2/20/2008

Whosoever Meaneth Me

I am reading a book by Max Lucado called 3:16: The Numbers Of Hope. Well, really I am listening to it on tape. I am finding this to be encouraging devotional listening.

I especially like his discussion of the “whosoever” and “whoever” passages of the Bible, including John 3:16, the focus of the book. He references Mt. 10:32, Mt. 10:39, Mk. 3:35, Mk. 16:16, Jn. 3:36, Jn. 4:14, Jn. 6:37, Jn. 11:26, and Rev. 22:17. To which I would add Isaiah 1:18-20, Isaiah 55:1, 6-7; Hosea 6:1, Mt. 11:28, and Rev. 3:20 (Note that Rev. 3:20 refers to Christians; they can come too.).

Lucado is expansive:

Whoever unfurls 3:16 as a banner for the ages. Whoever unrolls the welcome mat of heaven to humanity. Whoever invites the world to God.

Jesus could have so easily narrowed the scope … but he used no qualifier. The pronoun is wonderfully indefinite. After all, who isn’t a whoever.

Whoever makes it clear: God exports his grace worldwide. For those who attempt to restrict it, Jesus has a word: Whoever. (Lucado, Max, 3:16: The Numbers Of Hope, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007, p. 66.)

This is the invitation Christians must trumpet to the listening world: Whosoever will may come. Come to Christ in repentance and faith and have your sins washed away. His life and death give you righteousness and pay for your sins if you will come.

Here me one this: if you have not turned to Christ in faith, there is nothing outside of you that is keeping you away. You don’t come because you don’t want to, and you are fully responsible for your refusal to come to Christ.

What happens when a person comes to faith? I was persuaded. I remember that persuasion as a long process, but it could in some sense have been an instantaneous event. (Get the books from the embedded links and enjoy the mental gymnastics that will no doubt follow from careful reading.)

I do not know what happens when a person comes to faith, but I know a few things that don’t happen. People who cannot even see the kingdom do not chose to enter it (Jn. 3:3). Dead men do not chose to do something (Ep. 2:1). People do not find what they are not seeking (Romans 3:11).

Coming to faith required me to be fully convinced by the Holy Spirit of the gospel’s truth. It also required me to be given a new heart with new desires to want to come to Christ out of my sins. It required me to be convinced to stop trying to earn my own salvation and start trusting Christ who earned it for me.

We fail when we do not give an open, sincere invitation to whoever will come. We also fail when we do not give God the credit for anyone coming at all.

4 comments:

Steve Newell said...

If we have to be "fully convinced" by the Holy Spirit then God's ability to save us is dependent on our sinful human nature and will. If we are spiritually dead, then we are completely incapable of such action. It is God who first gives us life and salvation by His grace through the gift of faith. At no time in this process is any action on our part required.

Faith is a gift of God that comes by His grace as part of our salvation. Our ability to believe and repent are the result of God first saving us. We are required to do nothing. We have no decision to make in this process.

J. K. Jones said...

Steven,

Good to hear from you again!

Your words in quotes.

“…It is God who first gives us life and salvation by His grace through the gift of faith. At no time in this process is any action on our part required….”

“…We are required to do nothing. We have no decision to make in this process….”

I think I’d rather have another respond to you:

“When God regenerates a human soul, when he makes us spiritually alive, we make choices. We believe. We have faith. We cling to Christ. God does not believe for us. Faith is not monergistic.” - R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God, Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1986, p. 118.

We do have a decision to make. We would not make this decision unless God gave us new hearts and desires, but it is our decision. We have to make it, and we do because of the Holy Spirit’s action on our hearts.

That’s why an unbeliever is fully responsible for his / her failure to accept Christ. There is nothing outside him / her that keeps him /her from faith. The desires of the human heart are the issue. It’s a matter of free will / agency. Those desires are made new, and the heart responds in repentance and faith.

J. K.

Steve Newell said...

JK,

Sproul's comments have to do with free will after salvation, not prior. Only after salvation, can we make the type of choices that you have written about. Even then, our choices are limited by our sinful nature that still remains within us.

Prior to salvation, we have no free will to either accept or reject God since we are dead in our sins. Free will only comes after salvation.

J. K. Jones said...

Steven,

I think we agree, but I am not sure.

What you are describing sounds much like High-Calvinism to me. All you have to add to what you are saying to have High, or possible even Hyper-, Calvinism is that the unbeliever is not responsible to do something he can’t do. High Calvinism says we are not to require anything in teaching and preaching of a person that he is not completely able to do. Is that anything like what you intend to say?

People are free to accept or reject Christ in that there is nothing outside them, outside their will and emotions, that keeps them from accepting the free offer of salvation in Christ. They are not free in that their will and emotions are in bondage to sin. That is, they will not come to Christ because they don’t want to. They do not have any desire to do so. God must give them a new heart and new desires for them to come to Christ. That’s why the free offer of the gospel is a real and sincere offer.

To quote from Chapter 9 of The 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith (http://www.founders.org/library/bcf/bcf-9.html):

“IN the natural order God has endued man's will with liberty and the power to act upon choice, so that it is neither forced from without, nor by any necessity arising from within itself, compelled to do good or evil.” - Deut. 30:19; Mat. 17:12; Jas. 1:14.”

“As the consequence of his fall into a state of sin, man has lost all ability to will the performance of any of those works, spiritually good, that accompany salvation. As a natural (unspiritual) man he is dead in sin and altogether opposed to that which is good. Hence he is not able, by any strength of his own, to turn himself to God, or even to prepare himself to turn to God. - John 6:44; Rom. 5:6; 8:7; Eph. 2:1,5; Titus 3:3-5.”

God’s action on the hearts of the elect allows them to choose to place their faith in Christ. The 1689:

“When God converts a sinner, and brings him out of sin into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage to sin and, by His grace alone, He enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good. Nevertheless certain corruptions remain in the sinner, so that his will is never completely and perfectly held in captivity to that which is good, but it also entertains evil. - John 8:36; Rom. 7:15,18,19,21,23; Phil. 2:13; Col.1:13.”

Lastly, I turn to Andrew Fuller (http://siteone.com/religion/baptist/baptistpage/Reading/Gospel_Fuller/Gospel01.htm):

“It is no part of the controversy whether unconverted sinners be able to turn to God, and to embrace the gospel; but what kind of inability they lie under with respect to these exercises; whether it consists in the want of natural powers and advantages, or merely in the want of a heart to make a right use of them. If the former, obligation, it is granted, would be set aside; but if the latter, it remains in full force. They that are in the flesh cannot please God; but it does not follow that they are not obliged to do so; and this their obligation requires to be clearly insisted on, that they may be convinced of their sin, and so induced to embrace the gospel remedy.”


JK

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