find Christ dealing with any two persons in the same manner. It is enlightening to compare how differently He dealt with Nicodemus in John 3, and then with the woman at the well in John 4. Counseling needs to be personal.

There are a number of other problems with a mechanical counseling. Mr. Murray has pointed out the fact that on the basis of this counseling:

A man may make a profession without ever having his confidence in his own ability shattered; he has been told absolutely nothing of his need of a change of nature which is not within his own power, and consequently, if he does not experience such a radical change, he is not dismayed. He was never told it was essential so he sees no reason to doubt whether he is a Christian. Indeed, the teaching he has come under consistently militates against such doubts arising. It is frequently said that a man who has made a decision with little evidence of a change of life may be a ‘carnal’ Christian who needs instruction in holiness, or if the same individual should gradually lose his new-found interests, the fault is frequently attributed to lack of ‘follow-up,’ or prayer, or some other deficiency on the part of the Church. The possibility that these marks of worldliness and falling away are due to the absence of a saving experience at the outset is rarely considered; if this point were faced, then the whole system of appeals, decisions and counseling would collapse, because it would bring to the fore the fact that change of nature is not in man’s power, and that it takes much longer than a few hours or days to establish whether a professed response to the gospel is genuine. But instead of facing this, it is protested that to doubt whether a man who has ‘accepted Christ’ is a Christian is tantamount to doubting the Word of God, and that to abandon ‘appeals’ and their adjuncts is to give up evangelism altogether.”5

The counseling of “Decisional Regeneration” produces statistics that would encourage any Christian-until he follows up the so-called converts. In one heartbreaking experience forty “converts” of such counseling were contacted and only one person of these forty was found who appeared to be a Christian. One lady may have been reached, but what were the effects of the encounter on the other thirty-nine? Some of them may believe their eternal destinies were determined by their decisions, which is a fatal confidence if no change was wrought in their hearts and lives. The others may have concluded that they had experienced all that Christianity has to offer. Failing to feel or see any promised change in themselves, they have become convinced that Christianity is a fake and that those who hold it are either self-deluded fanatics or miserable hypocrites.

Robert Dabney, one of the great theologians of the nineteenth century, made some very penetrating observations concerning the disillusionment of people that have been counseled for a decision., he said:

Some of these individuals feel that a cruel trick has been played upon their inexperience by the ministers and friends of Christianity in thus thrusting them, in the hour of their confusion, into false positions, whose duties they do not and cannot perform, and into sacred professions which they have been compelled shamefully to repudiate. Their self respect is therefore galled to the quick, and pride is indignant at the humiliating exposure. No wonder that they look on religion and its advocates henceforward with suspicion and anger. Often their feelings do not stop here. They are conscious that they were thoroughly in earnest in their religious anxieties and resolves at the time, and that they felt strange and profound exercises. Yet bitter and mortifying experience has taught them that their new birth and experimental religion at least was a delusion. How natural to conclude that those of all others are delusions also? They say: ‘the only difference between myself and these earnest Christians is, that they have not yet detected the cheat as I have. They are now not a whit more convinced of their sincerity and of the reality of their exercises than I once was of mine. Yet I know there was no change in my soul; I do not believe that there is in theirs.’ Such is the fatal process of thought through which thousands have passed; until the country is sprinkled all over with infidels, who have been made such by their own experience of spurious religious excitements. They may keep their hostility to themselves in the main; because Christianity now ‘walks in her silver slippers’; but they are not the less steeled against all saving impressions of the truth.”6

Dabney penned these words a hundred years ago, long before the days of the “mass evangelism” and highly organized campaigns. If a hundred years ago the country was “sprinkled all over with infidels, who had been made such by their own experience of spurious religious excitements,” what must be the situation today? This is a serious question for every Christian. To have led men, even sincerely, into false hope will be an awful condemnation for a Christian when he stands before Almighty God.

Decisional Regeneration and Altar Calls

One may read thousands of pages of the history of the Christian Church without finding a single reference to the “old-fashioned altar call” before the last century. Most Christians are surprised to learn that history before the time of Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) knows nothing of this type of “invitation.” The practice of urging men and women to make a physical movement at the conclusion of a meeting was introduced by Mr. Finney in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Dr. Albert B. Dod, a professor of theology at Princeton Seminary at the time of Mr. Finney’s ministry, pointed out the newness of the practice and showed that this method was without historical precedent. In his review of Finney’s Lectures on Revival, Professor Dod stated that one will search the volumes of church history in vain for a single example of this practice before the 1820’s.7 Instead, history tells us that whenever the gospel was preached men were invited to Christ-not to decide at the end of a sermon whether or not to perform some physical action.

The Apostle Paul, the great evangelist, never heard of an altar call, yet today some consider the altar call to be a necessary mark of an evangelical church. In fact, churches which do not practice it are often accused of having no concern for the lost. Neither Paul nor Peter ever climaxed his preaching with forcing upon his hearers the decision to walk or not to walk. It is not only with church history, then, but with Scriptural history as well that the altar call is in conflict.

One may ask, “How did preachers of the gospel for the previous eighteen hundred years invite men to Christ without the use of the altar call?” They did so in much the same way as did the apostles and the other witnesses of the early Church. Their messages were filled with invitations for all men everywhere to come to Christ.

Surely it will be admitted that the first sermon of the Christian Church was not climaxed by an altar call. Peter on the Day of Pentecost concluded his sermon with these words: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Peter stopped. Then the divinely inspired record tells us: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ ” (Acts 2:36-37). This response was the result of the work of the Spirit of God, not of clever appeals or psychological pressure. That day the apostles witnessed the conversion of three thousand people.

C. H. Spurgeon invited men to come to Christ, not to an altar. Listen to him invite men to Jesus Christ:

Before you leave this place breathe an earnest prayer to God, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner. Lord, I need to be saved. Save me. I call upon Thy name….Lord, I am guilty, I deserve Thy wrath. Lord, I cannot save myself. Lord, I would have a new heart and a right spirit, but what can I do? Lord, I can do nothing, come and work in me to do of Thy good pleasure.

Thou alone hast power, I know
To save a wretch like me;
To whom, or whither should I go
If I should run from Thee?

But I now do from my very soul call upon Thy name. Trembling, yet believing, I cast myself wholly upon Thee, O Lord. I trust the blood and righteousness of Thy dear Son…. Lord, save me tonight, for Jesus’ sake.’ ” “Go home alone trusting in Jesus. ‘I should like to go into the enquiry-room.’ I dare say you would, but we are not willing to pander to popular superstition. We fear that in those rooms men are warmed into a fictitious confidence. Very few of the supposed converts of enquiry-rooms turn out well. Go to your God at once, even where you now are. Cast yourself on Christ, at once, ere you stir an inch!8

Invitations such as Spurgeon gave directing men to Christ and not to aisles are needed today. George Whitefield’s sermons were long invitations to men to come to Christ, not to an altar. The same may be said of the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, of the Reformers and of others in the past who were blessed with a harvest of many souls using Scriptural means of inviting men to Christ.

Today the altar call has become the climax and culmination of the entire meeting. Many stanzas of a hymn are usually sung, during which time all kinds of appeals are made to the sinner to walk the aisle, and the clear impression is given to the sinner that his eternal destiny hangs on this movement of his feet.

Just As I Am,” the precious hymn perhaps most frequently sung for the altar call, was written in 1836 by Charlotte Elliott:

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

The phrase, “O Lamb of God, I come, I come,” has been widely used to encourage people to “come” down the aisle. But it is significant that Miss Elliott wrote the hymn for the infirm and that it first appeared in a hymnal prepared especially for invalids.9 To Miss Elliott, coming to Christ was not walking an aisle.

Although most who use the altar call realize that coming to Christ is not synonymous with coming to the altar, they do give the impression to sinners that the first step in coming to Christ is walking the aisle. I am purposefully being very careful not to misstate the case. I understand the sincerity of those who practice the altar call, it having been a part of every service from my earliest memory until college. In fact, I grew up in Christian circles unaware that evangelical Christianity existed without the altar call. In many services during this time my mind was centered on the glorious person of Christ and His suffering on the cross only to find the whole focus of the worship service suddenly changed at the conclusion from seeing the glories and sufferings of Christ to walking an aisle. Many others have spoken of the same experience — that the altar call and the clever appeals at the conclusion of meetings, the decision to walk or not to walk and the wondering how many will respond, have distracted them from seeking Christ and from worshipping God in spirit and truth.

Do you remember how the crowds physically followed our Lord Christ until He began to preach some unpopular truths? Then the crowds turned back (John 6:66). Why? Had they not come to Jesus with their feet? Yes, but this is not the coming to Him that is necessary for salvation. Christ said, “All that the Father gives me shall come to me; and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). And again He said, “No man can come to me except the Father draw him” (John 6:44). In neither of these instances was Jesus speaking of the physical movement of the feet.

Men today need to be reminded that coming to Christ is not walking an aisle, but is casting oneself on Christ for life or death. May God cause the Church to return to the Scriptures for its methods of winning men to Christ. May sinners be charged not to come forward in a meeting but to come to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Decisional Regeneration and Preaching

The false teaching of “Decisional Regeneration” has polluted even the structure of the sermon. Jack Hyles, considered by many to be an authority on preaching, gives the following advice to his fellow-ministers:

Many of us in our preaching will make such statements as, ‘Now, in conclusion’; ‘Finally, may I say’; ‘My last point is . . .’. These statements are sometimes dangerous. The sinner knows five minutes before you finish; hence he digs in and prepares himself for the invitation so that he does not respond. However, if your closing is abrupt and a lost person does not suspect that you are about finished, you have crept up on him and he will not have time to prepare himself for the invitation. Many people may be reached, using this method.10

At the first reading of such a teaching one might believe, or at least hope, that he misread Mr. Hyles. The second, third and fourth readings, however, confirm that Mr. Hyles actually teaches that men may be converted to Christ as a result of some clever method a minister uses in his sermon, and that one’s eternal destiny may be determined by the impulse of an unguarded moment. This idea that a man’s salvation may depend upon his being “crept up on” and giving his unwilling consent is in direct conflict with what the Scriptures teach concerning the receiving of Jesus Christ. In reality the kind of Preaching that tries to creep up on sinners results for the most part in bringing people to religion, not to Christ. Can there be any more terrible result of a sermon than the bringing of people to something other than our Lord Jesus Christ?

True preaching is not a clever device of man, but a demonstration of the Spirit of God as the truth of God is proclaimed. I can never forget hearing Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones illustrate what true preaching is with an account of George Whitefield preaching in the church of Jonathan Edwards:

There was this genius Jonathan Edwards listening to Whitefield, who wasn’t in the same field, of course, from the standpoint of genius and ability and so on. But as he was listening to Whitefield, his face, says Whitefield, was shining. Edwards’ face was shining and tears were streaming down his face. Edwards was recognizing this authentic, authoritative note — this preaching. Whitefield was in the Spirit. Edwards was in the Spirit, and the two were blended together. The whole congregation and the preacher were one in the hand of God. That is preaching. May God enable us to practice it and experience it.11

The preaching of which Dr. Lloyd-Jones is speaking of and which the New Testament speaks is far removed from the trickery used in much modern preaching. Biblical preaching declares that men are not born again by the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13).

“Decisional Regeneration” does not bring men to Christ any more than does Baptismal Regeneration. It is true that some are converted under such preaching, but this is in spite of the false methods used, not because of them. The Bible is clear in its declaration that only by the Spirit of God can men be born again. True repentance and saving faith come as the result of the new birth and are never the cause of the great change. Repentance and faith are the acts of regenerated men, not of men dead in sins (Eph. 2:1, 5). However, God does not act for us; He does not believe for us; and He surely cannot repent for us — He has no sin for which to repent. We must personally, knowingly and willingly trust in Christ for salvation. Nor are we saying that preachers should not urge, yea, plead with men to repent and believe. Any preaching which merely rehearses the facts of the gospel without calling men to repentance and faith in Christ as a merciful and mighty Saviour of sinners is not biblical preaching.

The apostles taught that God saves His elect through the foolishness of preaching. All new methods devised by man can only fall far short of this ordained means of converting the sinner. The Church must forsake its carnal inventions and once again be guided by the teaching of Scripture if it is to expect God to bless its efforts and multiply its harvest. The Scriptural means of evangelizing is to “preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (I Cor. 1:23-24).

Decisional Regeneration and Theology

Whether it is openly recognized or not, there are always certain doctrinal presuppositions which underlie the methods used in evangelism. What kind of teaching, then, has allowed the Church to depart from historic Christianity and to take up these new devices?

The new birth according to our Lord Jesus Christ is sovereign work of the Spirit of God in the heart of man (John 3:8). Yet in conflict with Christ’s teaching, one of the forefathers of this new evangelism states that “Religion is the work of man.” This is a shocking statement, especially since it is found on the very first page of Lectures on Revivals of Religion, the most influential of all of Charles G. Finney’s writings.12 The great theological difference between modern evangelism and biblical evangelism hinges on this basic question whether true religion is the work of God or of man. At best, the doctrine of “Decisional Regeneration” attributes the new birth partly to man and partly to God.

J. H. Merle d’Aubigne (1794-1872) in his The History of the Reformation in England states that

To believe in the power of man in the work of regeneration is the great heresy of Rome, and from that error has come the ruin of the Church. Conversion proceeds from the grace of God alone, and the system which ascribes it partly to man and partly to God is worse than Pelagianism.13

One of the greatest American theologians, Charles Hodge (1797-1878), also points out the danger of this teaching:

No more soul-destroying doctrine could well be devised than the doctrine that sinners can regenerate themselves, and repent and believe just when they please . . . As it is a truth both of Scripture and of experience that the unrenewed man can do nothing of himself to secure his salvation, it is essential that he should be brought to a practical conviction of that truth. When thus convicted, and not before, he seeks help from the only source whence it can be obtained.14

In both the above statements stress is put upon man’s helplessness to be born anew, and the necessity for God to create life. It is especially in these two areas that the doctrine of “Decisional Regeneration” deviates from the biblical doctrine of regeneration. This brings us to the foundational issue of “Decisional Regeneration”: What is the spiritual condition of man?

Can a man be born again by answering “yes” to a certain group of questions? Can a man be born from “above” by walking to the front of a building? Can a man become a true Christian by responding to an invitation as a result of being “crept up on” unawares? Your answers to these questions will be determined by your view of man’s spiritual condition. What is man’s spiritual state?

The grand old Scottish theologian Thomas Boston (1676-1732) very vividly illustrated man’s spiritual condition by comparing the unconverted person to a man in a pit. He can only get out of the pit in one of two ways: he may through much toil and difficulty scale the sides of the pit to the top, which is the way of works; or, he may grab hold of the rope of grace let down by Christ and be pulled out of his misery. Yes, he may decide to pull himself up by the rope of the gospel, “but, alas! the unconverted man is dead in the pit, and cannot help himself either of these ways.15

Man is spiritually dead in trespasses and sins and cannot please God (Eph. 2:1; Rom. 8:8). Our Saviour Himself portrayed man’s condition as one of utter helplessness: “No man can come to me except the Father who has sent me draw him”; “No man can come to me except it were given to him of my Father” (John 6:44, 65).

This state of death and bondage to sin cannot be changed by making a decision or by walking an aisle. A man cannot make himself a Christian. Only the Spirit of God can create a new man in Christ. God in His grace gives men new hearts. Only then can they willingly repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. God Himself has stated this truth by saying: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes…” (Ezek. 36:26, 27). Jesus Christ also clearly said, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he wishes” (John 5:21).

The greatness of God’s power in saving sinners can only be seen against the background of man’s desperate condition. What a glorious doctrine is the new birth to the helpless sinner! May the Church return to biblical doctrine so that it may evangelize again to the glory of God.

How helpless guilty nature lies,
Unconscious of its load!
The heart, unchanged can never rise
To happiness and God.

The will perverse, the passions blind,
In paths of ruin stray;
Reason, debased, can never find
The safe, the narrow way.

Can aught, beneath a power divine,
The stubborn will subdue?
Tis Thine, almighty Saviour, Thine,
To form the heart anew.

O change these wretched hearts of ours,
And give them life divine!
Then shall our passions and our powers,
Almighty Lord, be Thine!

– Isaac Watts

What Must We Do?

It is not a time to be silent; it is time to speak out. We have kept quiet too long, somehow feeling that if we opposed these unbiblical practices we might be hindering the good work of evangelism, believing that among the multitudes of “decisions” there are some genuine conversions. But with every passing week thousands are being counseled into a false hope! Men are directed to walk aisles when they should be pointed to Christ alone. The high calling of preaching has degenerated into a series of gimmicks and tricks. These false practices have resulted from the perversion of biblical doctrine. In the midst of this darkness let us pray that God may be pleased to revive His Church again. This revival can come only through Christ. Men must turn afresh to His directions for counseling, to His free invitations to sinners and to the preaching of His gospel. Only then will our labors bring glory to God; and if God grants, many sinners will be converted for His glory.


1.     The word “again” is better rendered “from above.” It points to the ultimate source of the new birth, the Triune God.

2.     C. H. Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit (London, 1964), Vol. 6, p. 171.

3.     Jack Hyles, How To Boost Your Church Attendance (Grand Rapids, 1958), pp. 32-35.

4.     Iain H. Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (London, 1966), p. 110.

5.     Ibid, p. 111.

6.     Robert L. Dabney, Discussions: Evangelical and Theological (London, 1967), Vol. 2, p. 13.

7.     Albert B. Dod, “The Origin of the Call for Decisions,” The Banner of Truth Magazine (London, Dec., 1963), Vol. 32, p. 9.

8.     Murray, op. cit., pp. 107-109.

9.     John Julian, A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1907) p. 609.

10.  Hyles, op. cit., pp. 43-44.

11.  Recorded in shorthand from a sermon, “The Responsibility of Evangelism,” preached at Grace Baptist Church, Carlisle, Pa., in June, 1969.

12.  For the clearest statement of Finney’s theory of regeneration read his sermon, “Sinners Bound To Change their Own Hearts,” Sermons on Various Subjects (New York, 1835). For a detailed examination of Finney’s theology see “Review of Lectures on Systematic Theology,” The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review (Philadelphia, 1847), Vol. 19, pp. 237-Z77; also Benjamin B. Warfield, “The Theology of Charles C. Finney,” Perfectionism (Philadelphia, 1967), pp. 166-215.

13.  J. H. Merle d’Aubigne, The Reformation in England (London, 1962), Vol. 1, p. 98.

14.  Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, 1970), Vol. 2, p. 277.

15.  Thomas Boston, Human Nature in Its Fourfold State (London, 1964), p. 183.


The above article can be found online in a numerous locations, one of which is here.

What comes first, faith or regeneration?

The ‘natural’ man, who is without the Spirit does not accept things of the Spirit, thinking that they are foolish(1 Cor 2:14). The ‘natural’ mind is completely carnal and hostile to God (Rom 8:7). The natural man can do nothing to please God (also Rom 8:7). Repenting of sin believing the Gospel (Christ’s command), pleases God. Doesn’t that mean that ‘supernatural’ regeneration must, by necessity, precede faith?

Are We Trying to Catch The Wind?

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8

Way back in 1965 British singer/songwriter Donavan recorded a song called “Catch The Wind”. It was his first recording and a chart buster. It was a love song about the woman he later married. Perhaps the most memorable line, repeated at the end of each stanza and a few times at the end of the song was (at least to this guy):

“Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind.”

What does a ‘Golden Oldie’ have to do with this blog post? Thanks for asking!

Well, the song compares the romantic thoughts a young man has concerning a young woman, and the chances of real romance being as elusive as ‘trying to catch the wind’. That memorable line line came to mind this morning while I was doing my morning workout and listening to a short teaching by a Baptist Pastor concerning evangelism; specific methods used, and of course the topic of obtaining an immediate decision for Christ, or ‘closing the deal’. If we can just obtain a ‘decision’ we can add another ‘saved’ soul to our evangelistic tally sheets. The question he posed the listener was “Who really ‘closes the deal?”

And an excellent question it is! While a decision for Christ is sometimes an immediate result of an evangelistic encounter (we see several accounts in the book of Acts alone), are decisions for Christ the product of our efforts or the result of the Holy Spirit’s work of impressing upon a human heart the gravity of sin, opening that heart to hear and receive the message of the gospel, offering grace through the gift of faith, and in essence ‘closing the deal’.

When we realize what happens in the above process, we can also see that there needs to be someone who delivers the gospel message.   That’s where we come in, and it seems to be our only role – just a messenger. But not ‘just’ a messenger. The good news we have for the lost and dying all around us is the greatest news a person could ever hear!

In that encounter with Nicodemus in John, Chapter 3 we have displayed before us, the sovereignty of God in the salvation of men.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ “– vv. 3-7

How does the ‘new birth’ happen? Do words of men, cleverly presented produce the new birth? Is it our presenting an attractive Jesus the hearer might like do it? Does the ‘fire and brimstone’ of threats of eternal punishment in Hell do it? Can we direct, steer, or otherwise influence a spiritual rebirth? I think not! Listen the very next verse:

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (v. 8)

The one who ‘closes the deal’ – produces faith to to believe, is none other than the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit who gives life to spiritually dead men and women, who turns hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, creates a desire for God where there was none, who opens hearts to hear the message of the gospel, impresses the truth of the gospel on the human heart, causing the one who realizes his/her condition apart from Christ to run to the Cross!

At the same time, we are to persuade others of the truth of the gospel, since we have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:11). In our persuading however, we need to remember that it’s not our job to ‘close the deal’. Rather, remember Donavan:

“Ah, but we may as well try and catch the wind.”


The Winepress of God

Years ago, in a radio broadcast called ‘The Winepress of God’ (Rev 14:14-20), Donald Grey Barnhouse offered these thoughts:

The Old Testament altar not only bore the body of the lamb, the altar also contained the fire that consumed the lamb. Each individual must have either the lamb or the fire.

If we do not take the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, we must have Him as Judge.

Sin is either taken from us and borne by the Substitute, or it is borne by us and must crush us as it receives the fires of God.

In many churches these days, the subject of sin and its consequences is no longer preached from the pulpit (or should I say stage), and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has been watered down to nothing more than using the Savior of God’s people as a solution to life’s many problems.

Wherever this is the case, unless God supernaturally intervenes to awaken sinners to their terrible and deadly plight, all preachers are doing is preparing their deceived flocks for the Fire.

There is great comfort in the words of the Angel who told Joseph, that the child in Mary’s womb:

“…you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21)

God will have His remnant people, in spite of bad preaching.

NOTE: Donald Grey Barnhouse Th.D (March 28, 1895 – November 5, 1960), was an American Presbyterian preacher, pastor, theologian, radio pioneer, and writer.

The Jesus Syllogism

A Biblical Reflection on John 6 by John Hendryx

clip_image001According to Scripture, all persons have a knowledge of God (Rom 1:21), but not all persons know Him in the same way. Some people know Him as a friend, but others know Him only as an enemy. These are, by nature, hostile in mind toward Christ, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18), because they love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19, 20). The question I want to put before you to contemplate today is why is it that some persons see the beauty and excellence of Christ, knowing Him as a friend, while others find Jesus and his promises of grace so repulsive, remaining His enemy? What is it that makes people to differ in their response to the promises of the gospel?

The purpose of this short essay is to show from Scripture a discussion Jesus had in his time on earth where he unequivocally asserts that it is grace alone that makes persons to differ in our response to the gospel; whether we believe it, or reject it. And to drive this point home we will show how Jesus insists that UNLESS God grants His invincible grace no one would ever believe the gospel … yet ALL persons to whom he grants this same grace will believe unto eternal life.

I have written about this passage before but to those who have not considered Jesus discourse to the Jews in John 6, I would encourage you to take the time to reflect on it today. We find out that, when speaking to the Jews, Jesus uses a syllogism that leaves no room for human boasting. Defined simply, a syllogism is a logical formula consisting of two premises and a conclusion which follows of necessity from them. It is a combination of two judgments infallibly necessitating a third judgment as a consequence of their mutual relation. A simple example of a syllogism is: If all humans are sinners, and all Greeks are humans, then all Greeks are sinners.

You ask, what does this have to do with Jesus?

In John chapter 6, in the context of Jesus’ calling the Jews to believe the gospel about Himself and their resulting unbelief in Him, He presents them with the following two simple yet profound statements, which, when applied together necessitates the conclusion that saving grace is always both invincible and indelible. He claims that those to whom, in due season, the Spirit regenerates will infallibly believe the gospel. Grace and faith, therefore, are not the same thing, and when it comes down to why some have faith and not others, Jesus emphatically comes down on the side of grace. What I call “the Jesus syllogism”, where He authoritatively communicates this truth, should end all arguments about this issue. it can be found in the midst of his discourse with the Jews in John 6:37 & John 6:65 where He says:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” ( 6:37)

”… no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." ( 6:65)

To give context to these texts, just prior to verse 37 he says, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.” Here we observe that Jesus uses the phrase “believe in me” and “come to me” interchangeably. In fact this is the case with these phrases throughout Scripture. With this in mind, In the context of unbelief in John 6:64 Jesus issues a UNIVERSAL NEGATIVE“… no one can come to me UNLESS God grants it. Since the phrase "come to Me" is spoken of all over Scripture as a synonym of believing on him, in John 6:65 Jesus is telling us that “no one can believe on Him UNLESS God grants it. Only the Spirit gives life (6:63). But in John 6:37 (the same dialogue) Jesus likewise issues a UNIVERSAL POSITIVE with the same concept. He says “ All that the Father gives to me WILL COME TO ME

So if we look at what Jesus explicitly teaches concening who will believe (by putting these two concepts together) He says, no one will believe in Me unless God grants it, and ALL to whom God grants it will believe. Jesus, using a syllogism, is making sure that no one thinks that anything apart from grace is what saves them. That even the very desire for faith that we have is a gift of God. This is profoundly important because it creates the inescapable conclusion that the quickening grace of God is invincible. This is why just prior to saying “no one can come to me UNLESS God grants it”, Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail.” This means that it is the Spirit who quickens, raises our dead spirits to life, makes us born from above (john 3:3, 6). The flesh, not referring to our physical bodies, but to our bondage to the corruption of our sinful natures, means that the sinful nature can do nothing of any redemptive good, including believe the gospel. How do I know this is what it means? Because the entire context on both sides of this verse is Jesus speaking of the Jews unbelief. Faith, He is saying, is not a product of our unregenerate human natures. It is, rather, the Spirit alone who can give life to our dead souls that we may believe. Jesus is telling the same thing to Nicodemus in John 3, using the same type of language. In verse 6 Jesus tells him, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” And unless one is born this way he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God. Jesus never gives Nicodemus an imperative (command) to be born again, but instead, tells him what must happen to him for eternal life to be a reality. Belief springs from a change of nature, for the old man considers the gospel foolish and thus cannot comprehend it (1 Cor 2:14).

I have heard preachers say to people, “all you need to do is believe” as if this were the easiest thing in the world, but the natural man is unwilling to submit to the gospels’ humbling terms. It is the massive affront to our pride to believe that we have no hope save in Jesus alone. We see this at work in this passage when, at the end of John chapter six many of those who previously were with Jesus left because his teaching was too hard and only the twelve were left. Peter confesses belief however, and Jesus responds, “…have I not chosen you?” But what is so hard about this that everyone else leaves Jesus? Hard because the gospel of grace alone strips man of all hope that he could have to contribute something, be it ever so small, to his own salvation. Never underestimate the reality of our sinful nature deceiving you this way. The gospel forces us to see our own spiritual impotence and bankruptcy in contributing anything or even lifting a finger toward our own salvation. But those who do believe the gospel we can know with certainty that the Holy Spirit has quickened them and is doing a work of grace in them. As John says in his first epistle, trusting Christ is the immediate result ot the new birth, not the cause of it:

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 John 5:1)

It is also important to understand that Jesus “will never cast out [those the Father has given Him].” (John 6:37). This is important because those who reject the perseverance of the saints, believing that Christ does not preserve us to the end, are in effect saying that we must somehow maintain our justification before God. This is to believe that Jesus’ atonement for us is not sufficient for salvation. This is a borderline heretical view akin to what Roman Catholics believe because it makes maintenance of justification/salvation the work of man and not Christ.

To conclude, Jesus tells us that all those whom God gives to the Son will believe in the Son and no one will believe in the Son whom God does not grant to do so. I bring this passage up to you because it is one of the most forceful passages in all of Scripture relating to the invincibility of saving grace. The grace of the Holy Spirit in regeneration is not only sufficient but efficient, unfailingly bringing about God’s desired result. We may resist the gospel when hearing the outward call and even resist stirrings of the Holy Spirit, but no one resists the inward quickening and call of God (Rom 8:30; 1 Cor 1:22-24). In the Old Testament sometimes God would discipline Israel by telling them their crops would fail even though they labored to sow seed. This is proof that all that we do in this world such as planting crops requires the prior blessing of God if it is to be fruitful. Similarly Paul uses an agricultural metaphor when speaking of casting the seed of the gospel. He says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” This simply means that people need to hear the gospel in order to be saved, but we can preach till we a blue in the face and nothing will take root unless the Holy Spirit sovereignly applies that word to the heart that one might hear.

To use some biblical imagery, we cast the seed of the gospel indiscriminately because the Holy Spirit alone can “germinate” the word, so to speak, unto life in Christ. The fallow ground of our hearts must first be plowed up by God, for the soil of our heart is not good by nature, but only by grace. The seed will not find good soil until God makes it so. For Ezekiel the prophet says:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

Notice that in order for obedience to take place the Lord must first cleanse our hearts, put a new spirit in us and remove our hardened uncircumcised heart. No one believes and obeys while their heart is still stone. Our blind eyes must be opened; our deaf ears unstopped and corrupt nature must be supernaturally changed by the Holy Spirit, for man to begin to have any good thoughts about Christ.

Man’s Will- Free Yet Bound – by Walter J. Chantry

For more than fifteen hundred years the Church has engaged in a heated debate over the freedom of man’s will. The major issues came to general attention in the early fifth century when Augustine and Pelagius did battle on the subject. Through medieval times the nature of man’s freedom received a great deal of attention. As they studied the Scriptures, Bernard and Anselm made significant contributions to the doctrine of the human will. In the sixteenth century the freedom or bondage of the will was one of the chief issues dividing Reformers and Roman Catholics. To the mind of Martin Luther, it was the key to his dispute with Rome. In the seventeenth century the nature of man’s freedom was at the heart of the debate between Arminians and Calvinists. The conflict surfaced again in the eighteenth century during the Great Awakening. Finney’s approach to revival in the nineteenth century led the church astray through a misunderstanding of the human will. So too the nature of man’s will continues to bring intense disagreement between Reformed and Fundamentalist believers.
A proper understanding of the content of the gospel and the use of GOD-honouring methods in evangelism are dependent on one’s grasp of this issue.

I. Man has a will and that will has a certain freedom. Our LORD clearly teaches that man has a power of choice. It is important to begin here to disarm opponents of all the foolish accusations that have been brought against the Biblical doctrine of man’s will. Every man has the ability to choose his own words, to decide what his actions will be. We have a faculty of self-determination in the sense that we select our own thoughts, words, and deeds. Man is free to choose what he prefers, what he desires.

II. Man’s Will is not a Sovereign Faculty. Although man does have a will, it is neither independent of all influences nor supreme over all other parts of his personality. This is the next point to be seen in our LORD’s teaching.

It will be noted that our Master taught that the human will is not free from the other faculties of the heart. Far from the will reigning over a man, the will is determined by the man’s own character. It is not raised to a position of dominance over the entire man.

Man is like a tree. His heart, not his will alone, is the root. There is no possible way by which the will can choose to produce fruit contrary to the character of the root. If the root is bad, the tree is bound by its very nature to produce evil fruit.  Man is like a person standing alongside his treasure chest. There is no possibility of bringing pure gold out of a box filled only with rusty steel. The contents of the heart determine what words and deeds may be brought out. Far from being neutral, the will must reach into the heart for its choices. Every thought, word and deed will partake of the nature of the treasure within.   Man is like a stream which cannot rise above its source. If the fountain is polluted, the outflow will be evil. If the source be sweet, the stream will not be bitter and cannot choose to be so.

These three illustrations alike contain the same lesson. What a man is determines what he chooses. Choices of the will always reveal the character of the heart, because the heart determines the choices. Men are not sinners because they choose to sin; they choose to sin because they are sinners. If this were not so, we could never know a tree by its fruits, nor could we judge a man’s character by his acts.

III. Man’s Will is in Bondage to Sin. The chains which bind a man’s will to sin do not result from the actions of the Omnipotent GOD. The binding chains are the man’s own depraved faculties. The prison is his own nature.

Our LORD’s rhetorical question in verse 34 brings this home with force: ‘O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things ?’ Our wise LORD is suggesting that a man must speak as he does because of what he is. To sinners He was saying ‘You are unable to choose good words because you possess an evil heart. If the tree is bad, if the treasure chest is filled with evil things alone, if the fountain is bitter, your will cannot produce good words [fruits, treasures, overflow].’

At this point there are very many scriptures which attest to a man’s bondage to sin by his own nature. To mention but a few – Jeremiah 13.23: ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil;’ John 6.44: ‘No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him;’ Romans 8.7: ‘The carnal mind . . . is not subject to the law of GOD, neither indeed can be.’

Lazarus in his tomb had no ability to respond when our LORD commanded, ‘Come forth.’ The man who had been impotent for 38 years had no native ability to obey when Jesus commanded him to take up his bed and walk. Nor have modern sinners ability to believe when we preach. ‘This is his commandment, that we believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ’ [I John 3.23].

When a sinner refuses to come to Christ, he is guilty because he has made a free choice. It reflects his own state of mind, feeling and attitude toward GOD and His Son. He has acted voluntarily without coercion. It is his decision. But the poor sinner, dead in trespasses and sins, could not do otherwise, being evil. It is not necessary for him to have a neutral will, or the ability to do both good and evil, for his action to be held accountable before the Judge of all hearts.

IV. Man’s Will is not his Hope. Our LORD has taught that the tree must be made good. Man must be renewed in his entire character. He must have a new heart to bring forth good fruit; the will cannot make the tree good; it may only exercise liberty to be what the tree already is. The will cannot reload the treasure chest with a new kind of goods; it may only freely bring forth what is there. The will cannot cleanse the fountainhead; it may overflow only with the waters available in the soul.

Any gospel preaching that relies upon an act of the human will for the conversion of sinners has missed the mark. Any sinner who supposes that his will has the strength to do any good accompanying salvation is greatly deluded and far from the kingdom. We are cast back upon the regenerating work of the Spirit of the living GOD to make the tree good. Unless GOD does something in the sinner, unless GOD creates a clean heart and renews a right spirit within man, there is no hope of a saving change.

While we address the wills of men in gospel preaching, they are wills bound in the grave clothes of an evil heart. But as we speak, and the LORD owns His word, sinners are quickened to life by divine power. His people are made willing in the day of His power [Psa 110.3]. All who are adopted as sons of GOD were ‘born not of the will of man, but of GOD.’ [John 1. 13] We stand to preach with no power to make the tree good. The ‘trees’ before us cannot make themselves good, so no gimmicks or policies of men can persuade them to make the change. But our glorious GOD, by inward, secret, transforming power, can make the tree good, the treasures good, the fountain good. Thus all glory be to GOD and to the Lamb! Salvation is of the LORD!

“The above is excerpted from a longer article found here, which was reproduced by permission from THE BANNER OF TRUTH magazine, Issue 140, May 1975.”

The Inadequate Power of Human Will

The power of the human will is pretty awesome. We can read fresh stories of great accomplishments attributed to sheer will-power any day of the week. There is, however, at least one thing under heaven for which human will power is totally insufficient – becoming a child of God:

“Human will-power alone is not enough. Will-power is excellent and we should always be using it; but it is not enough. A desire to live a good life is not enough. Obviously we should all have that desire, but it will not guarantee success. So let me put it thus: Hold on to your principles of morality and ethics, use your willpower to the limit, pay great heed to every noble, uplifting desire that is in you; but realize that these things alone are not enough, that they will never bring you to the desired place. We have to realize that all our best is totally inadequate, that a spiritual battle must be fought in a spiritual manner.” – Martyn LLoyd-Jones

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” – The Apostle John (John 1:12-13)

“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” – Jesus (John 3:3)

Nothing more need be said.