Christians, even genuinely born-again Christians who love God’s Word and have a commitment to discernment, often struggle with the teaching that God takes complete responsibility for their salvation. We desperately want to believe we’ve played even a teeny tiny microscopic part in receiving His grace. In fact, a major reason people despise Reformed Theology (or Calvinism) stems from an unwillingness to relinquish the idea of human participation in salvation.
Believe it or not, I understand that objection. Until very recently, I told my testimony in a way that afforded me the dignity of having “accepted” Jesus. Sure, I conceded, He did all the heavy lifting, but I believed I made the final decision to become a Christian.
As a result of my years of embracing the doctrine of free will, I can’t dismiss Arminians as false converts. None of us should. Unless taken to the extreme of Pelagianism, we should give the benefit of the doubt to brothers and sisters in Christ who have been taught that they chose the Lord. After all, none of us has absolutely perfect theology. While right doctrine is essential, all of us are growing towards it a step at a time.
Having voiced my understanding of those who believe in free will, let me now challenge their belief that God won’t save anyone against their will. I have to question the presupposition that anyone, prior to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, would even desire the God of the Bible. Someone might desire a god who conforms to their notion of spirituality, but Scripture clearly states that no one (apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit) has the slightest interest in the true God.
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ~~Romans 3:9-18 (ESV)
Notice verse 11, ladies. Despite popular rhetoric about so-called seekers, Paul asserts that no one seeks for God. Free will seeks for a spirituality that feeds the ego, always ending in making us feel good about ourselves, but it cannot choose the Lord Who rightly deserves all the glory. We can’t choose the God Who demands our repentance because we don’t really want to live without our pet sins.
In fact, our natural inclination toward sin deadened us to the Lord, rendering us incapable of voluntarily seeking Him. We needed the Holy Spirit to fill us with life, thereby giving us the faith to receive His grace.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~~Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)
I wish time permitted me to quote all the Scripture passages that God used to convince me that I played no part in coming to Christ. The realization of my utter dependence on His grace humbles me. I liked believing that I could take some credit for choosing to follow Him. But the more I read His Word, the more I understand that He saved me by His grace. He alone deserves the praise.