"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Some Quotes from Together for the Gospel | Main | The Together for the Gospel Statement »

    Assenting to the Gospel through Our Natural Powers?

    As we cast forth the seed of the Gospel, the fallow ground of the natural heart does not receive it. The Farmer must first come plow it up and give blessing if it is to grow (Micah 6:15; 1 Cor 3:6). The Word does not work by itself but requires the application of the Spirit who brings forth life through the Word (1 Thess 1:4, 5). When the Holy Spirit germinates that seed, He quickens the hearer to life, opening spirtitually blind eyes, unpluging deaf ears, convicting of sin, and turning hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. We affirm that this initial grace of the Holy Spirit working in us is independent of any human cooperation.

    With the historic biblical church of all ages we confess that God does not await our unregenerate will to be cleansed from sin, since even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the effectual working of the Holy Spirit in uniting us to the Person and work of Christ (John 1:13; 6:63-65, 37; Rom 9:16). That even the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly comes to us through regeneration -- and this belongs to us NOT by nature but by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, for the Apostle Paul says, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). We confess that it is by the work and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we even have the faith, the will, or the strength to believe and obey as we ought. The assistance of grace does not depend on the humility or obedience of man but it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble. The Apostle Paul again says, "...What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

    We confess that due to the bondage of the natural man to a corruption of nature, we cannot assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination, inspiration and quickening of the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament communicates this when it speaks of circumcising and softening otherwise stubborn, unholy and hardened hearts (Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:26). It is spoken of as the act of God’s writing his law on the human heart (Jer. 31:33). In the New Testament, this work of the Holy Spirit is represented as making us a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), being brought from death to life (Rom. 6:13), being called out of darkness into God’s wonderful light (1 Pet. 2:9), or being born again (John 3:3).

    Posted by John on April 28, 2006 05:42 PM


    Berkhof notes three elements of Christian 'faith': An intellectual element (notitia), an emotional element (assensus), and a volitional element (fiducia). With the mind we must believe the gospel, with the will we must chose to trust in it and God's work(e.g. rather than our own works, e.g. the classic illustration that it is insufficient to believe the chair is there and can hold you up, you must exercise the will to sit in it), and with the heart we must LOVE the gospel and our Lord. We have in the evangelical and Reformed world placed too much emphasis on the third aspect of fiducia, or 'trust'; full belief and trust in the gospel message are essential to salvation, but are insufficient to makeup biblical 'faith' that saves. Taking my cues from John Piper who has distilled much of what Jonathan Edwards makes clear in "Religious Affections", I believe (contra. Reformed conventional wisdom) I believe an unregenerate person can have a 100% belief in all the propositions of the gospel, and can be trusting in it and Christ's work as fully as any regenerate person to get them into heaven (rather than their own works), and yet lack the change of heart that makes one accept emotionally and lovingly the gospel and Christ necessary for full-orbed saving faith. I believe Scriptural repeated warnings make clear throughout that many who are fully orthodox and confident in their beliefs of the gospel, and who are fully convinced that it applies to them and who are trusting in that work to save them jsut as much as the truly regenerate person trusts in it, will be unpleasantly surprised to find that their mere confident acceptance of the propositions of the gospel will prove inadequate in order to hear Jesus acknowledge them as 'knowing' him on the day of judgment since they did not 'know', did not 'love' him from a changed heart, which will also be evidenced in a lack of sheep-works rather than goat-works.

    So I agree with all the essay says here about an unbeliever being unable to "assent" to the gospel so long as we mean assent in the affectional sense, for a counterfeit professor can have the same confident beliefs in propositions, and same mere decisions of the will to 'trust' in the gospel to get him to heaven based on the understood propositions, as any regenerate person, while the weakest most immature doubt-plagued regenerate person on earth has a TRUE affectional love for Christ that far transcends the affections of the smoothest professor.


    This is true. You have hit it the nail on the head and largely is what we hope the ministry of would be about. John 3:19, 20 says that the reason the unregenerate do not come into the light is not simply that they remain unconvinced intellectually, but their heart remains at enmity with God. They "love darkness" and "hate the light" and therefore will not come into the light. Their affections are determinitive. The Holy Spirit, therefore, when He quickenes us and moves us to believe the gospel, it is not merely an assent to a checklist of truths, but changes the hearts' very disposition so that for the first time, we behold the beauty and excellency of Christ.

    People usually deny God, not because they lack evidence, but because their hearts are rebellious. So the unbelievers' problem is moral/ethical first, and then intellectual. Thus he/she requires a supernatural work of God to love, understand and apprehend spiritual truth as revealed in Scripture. Those who know facts, therefore, are not the same as those who forsake sin, repent of trusting in their good works, and come to love, believe and trust in Christ. We must, therefore, appeal to the entire person and not merely their intellect.

    God is hidden from man because he loves sin and remains in hostile rebellion against God. This antagonism for the gospel is seated in the affections, and is not because we lack data or are not smart enough. So we appeal to the heart of those bound in unbelief (and believers blinded by error) because God is not to be understood as a mechanical precept or an axiom as found in mathematics. To come to faith in Christ one must first have a desire for Christ and spiritual things; we must perceive and take delight in His unmatched beauty and unsurpassed excellency.

    But to perceive, we must have the spiritual faculties to perceive to begin with. unspiritual man cannot by definition understand spiritual truths. We must be born from above by the Spirit --- Then and only then can we desire to believe, because to know and understand Him (an impossible supposition for the unregenerate) is to love Him. Faith will never "just happen' out of thin air, but actually requires that we desire Him, for we only choose that which we most desire. But to be sure, the Scriptures teach that these holy affections are not produced by our unregenerate human nature (Rom 8:7; 1 Cor 2:14). And since the root of faith cannot be indifferent or neutral, a full-orbed gospel is not merely a list of impersonal propositions for our intellectual assent, but it is proclaiming the full person of Christ in His love for sinners shown in His life, death and resurrection. Words are not enough, however, to persuade those bent on rebellion, because spiritual knowledge, which is relational, requires a new sense of God's unsurpassed excellence ... and only the regenerate possesses this. Paul, when speaking to the Thessalonians makes this clear when he says, "...for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction..." (1 Thess 1:5). This passage shows that God uses means (preaching), but the word is not enough: the Holy Spirit must come, open and illumine our understanding, disarm hostility, change us from hatred to love for Christ... that we might believe with full conviction.


    The 'necessity of the new birth' was the great theme of arguably the greatest evangelical, George Whitefield. His example of love and partnership with Wesley to cry out to the world the imperative of the Spirit's regeneration among nominal Christians can be a theme that can manifest "Togetherness for the Gospel" for the One church across not only differences on baptism among Calvinists, but even beyond Calvinist lines; we can better occasionally reach out for the hand of the mistaken Arminian preacher to work together to wake up people to the need for rebirth even as we keep our firm grasp of our five points in the other hand.


    I have really been edified by this post, thank you for your wisdom, may God bless you as you all strive by the Grace of God to love our Lord Jesus and our neighbour, especially those of the household of faith, more and more.

    Oh yah, that is interesting that George Whitefield, a sinner like us, could still work with John Wesley even though John Wesley's theology was heretical. What an example to us and a challenge to work with others even though they might not be 100% theologically correct, and yet still hold to the good old and trusty 5 points of Christianity!

    Yah, thanks guys for the encouragement. What an example by George Whitefield hey? I can defintetly learn from that. Join with Arminians in preaching the gospel and calling people to repent and believe in Jesus and yet keeping to the biblical and correct teaching of the 5 points.

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