Chapter 4 of The Savior of the World
By J. Preston Eby
Just What Do You Mean … MAN IS A FREE MORAL AGENT!
ONCE I read a story about the so-called “free will of man,” and it goes something like this. A certain infidel was reported to have raised his hand and dared God, if there be a God, to bring it down. Now the case was such, the story goes, that the infidel was bald, and there was a fly buzzing around which at that very moment landed on this bald pate and tickled it, and without hesitation down came the hand and swatted the fly. Thus God had answered the fool according to his folly, not by a mighty act of omnipotence, but by the seemingly insignificant weakness of a little fly. Now, this infidel’s public verbal defiance of God was prompted by a desire for fame and notoriety; this he inherited from his human nature. Alone on an island in the middle of the ocean he would never have done such a thing. Next, his baldness was not an act of his own will, for man does not will to be bald, with the top of his head exposed to the elements. Then we see how God used this man’s will against itself. He willed to hold up his hand, but the tickle of the fly was far more momentous in his life than the existence of God, and so while he willed to hold up his hand, he also willed to swat the fly, and God, setting man’s own will against itself, defeated itself. How true is the word, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). You have probably heard it said throughout all of your life, that MAN IS A FREE MORAL AGENT. Let me call attention to the fact that the phrase “free moral agent” is not a Scriptural one, any more than the term “rapture” is Scriptural. Free moral agency is simply a theological expression, man-manufactured for his own convenience, and like most human inventions, and extra-biblical terminology, is not the truth at all. But briefly let us examine these three words: free moral agent.
- An AGENT is an actor, one who is able to act or perform.
- A FREE agent is one who can act as he pleases without any restraint of any kind placed upon him.
- A free MORAL agent is one who is free to act as he pleases and without any restraint on all moral issues, i.e. questions involving the qualities of right and wrong.
I do not believe that the Bible anywhere teaches that man is a free moral agent. That teaching is a figment of the imagination of the harlot church system. In fact, the Bible teaches the exact opposite. It tells us, “It is NOT of him that WILLS or of him that runs, but of GOD that shows mercy” (Rom. 9:16). The biggest lie that ever was told in human language is that all men are born free moral agents. They are not born free. Be honest! Ask, Is that child free who is born in the slums; the child of a harlot and a whoremonger; a child without a name, who grows up with the brand of shame upon his brow from the beginning; who grows up amidst vice, and never knows virtue until it is steeped in vice? Is such a child a FREE MORAL AGENT, free to act intelligently, as he chooses, upon all moral questions? Is that child free who grows up amidst falsehood, and never knows what truth is until it is steeped in lies; that never knows what honesty is until it is steeped in crime? Is that child born free? Is that child free who is born in a communist land and in a godless home; who is told by its government and taught by its teachers that there is no God in heaven, and never knows even a verse of Scripture until it is steeped in unbelief and infidelity? Is that child born free? Is he a free moral agent? It is a sham, a delusion, and a snare to say it. It is not true. All are not born into this world as free moral agents. The truth is much stronger than that, for the fact is, that NONE are free moral agents!
The preachers claim that when God made man in the first place, He endowed him with freedom of will, the ability to accept God’s love or reject it, to keep God’s laws or break them, and that the decision here and now is a final choice. But our Lord says, “No man can come unto Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him” (Jn. 6:44). Let us think a moment of just how free man is, how far his freedom reaches. A little observation and study will show that man’s freedom has very narrow limits. One is able to wish or desire or purpose as he pleases, but when he comes to carry out his wish or desire or purpose, he finds that he faces a problem. One is not free in the physical realm. Just let him try to jump off the Earth and land on Mars, for example. One is not free in the social realm. Not every man can marry the woman he wishes. One is not free in the economic realm. Not every person who dreams of being a millionaire can become one, no matter how hard he tries. One is not free in the moral and spiritual realm. He may desire with all his being to rid the world of drunkenness and vice, of greed and hate and war, but who has yet accomplished that? Many are not able to free even themselves from a little weed called tobacco!
Life neither begins or ends by choice and free will. Consider the matter of your own physical birth. What did you have to do with it, my friend? May I remind you that you were not consulted in the matter; you were absolutely passive in it; you had nothing whatsoever to do with it. You did not have a choice as to where or when you would be born. You had no choice as to what kind of a home or family you would be born into. Did someone say to you, “Tell me, sir – or would you rather be madam? Would you like to have black hair, or blond hair, or perhaps no hair at all? Would you like to have brown eyes or blue? Would you like to have white skin, or black, or would green, or red, or yellow suit you better? And where would you like to live? In Miami, or Hong Kong, or Siberia, or maybe in the Congo?” Nothing of the sort! You were not even consulted. The sovereign Lord God of heaven and earth brought you into existence and ordained your path without so much as a how-do-you-feel-about-it. And you had no choice as to how you would be born, in what condition or state of being. The Psalmist declared, “Behold, I was brought forth in a state of iniquity; my mother was sinful who conceived me and I, too, am sinful” (Ps. 51:5, Amplified). Well did the apostle Paul write……. “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned … for by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Rom. 5:12,19). If any man had brought himself into being, then we can conceive of the possibility of his having something to say about his condition and destiny. But mankind had absolutely nothing whatever to do with his coming into this world. It was the choice of God. God chose to bring this creature into existence because He had a definite plan for him in His creative purposes in the whole universe. It was God who formed man of the dust of the ground. It was God who breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. It was God who placed man in the Garden of Eden. It was God who planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the midst of the Garden. It was God who gave the law that man should neither touch this tree nor eat of it. And it was God who made the serpent and put him in the Garden and sent him along one beautiful day to tempt the man. It was GOD!
Even if Adam was a free moral agent, God is responsible for what happened in the Garden, for whatever a free moral agent may do, He is responsible for it who made him a free moral agent. If God made man a free moral agent, then God created within man the propensities for either good or evil which determined his choices. If God made man a free moral agent, He knew beforehand what the result would be, and hence is just as responsible for the consequences of the acts of that free moral agent as He would be for the act of an irresponsible machine that He had made. Man’s free moral agency, even if it were true, would by no means clear God from the responsibility of his acts since God is his Creator and has made him in the first place just what he is, well knowing what the result would be. If God’s will is ever thwarted, then He is not almighty. If His will is thwarted, then His plans must be changed, and hence He is not all-wise and immutable. If His will is never thwarted, then all things are in accordance with His will and He is the architect of all things as they exist. If He is all-wise and all-good, then all things, existing according to His will, must be working toward some wise and wonderful end!
“What shall we conclude then? Is there injustice on God’s part? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then God’s gift is not a question of human will and human effort, but of God’s mercy. It depends not on ones own willingness … but on God’s having mercy on him. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, I have raised you up for this very purpose of displaying My power in dealing with you, so that My name may be proclaimed the whole world over. So then He has mercy on whomever He wills (chooses) and He hardens – makes stubborn and unyielding of heart – whomever He wills. You will say to me, Why then does He still find fault and blame us for sinning? For who can resist and withstand His will? But who are you, a mere man, to criticize and contradict and answer back to God? Will what is formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus? Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same mass one vessel for beauty and distinction and honorable use, and another for menial or ignoble and dishonorable use?” (Rom. 9:14-21, Amplified).
It is a wicked and cruel lie to say that the unregenerated man is a “free moral agent.” He is no such thing! He is a slave. “We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am a creature of the flesh (carnal), having been SOLD INTO SLAVERY UNDER THE CONTROL OF SIN” (Rom. 7:14, Amplified). The unregenerate man is a slave to sin. He is a slave to Satan. He is a slave of his own carnal mind and deceitfully wicked heart. He is a slave of his own vile passions. How can a man who is a slave and a captive of the devil be a “free moral agent”? Impossible! Adam sold us out. Adam gave us no choice in bringing his progeny under the workings of iniquity. When Adam went into sin, he did not consult with any one of us as to our desire concerning anything he did. None of us had any power or any choice in the condition in which we entered this world. WE WERE NOT SINNERS BY CHOICE, as we have erroneously been told. We are “born in sin, and shapened in iniquity,” with the carnal nature in us from the moment we leave the womb. Being “dead in trespasses and sins,” dead to God, dead to truth, dead to purity, dead to reality, the Adamic race was no longer capable of making a choice or decision for salvation. How truly the apostle wrote in Eph. 2:2-3, “And you … were dead in trespasses and sins: wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and WERE BY N-A-T-U-R-E THE CHILDREN OF WRATH, even as others.”
The message is clear – we were not sinners by choice. We were sinners by NATURE! We were BORN INTO this condition, simply because the first man, Adam, put us all into slavery to sin. We had nothing to say about it. We did not in any way will it, consent to it, or choose it, for we were born into it. And we were not born free moral agents. We were born slaves!
There is no fact more self-evident than the fact of the total depravity of man, or his TOTAL INABILITY to deliver himself from bondage to sin, and this is rooted in the fact that his human spirit is dead from birth. Total depravity means that man in his natural state is incapable of doing anything or desiring anything pleasing to God. Until our spirit is quickened by HIS SPIRIT we are slaves of the flesh and the devil and are enemies to God. When man insists that he still has a “spark” of divine good resident in his heart the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). When man contends that he is a free moral agent and can accept or reject the Lord by his own volition, the Word of God contradicts him, declaring, “There is none righteous, no not one! There is none that understands, there is N-O-N-E THAT SEEKS after God” (Rom. 3:10-11).
Man is totally depraved in the sense that everything about his nature is in rebellion against God. Man is loyal to the god of darkness and loves darkness rather than The Light. His will is, therefore, not at all “free”. It is a slave to the flesh. Total depravity means that man, of his own “free will,” will NEVER MAKE A DECISION FOR CHRIST. Our blessed Lord bluntly says, “You will not come to Me, that you might have life” (Jn. 5:40). Why does our Lord say this? Because the will of the unregenerate man is bound by the bands of sin and death to the god of the spiritually dead.
Total depravity means that the natural man is completely incapable of discerning Truth. In fact, unregenerate man thinks of the things of God as being ridiculous! “The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him. Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14). Man cannot see or know the things which relate to the Kingdom of God, without being regenerated first by the Holy Spirit. A dead spirit perceives only the things of man and Satan. Hence the words of Jesus to Nicodemus: “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). Unborn children do not see the light. Dead men do not see the light.
Unregenerate men cannot comprehend even that they should come to the Light. They are the unborn dead who know only darkness. They are totally depraved, wholly incapable of thinking, perceiving, or doing anything pleasing to God, UNTIL GOD SEES FIT TO GIVE THEM LIFE and understanding. Faith follows the giving of Life. The giving of Life is by the will of God. Notice the order: “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has made us alive together with Christ (by grace are you saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5). Man is not saved by some mythical act of his own free will. He is saved by grace, the divine enablement of God who first gives him Life and then imparts faith in his heart as a free gift. Paul continues: “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the Gift of God. It is not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
Observe! Saving faith is the GIFT OF GOD, NOT AN EXERCISE OF MAN’S “FREE WILL”! Man must believe, certainly, but it is not the old deceitful and desperately wicked heart, nor the old carnal mind which believes, but the faith graciously imparted by God as a gift is the agency of man’s believing. God has decreed that the works of the flesh shall have no part in the “so great salvation” which He Himself provides. It is His work through the Gift of Life. He regenerated us when we were dead in sins. Life is His Gift. Faith is His Gift. We are saved by a faith which “is not of ourselves.” We believed by the faith which GOD GIVES, not by our own FREE WILL! Until a man has been quickened by the Holy Spirit the word is: “Why do you not understand My speech? Even because you cannot hear My word! You are of your father the devil” (Jn. 8:43-44). But once God quickens us by the Gift of Life and the Gift of Faith the word is:” It is GOD who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
Wise men standing by the grave of Lazarus might pronounce it an evidence of insanity when the Lord addressed a dead man with the words, “Lazarus, Come forth.” Ah! but He who thus spoke was and is Himself the Resurrection, and the Life, and at HIS word even the dead live! Just as Lazarus would never have heard the voice of Jesus, nor would he have ever “come to Jesus,” without first being given Life by our Lord, so all men “dead in trespasses and sins,” must-first be given Life by God before they can “come to Christ.” Since dead men cannot will to receive Life, but can be raised from the dead only by the power of God, so the natural man cannot of his own mythical “free will,” will to have eternal life (Jn. 10:26-28). He must be given God’s gift of saving faith. If Jesus had had no more than an “invitation” for Lazarus to receive Life, He could have knocked at that tombstone door for a long time. But Christ spoke the Life-giving Word and that Word brought Lazarus to life and caused his heart to begin to beat and his lungs to work, and Lazarus heard the voice of his Master and received the faith to arise and walk out of the darkness of that tomb of death.
The natural man is a third rate power. He is not able to resist Satan because his will is inferior to the will of the devil. Paul says that those who oppose the ministers of God’s truth are in the snare of the devil and “are taken captive by him at his will” (II Tim. 2:26). How can the devil ensnare the lost “at his will”? For the simple reason that man, without the Holy Spirit, is an inferior power who cannot resist the devil but walks “according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). And consequently, Jesus says, “NO MAN CAN COME TO ME, except the Father which has sent Me draw him” (Jn. 6:44). A plain example of this is the business woman named Lydia who heard the apostles teaching the Word of God, and “whose heart the Lord opened..” (Acts 16:14). Who opened her heart to Jesus? Does the Bible teach that the sinner opened her heart to the Lord, or does the Scripture teach that it is THE LORD WHO OPENS HEARTS?
As someone has said, “Here is a man that is dead, lying in a casket in the ground. What will you do to raise him? Will you bring your flute and play a sweet melody to woo him out of the grave? Perhaps a great thunderstorm could come and the lightning could strike around him and the thunder could shake the earth and boom and crash with its mighty voice. But neither the sweet music of the flute nor the mighty thundering above would have any effect whatsoever on the dead in their graves. They hear not; neither do they know. Nor, can the thundering of the Law or the sweet music of the Gospel have any effect on the mind and soul that is dead in sin. It needs one thing. It needs to be made alive! By a POWER BEYOND ITSELF! ‘You has He made alive that were dead.’ ” Therefore, until God first of all comes with His grace and MAKES MEN ALIVE, there is nothing that man can do. Only GOD can raise the dead! True, God requires repentance and faith that we might be saved. But, praise His name, that which He requires, He also freely gives, that the whole thing may be of grace. Yet Christendom insists on a doctrine of man being a “free moral agent,” even though the Word of God exposes this as being utterly false in every degree. Most emphatically do I declare: We are NOT free moral agents! “The creature was made subject to vanity, NOT WILLINGLY, but by reason of HIM WHO HAS SUBJECTED the same in hope” (Rom. 8:20).
THE SINNER MUST DECIDE!
Strange as it may seem there are many today who insist that they believe in salvation by grace, yet they insist that man has the power to “make a decision for Christ.” They argue that “God loves everyone, equally and alike,” yet they are sure that He is going to send some people to hell for ever. They affirm that the Bible teaches that the Creator of all things is surely omnipotent, but they are also quite confident that finite man is fully capable of obstructing the will of God. In nearly every case the problem lies in the fact that these dear people do not know Bible truth. They have heard nothing from their pulpits but “plan of salvation” sermons minus the wonderful truths which make up the plan! If they were asked to explain the meaning of such doctrines as redemption, propitiation, reconciliation, remission, and atonement, they would either mutter trivia or be absolutely speechless. Why? Because they have never been taught, nor have they had the spiritual vigor necessary to discover for themselves, what Scripture actually teaches about the work of Christ. There is one thing they hold in common: the confidence that man can use his own “positive volition” or “free will” to accept Christ and get himself “saved.”
More than a century ago a great man of God, A. P. Adams, penned the following: “I wish to add a word further in regard to the salvation of all men, suggested by the following extract which I clip from one of my exchanges. The extract is as follows: The Rev. B. W. Ward, the popular Boston evangelist, and efficient superintendent of the Bleeker Street Mission, thus beautifully illustrates the gift of salvation: A friend of mine invited me into a jewelry store, and asked the clerk for samples of their pocket knives. Placing the price of the best one alongside of it, on the counter, he said, ‘Ward, I want to make you a little present. There’s a knife and there is the price of it. Make your choice. Take which one you will as a memento from me.’ Now, said the evangelist, whose knife was that while it lay there on the counter? It wasn’t mine. It would become mine by my deciding to accept it; but without such an act on my part it was not for me. So of salvation. Jesus has paid the price, but the sinner must decide whether or not he will reach forth and take it before it becomes his.
“In this extract it will be seen that the salvation of the individual is made to depend upon his own decision. THE SINNER MUST DECIDE, and as he decides so will his future destiny be to all eternity. Thus one’s salvation is practically made to depend on one’s self. God and Christ have done, or are doing their part, and now they simply wait for the sinner’s decision. By the way, how long did God wait for the ‘decision’ of Saul of Tarsus when ‘it pleased God to call him?’ Most people, however, would accept the above extract as a correct presentation of the case, and would assent thereto without any hesitation. But there is a fatal defect in the illustration. The case of the one choosing the knife is NOT PARALLEL TO THAT OF THE SINNER CHOOSING SALVATION, because the former has his EYES WIDE OPEN and knows full well the value of what is presented to him for his choice, while the LATTER IS BLINDED, and knows not what he does. ‘But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ … should shine unto them’ (11 II Cor. 4:3-4).
“The Bible plainly teaches that fallen man is blinded to the truth; the soulish man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned, and the soulish man has not the Spirit. Thus the sinner does not realize and appreciate the value of the salvation that is offered to him. In the first place, he does not know that he is lost, and hence feels no need of salvation. Secondly, this sinner does not know that the salvation offered him in Christ is worth anything. All he has to go by in determining its worth is the lives of those who profess to possess it, and they for the most part, are very deficient illustrations of its merit. Furthermore the sinner is surrounded by circumstances entirely adverse to his acceptance of Christ. And finally, worse than all, ‘the mind of the flesh,’ a corrupt nature, an ‘evil heart of unbelief,’ a ‘body of death,’ that leans toward the bad and opposes the good continually; and mark you, all these things are circumstances over which the individual has no control and for which he is not to blame.
“Again, mark you, that if he overcomes these unfavorable circumstances and in spite of them does accept Christ, it must be by some power OUTSIDE OF HIMSELF, for in himself he would never have any power for his own deliverance. This is the teaching of the seventh chapter of Romans. God must deliver him if he is delivered at all! He must bring him to a knowledge of his lost condition, so that he will feel his need of a Saviour, and He must give him repentance and faith. God must open his eyes so that he shall not only see the need, but also the priceless value of salvation, that like the apostle Paul, he will be willing to count all thing but dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.
“And he must be endowed with power to overcome the evil around and within him. All this help must come from God, and must be imparted to the sinner before he can make the slightest movement toward salvation. Are there any such elements as these in the case of the man choosing the knife? Is it not plain that that illustration and the case of the sinner are NOT PARALLEL at all? And yet just such illustrations are constantly presented as setting forth exactly the case of the sinner in ‘his’ choice or rejection of salvation in Christ! The fact is there are many factors to be taken into account in the regeneration and new creation of a human being. It is no such small matter as picking up a little present that a friend passes over to you. Hence these illustrations are very faulty and misleading” -end quote.
When addressing the unsaved, an evangelist often drew an analogy between God’s sending of the Gospel to the sinner, and a sick man in bed, with some healing medicine on a table by his side: all he needs to do is reach forth his hand and take it. But in order for this illustration to be in any wise true to the picture which Scripture gives us of the fallen and depraved sinner, the sick man in bed must be described as one who is blind (Eph. 4:18) so that he cannot see the medicine, his hand paralyzed (Rom. 5:6) so that he is unable to reach forth for it, and his heart not only devoid of all confidence in the medicine but filled with hatred against the physician himself (Jn. 15:18). Oh, what superficial views of man’s desperate plight are not entertained! Christ came here not to help those who were willing to help themselves, or even those willing to be helped, but to do for people what they were incapable of doing for themselves: “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house” (Isa. 42:7).
Someone will ask, “Will God save men eventually against their will?” The answer is no! He will have no need to do that, for all men will be one hundred percent willing when God reveals Himself to them. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped, and the doors of the prison house shall be opened. We have only to consider the case of Saul of Tarsus to understand the miraculous power of the Lord to change the leopard’s spots and melt the heart of stone. There are those who suppose that God could not convert a soul unless that depraved and lost soul gives to almighty God that permission. I only wish they would ask the apostle Paul, that great despiser of Christ and hater of His Church, that persecutor of Christians, who while on his way to Damascus was suddenly cast to the ground and converted. No man was ever more hateful toward Christ than was Saul of Tarsus, yet, when his turn came to see the light, he changed in an instant, crying out in fear and trembling and with bitter repentance, “Who art You, Lord?” and “What will You have me to do?” Did God ask Saul of Tarsus whether or not he wanted to be saved? Or did He say to Ananias, “He is a chosen vessel unto Me to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15)? It is only God who can change the human heart, and when God wills to change every single human heart in earth and in hell, each will be changed in an instant. Some suppose that God is desperately trying to convert every human being in the world … ah, but He cannot do it, because mighty man, sovereign man, will not allow it! Yahweh does all of His pleasure. “As I have purposed so shall it come to pass,” says the Lord. Where do these man-made preachers get the notion that man is a FREE MORAL AGENT? Indeed, he may be free in some minor things that concern his personal conduct, but concerning God’s eternal purpose for him HE IS NOT FREE to do his own will, for “it is NOT OF HIM THAT WILLS or HIM THAT RUNS, BUT GOD THAT SHOWS MERCY” (Rom. 9:16). God in His great mercy has condescended to extend mercy to all men, He sent His Son to die for all men, to redeem all men, to reconcile all back to God, and in due time He sent also His Holy Spirit to invincibly draw them unto Himself. In the day of the power of God, men are made willing and, having been quickened by that Spirit, renewed in mind, having been given a heart of flesh, they do come most willingly, having been made willing BY HIS POWER. What an exalted view is this of our OMNIPOTENT GOD AND SAVIOR!
There is an overwhelming desire in my heart that God’s precious people might know that GOD IS GOD, glorious in power, fearful in praises, DOING WONDERS. I long with a great longing that His people will repent of ever having believed the insipid and useless traditions that make the almighty God seem to be a victim of the will of His own creation. It is my opinion that most of the theology of the church system is stupid prattle that seeks to render the almighty God impotent by robbing Him of His omnipotence. It teaches that God gave His Son that all the world through Him might be saved and then renders His sacrifice hopeless by leaving ninety-nine percent of all His creatures in the hands of the devil for all eternity. Such a doctrine as that belittles the power and wisdom of God and does despite to the Spirit of grace, the atoning work of Christ, and the precious blood that He shed so that the world through Him might be saved. Such a doctrine as that is, undoubtedly, one of the “doctrines of devils” of which Paul warned. I say that because I cannot think of anyone outside of the devil himself who would be happy with the prospect that Calvary was such a colossal failure! But the preachers, including some who profess to be in the “Kingdom Message,” would lay down their lives for such an abominable heresy!
My dear friend and brother Elwin Roach has given a striking illustration of the ludicrousness of the popular teachings concerning man’s “free will” and God’s judgments. He writes, “I recall having written quite a number of years ago a scenario of a very wealthy family man who was the mayor of his village as well as the judge whose brother was the chief constable. He was honorable, the pillar in the city who was loved by all. He was generous to a fault, giving freely to anyone who was in need. He was one who would sacrifice and do without so others would be blessed. His generosity went to the extreme at times, so much so, that he deprived his own children in order for complete strangers to eat and have a roof over their heads. He was a man that everyone admired, even worshiped by some. A few did, however, fear him because they knew he was a very strict man of matchless authority. It was a side of him that no one should cross; for rumors had it that not only was this philanthropist a man of love and ultimate sacrifice for others, but that he had a vindictive side as well, so do not, and I repeat, do not cross him! If you should, it would be hell to pay… f-o-r-e-v-e-r! He would never forgive and certainly would never forget.
“The story goes that he was having guests over for a special dinner to celebrate the awards he had received for his humanitarian services to the poor of his community as well as his humanitarian work throughout the world. There was no end to his love and giving. Wherever there were people hurting, he tried to be there to help relieve their suffering.
“After dining on the finest of cuisines and during the celebration, a young man noticed a door at the end of a long, dimly lit hallway. The door was of old, tattered wood with huge iron hinges and a latch that seemed would take a little effort to life it. The décor of the door was out of place in such a beautiful mansion; but there it stood for all to see, almost as if this wonderful man wanted people’s eye to be drawn to it. He asked a few around him to where did that door lead. Some had no clue, while a few who had known about this man of honor for a long time, said, ‘Stay out of there. Don’t get close to that door. It leads to a place you don’t want to go. Be warned!’
“After his curiosity could no longer be contained, he cautiously slipped down the hallway toward the door without anyone noticing. The latch was not nearly as hard to lift as it looked, and the door swung open with ease. It led down a dimly lit, foreboding staircase, and to his horror, utter shock, he saw the most heinous torture chambers he could have imagined. There were torture racks, beds of needle sharp spikes, red-hot iron rods resting in beds of live coals of fire, and horrific implements that staggers the mind. To this young man’s amazement were three of the honorable man’s children who seemed to be from around 17 years old to perhaps 29 or 30. But the worst part was their remorseful groans. It was so horrible that he thought that he must be asleep and was having a terrible nightmare; but if it was, he was not able to wake up.
“These poor kids were being tortured day in and day out by hired thugs who delighted in what they were doing. They were so demented that it was all a big game to them. It would have been merciful if they could die; but these bottom of the barrel hirelings made sure they did not torture unto death, and gave the bare minimum of food and water to keep them alive, but never enough to satisfy their hunger and thirst.
“The man in his horror, screamed out, ‘What in your loving father’s name are you doing here? Does he know about this?’ The answers were all the same: ‘Yes, he knows we are here. He put us here. Not thinking he could be serious we all ignored his warnings after we became of age and could make our own decisions. He told us that after becoming of age, if we chose to live the way we wanted to rather than what was required of us, that he would throw us into this cellar to be punished for the rest of our lives. He loved us so much that we could not believe he would carry through with it, even to the point of not letting us soon die so the torment would end. If only we had taken heed to our loving father’s demands and chose his ways rather than those of out youthful temptations, we would be upstairs being enraptured by the festivities that everyone else is enjoying. But it is too late, so late, eternally too late. Oh, father, I wish we had a second chance; but like you warned, that will never be.’
“His heart was being torn out by what he was seeing and was told by the man’s children, as his attention was drawn to the awful screams of one of the servants. He asked what was her offense that caused her to be imprisoned here and tortured? ‘I was caught lying about my coworkers, and I didn’t repent and confess my sin before the end of the week, the deadline I was given. It came and was gone before I had a change of heart. Now it is too late, too late, forever too late.’ Another servant sorrowfully told him that he was sentenced to this fate for stealing and drinking several bottles of his masters best wine. He said, ‘I was told that this would be the punishment for stealing and drinking unto drunkenness. I should have known better, but temptation got the best of me, and now I will always be paying for the debt that can never be paid.’
“In this scenario, after witnessing such a surreal nightmare, we can see him slowly climbing the stairs back to the party where everyone is rejoicing and praising their wonderful host for his unprecedented love and generosity for all who were meritoriously invited to his banquet. But the stunned man cannot reconcile what he had just seen in that horrid torture chamber with what the host of honor was ravishing upon his guests in paradise made especially for them.
“After a few moments, that seem like an eternity had past, the man could not refrain from questioning his benevolent host. ‘How could it be, Sir, that you lavished such love upon everyone here; but you are having your own children and servants tortured in the basement below?’ Without hesitation, and showing no emotion, he said, ‘First, it is beyond me that you would question a man of my stature, the mayor, the judge, the one who has made this town and provided jobs for everyone who lives here. Nonetheless, I will put your concerns to rest. You see, I taught my children, as well as my servants, throughout their earlier childhood about rewards and punishments. Of course, to be fair, I gave them a sacred free-will that I would never trespass. They could choose to obey the rules I established for my household, or they could choose to disobey, and they knew the consequences. If they had obeyed, I would have rewarded them beyond measure. They would be here with the rest of us if they had been obedient; but if they freely chose to disobey and live frivolously. They knew their punishment would be without measure, and for the rest of their lives. They knew what was facing them, and still, they went astray. So, I had no choice, especially since I had given my irrevocable word of what would happen. I didn’t want to do this, but they made me! They forced my hand! Now, do you understand?’
“We know that no one in their right mind could understand or accept such an atrocity. Only on rare instances do evil people hold others in captivity and torture them, and those who do are labeled as demented, diabolical fiends. Yet, so many in the world of most religions say that our God, the Father of all, is that way.
“Some of you might feel that the above scenario is a bit harsh and unrealistic; but this is a very accurate example of what has been formed in the minds people over the centuries.” – end quote
THE SHEPHERD SEEKS THE SHEEP
In Luke 15:4 we read, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness and go after that which is lost UNTIL HE FIND IT?” In this passage we find that at the end of the day, the shepherd finds that he is just one little sheep short of completeness. There is only one outside – so why bother to go after that one, for perhaps that one is one of the rebellious ones anyway and will not choose to come back!
But the Shepherd we are dealing with in this story is not an ordinary shepherd. This is the Great and Good Shepherd of the sheep and nothing will stop Him or prevent Him from finding that last sheep. This Shepherd will not be content with even an extraordinary effort to find the sheep and then give up, feeling that He has done His duty. Neither does He “call” the sheep, and then wait to see if the sheep decides to come, and if not, just leave him there in his lost condition to die. This Shepherd searches UNTIL HE FINDS. And the FINDING of this Shepherd is not only the locating of the sheep, but it also includes the bringing back into the fold of that sheep.
If you know anything at all about sheep, you know that a sheep is helpless to find its way back to the rest of the flock. Not only that, but it becomes subject to every danger that is near to it, yet it never recognizes that danger. This is exactly the condition of mankind today. Mankind, being dead in trespasses and sins and in rebellion against God, does not know how to get to God. In fact much of humanity does not even think of getting to God. They have come to the point where they are quite satisfied with their condition just as the sheep is satisfied with its condition as it feeds, knowing not that it is lost. Mankind does not know the way back to God. Mankind must wait until IT IS FOUND. He does not even know he is lost. How will the lost ever come to God of himself, of his own “free will”? If he were able to come HE WOULD NOT BE LOST. Men do not even know they are lost, or where they are going. Ah, the Shepherd must find the sheep, and not the sheep find the Shepherd! And Jesus said the Shepherd would seek until. Jesus said He came to seek and to save those lost ones. Not the lost ones seek God but GOD SEEK THE LOST!
Most of the religious teaching today would have us believe that Christ has done all He can for the sinner, so He has now gone back to His heaven and is seated upon His golden throne waiting for all who will to be saved. According to this thinking, God through Jesus has done all He can possibly do and has now left the work of saving souls to the Church, hoping that some, at least, will be persuaded to accept the Saviour. The Church must go out and contact all the sinners they can and see if they cannot get them to “accept Christ.” But, of course, if the sinner does not want to be saved, then even God in all His power cannot intervene and nothing is left but eternal hell fire and damnation for that sinner. But just what does this line of reasoning reveal? The tragedy of it is that it shows us nothing but a POWERFUL MANKIND and a WEAK GOD!
Another thing this line of teaching suggests is that God, having finished the work of redemption, then turns it all over to a rather carnal Church that does not truly know God, does not even understand God’s great plan of the ages, and cares far more about making proselytes to a denomination than in bringing people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. The average Church today cares more about its programs, its missionary efforts, its buildings, its committee meetings and its budget than it does about making known to the world the glad news that God has reconciled the whole world to Himself and He shall not rest until every heart has surrendered and the very last sheep has been carried back to the fold. Nothing stops or hinders this Shepherd, for if He did fail in this effort, He could never rest knowing that one of His sheep was lost and eternally destroyed. He does not send anyone else or leave it to the sheep to find its way back. HE HIMSELF GOES UNTIL HE FINDS.
Let us have these things right and straight in our minds. Let us see these things correctly. Nothing is left in any way to chance. The Shepherd sends no one out to look for the sheep, but goes Himself. Granted, HE GOES THROUGH HIS BODY, but He is not sitting idly by to see what will happen. His mission goes on until it is one hundred percent successful and the LAST ONE is found. Nothing will stop the work of the Shepherd until that last sheep is made to correctly know the Shepherd, who He is, and His great love for him. The Shepherd DOES SEEK until He finds the last one, no matter how long it takes or to what depths He must search!
Someone will ask, “But doesn’t God command sinners to CHOOSE this day whom they will serve and to SEEK the Lord while He may be found?” ABSOLUTELY NOT! Oh, yes, the Scripture does say, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, CHOOSE YOU THIS DAY WHOM YOU WILL SERVE; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the god of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Jos. 24:15). But those words were never spoken to the unsaved man, without God and without hope in the world; these were the words of God’s prophet to Israel, GOD’S PEOPLE, as they possessed the promised land! God has nowhere, in all the pages of His blessed Book, commanded unconverted sinners to “choose” between Him and anything else. DEAD MEN DON’T MAKE CHOICES.
And yes, the Scripture does say, “SEEK ye THE LORD WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND, call 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” (Isa. 55:6-7). But again, these words were never addressed to the sinner who never had a relationship with the Lord. They were thundered by the prophet Isaiah to GOD’S BACKSLIDING PEOPLE in a time of spiritual declension and apostasy. It is God’s own people who must “seek” the Lord, not the man who is lost and cannot find his way. Thus it is that Jesus said, “For the Son of man is come to SEEK AND TO SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST” (Lk. 19:10). It is the Lord’s people who are called upon to “choose” between Him and the ways of the flesh, the world, and the devil, not the man who is dead, for “the dead know not anything” (Eccl. 9:5), and are totally incapable of choosing anything but sin.
The popular Churches ridiculously assert that spiritually dead men must somehow “choose” the Lord, but God’s testimony about it is just the opposite. The bluntest affirmation that man does not do the choosing of God is that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself testified, “You have not chosen Me, but I HAVE CHOSEN YOU” (Jn. 15:16). In fact, according to Paul, that choice was made by God before He ever made so much as one single thing! “According as HE HAS CHOSEN US in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). It is tantamount to blasphemy for anyone to argue that man is capable, of his own “free will,” to make a decision for Christ. Note the testimony of Luke: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the Word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:48). The Lord Jesus insists that Life and Faith are the work of God, not the work of man. He said……. “the Son gives life to whom He will” and “this is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom God has sent” (Jn. 6:29; 5:21). In all fairness, the evangelist who says to the crowd, “Whosoever comes to Jesus will in no wise be cast out,” should add the preceding words of Christ: “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me” (Jn. 6:37). Who is it that will not be cast out? All who come to Him! Who, then, will come to the Saviour? He says, “All whom the Father gives Me.” The choice as to who will come to Christ at any given moment is God’s, not man’s. God does not call all men at the same time. Some are ordained to eternal life, right now, while others will be called later. “For as in Adam ALL DIE, even so in Christ shall ALL BE MADE ALIVE. BUT EVERY MAN IN HIS OWN ORDER…” (I Cor. 15:22-23).
If it were left up to man he would NEVER BELIEVE, for man is totally depraved, totally incapable of that which is good. Left on his own to make a decision for Christ, without first being given life and faith by an act of God, man would never of his own “free will” come to Jesus. “You will not come to Me, that you might have life” (Jn. 5:40).
‘Tis not I that did choose You. For, Lord, that could not be:
This heart would still refuse You, Had You not chosen me!
In the true and eloquent words of another, “Let me interject a foundational truth here. It is a truth seldom, if ever, heard among the people of God. The preachers and evangelists studiously avoid it, but it is fundamental to all our understanding of the work of God in this present age. It is a truth given by no less an authority than God’s only begotten Son. The following three Scriptures vividly point out God’s method of choosing those who are elected to be saved in this age and in the ages to come: First, ‘No man can come to Me except the Father which has sent Me draw him’ (Jn. 6:44). The second is this: ‘All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and him that comes unto Me I will in no wise cast out’ (Jn. 6:37). And the third is: ‘Father, the hour is come; glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You: as You have given Him power (authority) over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many (all flesh) as You have given Him’ (Jn. 17:1-2). Christians blindly strive under the mistaken idea that, if they will only meet certain conditions, God will reply by bringing every man into the fold of Christ in this present age. My friend, this is a very great error. It is about as far from the truth as anything could possibly be. God does not intend to bring all men into the fold now. If that were His intention, He could do it with but one word of His omnipotence. When God’s eternal voice speaks, saying, ‘Let there be fight,’ then light immediately floods the universe as it did in the beginning. There is no need for a candle nor the light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. That light could not be matched by ten thousand suns, for the light that shone out of darkness in the beginning is the same light that lightens every man that comes into the world. It is the light that shines into the benighted souls, bringing the life of the ages to men who are sleeping in death. ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ called the Lord, and a dead man sprang from his tomb to reply. ‘Saul! Saul!’ Jesus called to a disconsolate and determined persecutor, and he quickly replied, ‘Lord, what wilt You have me to do?’ And so will it be when He calls you, your child, your husband, or your wife with His still small voice, speaking to the inner ear. Whether it be John, George, Henry, Joan, Phyllis, or Louise, all will fall at His feet in penitence and brokenness the moment He speaks, crying, ‘Here am I, Lord! What wilt You have me to do?’
“It is useless to try to gather all the world into the Kingdom in this dispensation, for that is not God’s purpose in this age. No man comes except the Father draw him. Those who insist on bringing all the world in now are trying to do in this age the work that God Himself has said should be done in the dispensation of the fullness of times. In the dispensation of the fullness of times, His immutable Word has declared, He will gather all things into Christ, both which are in heaven and in earth, even in Him (Eph. 1:10). ‘ALL that the Father has given Me SHALL COME to Me,’ said Jesus, and you may be sure that this is the truth. At the end of this age there will not be one soul missing of all that number of the ‘firstfruits’ who were predestined to come to Him, and, when the age to come has run its course, there will not be one missing of all who are appointed to come to Him in that blessed age. So also may we declare for that wonderful AGE OF THE AGES, the dispensation of the fullness of the times, for God’s Word has faithfully declared that in that glorious age of all ages every missing sheep will be accounted for as God gathers together in one the all things into Christ ” -end quote.
Some have tried to say that in Eph. 1:10 the things gathered into one in the Christ are limited to those things already in Christ, that is, that it is all things that are “in Christ” that are gathered “into one.” That is a mistake that those who oppose the ultimate salvation of all men are only too eager to make, and the error comes from a faulty understanding of what is actually said due to the wording in the King James version. ALL OTHER VERSIONS OF THE SCRIPTURES CLEARLY SHOW THAT SUCH IS NOT THE CASE. It is not “all things in Christ” that are gathered “into one.” It is ALL THINGS IN HEAVEN AND IN EARTH GATHERED INTO ONENESS IN AND UNDER THE CHRIST. The Amplified Bible says, “He planned for the maturity of the times and the climax of the ages to UNIFY ALL THINGS and head them up and CONSUMMATE THEM IN CHRIST, both things in heaven and things on earth.” The Moffatt translation reads, “It was the purpose of His design to so order it in the fullness of the ages that ALL THINGS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH alike should be gathered up in Christ.” J. B. Phillips renders, “He purposed long ago in His sovereign will that all human history should be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in heaven or earth should find its perfection and fulfillment in Him.” We could go on from version to version and they all with one voice show that in the dispensation of the fullness of times God shall gather together into one, into the Christ, ALL THINGS AND ALL BEINGS IN HEAVEN AND IN EARTH. From age to age, those that the Father has given the Christ in each age, will come to Him, praise His name. When the last and crowning age is ended ALL shall have been gathered together into the Christ. What anticipation this stirs in our hearts!
THE WILL OF MAN
At this point I wish to share some searching and enlightening words penned by a servant of the Lord more than eighty-five years ago. “Concerning the nature and the power of man’s will, the greatest confusion prevails today, and the most erroneous views are held, even by many of God’s children. The popular idea now prevailing, which is taught from the great majority of pulpits, is that man has a ‘free will,’ and that salvation comes to the sinner through his will co-operating with the Holy Spirit. To deny the ‘free will’ of man, i.e. his power to choose that which is good, his native ability to accept Christ, is to bring one into disfavor at once, even before most of those who profess to be orthodox. And yet Scripture emphatically says, ‘It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy’ (Rom. 9:16). Which shall we believe: God, or the preachers?
“But does not Scripture say, ‘Whosoever will may come’? It does, but does this mean that everybody has the will to come? What of those who won’t come? ‘Whosoever will may come’ no more implies that fallen man has the power in himself to come, than ‘Stretch forth Your hand’ implies that the man with the withered arm had the inherent ability in himself to comply. It should be obvious that the ability came from the One who spoke the word: ‘Stretch forth your hand.’ In and Of himself the natural man has power to reject Christ; but in and of himself he has not the power to receive Christ. And why? Because he has a mind that is ‘enmity against’ Him (Rom. 8:7); because he has a heart that hates Him (Jn. 15:18). Man chooses that which is according to his nature, and therefore before he will ever choose or prefer that which is divine and spiritual, a new nature must be imparted to him; in other words, he must be born again.
“Let me appeal to the actual experience of the reader of these lines. Was there not a time when you were unwilling to come to Christ? There was. Since then you have come to Him. Are you now prepared to give Him all the glory for that (Ps. 115:1)? Do you not acknowledge that you came to Christ because the Holy Spirit brought you from unwillingness to willingness? You do. Then is it not also a patent fact that the Holy Spirit has not done in many others what He has done in you! Granting that many others have heard the Gospel, been shown their need of Christ, yet, they are still unwilling to come to Him. Thus He has wrought more in you, than in them. Do you answer, Yet I remember well the time when the word of salvation was presented to me, and my conscience testifies that my will acted and that I yielded to the claims of Christ upon me. Quite true. But before you ‘Yielded,’ the Holy Spirit overcame the native enmity of your mind against God, and this enmity He does not overcome in all at this time. Should it be said, That is because they are unwilling for their enmity to be overcome? Ah, none are thus ‘willing’ till He has put forth His all-mighty power and wrought a miracle of grace in the heart.
“But let us now inquire, What is the human Will? Is it a self-determining agent, or is it, in turn, determined by something else? Is it sovereign or servant? Is the will superior to every other faculty of our being so that it governs them, or is it moved by their impulses and subject to their pleasure? Does the will rule the mind, or does the mind control the will? Is the will free to do as it pleases, or is it under the necessity of rendering obedience to something outside of itself?
“What is the Will? We answer, the will is the faculty of choice, the immediate cause of all action. Choice necessarily implies the refusal of one thing and the acceptance of another. The positive and the negative must both be present to the mind before there can be any choice. In every act of the will there is a preference – the desiring of one thing rather than another. Where there is no preference, but complete indifference, there is no volition. To will is to choose, and to choose is to decide between two or more alternatives. But there is something which influences the choice; something which determines the decision. Hence the will cannot be sovereign because it is the servant of that something. The will cannot be both sovereign and servant. It cannot be both cause and effect. The will is not causative, because, as we have said, something causes it TO CHOOSE, therefore that something must be the causative agent. Choice itself is affected by certain considerations, is determined by various influences brought to bear upon the individual himself, hence, volition is the effect of these considerations and influences, and if the effect, it must be their servant; and if the will is their servant then it is not sovereign, and if the will is not sovereign, we certainly cannot predicate absolute ‘freedom’ of it.
“That which determines the will is that which causes it to choose. If the will is determined, then there must be a determiner. What is it that determines the will? We reply, THE STRONGEST MOTIVE POWER WHICH IS BROUGHT TO BEAR UPON IT. What this motive power is, varies in different cases. With one it may be the logic of reason, with another the voice of conscience. with another the impulse of the emotions, with another the whisper of the Tempter, with another the power of the Holy Spirit; whichever of these presents the strongest motive power and exerts the greatest influence upon the individual himself, is that which impels the will to act. In other words, the action of the will is determined by that condition of mind which has the greatest degree of tendency to excite volition.
“Human philosophy insists that it is the will which governs the man, but the Word of God teaches that it is the heart which is the dominating center of our being. Many Scriptures might be quoted in substantiation of this. ‘Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life’ (Prov. 4:23). ‘For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,’ etc. (Mk. 7:21). Here our Lord traces these sinful acts back to their source, and declares that their fountain is the ‘heart,’ and not the will! Again, ‘This people draws nigh unto Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me’ (Mat. 15:8). If further proof were required we might call attention to the fact that the word ‘heart’ is found in the Bible more than three times oftener than is the word ‘will,’ and nearly half of the references to the latter refer to God’s will!
“When we affirm that it is the heart and not the will which governs man, we are not merely striving about words, but insisting on a distinction that is of vital importance. Here is an individual before whom two alternatives are placed; which will he choose? We answer, The one which is most agreeable to himself, i.e., his ‘heart’ – the innermost core of his being. Before the sinner is set a life of virtue and piety, and a life of sinful indulgence; which will he follow? The latter. Why? Because this is his choice. But does that prove the will is sovereign? Not at all. Go back from effect to cause. WHY does the sinner choose a life of sinful indulgence? Because he prefers it – and he does prefer it, all arguments to the contrary notwithstanding. And why does he prefer it? Because his heart is sinful. The same alternatives, in like manner, confront the Christian, and he chooses and strives after a life of piety and virtue. Why? Because God has given him a new heart or nature. Hence we say that it is not the will which makes the sinner impervious to all appeals to ‘forsake his way,’ but his corrupt and evil heart. He will not come to Christ, because he does not want to, and he does not want to because his heart hates Him and loves sin (Jer. 17:9).
“In what does the sinner’s ‘free will’ consist? The sinner is ‘free’ in the sense of being unforced from without. God never forces the sinner to sin. But the sinner is not free to choose or do either good or evil, because an evil heart within is ever inclining him toward sin. Let us illustrate what we have in mind. I hold in my hand a book. I release it; what happens? It falls. In what direction? Downwards; always downwards. Why? Because, answering the law of gravity, its own weight sinks it. Suppose I desire that book to occupy a position three feet higher; then what? I must lift it; a power outside of that book must raise it. Such is the relationship which fallen man sustains toward God. Whilst Divine power upholds him, he is preserved from plunging still deeper into sin; let that power be withdrawn, and he falls – his own weight (of sin) drags him down. God does not push him down, anymore than I did that book. Let all Divine restraint be removed, and every man is capable of becoming, would become, a Cain, a Pharaoh, a Judas. How then is the sinner to move heavenwards? By an act of his own will? Not so! A power outside of himself must grasp hold of him and lift him every inch of the way. The sinner is free, but free in one direction only – free to fall, free to sin. As the Word expresses it: ‘For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness’ (Rom. 6:20). The sinner is free to do as he pleases, always as he pleases (except as he is restrained by God), but his pleasure is to sin.
“We repeat our question: Does it lie within the power of the sinner’s will to yield himself up to God? Let us attempt an answer by asking several others: Can water (of itself) rise above its own level? Can a clean thing come out of an unclean? Can the will reverse the whole tendency and strain of human nature? Can that which is under the dominion of sin originate that which is pure and holy? Manifestly not. If ever the will of a fallen and depraved creature is to move God wards, a Divine power must be brought to bear upon it which will overcome the influences of sin that pull in a counter direction. This is only another way of saying, ‘No man can come to Me, except the Father which has sent Me, draw him’ (Jn. 6:44). And how effective is that drawing? ‘ALL that the Father gives Me SHALL COME TO ME’ (Jn. 6:37). In other words, people must be MADE WILLING! ” -end quote.
Ah, God did not MAKE Jonah go to Nineveh – but He did MAKE HIM WILLING to go! The notion that God cannot, or will not, influence the wills of all men to bring them unto Himself is a wicked insult to both His redeeming love and His omnipotence!
I WILL DRAW ALL MEN UNTO ME
It is a strange theory that obsesses men that the human will is greater in power than God, and that, no matter what the will of God is for His creatures, man is able finally to wreck it. It is a curious hypothesis that states that although the Holy Spirit seeks to woo all men to Christ, since God loves all mankind and wills to save all men, still, the omniscient God has boxed Himself into a corner, since the will of God is bound by the will of man, and the Omnipotent Spirit can be resisted by finite man if man so chooses. Such faulty reasoning actually brings into prominence ANOTHER OMNIPOTENCE which, because it baffles the omnipotence and love of God, is by far the greater. Man will not so God cannot! What makes this notion so tragic is that it DEIFIES MAN, elevating him to god-hood, and aligns all who embrace it with the very sin that caused the fall in the beginning! The first sin committed by man had its roots in the desire to be a FREE MORAL AGENT! Free moral agency is not the doctrine of the Bible. It is the doctrine of Romanism; and it is the doctrine of humanism. It was Erasmus, the humanist, who wrote on the freedom of man’s will. It has always been the humanists that have sought to deify man and have boasted of the freedom of their sovereign will.
The serpent entered upon the stage with the bold question as to the authority of God: “Yea, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the Garden?” (Gen. 3:1). This was Satan’s crafty inquiry; and had the Word of God been dwelling richly in Eve’s heart, her answer might have been direct, simple, and conclusive. To raise a question, when God has spoken, is blasphemy. Thus, the question, “Has God said?” was followed by the lie: “You shall not surely die.” But the enticement to induce Eve to disobey the command of God was couched in this argument: “God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be AS GODS, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). YOU SHALL BE AS GODS! Can we not see by this that man was grasping after GODHOOD, which godhood gave him the right to CHOOSE FOR HIMSELF whether to obey God or not obey Him! This godhood, furthermore, was to bring to man the knowledge of good and evil, the innate ability to discern and choose between the good and the evil. Thus, the doctrine of “free moral agency” was spawned by the devil in Eden’s fair Garden, and the fruit thereof was the fall! And the lie is still preached from the pulpit of the apostate churches all over the world – the lie that man has the power and the right to CHOOSE FOR HIMSELF between God and the devil, between sin and righteousness, between redemption and man’s own way, and that this “choice” of man is final and irrevocable.
Man’s effort at free moral agency was his attempt at godhood. Man became a “god” alright, in the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – but he became a god in the wrong realm – the demigod of a lower realm – for at the same time that God acknowledged man’s “deity” (Gen. 3:22) He also CAST HIM FROM THE GARDEN – cast him from the heavenly realm – and set him in the earth “to till the ground from which he was taken.” And from that day to this man has discovered to his sorrow that he definitely is not a free moral agent, for man’s boasted freedom is in truth “the bondage of corruption”; he “serves divers lusts and pleasures”; he is “sold under (slavery to) sin”; his will is biased toward evil, and therefore he is free in one direction only, namely, in the direction of evil. He is unable to fulfill the role of godhood he assumed. He cannot weigh good over evil and come out on top, because his desires are filled with the mystery of iniquity. “There is none righteous, NO NOT ONE!”
In supporting the omnipotence of man’s godhood, the radio preacher declared, “Man makes his choice, and once it is made God cannot do one thing about it.” What brash stupidity! It is true that man has a will, but so also has God. It is true that man is endowed with power, but God is all-powerful. It is true that, speaking generally, the material world is regulated by law, but behind that law is the law-Giver and law Administrator. Man is but the creature. God is the Creator, and untold ages before man first saw light “the mighty God” (Isa. 9:6) existed, and ere the world was founded, made His plans; and being infinite in power and man only finite, His purpose and plan cannot be withstood or thwarted by the creatures of His own hands.
To say that Christ is unable to win to Himself those who are unwilling is to deny that all power in heaven and earth is His. To say that Christ cannot put forth His power without destroying man’s responsibility is a begging of the question here raised, for HE HAS put forth His power and MADE WILLING those who HAVE come to Him, and if He did this without destroying their responsibility, just why “CANNOT” He do so with others? If He is able to win the heart of just one sinner to Himself, why not that of another? To say, as is usually said, the others will not let Him is to impeach His sufficiency and the depths of His love. It is a question of HIS will, not man’s! If the Lord Jesus has decreed, desired, purposed the salvation of all mankind, then the entire human race will be saved, or, otherwise, He lacks the power to make good His intentions; and in such a case it could never be said, “He shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied.” The issue raised involves THE DEITY of the Saviour, for a DEFEATED Saviour cannot be God.
His promise is sure, His purpose unfailing: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw A-L-L M-E-N unto Me” (Jn. 12:32). This speaks not of Jesus being lifted up in praise, or lifted up by preaching, or lifted up in our spiritual lives, for the record states: “This He said, signifying what death He should die” (Jn. 12:33). It was the cross of Calvary upon which He was to be “lifted up,” and our Lord says emphatically, “And I, if I be lifted up (dying upon the cross) from the earth, WILL DRAW ALL MEN UNTO ME.” And yet people have the brazen audacity to accuse us of being “heretics” because we believe and teach this plain statement of our Lord! May God have mercy upon them!
The truth of the supernatural and all-powerful DRAWING of God is one of the most neglected of all the great truths of God’s Word, and yet it is one of the most important. Undoubtedly the reason for its neglect is that it is repugnant to the world of unregenerate man, and professing Christians whose theology denies the sovereign and infinite grace of God. One of the chief characteristics of apostate Christendom is that it vigorously opposes any teaching of Scripture that refuses to give man the glory. Therefore any doctrine of the Bible that declares man’s helplessness apart from the activating power of God is bound to arouse the ire of the adversary and his followers.
The words translated “draw” and “drew” in the Greek New Testament are HELKUO and HELKO. Each of these words has the basic meaning of “compel…… draw…… pull,” and “tug.” In most instances the force which does the drawing or compelling is sufficient to cause the object of the drawing to respond fully. For example, in Jn. 18:10, it is said that “Peter having a sword DREW it…” The impetuous disciple most assuredly did not draw the weapon out of its sheath in a gingerly or wooing fashion. Nor did the sword seek to draw itself out by its own will and good pleasure! Peter didn’t merely “invite” the sword to come out, in spite of any resistance the blade may have had as it dragged the leather scabbard, the muscular arm of Peter yanked it forcefully out in obedience to his will.
One of the forms of HELKO is used in the Song of Solomon (in the Septuagint, Greek Old Testament) to speak of the love of the Bridegroom which causes the Bride to cry out to her maidens: “DRAW me after thee!” (S. of S. 1:4). The irresistible power of the heavenly Bridegroom’s love for His betrothed creates a corresponding love in her heart. It is the heavenly One who initiates the love, creating faith and devotion in His beloved as He reveals Himself to be desirable and trustworthy. Already she has been drawn unto Him in deeper hunger; already she has longed for the kisses of His mouth, those tender moments of communion and prayer, wherein is revealed His love. Already she has smelled the sweet odors of His oils; already she has beheld Him upon the cross for her, she has beheld HIS LIFE poured out for her. This but increases her desire to be drawn with greater power, with stronger cords of love, with greater call to separation, and even with greater suffering, that she may arise and run AFTER HIM. She is more and more realizing the truth of her helplessness to run unless He draws.
We little realize that mighty unseen power that is drawing, drawing, drawing us like an irresistible, supernatural magnet. We speak of our hunger for the Lord, we tell of the longing we feel for Him, we pour out our hunger and longing at His feet as though He did not know they were in our hearts. We comprehend but little that all this is the drawing of God; that if He did not graciously put the hunger in our hearts, we should be cold and barren; we should be satisfied with but little of that into which He is constraining us to enter. Let this sink down into our hearts and ever abide there, that every heavenward impulse in our souls, every upward desire, IS THE DRAWING OF GOD. No sinner could be saved if God did not convict, quicken, deal with, and draw him. So many times we lose sight of this. We could not desire His will nor His best, we could not love and hunger for our dear Lord if God did not graciously put within us a hunger for Him and His will. Dear child of God, if you feel the drawing of God in your soul, cherish it as you would cherish a great treasure. If you feel a deeper hunger, if you are entering into a closer walk with Him, do not look upon it carelessly, nor treat it lightly.
The words HELKO and HELKUO may be found eight times in the Greek New Testament. I have already mentioned the passage in which Peter forcibly drew his sword from its sheath to cut off the ear of Malchus. Other passages contain the idea of force connected with this word, such as in Jn. 21:6, where we find that the load of fish was so huge that the disciples could not haul it aboard the boat. Their seasoned muscles were not able to pull such a great weight out of the water, for John says, “Now they were not able to DRAW it for the multitude of fish.” Yet, a moment later, Simon Peter hauls the net through the water and up to the shore. This again is referred to as “drawing” the net load of fish with a force that is not resisted.
When the apostle James wishes to describe the manner in which rich men forcibly drag those who are indebted to them to prison, he uses the word HELKO. In James 2:6 he writes, “Do not rich men oppress you and DRAW you before the judgment seats?” This “drawing,” of course, was not with wooing or pleading! It was an act of force that absolutely took no care of the willingness of the person drawn! The poor man might resist ever so much, and he might cry and plead, but he was drawn irresistibly to the place of judgment! It is with precisely this kind of forceful drawing that the Lord Jesus is talking when He says, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will DRAW all men unto me!” And, thank God, they are not just drawn “toward” Him, but UNTO HIM all the way! Because the Christ was “lifted up” on the cross of Calvary, dying on behalf of every man of Adam’s race, the promise is sure, He will inexorably DRAW all men unto Himself! The divine plan calls for the Church, the body of Christ, to be drawn to Him in this age, all the living nations of the world to be drawn to Him in the next age, and the remainder of men, all who have ever lived and died upon this planet in the ages to come.
Another example of the use of the Greek work HELKO which shows that the drawing is by force and in spite of the resistance of the one drawn, is in Acts 16:19. When Paul and Silas were vexed by the demonic slave girl, Paul cast the evil spirit out of her. Her masters saw that all hope of profit was gone, so they grabbed the two servants of Jesus and forcibly dragged them to the judges in the market place. We read: “And when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and DREW them into the market place unto the rulers.” This was not an act in which the persons drawn delighted to cooperate. No, it was an act of force which “compelled” them to go where they would not have preferred to go! So it is with man who is spiritually dead and happy to follow the devil to hell because he prefers darkness to light. He does not “come to Jesus” of his own “free will.” If he has eyes to see and ears to hear the Lord it is because God has quickened his spirit and opened his spiritual sight and unplugged his spiritual ears, as it is written, “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD has made even both of them! ” (Prov. 20:12).
Still another instance in which the Greek word HELKO is translated “draw,” when it refers to taking by force and overcoming all resistance, is Acts 21:30. Paul is seen in the temple at Jerusalem, and the Jews are so aroused by the presence of this apostle of Jesus that they incite the mob to lynch him if at all possible. They did not gently invite him to “please leave,” nor did they “lovingly” draw him out of the place. No, they grabbed him forcibly, determined to haul him out of their holy house. The Scripture declares that “All the city was moved, and the people ran together; and they took Paul, and DREW him out of the temple, and at once the doors were shut.” Of course he was rescued at this point by the Roman soldiers before the Jews could kill him for desecrating the temple by his presence. The point is that “draw” speaks of violence and force, not gentle persuasion.
No one ever comes to Jesus without God having planned the time and the manner. No one ever “decides” to accept Jesus of his own “free will.” It is the volition of the Lord that moves powerfully and irresistibly upon the sinner to trust the Saviour, and not the will of the spiritually dead creature who loves darkness rather than light! “No man can come to Me, except the Father which has sent Me DRAW him… ” (Jn. 6:44). Do you think that you came to the Christ of your own free will, as a free moral agent? Do you dare assume that your old corrupt mind and heart somehow became persuaded to violate its very nature and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Then read Jn. 6:44 and Jn. 12:32 again and accept it for what it plainly says! Treat these verses with honesty. Jesus says that NO ONE can come unto Him apart from the irresistible force of God’s drawing, and He also says that because He died HE WILL FORCIBLY AND IRRESISTIBLY DRAW A-L-L M-E-N unto Himself.
I sought the Lord, and afterwards I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me!
It was not I that found, O Saviour true;
No, I was found of Thee!
Are you a born again believer? Then kneel humbly before your God and Saviour and confess that it was because HE DREW you, and not because you exercised some inherent prerogative of “free moral agency.” Acknowledge His Word to be truth, and that just as surely as HE SUCCESSFULLY DREW YOU, He shall likewise draw and DRAW and D-R-A-W until He has drawn ALL MEN unto Himself! We ourselves are the living proof that He both can and will do it! “GOD has saved us … not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (11 Tim. 1: 9). “The Son gives life to whom He will…” (Jn. 5:2 1). “I will draw all men unto Me.” (Jn. 12:32).
BY ONE MAN
“For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead” (II Cor. 5:14). How can one who is dead find God? Impossible! Why should Paul connect the love of Christ with the fact that ALL WERE DEAD? Simply because it is the love of God in the Christ which is accomplishing this work, in His sovereign way, of bringing the whole world back to life and to God. Again we read in Eph. 2:12 “That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Ah, this is really a desperate situation! And all mankind was in a place like that. All of us were absolutely dead to God and without God in the world.
One of the most enlightening passages along this line is found in Jn. 1:10. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and THE WORLD KNEW HIM NOT.” How can anyone seek after the Lord if they don’t know Him? How clear that mankind was in a dilemma. We could not direct our own steps or order our way before the Lord. We were without God and we were dead. And now John declares that Jesus came and walked in the midst of the people He had created, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW HIM! What chance did men have to return to God EXCEPT GOD HELP THEM?
The prophet Jeremiah declared, “O Lord, I know that the WAY OF MAN IS NOT IN HIMSELF; IT IS NOT IN MAN THAT WALKS TO DIRECT HIS STEPS” (Jer. 10:23). God had been saying through the prophet that His people were scattered, His pastors had become brutish and His tabernacle was destroyed, so it was obvious that the way of man is not in himself. This being true, man cannot direct his steps or set his pathway. This is the condition in which God began His redemptive work with man. If it was not in us to direct our steps, then we could not direct our steps back to God. This ability was not a part of the makeup of man. In the beginning the first man deliberately, and according to the plan of God, directed his steps away from God and, hopelessly lost, man has walked that way ever since. Mankind was made blind and couldn’t see his way back to God, even though, as Paul said to the Athenians, surely God is not far from any one of us.
How we thank God that He sent one Man into this world who did know the way back to the Father! This Man knew how to order His own steps, and also how to order our steps, when we could not direct them ourselves. We can see it so plainly in a little child. Even after the child learns to walk, it does not know where or how to walk to keep out of danger and harm. Its way must be directed by an adult. Without any fear it would run onto a highway filled with speeding cars. It does not know how to order its way. Just so, mankind does not know how to direct its way!
“For God has concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32). “Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience (the) many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall (the) many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:18-19). “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order” (I Cor. 15:21-23). It would be a most beautiful thing if all the saints of God could have an open vision that would enable them to understand the simple and obvious truth that if the first Adam could do something which the last Adam could not undo, then the first Adam had more power than the last Adam. In other words, if Adam could put ten people into sin and death, and the Christ could take only nine out, then Adam would have greater influence and power than the Christ. But whether we believe it or not, ALL POWER HAS BEEN GIVEN UNTO THE CHRIST.
With the foregoing truth in mind let us read a most remarkable and significant statement in Jn. 12:31. “NOW is the judgment of this world.” What a volume of truth is contained in those few short words! The word “judgment” literally means A DECISION. We know that any judgment is a decision. Jesus was saying that now is THE DECISION of this world, or now is the time the world is going to decide what it is going to do. At the time He uttered these words Jesus was preparing to be sacrificed on behalf of the people of the world. He came to taste death for every man. He was speaking just prior to His crucifixion and the world was soon to make a momentous decision. The world would decide just what it would do with the Christ. It should be clear to every honest heart that the world at that or any other time, WAS NOT CAPABLE OF TURNING TO GOD, or of MAKING A DECISION FOR ITSELF THAT WOULD CAUSE IT TO RETURN TO GOD. There was absolutely no desire, no will, nor any purpose on the part of mankind to return to God. The people of Israel, with the Gentiles, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and His Anointed. They wouldn’t have “this man” to rule over them. They were finished with Jesus, the Son of the living God. So Jesus declared that the world must decide what it would do, yet it was in no condition to decide!
This condition is again mirrored in the lives of our children. In the life of a child, there are times when decisions must be made, and the child is not capable of deciding, SO SOMEONE ELSE MUST DO IT FOR HIM. The parent, or other responsible person, must make the decision. Here in chapter twelve of John we see a whole world that is estranged from God and dead in trespasses and sins, without God and without hope. Here was a world whose ears were stopped, whose eyes were blinded, and understanding had been taken from their hearts. Yet this world was going to be required to make a decision!
Another profound statement, freighted with meaning, accompanies the statement by Jesus that we have previously quoted. He said, “NOW shall the prince of this world be cast out” (Jn. 12:31). Christ proclaims two great truths which cannot be separated. “NOW is the judgment (decision) of this world: NOW shall the prince of this world be cast out.” The world had come to the crossroads and must make a decision, but was not capable of doing it. So Jesus said that the prince of this world would be cast out and that He, Jesus, the last Adam, the representative of the whole human race, would decide for the whole human race, just as the first Adam, the first representative man, decided for us all. If the first Adam, as a representative man was able to decide for all the world and put us all into sin and death, then the last Adam, the Christ of God, as the representative man could decide to take all of us out of sin!
How meaningful, then, the inspired words of the apostle Paul, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son…” (Rom. 5:10). According to all human reasoning this is an impossibility – that my enemy could be reconciled to me by the death of my own son. But Paul argues that the death of Jesus reconciled us, the enemies of God, unto God. By the death of the Son of God was this wrought. Naturally, an enemy would refuse to be reconciled. He would have nothing to do with it. Nevertheless, God sent His Son, and by the dying of that Son, reconciled T-H-E W-O-R-L-D unto Himself (II Cor. 5:19). God did not consult with the world, did not ask the world whether it wanted to be reconciled. He just went ahead and did it! God knew from the beginning that we would not be capable of deciding for ourselves. We would be so bound by the fetters of sin, so bound by our pride and ignorance, our minds so twisted by the illusions of this world, our reasoning so warped by the god of this world, that we could not decide. So God decreed that He would seal up all humanity in unbelief, conclude all under sin, stop up their ears that they could not hear, blind their eyes that they could not see, and take understanding from their hearts that they could not understand. He would send His own Son as a representative man to make the decision for us, to lead us all back to Himself, since we were not able to direct our path or order our way. He concluded us all in unbelief and then let JESUS DECIDE FOR US. This, God did!
BY ONE MAN! Dare we believe it? Dare we embrace the simple but glorious truth that “…as by the offense of one judgment came upon ALL MEN to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon ALL MEN unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18)? Are the blessed words of the apostle Paul too good to be true, wherein he states, “God was in Christ RECONCILING T-H-E W-O-R-L-D unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:19)? Ah – the destiny of the whole race was settled in one man, even Jesus. He was both the sacrifice and the new federal head of the race who would gather us all up into His loving arms and bring us back to God. He would lead all into salvation. Oh! how I rejoice that God did not permit the world to decide the eternal question, but that He sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to do it for us. What matchless love! And in God’s own good time, as the orderly procession of the ages run their course, all will be worked out for His glory.
In view of the marvelous, glorious, majestic and all-inclusive work of the last Adam – what good would it do for man to be a FREE MORAL AGENT? God has overruled the will of man, anyway. Oh, no, beloved, man is not a free moral agent. JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONLY MAN WHO IS A FREE MORAL AGENT. And He made the right choice, the one and only right decision. And HE MADE IT FOR US ALL! Praise His name! And we, the FIRSTFRUITS of His redemption, are the proof, the guarantee, that God is both willing and able to save ALL. Thank God! Man is NOT a free moral agent!