Cannot or Will Not, Which is the Cause?

Wooden Casket

Scott Price

No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day” John 6:44 (MKJV)

“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life. And they are the ones witnessing of Me, and you will not come to Me that you might have life” John 5:39-40 (MKJV)

Always in the context of the gospel we see at least three basic heads of doctrine; Who God is and what He Requires, Who Man is and how he fails to meet those requirements and who Christ is and how He is the only Way of salvation. As Man is dealt with he is seen to be totally depraved, which has affected him in many different ways. He is first affected legally and then spiritually. God put all men without exception in a representative, Adam. When Adam sinned in the garden so did everyone else he represented (everybody) and God legally charged it to his or her account. Not only are we born with the sin Adam, we also have his sin nature so that spiritually or morally we are perverted from birth. We cannot think properly about God. Our ways are not His, because we are “dead” in sins, unable and unwilling to seek after God, understand Him or do anything good in His sight because there is none by nature who is in the state of perfect righteousness.

In this doctrine called Total Depravity, when it comes to dealing with mankind coming to Christ or “seeking after God” (that is the only way to seek God is to come to Christ), there enters in a few questions that need to be considered. How you view those questions tell many things about how you view God, Man and even Christ. This is by no means an exhaustive treatment of this subject but is simply something to stir your thoughts.

First, let us clarify what it means to come to Christ. It means come to Him by faith. It is obvious it does not mean come to His physical Person at the right hand of the Father. By faith the meaning is the action of knowing Him, believing, trusting, counting on, leaning on, resting in, hoping in Him alone for all your salvation and loving Him for it. This faith is, of course, a gift of God as the Scripture clearly testifies in several places. This faith is not an offer to accept or reject. God is not sitting, waiting around and wondering whether people are going to believe or not since He is the only One who gives faith. He gives it effectually to the chosen people of God and works in them by the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of the gospel as a means to regenerate and convert them. In this sense we may say that it is “not up to them” in that, they do not have some power that is stronger than God’s or that can cancel out the purpose of God decreed before time.

Man is accountable to believe God whether Man has the ability or not in a similar fashion that Man is accountable to keep the Law or God whether he has the ability or not. All men by nature are born under the curse of the Law, and therefore are in desperate need to be under grace instead. So, also all are born in the natural state of unbelief and are in need of God working faith in their hearts by the Spirit through the gospel. The Bible is clear that “all men have not faith as stated in 2 Thes 3:2 (KJV). One question seems to work it’s way out front, in my mind at least, to express the sovereignty of God and that is; Does God, when He commands that all believe, give or work in all men the faith to believe? I guess the way the world states it, “Doesn’t God give everybody a chance?” The fact is He does not even give the elect a “chance” to believe because He has never saves by chance, but rather on purpose. His purpose has always been to save the ones He chose and has never been to save the ones He did not choose.

God Almighty even has a purpose for (the Reprobate) the people He did not choose to eternal life and that purpose is condemnation. God, in wisdom, power and sovereignty did this before the world was even created, when these people “had not yet been born, neither had done any good or evil; but that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who called” (Rom 9:11 MKJV). It should be seen that this was no accident, but was on purpose that God did this to the Reprobate. We need here to start to see that people are shut up to the sovereign mercy of God or there is no hope at all, ever. Many if not most “sovereign grace”, “Calvinist” or “Reformed” folks are ashamed and embarrassed about such a God who is absolutely sovereign in salvation and damnation, so much so that they compromise His character wherever they can to soften the offense of His Divine sovereign rights as God. They make excuses for Him to be sovereign and try to make it look like He is merely allowed to be instead conditioned on the evil works of men and not that He must be because it is an essential attribute of His Divine character. Much more could and should be said but I must relate this to our subject.

Man’s problem is in place because God sovereignly put it in place just like the remedy was put in place for the elect. Both the fall of Satan and Adam were no accident because they were decreed by God like all other things without exception that happen. This is a fact that most, even under the sovereign grace banner, will not accept or at least is a jagged pill to swallow. Here we see the sovereignty of God even in Total Depravity. God has wisely seen fit that this salvation He set forth in Christ has not loopholes where the boasting or glory of Man can raise its ugly head.

Man is born with a natural inability to come to Christ. He cannot come to Christ because the means to come to Him is #1) the gospel (the “word” John 17:17, Romans 10:17, I Cor 4:15, Eph 1:13, Eph 5:26, II Tim 1:10, James 1:18, I Pet 1:23-25), #2) the Holy Spirit in regeneration (John 1:13, John 3:3, Eph 2:1, #3) the gift of faith worked in him (John 6:29, John 17:3, Eph 2:8-9, Phil 2:13, II Thes 2:13-14, I John 5:20). Let us not forget that all spiritual blessings in Christ, which includes faith, were earned by Christ as He bled and died in obedience to secure all such blessings for His people. In short, God does not love all without exception, Christ did not die for all without exception, God does not send the gospel to all without exception, He does nor regenerate all without exception and does not give or work the gift of faith in all without exception.

Therefore we must conclude that a person will not come to Christ by faith primarily because they simply cannot. Ability must be present to be willing to come to Christ. The will of man does not supersede the ability to come to Christ. That is the Arminian would be idea of freewill. On the other hand we must state the obvious and say that man can never come to Christ unless he will come to Christ. An example may be that if you purpose to go to work you cannot be there unless you will actually go. This expresses means and is against a fatalist or even mystical understanding of things. Things do not happen by magic in other words. But we must see that one (inability) is the cause of the other (not willing) for the matter of what is the emphasis. The emphasis is the sovereignty and glory of God. God gets all the credit for bringing men to Christ, NOT the will of the sinner. Here is where we should see that faith is Christ is not an offer but a powerful work of God in the sinner, regenerating, calling, drawing, revealing, etc. directly to the heart by the Spirit through the means of God’s gospel. This forces the conclusion, which is the very offense of the cross, that the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ in His life and death is what makes the difference between heaven and hell, NOT what you conditionally do with His merits.

There is some truth to the statement, men cannot come to Christ because they will not, BUT the will of man is not the PRIMARY reason. Why they cannot is because they are DEAD and the fruit of that death, both legal and spiritual, is their will has been damaged to the point that it is not free in any sense, but rather is bound to its inability. God sovereignly placed this inability on all men without exception by nature. Many will no doubt kick and scream to say that if I place emphasis where I have on this subject then men will try to blame God at judgment for Him not giving them faith. Let them try, it will not stick. God withholds, on purpose, His mercy from the Reprobate. He has the Divine right to exercise His sovereignty in salvation as He has purposed in Himself and none can stop Him. This is the only God to worship. There is none beside Him. Worship Him or perish! My question to you is, are you willing? If you are it is God who made you so. If He has not yet made you so then you cannot until He does. I exhort God’s people who have an ear to hear, do not be afraid or ashamed to give the whole truth concerning this subject. Salvation is of the Lord. Amen.

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One Response to “Cannot or Will Not, Which is the Cause?”

  1. Charles (Sonny) Tidball Says:

    Thank you for exalting Yahweh Elohiym in such a clear and sovereign way. This is an article we will be giving out.

    Thank-YOU,
    Sonny and Cheryl Tidball

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