If we would take the basics of the Christian faith seriously, then we must begin with what Jesus actually said.
Of Man's Depravity In Sin

Jesus said: "Verily, verily I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25).

In this verse Jesus describes not a man's body, but the spiritual condition of a man's soul and the work of grace by which a man is saved through the hearing of God's Word. By it Jesus teaches that man is spiritually dead, not merely dying. Salvation involves a spiritual resurrection from the dead. This is plain from the fact that Jesus speaks in the text not of the future resurrection of the body, (something of which he speaks in a following verse and as future, John 5:28), but He speaks of that hour which "now is." This text is echoed by the Word of God which says, "And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins," (Eph. 2:1, 6). This truth sets the boundaries for any scriptural doctrine of salvation. Man is a dead sinner and as such he can do only what a corpse does, stink in corruption. That only is a faithful doctrine of salvation which begins with a dead sinner, and the need for a work of grace which raises him from death to life.

Jesus said: "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved" (John 3:19, 20). By this word Jesus teaches that man, being dead, is evil and in spiritual darkness. He is not neutral, able to choose for God and believe, but hates the light of the gospel and will not come to Jesus. Man is not simply in darkness without knowledge or light, but he is himself, as a sinner, darkness. He loves darkness, he has a bond of love with darkness. In himself he hates the light of the gospel and Christ who is the light of the gospel. He stands in unbelief.

Jesus also said, "No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him..." (John 6:44). In this word Jesus teaches the same principle, that man cannot believe of himself, he has no ability to believe and no will to be saved. He "cannot come." His will is bound, for as a willing slave of darkness he is spiritually dead.

Further, Jesus said to the wicked and unbelieving, "Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word," (John 8:43). Man in himself cannot even spiritually understand the gospel, so great is his darkness. He is, as all Jesus' miracles testify, blind and deaf to spiritual things. His mouth is dumb so that he cannot praise God. He is a leper in his soul, under the dominion of sin and bound in the prison house of sin. He is the paralytic who cannot walk in God's ways, whether in repentance or in faith. His sins must be forgiven, (Luke 5:17-26).

Jesus teaches then that man is a dead sinner, unable to believe of himself, having no free will by which he can come to the light of the gospel, nor any ability to understand it. He teaches that man loves the darkness of sin and death. Jesus teaches the doctrine of total depravity and the total inability of man. God's almighty grace alone saves! God saves dead sinners. Do you believe this word of Jesus and see yourself as He says you must? Or do you see yourself in your own wisdom, as yet having some good in yourself? Is your confession a confession of Jesus' doctrine that we are spiritually dead in ourselves, or is it a confession of man's word that we are not wholly dead, not wholly bound in the darkness of sin and evil? Jesus said of man in himself that he "loves darkness" and "hates the light." Do you believe His verdict? Or do you believe that you can still come to Him of your own will and decision when Jesus says that no man can thus come to Him? This is not idle questioning. Jesus Himself warned of false gospels and false christs who shall deceive many, Matt. 24:4, 5,11, 23-25). This is in fact a repeated warning. He also confronts those who trust in themselves, in their righteousness, in their faith and goodness and speaks parables against them (Luke 18:9-14).

These are serious questions. Salvation is by grace through faith but it is a gift of God in every part, (Eph. 2:8, 9) . Grace is not a mere help to man who saves himself by his use of grace or the gospel. Faith is the fruit of God's effectual work of grace in one raised from death to life, who being spiritually dead, and called and quickened by Christ, hears indeed and therefore believes. "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live," (John 5:25). The doctrine of free willism is a false gospel of a false christ. It is sinful pride that trusts in oneself. Jesus also warns against this sinful pride of men, who trusts in their own ability, deny their real spiritual blindness, and need no Savior. He says to them, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." (John 9:41)

By Rev. Thomas Miersma, Missionary Pastor

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