Definitions: A “free-willer” is someone who believes he can use his natural ability to come to faith in Christ. We call such a person an Arminian – after Jacobus Arminius. Most professing Christians are Arminians. “Things of the spirit” refers to the Christian message as a fulfilment of the “Old” Testament.
I try to answer the question, “Can Christ bring sinners to himself against their will.”
One can be forced to practice a religion but, owing to the fact that no one can read your heart, no one can force you to believe a religion. Therefore you are free to believe what you want. What does the natural man want? Not Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:14 “The natural man (born with a sin nature) receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Human beings believe what they want to believe. Here’s a thing: their hearts (desires) predetermine what they want. This predetermination is not from outside but from within, so inwardly determined. Their wills are prisoners of their hearts, which in its natural state does not receive the “things of the spirit.” This is what is meant by the “bondage of the will. It’s a delusion to think if you improve your “naturals, God is bound to give you spirituals.” Only God can do that – to whom he will. John 5:21, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”
“It requires, writes Christopher Ness, as much power to raise, quicken, and make alive, a sinner dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2) as to raise Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20).”
Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened (raised), who were dead in trespasses and sins. Ephesians 1:19-20 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 10 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.
To raise up Christ, continues Ness, and to work faith in us, requires the exceeding greatness of His power, verse 19. Here are three gradations—power,—greatness of power, and— exceeding greatness of power; and, as if that were too little, the apostle adds according to the working of his mighty power. The original words, imply, not only a working, but an effectual force in working; such strength as is in the arms of valiant men, who can do great exploits. Nay, more, ’tis beyond all this, it implies a power that can do all things; an omnipotent power. Surely had there been an internal principle in us, towards this great work; or any free-will, in us, to good; Paul would not have used those gradations, nor such emphatical, significant expressions. This work of regeneration, would not then have required the effectual forcible power of the valiant arm of God; even such a power as raised up Christ from the dead, whereby he was declared to be the Son of God, Romans 1:4.”
3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
Does God the Father’s will and God the Son’s will override the will of those who come to believe. Of course, they do, otherwise, for one, how can a human being, who, by nature, rejects “spiritual things” change his nature to accept “spiritual things,” and, for two, is God’s dependant on what sinners will? The Arminian says, yes. Yet, we read in 1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural man (born with a sin nature) receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
No, people are not robots, just dead to the things of God. The Arminian would say not really spiritually dead as in dead dead, but only deadish. Arminians say that God won’t override a person’s will. They are either confused or perverse: they reject the fundamental doctrine enunciated in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural man (born with a sin nature) receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Some call this fundamental doctrine, on which all us hang, “total depravity,” which doesn’t mean more than the fact that all of the human faculties, mind, will and emotions, are flawed and floored. A better term is “radical (root) corruption.” Most professing Christians would not be averse to being called a “ragamuffin” with whom God is longing to have a loving relationship. Brennan Manning says, “God is a kooky God who can scarcely bear to be without us” (The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 165). Ragamuffins are a bit like “sabras” (literally prickly pears, figuratively, a person born in Israel); prickly on the outside but sweet on the inside. Actually ragamuffins – and Israelis, for sure – are not all sweet on the inside, so a better description of Arminian Christinianity is as descibed in Helmut Thielicke (and Philip Yancey, who quotes Thielicke approvingly in his “What is so amazing about Grace,”( Zondervan, 1997, p. 175):
“When Jesus loved a guilt-laden person and helped him, he saw in him an erring child of God. He saw in him a human being whom his Father loved and grieved over because he was going wrong. He saw him as God originally designed and meant him to be, and therefore he saw through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath” (Helmut Thielicke, “Christ and the meaning of life,” Grand Rapids, Baker, 1975, p. 41).
It is that “real man underneath,” according to Arminians like Yancey and Thielicke, who is able, and often wants nothing more than, to let his uncorrupted will shine through the grime and dirt of sin. This, of course, is obtuseness or obduracy, taken, I would have said, to its extreme if it weren’t for the fact that this idea of the beautiful “real man underneath” lies at the very root of the ignorance or ignoring of the basic truth that “corrupt nature neither can, nor will, contribute any thing to destroy its own corruptions” (Christopher Ness, “Antidote to Arminianism” 1700).
“Free-will brings with it so many absurdities that it cannot be received.
First, It makes man the cause of his own salvation.
Second, It puts grace into man’s power, not man’s will under the power of grace.
Third, It robs God of the honour of making one to differ from another, and ascribes it to man” (Christopher Ness).
With regard to the third, to those who believe their wills are neutral and therefore can, if they so desire, choose God or reject God (that is what is meant here by “free will”), they must logically admit that what ultimately saved them was not something in God but something in them, and thus they deserved to be saved. I’ve only met one “free-willer” who conceded that he deserved to be saved.
So can Christ bring sinners to himself against their will? Man, in the natural, does what he wants, which is to reject Christ, so unless Christ breaks the chains of his self-will he will not and cannot accept Christ and will therefore remain fiddling – his naturals.