MAN -- A FREE MORAL AGENT?
IN THE FLAME OF GOD
FREE? MORAL? AGENTS?
WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD?
I WILL DRAG ALL
DID ADAM FOIL GOD'S PLAN?
THERE IS A WILL IN MAN
THE WILLING CONFESSION OF EVERY TONGUE
Whose will can go unscorched in the eternal flame of God? What form of death can abide in the presence of Christ? What can remain hidden when He who is Light descends into the lowest regions of our hell and rises out of it? What form of death can survive when He who is from above, and above all, invades that which is from beneath? And when His unquenchable fire burns until it reaches the extremities of our utmost carnal being, and His blazing glory breaks forth to the outer crust, what realm of corruption can endure? Can the will of combustible flesh withstand the will of His flaming fire? If it can, then matter is greater than Spirit, wood can resist fire, man is mightier than God, Adam reigns over Christ, darkness is superior to Light, hate is stronger than Love; and there is no guarantee that Life will ever prevail over death, that the hidden things of hell will ever be exposed, or that the captives in the grave will ever go free. If man's will is truly free to do as it pleases, then there will never be the complete salvation of any soul, for that subtle thing always lusts after the things of the flesh. It is enmity against the Spirit of God, and is not subject to it in any form or fashion. If man is a "free moral agent," which the expression is not found in the Bible but religion is prone to tout, then that burning Life within the womb of humanity's soul doesn't stand a chance to make its way to the surface. It is forever doomed to the fate of what the carnal mind chooses to do.
FREE? MORAL? AGENTS?
The mind-set of man being a moral agent who is free to choose as he pleases is no different than children who from birth to adulthood have unrestrained freedom to do as they please. If children are expected to grow into anything of worth, such disparaging liberty of will simply isn't permitted. Whether they are children of a family or children of God, restrictions are placed upon them. But how does this apply to those who are not born from above? Are they also chained by the bonds of love and Godly guidance? Before one is awakened to Christ, he is clearly dead in trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1), dead to God, dead to truth, dead to purity, dead to reality, dead to anything that pertains to life. The record continues: "In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging in the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as the rest" (Eph. 2:2-3).
Nevertheless, contrary to scripture, it is commonly preached that we were sinners by choice, but it is plain that we were not. We were sinners by nature. We were born into this condition because of Adam. The man of sin made us slaves to sin. We had nothing to do about the matter. In no way did we will it, choose it, or give consent to it. We were born into it. Therefore, MEN -- FREE? MORAL? AGENTS? We think not. We were not born free moral agents. We were born immoral slaves and incapable of mediating anything but death!
WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD?
People by their questing to live may "feel after God" as Paul told those on Mars hill (Acts 17:27), but the word feel (pselaphao) carries the thought of manipulation, which is common in religion. TO SEEK, (ekzeteo), however, is much stronger. It means to search out, to crave. Many will manipulate circumstances in their lives with attempts to reach the stars of glory; but how many crave that which is contrary to their fallen nature?
Truthfully, as slaves to sin, man is incapable of doing or desiring anything pleasing to God. Until his spirit is quickened by Christ's Spirit, he is a slave to the yearnings of the flesh, his carnal mindedness is in enmity against God. It is not subject to anything that is godly, and neither can it be (Rom. 8:7). In the simplest of terms, he is an enemy toward God, and this especially includes his religious practices. Man will maintain that he still has a spark of divine good in his heart, but the scripture contradicts him: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9). Man will contend that he is a free moral agent and can accept or reject the Lord by his own will and initiative, but the apostle Paul disagrees: "There is none righteous, no not one. There is none that understandeth, there is NONE THAT SEEKETH AFTER GOD" (Rom. 3:10-11). He may seek glory, or a way to preserve his earthy life, but none seek God, for in His presence they will die.
Adam pursues those things that satisfy the appetites of self, those things of the earth that fathers nothing but death. He will conjure pompous dreams in his carnal stupor, dreams of self- aggrandizement that caused his fall from the heavens of paradise in the first place. He will attempt to shine once again as the son of the morning. He will promote his own ascension back into the heights of the heavens, and with much religion exalt his earthen throne above the stars of God. He will desire to sit in the sides of the north among the heavenly host, but like in the beginning, he will be cut down to the grave (Isa. 14:12-15) -- for he is a slave to sin and death. He cannot begin to escape it on his own.
He devises elaborate plans with which to climb beyond the distant galaxies of grandeur. Some of those schemes involve scourging himself with searing lightning bolts of "fire-burning" scriptures, self-flagellation, and damning condemnation. They often thunder the law with great conviction, establishing concrete dogmas that are followed to the letter. Man's plans of salvation swing in the other direction as well. He has assembled all the self-praises that can be imagined, while collecting and preaching to himself all the loving words of promise the Bible contains. He has believed with all his might, yet still he fails to live. The plain truth is, he can't call himself to the royal paths of Life, not with religion, condemnation, adulation, nor self-imposed presumption. Until God comes with his grace and makes men live, there is nothing they can do but to remain dead. Whether they lie in the grave dead or are dead in trespasses and sins, they will stay that way until Life overshadows them and calls them forth. When the Voice of the Son of God is heard, then they shall live (Jn 5:24-25).
Before Christ comes to a man, he is in no position to make a free-will choice toward salvation. Every condition about him is contrary to it. He is sold under sin (Rom. 7:14). He is a slave to sin. There is nothing he can do about being saved when it is left to his own volition. There is virtually nothing about him that is free. He couldn't help himself if he wanted to, and if he should seem to want to, it is in accordance with what his own mind conceives to be salvation, and assumes he can work his way into it. So still, he seeks not after God, but only his own appeasement.
Some backslid men, like rebellious teenage children of a household, may appear that they cross the line at times to where they can never be restored to a wholesome life; but by experience many families come to know that in due time most often those children come back to good standards of living, especially when love, care, and sometimes severe corrections are administered. Likewise, it is with those called of God to serve Jesus Christ.
Those in reservoir of the world, however, is not expected to live Godly; they who are held therein simply can't, they are dead in trespasses and sins. Dead men can only do what dead men do -- remain dead until the breath of life is breathed into them. Whatever they do while they are dead, whether it is good or evil, is still from the same source -- the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that brought death to Adam in the first place. That is the only tree he has liberty to eat from. Until the Spirit of the Father draws him to Jesus, which no man can do unless he is drawn by the Spirit (Jn. 6:44), he is a slave to the one who beguiled him. He is subservient to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2). Therefore, whether he is making good choices or evil ones, he is not free, and neither is his will free. He and his will are bound slaves, tied up if you please, in the nature and death of Adam.
I WILL DRAG ALL
Who can be saved then, if it depends entirely on the Spirit to draw him? What if God should never choose to draw a man, nor if the reserve of others is bypassed for some reason or the other? Rest assured, beloved, there is no cause for concern, for Jesus said this: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth (signifying His death upon the cross), will draw all men to Myself" (Jn. 12:32). More accurately from the Greek manuscripts it reads, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, WILL DRAG ALL MEN TO MYSELF." Jesus, the beginning of all creation, shall love, care for, and correct until every soul is garnered along side Himself, some gently and some severely.
Again the question: MAN -- "A FREE MORAL AGENT?" Please know, there has never been a soul born that is free. Mankind was sold under sin. Not one soul is moral, for we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. And furthermore, there is not one human being of that lower species who is worthy to be an agent of good, i.e. of mediating between men and God. Jesus Christ alone is free, He is the one who is moral, no other is an agent of righteousness but Him. This is why He is the mediator between man and God (I Tim. 2:5). And now we are joined to Him, we are one in Him, we are inseparably fused to Him. Therefore, being in such a united condition with Him we can be called free and moral, and He who is in the midst of us is the agent, the mediator, to a dead world buried in sin.
By the nature of pride, men of the dust cannot help from attempting to lift themselves above the God who made them. Whether it is planned or it is unconsciously devised, they make themselves God, and subject Him to their cherished free will, so they think. If such a notion was true, then they would be the captain of their own salvation, and not Jesus Christ. They would have to rely upon the creature, themselves, rather than the Creator for deliverance from death. If this was true, then man would be piloting his own destiny with Jesus sitting as his co-pilot, to be used only in case of an emergency.
DID ADAM FOIL GOD'S PLAN?
Do we for one moment think that if it had not been in the plan of God for Adam and his generations to walk the avenue of death, the Lamb would have been slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8)? If man had chosen of his own accord to walk the perilous path of death, it is unlikely Paul would have written: "For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, NOT OF ITS OWN WILL, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Rom. 8:19-21). You see, in Adam humanity was subjected to the futility of death. They had no choice of the matter, and this was for a good reason. Paul explains that they would be set free from the slavery of corruption, no longer to be a mere formation of the earth, but that they would be BORN OF GOD! It is one thing to be formed from the earth, but it is another matter to be born from above. Thus, they wait for the manifestation of the Sons of God.
If man had not been lowered for a season beneath the angels (the elohim), then he could never acquire dominion over the heavenly works of God's fingers, as Psalms 8:3-6 and Hebrews 2:6-10 tells us so plainly. He would remain bound to the earth and would never be lord of anything but of the earth. Lords of the dust would be as far as men could go. They could never be masters of the heavens, for they are all of the earth, earthy.
Also, if Adam, or the devil, was able to exercise free will and upset God's plan in the beginning, what assurance do we have for a victory in the future? If His plan could be foiled once, what guarantee do we have that it can't happen again? Frankly, there would be none.
No, brethren, man will not, and cannot, lead himself into Godliness. His will is not free at all. His is not free to will anything but Adam-likeness -- death. It is not until after God's will is established in him that he can will that which is heavenly, and he can say with Jesus, "I always do that which pleases My Father." Beforehand, man is bound in death by sin, and this is according to God's pronouncement in the beginning of the fall. In Christ man's will is compassed about in Life, transforming his mind, but in Adam, it is a shackled slave in the confines of death.
Let us notice some clear and simple statements: "It is GOD which worketh in you both TO WILL and TO DO of HIS good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him..." (Jn. 6:44). "It is not of him that wills or of him that runs, but of GOD that shows mercy" (Rom. 9:16). "Who will have all to be saved..." (I Tim. 2:4). And "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of HIM who worketh all things after the counsel of HIS OWN WILL" (Eph. 1:11).
Ah, predestination, what an expansive subject. Some refuse to embrace it at all, for in doing so it would not only wreck their life-long theology, but it would also reduce them to God's will rather than their own. Such a thought is an abhorrence to the carnal minds of men. They lose control of their destiny, and to think of their lives being placed into the hands of someone they have never come to know can be very unsettling. Besides, if their will is not supreme, He might take them places where they would no choose to go. Their own "law abiding" ways of bondage are more important to them than the freedom which comes through the inworking gift of God's grace.
I was in a Bible study recently, and the subject of demon possession came up. It was then changed to the thought of someone being "possessed by the Spirit of Christ." If a man could be possessed by a demon, it was questioned, could he also be possessed by Christ, but in the sense of good? One brother felt that if we were "possessed," even if it was by the Spirit of Christ, that we would lose our free will, which would make us "robots" of some sort. To him the possibility was out of the question. I then shared from my own experience of not choosing Christ, but that He chose me. I also referred to various scriptures relating to His sovereignty, especially that God works all things after the council of His own will (Eph. 1:11). Jesus said, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you" (Jn. 15:16). I pointed out how it was God who chose Paul and separated him from his mother's womb, the confines of his former religious order, and revealed Christ in him (Gal. 1:15-16). It was made clear that Paul did not choose to be born of God no more than a child can choose to be born of its parents. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual.
Afterwards, I was asked by the same brother. "What you are saying then, is that everyone is where they are supposed to be; it's just that they have to grow into the maturity of Christ?" My reply was simply, "Yes. That is right!" Of course, before there can be any maturity, they have to hear the Life-giving, Quickening Voice of the Son of God. Jesus must first be revealed, and then the process of maturing begins. Until then they are dead with no direction of Life whatsoever, but they are right where they are supposed to be -- dead in Adam, deep in the grave of humanity's death, waiting to be called forth.
The following day, my brother Tim, who was also at the meeting, shared some tremendous thoughts that the Spirit had stirred in him. He brought out how the writers of the New Testament very often referred to us as servants, and in the Greek it is even stronger, i.e. slaves. He then said, "If someone is a servant/slave then his will is no longer an issue, it is not a factor. In reality he doesn't have one at all. The will of the one who owns him always prevails."
What a simple, yet profound truth! Who can resist the One who bought him? Jesus paid the price with His life, purchasing the whole world, the fulness thereof, and everyone in it (Mt. 13:46, Psa. 24:1). Prior to the purchase, humanity was sold into slavery under the control of sin, as Paul wrote in Romans 7:14. Before Christ illumined our minds, we gave ourselves to sin, we were slaves to it; but praise God, there was a day when a new Master possessed our souls, and our slaveship (sonship) was to another.
THERE IS A WILL IN MAN
It may have seemed that after this new allegiance in Christ, our will was free to choose whatsoever we desired, whether life or death. Truthfully, for a season that element of choice did exist. We read in Romans: "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (Rom. 6:16-18).
After one's eyes are opened to the truth he may then be able to exercise his will, yet it is still with limitations. He may be free in some of the day-to-day things that concern his personal behavior, but when it comes to God's eternal purpose for him, he is not free. As he travels down the Path of Life in Christ he may be allowed to freely go to the left or to the right, but only so far as the Lord permits. Sometimes, he is allowed to go what seems to be a long way off course. He may stray as far as to live with the pigs and to eat the lifeless husks of the world; but even so, this works for good. It produces in the soul the ultimate victory over his wanderlust. Such hardships are also what directs him homeward as it prepares his heart to hear the welcoming voice of his Father.
Experience alone teaches us that we can either yield ourselves to the lust of the flesh unto death, or once His voice is heard, to the obedience of the Spirit unto life. This lends to the thought of exercising our free will; but concerning our deliverance from death let us not forget that no one can come to Christ unless he is drawn by the Spirit (Jn. 6:44). Although one can submit to sin and death, it is seasonal and at the most, for an age. For there is that time of drawing as well as the baptism of Christ's fire that is appointed to every soul, of which John the Baptist spoke (Mt. 3:11-12). Jesus also said, "For every one shall be salted with fire..." (Mrk. 9:49).
THE WILLING CONFESSION OF EVERY TONGUE
A day will come when every tongue will worship and confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil 2:9-11), which is what one must do to be saved (Rom. 10:9) -- but not one soul will ever be forced to make such a declaration. One can certainly be forced to utter the words that He is Lord, but he cannot be forced to confess that He is. In the same way no one can be saved from hate by being forced to love another, God will not save anyone against their will. However, we are assured that all men will at some time or another be 100% percent willing, which comes when God reveals Himself to them. The presence of Christ will awaken every dead soul, and His fire will ultimately change the carnal will of all dirt to that of the Spirit. Paul said it this way: For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him...God shall be all in all (I Cor. 15:25-26, 28). And be assured that this reigning is not only in the world outwardly but is the world in us as well. It is always in us first, and then in the world.
Yes, there is that season wherein men may rebel against the authority of the King, since they are slaves to rebellion and have no choice, but this is not the end of the matter. He shall reign in them until He finally reigns over them. He shall subdue all things unto Himself. He will then not only be their King but also their Lord whom they dearly Love. No longer will they have to be told to do this or that, they will do it because they love Him, and they will not be robots who are void of a will or a sound mind. They shall be Sons whose will is His will, and His will their will. They shall be ONE IN HIM, flowing in the river of His eternal Life and Love unending. The sting of death in sin shall no longer be an issue to them; for the strength of sin (the law) will have been fulfilled by God's inworking grace, which gives them the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Borrowing the words of Paul and of David, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (I Cor. 15:58). For "The LORD will perfect that which concerns me: Thy mercy, O LORD, endures for ever: forsake not the works of Thine own hands" (Psa. 138:8). In the abundance of His grace He will bring the works of His own hands to perfection, especially at the end of this age -- and it shall not be by might nor by power of man exercising his "free will:" "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of GOD: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are HIS workmanship, created in CHRIST JESUS unto good works, which GOD hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:8-10).
Let me reassert, as surely as the Lord will perfect that which concerns to Him in this late hour, and nothing can stop it, just as assuredly there is not one person who can perfect themselves into it. Think about it. It is by the power of God's grace, it is not of ourselves, we are His workmanship. If it is left up to our supposed free will, then it is not His will, it ceases to be grace, we are no longer His workmanship, and the impossible task is laid upon our shoulders to perform. Our performance lies in believing what we hear when Christ's Voice sounds, and then giving ourselves to it as the power of His transforming grace begins an inner work.
Let us now ask ourselves, "Who is the man or where is the woman that can save themselves? Whose adamic will can prevail over God's sovereign will?" None! There is not one, not the first man nor any today: "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our LORD JESUS CHRIST" (I Cor. 15:57). It is He who makes it possible for our lips to declare and our lives to manifest the sure word, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
Elwin R. Roach
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