Jeremy Sams Art Blog

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Who's Holding Who Back? God or Man?

Sometimes we picture man and his need of salvation as a man who's in prison, desperately seeking a way out. He hates his environment and is constantly searching for a means to get over the fence to freedom. Then, we read a verse like John 6:44, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." Suddenly, we're faced with an either "pictoral" dilemma or a theological dilemma.
Could it be that our "picture" of man in the prison, seeking freedom, is flawed?

Let's examine the picture. Is man in a prison cell of sin desperately seeking a way out and the only thing holding him back are the bars and, of course, the warden? Or is man in a prison cell of sin and he's not looking for a way out at it possible that he likes his bondage?

When we consider John 6:44, we clearly see man's inability to come to Christ on his own. I don't know of anyone in orthodox Christianity who would deny this. However, some will point back to John 5:40 to say that at some point, man is brought to some state of neutrality and actually has the ability to choose either way. "And ye will not come to me that ye might have life." They will then skip over to John 12:32, where it says "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." The Pelagian, the Arminian and the Universalist will interpret this verse along with John 6:44 and John 5:40 to say, "See, He draws all men the same, therefore all men have the ability to come to Christ." This claim is usually made with many "whosoever will" verses in an attempt to solidify their interpretations. I've even heard some preachers interpret John 6:44 to say that "man can not just get saved whenever he wants to." What saith I?...I think Oscar Mayer says it best: B-O-L-O-G-N-A!

So, how do we reconcile and interpret these verses? Well, first, we need to see the difference between ability and permission. Do you ever remember in school when you had to use the restroom and you'd raise your hand, then ask the teacher, "Can I go to the bathroom???" The teacher would then reply, "I don't know, can you?" Then she would immediately correct our grammar by saying "May I please go to the restroom." You see the word "can" is a word of ability and "may" is a word of permission. Many preachers and laymen alike who abhor the doctrines of grace will most often mis-characterize these doctrines by claiming we believe that even though man is desperately trying to get saved, God is holding him back saying, "No, you're not elect, you can't come!" This is either a deliberate lie or just a statement made from ignorance.

The fact is, is that God does give permission for all to come to Him. All who believe will have eternal life. Everyone who believes will not perish. What a beautiful demonstration of grace to hear the Lord Jesus say these words to sinners! So, John 6:44 is not speaking of permission, in fact He uses the word, "can". This is the Greek word "dunamai" which means power or ability. So, man is unable and powerless to come (or "believe" as interpreted by John 6:35) except the Father draw him. This inability is not a physical inability. Men can do all kinds of religious deeds such as praying, altar visits, confessions, etc... Man's inability is a moral inability. His heart is wicked and his flesh is corrupt. Every aspect of his being has been affected by the curse of sin. So, the heart of the problem is a problem with the heart.

This raises the next question: according to John 12:32, doesn't God draw all men, so therefore all can come? Well let's let Scripture interpret Scripture here. If God draws all men, then according to the passages in John 6:35-45, ALL come; and if ALL come, then He will raise them ALL at the last day. Uh interpreting John 6:44 with John 12:32, we've just entered the heretical theology of universalism.

Notice also in John 12:32 the words that are in italics in the KJV: men. So, the problem lies in the interpretation of one of two words: draw or all. The Greek word for draw (helko) is the same in both verses, which literally means to drag. See it's usage in the other New Test. passages: John 18:10, John 21:6, John 21:11, Acts 16:19, Acts 21:30, and James 2:6. So, there's no problem there unless, of course, you want to say draw means to give some sort of "boost to neutrality" or an "enticement", which is clearly not the case according to its Greek definition.

So, the next word of study would be the word "all". While studying through the Gospel of John (not just a few verses out of context) you'll see a recurring theme: Jesus offers salvation not just to the Jews but to Gentiles or "other sheep" as well. It was prophesied by Caiaphas in John 11:49-52. Jesus also spoke of it in John 10:15-16. So, who will He draw unto Himself? All the Father gives Him, the children of God, the sheep, those that are of the truth, etc...the point being is that it's for believing Jews as well as believing Greeks, believing Romans, believing Americans, etc....

So, back to the original question...why won't men come to Christ? Is it because God won't let them? Or, is it because men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil and therefore, no man seeks after God? Men won't come to Christ simply because they dont want to. They're unable and powerless to come because their will is in bondage to their sinful nature. Christ offers the gospel and salvation freely, but man in his rebellion does not want to come. The only solution is for God to overcome their rebellious nature, changing their wills by shining His light into their darkened hearts. Thank God for His power to save effectually! In conclusion, it's man's fault that he does not believe. Man holds himself back.

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