Cryptic Emails by John Hendryx
Each day at Monergism.com, if you can imagine, we receive all kinds of email. These include a lot of sincere questions, encouragement, testimonies, challenges and the occasional cryptic messages. A couple of days ago I received one of the latter. The title of the email was:
"What must I DO to be saved?"
Then the body of the email only had the following Scriptural reference and no other text or explanation:
30And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
My first response to the text was "Amen!". What more could be said?
But as I thought it through I realized that perhaps the gentleman who wrote it (whom I had never had contact with before) was either offering some kind of proof against something he had read in the site and/or challenging me in some way. The first clue is the title of his email in which he CAPITALIZED the words "I DO" in "what must I DO to be saved?"
In other words, he is asserting that yes, there is something man must do in order to be saved ... proof against your websites' claim that salvation is by God's grace alone, a monergistic work of God's grace without any cooperation of man.
The first thing to notice about the text he sent is that it only tells us what man must do, that is, what God's demands are for man. But nowhere does the text speak of man's ability to carry out the command. If what the visitor means by presenting this text is that the natural man can believe the gospel apart from any illumination, conviction and quickening from the Holy Spirit then we run into serious difficulty and are flirting with the semi-pelagian belief that the natural man can believe the gospel using only his natural resources, apart from the Spirit. This is really where many persons in modern evangelicalism, I believe, have gone wrong in their method of exegesis. An isolated verse is presented as a proof text without consideration for what else the Scripture says about a thing. When we have a doctrine, in other words, we must consider the whole counsel of Scripture.
For example, when Jesus indeed says, "come to Me" we must not also forget that elsewhere he also says "no one can COME TO ME UNLESS God grants it" (John 6:65) So "come to me" and believe in me" are commands given to men of what they must do to fulfill God's requirements of them. But Scripture is clear that the command to "believe in Christ" (Acts 17:30) which we herald to all persons indiscriminately only reveal spiritual impotence. But it is only the Spirit who can bring persons to that utter despair of self that they might trust in Christ. It is otherwise unnatural. To believe that the text provided by the visitor means that we can believe the gospel in a void while still left to our natural selves and our darkened affections, is to misapprehend the degree to which the natural man is corrupted, unspiritual and dead in sin. Unspiritual man simply does not think spiritual thoughts (1 Cor 2:14) and to believe in Christ is antithetical to human nature.
In his sermon Free Will- A Slave CH. Spurgeon once asked,
"...did you ever meet a Christian man who said, "I came to Christ without the power of the Spirit?" If you ever did meet such a man, you need have no hesitation in saying, "My dear sir, I quite believe it-and I believe you went away again without the power of the Spirit, and that you know nothing about the matter, and are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity."
Spurgeon also said (in his sermon Human Inability) that many synergists say,
"men may be saved if they will." We reply, "My dear sir, we all believe that; but it is just the "if they will" that is the difficulty. We assert that no man will come to Christ unless he be drawn; nay, we do not assert it, but Christ himself declares it--"Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;' and as long as that "ye will not come' stands on record in Holy Scripture, we shall not be brought to believe in any doctrine of the freedom of the human will." It is strange how people, when talking about free-will, talk of things which they do not at all understand. "Now," says one, "I believe men can be saved if they will." My dear sir, that is not the question at all. The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful. supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ.
So whenever persons use commands in the Bible to believe on Christ as proof that man has the spiritual ability to cooperate with God apart from the Holy Spirit, ask them if the Holy SPirit has any role in their coming to faith? If He does, then he must recognize that man, left to Himself, has no capacity whatsoever to believe the gospel. Then the discussion turns more profitable toward things such as "what is the nature of God's grace in Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit to save sinners?" Then take them to John 6:63-65, 37, 39, 44 etc. and put any end to the belief that the natural man cooperates with God in regeneration.
Responsibility, Inability and Monergisc Grace
This is an aside ... We wanted to ask for all of your prayers for this ministry. We live, I believe, in a very dark corner of the United States. I do not simply mean that it rains a lot here in the Northwest, but that there is precious little interest in the gospel here. As far as I know there is not historically been any great work of the Spirit to awaken people here. The crime statistics here also bare this out. Well, aside from our ministry constantly being hit from the Synergists on the left and the TRs on the right, we need you to hold us before the Lord when you come to Him in prayer. Your prayers for us are needed that we would maintain perseverance, have wisdom, continue to promote the right biblical balance and contend of the faith once delivered to the saints. Pray the Lord continue to excise wickedness from our own hearts that we might be instruments in His hands and align with His redemptive purpose. We thank you for your support for this ministry.