By Abuoma Boanerges
We do not need to further prove that men in their natural state are not willing to come to Christ for salvation. None of the fallen seed of Adam is willing to come to Christ. Man in a state of fallen nature is at enmity with God (Romans 8:7). But there is more to say about this: not only is man unwilling to come to God, but the worse part is that his whole desire is that his enmity with God will continue.
When God offers man terms of peace, he rejects it. This, as it were, breaks the heart of God (in the case of the Old Testament Israel, at least), as we see from what he declared, “all day long have I stretched out my hand to a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Romans 10:21).
Therefore we see that if man must be saved and brought to accept the terms of peace and be reconciled to God, then something more than a mere invitation must be involved. A force must be applied, not by man who is unwilling but by God who is willing.
My dear congregation, the willing God needs to apply his omnipotent power or else no soul will be saved!
This doctrine is summarised in the fourth point of the famous Calvinist memory-aid, T-U-L-I-P: Irresistible Grace.
Man in the state of his fallen, sinful nature, wallowing and enjoying his sins is like the fish in water – its natural environment, and unwilling to depart from it. Therefore, a hook must be put into its mouth and a force must be applied in order to bring it out!
This is the hook of God’s irresistible grace: the quickening, regenerating, faith-giving work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s soul.
Does that contradict your ideas about God? But then, do fallen sinners not all exercise their own mental force to “see” things the way they desire to see them? Consider this: God is GOD. He is God over all things – all things natural and all things supernatural. He is God over creation, providence and salvation. Why then do you think it strange and unbelievable, that God also should exercise Divine force – sovereign irresistible grace – to enable that people who are dead in sin and trespasses are quickened and brought back into fellowship with him (Ephesians 2:1)?
Adam was not asked to leave the garden of Eden after he fell. No, God FORCED him out! Look at the record in Genesis 3:23: “therefore the Lord God sent him forth”! A force was applied to eject both Adam out of Eden and Satan out of heaven. So how then does it contradict the nature of God if he exercises Divine force to bring men into fellowship with himself again? We just need to humble ourselves and learn the truth about God afresh.
The fact that man cannot come to terms with God unless a divine force is applied is clearly set forth in Jesus own words: “No man can come to me except the Father which sent me draw him: and I will raise up on the last day” (John 6:44).
All who ever came to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation came because the God the Father sovereignly draws them by his irresistible grace.
- God draws them out of their self-righteousness.
- God draws them out of worldly desires and pleasures.
- God draws them out of their natural state.
- God draws them out of their self-love.
- God draws them out of false gospels – like he drew me out of the Charismatic Religion.
- God draws them out of darkness into light.
- God draws them out of dead churches into living churches.
- God draws them, not by the hairs of their head like some think, but by the reins of their heart.
Many reject the truth of God’s sovereign drawing of people to Christ for salvation because they reason as follows: “Since all men fell in Adam, then all must be given a chance to make their choice: to choose to return to God (or, turn to Christ). Therefore all men must be capable of choosing to be saved.”
In this they deny that fallen man is totally depraved, totally unable, and totally unwilling to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. But my dear congregation, the gospel is not that “God has given the rotten sinner a chance to to be saved if he choose!” It is much more than that!
Salvation is not that God brings the lost to a place in the road where he can choose one of two directions ahead, and then asks him, “What do you think? Will you come with me or go your own way?” That is not God’s plan of salvation. If God brings us all to the decision-point in the road and asks us to make our choice – to follow Christ or reject him, our sinful nature will always make us choose to reject Christ and go our own way. Who then will be saved? There is no other way of salvation but to turn to the Saviour, but that is what we will never do – it is not in our fallen, sinful nature.
Remember Lot’s wife (Luke 17:32). The angels brought her out of Sodom with her husband and kids, but she was free to make her own decision to continue. They brought them half-way to a place of safety and asked them to continue; but they were free to go where they chose. Was she saved? Did she make it to the desired destination? No, she turned back. And as soon as she had made her decision and turned her face to Sodom, she was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). That is what would happen to us all if God’s plan of salvation is the way many people interpret it.
Moreover, man is spiritually blind. So how can he see the way that he should go? He is dead in his sins, the Bible says (Ephesians 2:1 & 2:5; Colossians 2:13; 1 Peter 2:4). Or even if we should borrow today’s idea that he is only ‘unconscious,’ where will he finish up? He has a wicked heart and even hates God, so how are you sure that you who are seeking God now wouldn’t turn back to the world like Mr. Demas did (see 2 Timothy 4:10)?
The only solution God gave to man is, “And you hath he quickened who were dead in sins and trespasses” (Ephesians 2:1)! Before Adam ever turned from a piece of clay into a living soul God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living creature (Genesis 2:7). And so even now, new “breath” must enter the spiritual nose of the sinner and quicken him before ever he can have eternal life.
Another objection to the doctrines of grace is argued like this: “Since God commands man to repent (see Acts 17:30), then it follows that man can do it by himself.”
But this is just an objection borne out of childish reasoning. When Paul said to the lame man in Lystra to arise and walk, does that mean the man could it by himself? The command to repent shows that it is what man OUGHT to do, not what he CAN do in his fallen, dead-in-sins state!
Some also reason against the doctrines of grace by asking the question, “What about those who never hear the gospel at all?”
This question implies that at least some people who never get to hear the gospel are saved, or rather, that they are not lost. Whereas God’s irresistible grace is only necessary is man is lost, and unwilling and unable to turn to Christ by himself.
This objection is easily cleared when we understand that men are not lost because they reject the gospel. (I used to think so myself, but not now.) No one becomes lost because they rejected the gospel. NO, they are already lost! And that is why men reject the gospel: because they are lost. Since the fall of Adam, and all mankind in him (Romans 5:12), the default condition of all men is LOST!
As a matter of fact, if men were not lost, then there wouldn’t have been any need for salvation, or any need for the preaching of the gospel. We preach the gospel because men are lost and stand in need of salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ. This good news of salvation is the gospel that we preach. Men are lost and depraved before they even hear he gospel, and even if they never hear the gospel.
Another objection, slightly different from the previous, is this: they ask us, “What about those elect people who never hear the gospel?”
They who make this objection have the wrong understanding about the doctrine of Divine Election. They think that God elects some to salvation who do not eventually come to be saved, or who do not hear the gospel in their lifetime. Or else they think that God elects (or desires, or wills) to save everyone. But the truth is, there are no such people as are elect but who do not hear the gospel – or elect but who do not come to believe the gospel.
It is always the carnal mind of man that keeps coming up with this objection. God who ordained certain people to eternal life has also ordained that they shall hear the gospel and believe. The scriptures answer this question in Acts 13:48: “AS MANY AS were ordained to eternal life believed.” We do not separate the end from the means. God who ordained the end ordained the means as well.
Moreover, concerning those die in infancy never reaching the age of understanding, here also the doctrine of grace defends itself on all sides against the cavils of men. The salvation of God’s elect does not depend on what the preacher can do, or on what the human mind can do. It depends entirely upon God. For example, John the Baptist was regenerated in the womb and filled with the Holy Ghost even before he heard the laws of Moses read in the synagogue, and long before he learned from the teachings of the Old Testament from his own father, or from any priest or rabbi. Regeneration is not what man accomplishes but what God accomplishes. And so, if there are any elect infants who die without hearing the gospel, then God would still regenerate them and bring them to faith in Jesus Christ.
Also, we say this: we don’t know whether infants who die are saved or not. Instead, we leave the whole matter in God’s hands. We know that God is merciful and gracious, and that he is the great Judge of all the earth who shall do right and not transgress in judgement, and that he is all knowing and wise. We can trust that God will always do that which is holy, righteous and good.
Another objection is that the doctrine of God’s sovereign drawing of people to Christ for salvation accuses those who believe this doctrine of having a “God” who is wicked and unjust in his loving some men and not the others.
But if we are to be honest, the question to ask is not why God loves some and not some. The right question is “Why should God even love any of fallen, depraved, dead-in-sins mankind?”
After I left the Charismatic religion, my prayer-life changed immediately. It changed from commanding God into action to pleading with God for mercy. It changed from trying to use God to asking God to use me for the conversion of others. I remember one day when I went indoors to pray, for about thirty minutes all I could pray, all I could ask is, “God, why did you love me? God, why did you love me?”
I think this is the only question to ask if we have truly understood the meaning of God’s GRACE.
But if anyone still insist that this truth of God’s sovereign, electing, particular grace makes God unjust, then we ask: was God unjust when he loved Jacob and hated Esau? Was he wicked when he chose Israel and rejected Edom? Was he unjust when he bypassed the seven sons of Jesse and chose David? The Bible is full of this doctrine, in the New and Old Testaments.
Another objection is that the doctrines of grace (summarised in the Five Points of Calvinism) kills the motivation for evangelism.
But on the contrary, my personal experience is that the doctrines of grace give ZEAL to evangelism. And the same would be true for you if only you understood what Biblical evangelism is.
The evangelism of the Bible was not the type I was practicing last year , when I was asking sinners to raise up their hands and come forward for prayer, so that they could get a “break through” or solution to their problems. No. Bible evangelism brings the sinner to know and understand the true God with whom he has to do, and brings him to understand the truth about himself.
First, the gospel requires us to bring the sinner to understand that he is helpless and is under the soon-coming wrath of God. This is done by setting the moral, holy, just and good law of God before the sinner so that he can truly see his miserable condition before God – the awfulness of the state that he is in before God as the Judge of all the earth.
Second, in this context, Bible evangelism proclaims the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Saviour – “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). As John Bunyan said, the law discovers (i.e. exposes) the sores and the gospel brings in the cure.
Another objection against these doctrines asks, “If all men are TOTALLY depraved, then why is it that all do not commit the same sins, or why is it that all do not commit sins in the same degree of seriousness?”
The Scriptures clearly show that God exerts his restraining influence on sinners, although in different degrees. He restrains one from some sins and does not restrain another from the same sins. He exercises his restraining influence mainly in order to keep the wicked from hurting the righteous and preventing the Lord Jesus Christ’s building of his church on earth. For example, God restrained King Abimelech from touching Sarah. In Genesis 20:6 we read “And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.”
Depraved men do not commit the same the same sins. And those who do commit the same sins do not do so in the same degree because God’s restraint on men differs. One is given over to the sin of idolatry, while another sinner greatly abhors the same because God has restrained him it – and so his sin is atheism. One is given over to drunkenness while another does not even touch alcohol.
Hell will be the worst place to be because, like Jonathan Edwards said, all restraint is removed in hell so that there the wicked continues in his wickedness. He said that now on earth God restrains the wicked from carrying out the full vent of their wickedness, but in hell, all such restraint are removed. In hell men will continue to curse God and to blaspheme his name. Hell will burn forever because men continue to sin in hell.
Is your objection, “If a non-elect comes to God for mercy he will cast him out?”
No sir, that is not what we said here. You are the one saying it that way in order to make God a liar. God will never turn away any sinner – because no sinner came by himself. God receives all that come to him because HE is the one that draws them to himself. As the Lord Jesus Christ himself said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44).
Is your objection, “How can we know who the elect are and who the non-elect are?”
We can only know who the regenerated elect are but we cannot know who the unregenerate elect are. There are three people on Earth today: the regenerate elect, the unregenerate elect and the reprobate. Of these three classes of men we can only know one with assurance, in our own personal case.
Are you really born again? If you are born again, then it is because you are elect, and Christ Jesus saves you from your sins, and he has sent the Holy Spirit to you to regenerate you, and give you faith, and he it is who is sanctifying you and make you grow in the Christian life.
A common objection is: the doctrines of grace rob man of an ability to turn to God.
But the truth is, fallen man totally lacks that ability – because his SIN robbed him of that ability. What can a man do to be born again or to help God regenerate him? Nothing.
There is nothing a depraved sinner can do to give himself new life in Christ. The new birth is not a product of fallen man, and nor does fallen man’s co-operate with God in regenerating his soul. The new birth is entirely by the will and power of God. James 1:18 says, “of his own will begat he us,” and John 1:13 says, “which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of man nor of the will of the flesh, but of God.”
Yet there is also a means God has provided. For example, consider these verses: Paul told the Athenians that they “should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him” (Acts 17:27); and Peter told Simon the sorcerer, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:22).
Yes there is a path that people SHOULD take: they should turn to God. They should respond to the Gospel invitation to turn to Christ in faith and repent of their sins. And as well as proper evangelistic Gospel invitations, there are also warnings and admonitions (or if you don’t know that word: strong recommendations) issued by Gospel preachers and other Christian witnesses, all to provoke men to apply themselves to the means – which is seeking God with a broken heart.
Rather than preachers giving unbiblical invitations to sinner to come and “receive” Christ into their heart (as though this could be done by your own effort), I told a friend that from of old, there is a place where God has been known to save men – in the place of the sinner seeking God personally for mercy. And there is also a place where men have been known to miss this salvation: in the place of going forward to shake the preacher’s hand or fill a form or repeat a prescribed prayer.
Seeking God doesn’t put God under any obligation to save men. It doesn’t even make the work of regeneration easier for God to accomplish in the life of the sinner –because God himself declares that he reveals himself even to men who do not seek him. When Paul told the Athenians to seek for God, he added an important word which should draw our attention. He used the word translated “haply” (or, “perhaps”) – which implies that that not all who seek will find. When Peter also told Simon the sorcerer to seek for God, he added, “if perhaps, the thoughts of thy heart may be forgiven thee” showing that God is not under obligation to save us because we seek him.
The prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). This Divine invitation is still open today. And the Lord Jesus Christ has commissioned us to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). The requirement to seek God is a clearly revealed truth in the Bible, though 21st century false gospel preachers have replaced it with altar calls, invitations to “come to the front” and “receive a blessing,” or shake the pastor’s hand, and so on. These do not fulfil the Great Commission – they pollute it.
People often ask Calvinists why all who hear the gospel preached must be advised to seek God, when it has been predestined that not all gospel hearers will find mercy. But the clearest answer to this question is that men SHOULD seek God. If God has sent the gospel into their ears (or, if they read a leaflet or book with the gospel explained in it, then God has sent it into their eyes) then why ignore it?!
For anyone in my congregation here who is really interested to know more on the Bible doctrine of seeking God, if they do not have access to the internet I can take the pains to send them helpful tracts on the subject written by the Puritan Jonathan Edwards. But if they do have access to the internet, I can give them links to websites where they can download them for free. All are in the public domain. And also there is another helpful work by Jonathan Edwards’ grandfather Solomon Stodard.
These tracts have helped me understand what Biblical evangelism is all about. I highly recommend the works of Jonathan Edwards to any sincere Christian who wants to know more about God. Jonathan Edwards said the damned in hell will forever wish they had applied themselves to seek God, even if it be that they never found him. One regret the sinner will forever have in hell is that of neglecting to seek God thoroughly. Their cry in hell will be “Had I known the truth about Hell, I would have sought mercy of him while there was time.”
Another objection to the doctrines of grace is, “What if one does not believe in particular redemption – will he still be saved?”
It is not doctrine that saves. It is not as though learning and believing them all was a necessary pre-condition for salvation. Non-Christians can learn Christian doctrines, that’s true. But true Christians are those people who learn and believe Bible truth. However, do not think that salvation comes only AFTER a person reaches some level of understanding Bible-believing. There are some Christians who are very learned in Bible doctrine, and others who know little – but they are Christians indeed! The Saviour is not Bible doctrine, or belief in Bible doctrine – the Saviour is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. And true Christians grow in their knowledge of the Bible and they increase in faith.
The gospels were written “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). But most of the New Testament was written to Christians. The first readers of Paul’s epistles, for example, were “the saints” at whatever city or region he was writing to (see Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1, etc.) Peter wrote his first epistle to the “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2). And it is the Holy Spirit’s intention that all Christians should read and study, believe and obey these Holy Scriptures. And our Lord’s prayer to God the Father is, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). So, there is much in the Scriptures that was not written for the world but for the church (for example, the doctrines of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper were not written for sinners but for saints).
Salvation is not earned by subscribing to a system of Bible doctrines. Then again, there are many compromising church-goers, even some who claim to be Calvinists, who are in danger of hell! And there are some Christians, even Calvinists, who are setting aside the doctrines of grace as though they were a stumbling-block to enquiring sinners – as though these great truths of the gospel could stop people believing the gospel!
But those who are really saved know that there was nothing good in them – nothing deserving that God should save them. And they also know that God has irresistibly drawn them to himself, though they may not be able to accurately explain their experience. And that is why the truth of the doctrines of grace must be upheld –because it is only this that conforms to the genuine experience of every true saint.
Another objection is, “What if my church doesn’t preach these truths? Will I still be saved? Should I still continue with that church?”
Then you have to do what the Lord has commanded us to do. If your church situation is so serious – if they are rejecting the true gospel, you have to separate yourself from such an assembly and follow the truth God has revealed to you. You must know that it has pleased God to reveal this truth to you and (for the present time, at least) hide it from your church. At times the Lord reveals the truth to disciples and babes while withholding it from the ‘wise’ and ‘prudent’ (Matthew 11:25). If there is no church around you that preaches this truth, then try sharing your faith with some friends and neighbours and as many as the Lord opens their eyes to see the truth with you can start gathering with you in your home or any place to fellowship together every Lord’s day.
The church is not a building where one fat hefty man imposes his opinions on all the people in the name of being a ‘pastor’ or ‘prophet’. The church is wherever two or three believers are gathered together in the name of the Lord – it is wherever the Lord Jesus Christ meets with his people (Matthew 18:20). Many of those who were converted under Peter’s sermon on Pentecost day went back and started sharing their faith with others. The Ethiopian eunuch brought the Gospel to Africa after his conversion and baptism by Philip. Once you start preaching this truth and gathering people, the Lord will either send a pastor to the little group or he will raise one of you there as a pastor. Do something for God and leave the rest for him. Do not expect a reward on earth but know that you are laying up treasures for yourself in heaven.
THE USEFULNESS OF THIS TRUTH
After explaining these truths of the doctrines of grace to one of my Pentecostal pastor friends, he said, “What then is the need of this? How does it concern our preaching?”
At first that surprised me, and I began to wonder why he couldn’t see the usefulness of this great Bible truth. The truth gives assurance to the heart that God, who has shown us so great mercies by regenerating us and making us “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6), will not lose us but he shall keep us to the end. As Paul said, he that began the good work in us shall finish it (Philippians 1:6).
Understanding these great doctrines provokes thanksgiving from our hearts to God. Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul said “We give thanks to God for you all … knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4). And as well as thanking God for this election, he blesses him for it in his epistle to the Ephesians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:3,4).
Are you searching for something that will provoke you to live a life of thanksgiving to God? Then think about his great love which he lavished on you by electing you to be the recipient of his mercy!
Many never have a steady life of thanksgiving, because they have not become anchored on the sure truth of the doctrine of election as is revealed in God’s Word. It is good to thank God for the victory he has given us over circumstances – but these things are not clear to us, especially if we are in the midst of afflictions. We are not always appear to be victorious because in some things we are defeated, at least for a while. But our election in Christ by God cannot be defeated! The Bible says “the foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal, that the Lord knoweth them that are his” (2 Timothy 2:19)! Amen and Amen.