A Christian college Bible professor writes: “Why do people believe the gospel? Reasoning from historical witness that one believes to be real history, attesting to events that happened in time — that has been and remains the Christian way. If that is not the only source of belief, it remains an important one.”
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“Important,” we can agree, but scarcely the ultimate answer, mustn’t we say in view of New Testament revelation? Consider Jesus’ bold affirmation: “No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to me” (John 6:44-45). Or remember Paul’s inspired reflection that “God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Or recall the narrative of the lady from Thyatira, of whom it is said that “the Lord opened [Lydia’s] heart to respond to
the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14).
There seems no getting around the fact, if we accept the scriptural witness as normative, that those who believe must give God all the credit, while those who do not must themselves accept the blame.To put it another way, even our fallen nature can say “No” to God, although we need God’s power to say “Yes.” We may think of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, calling out that most preposterous of commands to a corpse four days dead — “Lazarus, come forth!” How can any dead man walk from his grave? The answer, of course, is that what God commands he also empowers.
So with the proclamation of the Good News. God commands men and women who are dead in trespasses and sins to repent and believe the gospel (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18) — something they have no natural ability to do whatsoever. But with the command, God also provides the power to fulfill it. The mystery of iniquity is that some exercise their fallen native ability to disbelieve and reject God’s grace (Acts 28:23-27). We may be sure that God does not rejoice that any perish (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 1 Pet. 3:9). Nor does he make anyone disbelieve, although he has the right to do even that if he wishes, and we would have no right to complain (Rom. 9:16-24).