Feb 23, 2006

The Extent of Our Sin

John 6:44

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).

Today’s passage records one of the most important statements Jesus ever uttered regarding our power to make free choices. Having told the people that He alone provides sustenance to mankind, the Lord asserts our inability to partake of Him without the call of the Father (John 6:44). We are commanded to repent and trust in Christ (Acts 17:30), but cannot do so unless God first enables us to come to Him. Moreover, despite protestations to the contrary, it is plain the Lord does not give the gift of faith to every person (13:48).

During the fifth century, Augustine of Hippo found it necessary to defend the biblical view of sin’s impact on man’s free will. The British monk Pelagius taught that man could obey God perfectly, thereby asserting we can be saved by observing the Law. Our Creator, Pelagius said, never commands the impossible; therefore, all are able to do His will — from their moment of birth. Pelagius denied original sin, saying Adam’s transgression had no permanent impact on human nature. Augustine, however, recognized Scripture’s teaching that all people (except Christ) are born in Adam and possess a corrupt nature wholly inclined against God (Rom. 5:12–21). As Calvin later commented on Genesis 3:6: “no part of us is sound…the mind is smitten with blindness and… errors…all the affections of the heart are full of stubbornness and wickedness…all the senses burst forth with many vices.”

Though Augustine affirmed the existence of free will, he was careful to define free will according to Scripture. We do indeed make free choices in that we always choose according to our nature. We freely do what we want to do, but after the fall we only desire evil—that is, apart from the work of the Spirit. Unless God changes our hearts, we lack the moral capacity to follow Him (Eph. 2:1–7).

Sin has so corrupted our hearts, minds, and wills, that before regeneration we are dead and cannot submit to God. Our transgression of His law is inevitable (Deut. 31:29). Yet hope exists for those in Christ, as all those who believe on Him demonstrate the Spirit’s work in their hearts to give them faith unto salvation (John 3:1–21).

Coram Deo

Understanding the extent of our sin should affect the way we conduct our evangelism. We should pray earnestly for the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of those with whom we share the Gospel. We should not be surprised when people take a long time to understand the good news. Our confidence should not rest in ourselves but in the power of God to change the will of the unbeliever. Spend time today praying the Lord would give faith to an unbeliever in your life.

For Further Study