The Will of Man Cannot Be Forced Into Salvation


     The will of man unto salvation is never forced by God. Yet man also has no share or active role in being born again. Tough? I’d like to try to clear some of this up today without writing too much. (I know. Minor miracle right)?

     First, I believe that the will of man is truly enslaved by SIN. Jesus made it clear that, “…Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” John 8:34. That’s everyone says Paul in Romans 3:23. Slaves are simply not free. Men make real choices. He has a will, but it has been dominated by his personal sin. A mere "fleshly" person cannot do anything spiritually pleasing to God, Romans 8:8. He cannot exercise his present will unto eternal life because he's totally dead in sin, Ephesians 2:1.

     It is certain though that man cannot be saved without true repentance and willfully placing one’s faith and trust in Jesus. He must want to do this. Exercising their own personal repentance and faith in Jesus is what Scripture commands men to do, Acts 17:30.

     Non-believers (the fleshly or carnal), however, never want to do this. Crazy, I know, but they don’t. Romans 3:11 indicts all of humanity as never seeking after God. The answer to why we don’t want God, I believe, comes with understanding all of what Jesus meant in John 8:34. It’s in understanding man’s deadness in sin.

     So, since slaves don’t ever want to do what they must do to be saved, how can anyone be saved? How can a person ever willingly love Jesus rightly and therefore seek Him as the Bible invites us to do? The London Baptist Confession of 1689 offers an articulation of the answer in section 10.1:


Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace. (Italics mine).

     It's the last 13 words of this that show the harmony between God’s sovereign election first effecting our change, and yet never doing so without the willing participation of the person being regenerated. It’s not that regeneration depends on the person's will. It doesn’t. If it did no one would be saved because no one ever seeks God, Romans 3:11. What we’re saying is that unless a man willingly wants Jesus then God’s invisible and preceding regenerating work has not taken place. Do you believe? Do you want Jesus? Then that's from God. Regeneration precedes faith. You won’t have one without the other, and the order is always God first, man second. Many get bad theology by confusing the proper cause and effects of the faith. 

     Paragraph five of The current Baptist Faith and Message rightly calls God’s regeneration, “Consistent with the free agency of man.” It is. Men must believe because the will cannot be forced to believe. Regeneration carries with it the gift of true trust and obedience. Believers are brought freely and willingly into heaven. They are made free from the sin that held them and they then want Jesus. They would have it no other way.      


2 responses to “The Will of Man Cannot Be Forced Into Salvation”

  1. David says:

    “They are made free from the sin that held them” could mean their will is set free. At that point they could choose freely, and if they choose to trust Christ, they can. But they would not have to. (Unless the Calvinists are right and the grace is effectual- i.e., ‘Resistance is futile!’)

  2. Joseph Pittano says:

    I agree. But the Bible never presents a “middle ground.” If the will is set free, which it must be, then that person is set free “in Christ” through regeneration. Only the born again are free in the spiritual sense. The living then and only then are “made willing by his grace.” And that’s exactly what monergistic regeneration affirms perfectly unlike any other system- the deadness of man and the necessary effectual grace of God.

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