A preacher objects to my saying that fallen human beings are dead spiritually because of sin and are unable to repent and believe without God’s gracious supernatural enabling. “This is a human doctrine,” he claims, which “smacks of Calvinism and is not biblical.” Besides, he argues, God commands repentance and faith, so humans must be able to do them.
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Those who do not take sin seriously will never be able to take seriously the divine grace which delivers us from sin. Until we know our own helplessness and inability to climb up to God, we will never appreciate God’s coming down to us in Jesus Christ. But don’t take my word for it — hear the Apostle Paul. Because of Adam’s sin, he states:
* “the many died” (Rom. 5:15);
* “judgment arose resulting in condemnation” (5:16);
* “death reigned” (5:17);
* “there resulted condemnation to all men” (5:18); and
* “the many were made sinners” (5:19).
Paul’s original Jewish audience already knew and believed those things. They did not already know the good news that Jesus of Nazareth came as the “second Adam,” the second representative man, and that by his perfect doing and dying in our name and stead, he won back for us far more than the first Adam lost.
God often commands what is humanly impossible, then enables what he has commanded. “Walk across the Jordan,” he told the Israelites — then he opened the river so they could do just that. “Lazarus, come forth!” Jesus commanded a corpse — but he enabled what he commanded. So it is when God commands people who are “dead in trespasses and sin” to repent and believe the Gospel. He commands what is humanly impossible — then he enables what he commands. Two New Testament writers, Luke and Paul, say that God gives repentance (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). Both of them lived 1,500 years before John Calvin was even born.