Why do some people reject the gospel when it is clearly presented? The popular answer to this question within American evangelical churches is that humans have 'free-will' and that God will not violate our 'free-will' in order to bring us to faith in Jesus.
But the Bible account does not support this idea of 'free-will.' For where was 'free-will' when the apostle Paul was "still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord" (cf. Acts 9:1 HCSB)? For Paul was in this depraved state when Jesus said to him, "For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of things you have seen, and of things in which I will appear to you" (cf. Acts 26:16 HCSB). And we know that God's purposes in regards to individual salvation and everything else will stand and will never be thwarted by the evil intentions of sinful people for,
A king's heart is a water channel in the Lord's hand: He directs it wherever He chooses. (Proverbs 21:1 HCSB)
and the Apostle worships God, writing,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:3-12 NASB)
It is God who works all things according to the counsel of His will. In order to accomplish His purposes, the King of Heaven overrides even the intentions of the kings of the earth: those who, in this life, seem to have the most freedom of choice. In order to accomplish His purposes, our glorious God overrides even the intentions of blasphermers: those who actively speak and plan against Him.
And if anyone is to place their faith in Christ, then God must work a fundamental change in their heart:
for “there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11b HCSB); for “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1 HCSB), “and you were once alienated and hostile in mind because of your evil actions” (Colossians 1:21 HCSB)
On this last verse, I must point out that while most American evangelicals embrace the concept that our sin alienates us from God, there is a woeful lack of understanding concerning the fact that our sin is embedded within our own hearts and minds. Without a special work of reconciliation, no one would ever freely choose to follow Christ because we are all– in our sin– “hostile in mind” toward Him.
So, biblically, why do some people reject the gospel when it is clearly presented?
The fact that most American churches have misunderstood the real cause of people either coming to faith in Christ or rejecting Him would be excusable if Jesus had not given clear teaching on this subject.
But this is not the case.
For Jesus said:
"No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44 KJV)
And He said, “Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” (John 6:65 KJV)
As we all learned in grade school when asking if we can sharpen our pencils, "may" refers to permission, but "can" refers to ability. Our teachers all said, "I'm sure you can sharpen your pencil, the question is, may you sharpen your pencil?" Well, in the discussion concerning whether people can come to Christ without receiving a special work of grace, the question is not may sinful Man come to Christ or should sinful Man come to Christ, but, rather, can sinful Man come to Christ?
And what is the answer that Jesus gives to this question? Clearly, He declares that no person can come to Him unless the Father draws him. But how do we know that the Father is not drawing all men? I submit that in the context of the Gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus' statements would be meaningless if He were not referring to a special work done in the life of some people and not others.
And, though many Christians have been deceived and have claimed to believe that ‘free-will’ is the determinative factor in whether a person comes to faith in Christ or rejects Him, no Christian truly believes in ‘free-will.’
For all Christians have a God-given concern for their lost family, friends, and acquaintances and are prompted by the Holy Spirit (at least on occasion) to pray for their salvation.
And how does a consistent proponent of 'free-will' philosophy pray for God to bring salvation to others?
For if God is drawing all men to Himself equally, as most ‘free-will’ philosophy would claim, then what is the use of praying for their salvation- God is already doing ALL HE CAN to save them, and it is up to their 'free-will' to seal the deal. If not- if there are some men that God chooses not to draw to Himself- then 'free-will' proponents have a doctrine of reprobation that they must deal with as well. Except, instead of God choosing to save some and leave others in their sin, the 'free-will' doctrine (if God does not draw all men equally) would have God granting some men the chance for salvation- which chance they must cooperate with by a free act of their will- and leaving some men without a chance, or at least with a greatly reduced chance. If this is the way things are, then Paul was wrong in asserting that all men are equally dead in trespasses and sins, and by nature children under wrath (see Eph. 2:1-3), instead he should have said that some men are dead in trespasses and sins, some are only mostly dead, or comatose, and some are only in a light slumber in their peccadilloes.
And what if God is drawing some men to Himself with more fervor than others? Can those on which He is exerting less energy still be saved? If this is the case, then it seems as if those who persevere to come to God with less "drawing" would be given greater esteem for advancing toward God with less help.
Can those whom He is not drawing still freely choose Him? If this is the case, then Pelagius (the heretic that said that God’s grace is a help to salvation, but not necessary for salvation) is vindicated indeed.
All Christians know that God alone is given all glory for our salvation. We know this because of the Holy Spirit-given conviction of our sinfulness that we have felt in reaching the humiliation by which we initially cried out to God for salvation, we know this because of the way in which we pray for the salvation of others, and we know this, above all, due to the clear teaching of our Lord.
Labels: Reformation Theology