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Posts Tagged ‘Dead In Sin

Interesting Take on Ephesians 2:3

The following is a different view of Ephesians 2:3 than the Calvinist and Arminian views.  For example, John MacArthur writes about Ephesians 2:1 that we are all born dead not because of our sinful acts that have been committed but because of our sinful natures that we are born with.  He cross references Matthew 12:35 and 15:18-19 (pointing to our hearts as sinful).

Yet the following writer wrote:

1.  The word “nature” (Ephesians 2:3) can at times describe a man’s God-given constitution (Romans 1:26, 31; 2:14, 27; 2 Timothy 3:3).  It must  be kept in mind that our constitution is just dirt and is created by God; and therefore, our constitution cannot be sinful in of itself.

2.  The phrase “by nature” (Ephesians 2:3) does not always mean “by birth” but can at times mean “by custom or habit.”  Otherwise, Paul would have taught that the Gentiles were born sinners but the Jews were not.  Paul said, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners” (Galatians 2:16; some translate birth as nature is his point).  The word nature can describe a man’s self chosen character, custom, habit, or manner of life (Jeremiah 13:23; Acts 26:4; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Galatians 2:14-15; Ephesians 2:2-3; 2 Timothy 3:10; 2 Peter 1:4).  This is voluntary and has to do with the heart.  Therefore, moral character or sinfulness can belong to this type of voluntary and chosen nature.

3.  The context of this particular passage is talking about a former manner of life.  Paul is addressing a previous lifestyle.  He said “in which you once walked” (v.2) and “once lived” (v.3).  The natural man is the same as the carnally minded (Romans 8:6-7).  It is someone who lives for the gratification of their flesh.  To say that a person is by nature a child of wrath is the same as saying that they are under the wrath of God because they are living for the gratification of their flesh. Through free choice, men create a habit of self-indulgence.

4.  To say that they are “sons of disobedience” (v. 2; 5:6) and to say they are “by nature children of wrath” is essentially the same thing.  Disobedience is a choice of the will.  Those who choose to disobey God are misusing and abusing their natures.  Those who choose to disobey God are rightfully under His wrath.

5.  That which brings the “wrath” (v. 3) of God is voluntary moral character, not involuntary constitutions.  God is not angry with men for possessing the nature which He Himself created with them.  God is angry with sinners because of how they have chosen to use their nature that He has given them by transgressing His just laws (1 John 3:4).  God is angry with the wicked (Psalm 7:11) because the wicked do wicked deeds (Psalm 7:14).  God is angry with sinners because of their sinful choices and sinful habits.

6.  A sinful nature is moral not physical.  Jesus had a nature like ours (Hebrews 2:14; 5:7-10) yet Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).  A sinful nature is a person’s self-chosen character and not his God-given constitution.  A man’s heart or will can be sinful, a man’s constitution or body can only be an occasion of temptation.  Through continual choices of self-gratification, man has developed a habit of sin.  Jesus was born with flesh just like we have and He was tempted in His flesh but He never sinned by giving in to temptation.  If we choose to sin, we are choosing to use our God-given nature to rebel against God.  This is what meant by sinful nature  and not that merely being a human means that we are guilty of sin just by our constitutional makeup.

“You’re Turning People Away From Christ”

I was recently listening to a few brothers talking about evangelism and one of them said that he opposed open air preaching because, in his words, “You’re turning people away from Christ.”  I responded, “What makes you think they are coming to Christ in the first place or that people want Christ?”

The problem is that we have a low view of depravity.  We believe the American church lie that people are basically good and can come to Christ anytime they want to.  People genuinely want to follow Christ is what we hear.  Yet my Bible says that people are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).  I read in the Bible that people do not love God but they hate Him (Romans 1:18-32).  I read that people hated Jesus and will hate us who preach the gospel as well (John 15:18-25).  People are not seeking God yet God is seeking people (John 4:23-24) and He does this through the preaching of the gospel (John 6:44).

Romans 3:10-18 is clear that people are not seeking God.  People are seeking after their flesh.  People do not want to hear about Christ.  It takes the work of the Holy Spirit to bring sinners to salvation (John 16:8-11).  Without the work of the Spirit, none could or would be saved.  This is the free grace of God at work in the world wherein the Spirit works through the preaching to draw the lost to salvation.

The fact is that those who are on the college campuses.  Those who are in malls.  Those who are walking the streets outside of the stadium or the bars.  All these people are not seeking after God.  Their lives demonstrate that.  These people are serving their flesh and their god, Satan (John 8:42-47).  The gospel is a violent interruption into their sinful lives.  The gospel opens sinners up to their sins (Romans 3:19-20).  When sinners see their sinfulness before a holy God, they either repent or reject the gospel.  Those who repent do so by the grace of God (John 1:12-13) and all who come to faith in Christ come to faith because of the sovereign work of God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

My point then is clear: people must hear the gospel to be saved (Romans 10:14-17).  Jesus makes this clear in all four Gospels calling the disciples to take the gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21).  The Lord promised His Spirit would endue us with power from on high for this very purpose of preaching the gospel (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all (Romans 1:16-17).  Sinners cannot save themselves because they love their sins and despise the true God.  Sinners must hear the gospel that shows them their guilt and shows them the goodness of God in the giving of His Son (Romans 2:4; 5:8-9).  This alone is the only hope for lost humanity.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/03/2014 at 3:55 PM

Adam Heard the Voice of God

Some Calvinists such as R.C. Sproul asserts that one must be regenerated before faith because of the nature of total depravity.  Since mankind is dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1) and unable to please God in such a state (Romans 8:7-8) then God must regenerate people in order for them to come to faith and be saved from sin (John 3:3; 1 John 5:1).  A dead person is simply dead and can do nothing unless God first breathes life into them by His Spirit (Titus 3:5-7) and then they can come to faith and be justified before God (Romans 5:1).  It is reasoned that those elected by God will be regenerated to believe.

One major problem with this is that it is based on an assumption and that being unconditional election combined with the Calvinist view of total depravity.  When Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1 that we are dead in our sins, he is speaking of our status in sin and without the life of God.  No doubt the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23) and we are dead without the Spirit of God living within but I find nothing in the passage to speak of an inability to hear or believe the gospel.  In fact, two examples from the Old Testament that demonstrate that unbelievers can hear the voice of God before regeneration are both found in the early chapters of Genesis.

In Genesis 3 we find the fall of mankind.  If there was a time for the Bible to present the Calvinist view of being “dead in our sins” it would be here.  Surely we should find God having to first regenerate Adam and Eve before He could converse with them since they are dead.  Yet what do we find?  We find Adam hearing from God in Genesis 3:9.  Adam had sinned and was now dead spiritually (Romans 5:12) and he demonstrates this by his actions in Genesis 3:8 yet we find that he could still hear from God?  How is this possible if in fact he is dead in his sins and must be born again to come to faith?

Another example is found in Genesis 4.  Here Cain hears the voice of God yet again like his father Adam.  If anyone was to inherit original sin and be born dead in his sins, it should be Cain.  Yet what do we find?  Again, we find Cain hearing the voice of God in Genesis 4:6.  God even warns this dead sinner to turn from his sins in Genesis 4:7.  How could he possibly do this without regeneration?  How could he hear the voice of God or even obey God without God first causing him to be born again?

Both of these passages run contrary to the Calvinistic assumption that dead in sins must equal dead completely.  To be dead in our sins means that we are without the life of God in us.  We are dead apart from His Spirit abiding in us.  We must be born again to receive the Spirit of God (Galatians 3:14; 4:6-7).  I don’t deny that we are total unable to please God in our flesh but this does not mean that an unbeliever can not hear the gospel and either reject the gospel or receive the gospel (John 1:11-13).  Faith comes by hearing the message of Christ (Romans 10:17).  God saves sinners who believe (Acts 5:32; 15:9-11; 16:30-34; 22:16; 26:20; Romans 3:25-27; 4:24-5:1; 1 Corinthians 1:21).  Those who believe become the elect of God (1 Timothy 4:10).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/25/2012 at 4:28 AM

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.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/20/2012 at 11:44 AM

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