Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Dead In Your Trespasses and Sins

Ephesians 2:1 is a common passage cited for those such as R.C. Sproul who hold that regeneration must be before faith because of the nature of total depravity.  Because mankind is born dead in their sins, the only way a dead person could believe the gospel is if God first regenerated them.  They also point to John 11 and Lazarus as proof that one must first hear the voice of Jesus and be raised from the dead before one can be free.  I will deal with John 11 in a bit but first let us deal with this assumption.

First of all, this is all an assumption.  Here the Calvinist is following logic instead of Scripture.  Scripture makes it clear that regeneration comes through faith (Romans 5:1).  1 Corinthians 1:21 says that God saves those who believe the preaching of the gospel.  Galatians 3:14 says that we receive the promised Spirit by faith.  How can this be if the Spirit must regenerate us first to even believe the promise?  Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by grace through faith.  Some Calvinists insist that the reference to “the gift of God” is faith but the Greek structure is pointing to salvation in general.  Colossians 2:12 says that we are raised with Christ through faith.  Again, how can this be if in fact a person must be regenerated first to believe and thus raised with Christ before faith?

One aspect of this view is the idea of eternal justification.  In other words, since God decreed whom He would save and whom He would condemn then Christ logically died only for those whom He would save.  From this, God always knew those whom He would save even from eternity past.  Eternal justification is the idea that from eternity God has regenerated those whom would believe.  Some hold that God regenerates the baby at the moment of conception if the baby is part of the elect.  When a person finally believes in Jesus, it is because they were eternally justified by God from eternity past.  To me, this is logical if you are going to follow through on God’s absolute decrees.

For the Arminian, this is all based on human reasoning and not Scripture.  It is allowing the points of Calvinism to interpret Scripture and not allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Let me give you just two biblical cases of people who were “dead” spiritually but still able to make free will decisions about God.  The first is Cain in Genesis 4.  If anyone would be born under the curse of sin, it would be Cain (Genesis 4:1) as he is the first son listed after the Fall in Genesis 3.  Surely, if being dead in sin means completely dead then Cain would fit that view.  But what do we find?  We find God warning Cain in Genesis 4:6-7 to turn from sin.  Here we have God speaking to Cain as if Cain could A) hear Him and B) repent.  We don’t see God regenerating him first in order for him to hear His voice or heed His call to repent.  Notice also that God doesn’t make Him repent.  I believe that Cain could have repented and this would have been through the work of the Spirit but he didn’t.  He hardened his heart as Pharaoh would later in Exodus 5:1-2.  God doesn’t make hard hearts.  He simply gives people over to their sins (Romans 1:18-32).

The second example is Luke 15 and the prodigal son.  I have often heard this passage preached on for salvation so let’s see what we can learn about the spiritual state of the prodigal in Luke 15.  First, the son was dead without the father (v. 24).  Spiritually life is contingent upon being in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23).  If we are not in Christ through faith, we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).  Christ is the resurrection and the life (John 11:24-26) and if we abide in Him by faith (2 Corinthians 1:24), we are secure (John 15:1-11).  It is only when we are not in Christ through faith that we are dead (Galatians 5:1-4).

Secondly, the father makes it clear that the son was not alive until he came home.  Twice in Luke 15 the father states that the son was dead and is now alive now that he has come home (vv. 24, 32).  The prodigal was dead when he was living in sin but it didn’t take the father regenerating him first in order for him to come home (vv. 17-18).

What does Ephesians 2:1 mean?  It means what it says.  We are dead in our sins.  No Arminian denies this.  Eternal life is found only in Christ.  This is why in John 15:5 Jesus said that apart from Him we could do nothing.  Certainly people who are not Christians can do things outside of Christ such as eat, sleep, breath, etc. but eternal life and doing things that count for eternity can only be done in Christ.  Salvation is found only in Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  Eternal life is found only in Christ (John 5:24-25).  Only those who follow Jesus are saved and have eternal life (John 8:51).

Does this mean then that Arminians hold that people regenerate themselves?  No!  We believe that through the grace of God we are saved!  Salvation is truly of the Lord (Jonah 2:9) and the words of Jesus in John 6:44 are true: we come to Jesus by the drawing of the Father.  The Spirit of God woos us to Christ.  He convicts us (John 16:8-11) but He does not make us believe.  Not one passage in the New Testament says either that God makes us believe nor that He believes for us (Acts 13:38-39).  Simply because a person believes the gospel does not mean that a person earns salvation.  Because a person receives a gift from another person does not mean that person earned that gift.  God is gracious in the giving of His Son and all are free to come and believe the gospel (John 3:16-18; 6:37).  Jesus said that He would cast away none who come to Him.

In the next post I wish to talk a bit more about election and the Arminian view of election.  Contrary to popular opinions, we Arminians do in fact believe in election but the difference is the word unconditional election.  This we reject.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/20/2012 at 11:44 AM

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