Three men at the tomb of Lazarus
Picture the scene in John 11. See the stone rolled away from the grave of Lazarus and three men there.
The first one is looking into the dark tomb and passionately pleading with the dead Lazarus inside. "Lazarus, if you will only give God a chance, He will give you life. If you just take the first step, then the Holy Spirit will make you come alive. God honestly wants to make you live, but its all up to you. Lazarus, this is a great deal that God is offering but your 'free will' must decide to take advantage of it. You must get up and take that first step in faith."
C. H. Spurgeon told the story about a Catholic saint whose head had been cut off. The man is supposed to have picked up his head, put it under his arm and walked 10,000 miles back to Rome. Spurgeon said, "I would have no trouble believing that to be true, if the man could take that first step!" If man's will can enable him to get up out of the tomb of death, then he surely does not need any help to keep on going.
The second man I see at the tomb of Lazarus is what we call a Hyper-Calvinist. He is sitting down and calmly writing a treatise of the futility of preaching to dead sinners. This pathetic creature never preaches or witnesses the gospel and he discourages and condemns those who do. Since Lazarus is "dead" this man concludes that it is a waste of time to address the dead sinner in any way.
The third man is a preacher of the biblical gospel. While the second man sneers and the first man gasps for breath, the third man cries out, "Sinner, believe! Lazarus, come out!" And Lazarus walks out of the tomb. If we interviewed the third man, the questions might go as follows:
"Were you fully aware that Lazarus was totally dead in that tomb?"
"Of course I was. Is not that what Scripture says?"
"Did you think that Lazarus had the ability to hear and respond to your message?"
"Not for a moment. How can a dead man respond to my voice?"
"Why did you command him to believe when you knew he was unable to comply because he was dead?"
The man would smile and say, "Friend, my confidence was neither in my ability to preach and invite, nor was it in the supposed (wrongly) power of Lazarus' 'free will.' My whole confidence was in the power of the Words that I spoke. I spoke the Words of Christ believing that Christ Himself has the power to wake the dead and give them faith."
My friend, the gospel is the power of God that can "wake the dead" when it is attended by the power of the Holy Spirit.
John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
Adapted from Total Depravity (2): an article by John Reisinger