commentary: Human Will and God's Sovereignty (Part Two)
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 27-Oct-18; Sermon #1458c; 16 minutes
Human will is incapable of drawing one to God or to obeying His laws. Just like the lungs, human will is not sovereign in the body, but is just another servant, functioning according to the information it receives, programmed to accept one alternative and reject all others. Human will cannot determine action (or behavior) by itself. Human nature chooses on the basis of tissue drives or appetites, as exampled by Eve's selecting the forbidden fruit according to taste buds and Adam's desire for Eve, as drivers of their decision to disobey God's instructions. God must replace deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9) with a new one (Hebrews 8: 10) before one's preferences are steered toward conversion and sanctification.
In the New Testament, the Greek term klesis literally means "calling," but in every case, klesis is used in a context—that is, within the New Testament—implies what our English term "invitation" means, without any argument whatever. Klesis is an invitation from God in heaven to take advantage of whatever His salvation offers. Well, hang on to that, because eventually we get around to a reason why I am speaking on this. This is actually the second in a series that I am giving—these brief commentaries.
We are going to pick up the theme from the conclusion of my previous commentary regarding the human will. We were examining it because some, mostly those that we might consider intellectual persons, believe that though the Bible teaches clearly that a specific and a direct calling from God is absolutely necessary for salvation, these intellectuals do not believe that this is so. All they have to do is set their will.
These intellectuals think so highly of themselves that they must merely set their own will themselves when they believe that the time is right for them to give themselves in obedience to God. This, despite the fact that Jesus clearly declared that no one—and I repeat, no one—can come to Him for forgiveness unless God draws him. That statement includes everyone on earth. It's a clear example of not believing that God means what He says.
What is the human will? Here is a simple, true definition. It is merely the instrument, the means, that God placed in every person to be that person's instrument of choice.
Here is something that must never be forgotten regarding this vital subject: The human will is not sovereign in anybody's human body, regardless of whomever that person is. It is never sovereign. That alone makes it impossible for them to choose to just obey God on their own. It's because their will is not sovereign in their own body. It does not matter who that person is, whether he is the president, the dictator, the king, priest or minister. Only God Himself is indeed sovereign over all, and no human is Creator God. In one sense, this is just so simple. But what I am talking about here are people who are so full of themselves, they think they can out-think God—if they even believe in Him.
A truly sovereign instrument of choice would indeed be the ranking function in every person. It would overrule all other functions in the body. That's what the term "sovereign" would imply. The reality is, though, that the human will is, in absolute fact, nothing more than another instrument of service within the body. If you're a servant, you're not sovereign.
Here is a major part of the body that can blow itself up to think that it is the greatest part of the body. It's not—it's simply another servant within the body. It serves a function within the body, like every other function in the body, such as the stomach, the heart, the liver and the kidneys.
Did you hear me? The human will is nothing more than just another servant within the body. It is entirely dependent upon the information it is receiving, so it can do its part within the body. This is the key: It is not sovereign; it is dependent on the information it's receiving.
The will serves the body by responding to what is influencing it to make the choices at any given time throughout each and every day. If the will was as powerful and influential as some people think it is, then it could conceivably heal any sick or injured other part of the body so that it could function better. But it can't. It's just another servant. It doesn't rank that highly within the body.
It is a reality, though, that it can't do this. It, too, is dependent upon what is influencing it. The term "choice" clearly implies the acceptance of one alternative and the rejection of one or more others. Otherwise, no choice exists. Remember, the will is the instrument of choice.
Also in every act of the human will, there is a third party—it's called "preference." It is the desiring of one thing rather than two or more alternatives, which determines the decision that the will makes. There must be something that determines the decision. Hence, the human will cannot be sovereign and it's only a servant. It can't be both the cause and effect of something that is causing it to react.
We have to reach a conclusion. You see, the will is not causing the decision. Do you understand that? The will is not causing the decision. It is being affected by certain considerations, providing influence. This is a a natural law that all scientists should know, that nothing cannot produce something. It's an unbreakable natural law, and our will has to operate within that. But intellectuals say the human will possesses a self-determining power. That, however, is an impossibility, because whatever influences the human will is what causes it to choose, and therefore the human will serves based on the influences it's receiving.
You know, God is not always affected by our tears. He sees over, above, and beyond because He is sovereign, and He does what is right, regardless. It's impossible for Him to make a wrong decision, because He is sovereign over every aspect of what He is. But the human will serves based on the influences it receives, and it cannot perform both functions. It is not sovereign. That's the key to this. It might take a while to think it through logically. But because it's not sovereign, it cannot determine things by itself.
The strongest power that motivates the will to act varies according to circumstances. The influences it gets are not always the same. Sometimes it's logic. Sometimes it's one's conscience. Sometimes it's a given reason. Sometimes it's Satan. Sometimes it is the Holy Spirit, and often it is nothing but carnal self-centeredness. That never seems to leave us, and it's influencing our decisions. But always the will is responding to influences.
I am going to give you a simple and clear example that God provided with mankind, right at the beginning of the Bible, so that we will get this. God provided mankind—that is Adam and Eve, and everyone born from them—with a small amount of carnality. Before Genesis 3 is completed, He shows how influential it is on the will. They were barely out of God's sight, as it were, and still in the Garden of Eden when Eve's desire—there is an influence—for fruit to eat and wisdom to possess, and Adam's desire—an influence to please Eve—influenced their wills and they made—in both cases—a tragic decision and brought death on themselves, simply because of an influence.
One's taste buds and one's appreciation of a woman's beauties are not the only forces influencing the human will to act against the laws of God, choosing death rather than life, joy and peace. God made sure that Satan did not MAKE them make those choices. They did it on their own. You understand that because their will was influenced by a taste bud—that's how weak our will can be—or, in Adam's case, by his wife's beauty, and he wanted to please her.
There is a great deal of feeling involved in human sin, and I believe this is why God centers on the heart as the seat, the well, as it were, of human sin. "Out of the abundance of the heart [comes sin]," Jesus taught. It is the heart, not the will, that governs many, many, many of mankind's bad choices. This is important to understand.
Consider a natural-born person before whom two alternatives are placed. Which will the person most likely choose? In almost every case, he will choose—I am not going to say what you think I am—the one that is most agreeable to himself. It might vary from person to person, but the one that is most agreeable to himself. That is, that's the one that is most agreeable to his heart. "Out of the abundance of the heart. . . ." It's most agreeable to his heart, his innermost being.
Here is another example: Before the sinner is set a life of virtue and godly piety. The other choice is a life of sinful indulgence. Which will he follow? In almost every case, it will be the life of self indulgence. Why? Because that's the natural choice. Why choose that one? The answer is actually very simple: He prefers it. It's just that simple. The will is being influenced by what he prefers.
On the other hand, if the same choices are set before a converted person, this person will choose the life of piety and virtue. Why? The answer has to do with God, because in His calling, God has given him a new heart—a new nature—and that gift from God is influencing that person to make that choice.
So, the unconverted person will not make the same choice, because his heart does not want to, because his heart hates God and loves sin. That's what Jeremiah 17:9 teaches us, and Jesus states in John 5:40 to some carnal people, "You will not come to Me that you might have life." You see, God must call. That's the conclusion because of the nature that He gives as a gift.