Musings on Sovereignty 13

It would be foolish for us to expect that this work will meet with general approval. The trend of modern theology—if theology it can be called—is ever toward the deification of the creature rather than the glorification of the Creator, and the leaven of present-day Rationalism is rapidly permeating the whole of Christendom. The malevolent effects of Darwinianism are more far reaching than most are aware. Many of those among our religious leaders who are still regarded as orthodox would, we fear, be found to be very heterodox if they were weighed in the balances of the Sanctuary. Even those who are clear, intellectually, upon other truth, are rarely sound in doctrine. Few, very few, today, really believe in the complete ruin and total depravity of man. Those who speak of man’s “free will,” and insist upon his inherent power to either accept or reject the Savior, do but voice their ignorance of the real condition of Adam’s fallen children. And if there are few who believe that, so far as he is concerned, the condition of the sinner is entirely hopeless, there are fewer still who really believe in the absolute Sovereignty of God. (A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God)

If God is truly sovereign, then He is sovereign over all things at all times and in all ways. The idea of “free-will” cannot truly be reconciled with the biblical doctrine of Divine sovereignty. The will can never be free of God and of His sovereign will and pleasure. The will can never be free from the wisdom of the Supreme Governor of the world. The will can never be free from the omnipotent power of God in ruling His creation as He pleases. The concept of a “free-will” can only be conceived of when the sovereignty of God has been diminished.

While it is true that the “free-will” can only be conceived of when the sovereignty of God has been diminished, it is also true that one can only assert that human beings have “free-will” if they deny the depravity and helplessness of man. Man is born dead in sin, so clearly if the whole man is dead (spiritually dead) then the will is dead as well. There is nothing free about a will that is dead in sin. The will that is dead is a will that is in bondage to death and has no freedom from that bondage at all. It may be said (to some degree and in some limited ways) that the will is free in sin, but that is not freedom at all. The will that is dead in sin is not forced to choose sin, but all of its choices are sinful.

We also have to consider another aspect of what it means to be dead in sin and a slave to sin. Since God judges all sin, He will judge the sin of those who are dead in sin. But what does God judge sin with? He judges them by hardening their hearts and turning them over to more sin. The punishment for sin is more sin. We can think of it as with Noah when God shut the door. When God shuts a door no one can open it. Well, when God hardens a heart no one can soften it but Him. In other words, when God hardens a heart and turns it over to sin, that heart is not free from the sin that God has turned it over to. All who are born dead in trespasses and sin are not free from the deadness of sin and are not free from judgment regarding their sin. It is impossible to think that a person who is in that condition has a “free-will) in any meaningful way.

Those who are born dead in sins and trespasses are also by nature children of wrath. Now this is a condition that a person has by nature. This includes at least two important concepts. First, what a person is by nature is what a person is unless that nature is changed. Second, a person is helpless in the nature that s/he was born with. The doctrine of regeneration tells us that a change of heart or a change of nature must occur for a person to believe. This should instruct us that a person that is dead in sin and by nature a child of wrath cannot believe until his or her nature is changed in regeneration. This destroys the idea of “free-will” since the will cannot carry out what it chooses if indeed it would ever truly choose in any way. A person dead in sin would not want to be anything but a sinner unless God opened his or her eyes to that sin. But again, a person dead in sin cannot open his or her eyes to that sin and even if the eyes are opened to some degree a person will never desire to be changed apart from God giving that desire.

It should be clear that a person that is dead in sin and by nature a child of wrath is helpless to do anything spiritual or spiritually good and is not free to change self. How free is a person to free himself from the wrath of God? That person is not free at all and so cannot change his or her nature and cannot defeat the power of God who is pouring out His wrath on that person. The doctrine of the depravity and helplessness of man runs parallel to the sovereignty of God. As man can do nothing in his deadness and his nature, so God cannot deny His wisdom and power in order not to be sovereign. It is true that it appears that in our day very few seem to believe the truth of who man is and that means that very few really believe that God is sovereign from the depths of the heart. It is one thing to have a creed that says God is sovereign, but it is quite another to live like God is sovereign. It takes free-grace (which is sovereign grace) to live as if God is sovereign.

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