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 Godâ€™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 Godâ€™s wonderful light (1 Pet. 2:9), or being born again (John 3:3).