If we can Resist the Spirit, We can Allow the Spirit

“It is a biblical fact that believers can resist the Holy Spirit, as they are commanded not to do so, and it is a biblical fact that believers can fall into sin. If we can choose to resist the Spirit, and God is not the author of, nor is he responsible for, our sin, then we can also choose not to resist the Holy Spirit.

“Is not such a choice, truly our choice? Is God to be blamed when we resist the Holy Spirit? No. The reason is that God cannot resist himself. We are the ones who resist God.

If I choose not to resist the Holy Spirit, but to “keep in step with the Holy Spirit” as it says in Galatians 5, then is it not every bit as much the same exercise of my will choosing to do this, and does not such “choosing” belong to the realm of human responsibility for which I am genuinely accountable ?

“I freely acknowledge I could do no good thing without God’s provision in Christ. Jesus himself said, ‘without me, you can do nothing.’ At the same time, I am genuinely responsible to exercise my renewed will and utilize this provision, and it is my choice to do this, as God does not do it for me.”

At the foundation of this view is the false assumption that freedom equals autonomy, and that the fact that God is not the author or approver of sin makes our “free will” to sin autonomous.

This view falsely assumes that because we resist the grace of God and grieve the Holy Spirit, that God does not control us without blame to his holy character in our resisting and our grieving him, but we rather control ourselves and that our autonomous, self-determining choice is the reason we are blameworthy of sin, and God is innocent of sin.

While God is not in the least to blame for sin and he is not the Author or approver of sin, he nevertheless controls even the sinful actions of men with his almighty sovereign power.There is no such thing as autonomy in the exercise of the “free will” to grieve the Holy Spirit.

There is no discretionary autonomy to resist the grace of God, but rather such resistance, while completely the fault of the sinner, is under God’s sovereign control, and should lead those who think such “freedom” is theirs to fear that they are being fattened as cattle for the slaughter when they countenance sin.

If I reason that because I am able to resist the Holy Spirit through my autonomous free will, I am also able to choose not to resist and to instead “co-operate” with the grace of God in my life (as though it were up to me to make use of the “raw materials” of God’s gracious provision), I then see myself as making the potential obedience secured for me by my standing in Christ actual, true obedience by the exercise of my  will.

I thus assume that just as autonomous freedom is the basis of the sinful acts I commit as a Christian, so also autonomous freedom is the basis of the good works I perform as a Christian. I therefore sinfully suppose that autonomy is the basis of my Christian obedience, rather than the work of God which is a gift secured by the death of Jesus and applied to my life by the power of the Holy Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:23, 24).

Autonomy which gives God all the credit is still autonomy. It still sees itself, where the issue of sanctification is concerned, as a separate and distinct entity without which the work would not occur, and thus the one on whom it depends. To say that you could never do it without God is still to confess that you believe that you are the one doing it, even with God as your indispensable helper.

Such a confession is not biblical sanctification, but religious pride on the order of the Pharisee who prayed in the temple, giving God all the credit by thanking God he was not like other men (Luke 18:11).

As Calvin correctly points out above in his statement on Ezekiel 11, God does not merely restore us to the position of the first Adam in our sanctification. He gives us more than mere ability to do good, leaving it up to our “free will” to then choose the good as an act of autonomous discretion. God, says Calvin, is “the author of the upright will, and he works in us to accomplish his purpose.”

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2 Comments on “If we can Resist the Spirit, We can Allow the Spirit”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Dr. Shelton notes on one of his major biblical defenses of prevenient grace related to John 1:9, “The context is not an excuse for predestination to salvation in order to see the Light, but a paradoxical irony that the ‘light shown in darkness’ but those unwilling would not see.”

    Nettles– Precisely! This passage concerns an enlightenment that would give to an unbiased heart abundant reason to worship and adore the great wonder of the knowledge of God but, in coming to fallen persons, still leaves them unwilling, that is, with a moral propensity in opposition to the true and pure worship of God. The question here is the character of the grace that brings the sinful moral agent from the state of unwillingness to willingness. Elements of persuasion falling on hearts still biased toward evil only produce hearts more hardened still.

    If freedom is defined as moral neutrality or equilibrium, then there can be nothing in a gospel presentation that moves a person either one way or another, and any coincidental response must be prompted by something other than the moral texture of the gospel. On the other hand, if grace moves the sinner, the gospel presentation will be met with the response of faith. An enabling that stops short of creating a heart that is congruent with gospel conditions is no enabling at all.

    • markmcculley Says:

      An Examination of Tulip. Robert Sumner
      The Word of God teaches that, while man is totally depraved and totally unable to help himself, our Lord draws every man sufficiently and enlightens every man as much as necessary for that individual to make a decision of his own free will. ). Five-point Calvinism erroneously insists that man’s spiritual deadness makes such a voluntary decision impossible short of the actual reception of spiritual life.
      Proponents of this position fondly illustrate by pointing to the total inability of a man physically dead. They argue that such a man cannot speak, cannot hear, cannot move a hand or a foot. cannot do anything at all. Since man is dead in trespasses and sins, they reason, he is hopeless to even hear the Gospel with spiritual perception or move a finger to act upon it.
      The kind of “deadness” they describe is unlike any of the three forms of deadness found in the Bible. The deadness envisioned by the Word of God is a “separation” deadness. For example, physical deadness is simply the separation of the spirit and the soul from the body. James wrote: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). It is true that the dead corpse cannot hear, speak, or move. But the corps is not the man! The man, even though physically dead, is still able to hear, see, move, act and be cognizant of things.
      Our dear Lord certainly gave us ample evidence of this in His story of the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16:19-31 Our Saviour clearly stated that the rich man, after departing this life, was able to lift up his eyes, he saw, he cried, he prayed, and was apparently in full possession of all his faculties. The same is true with spiritual deadness.
      Spiritual death is simply separation from God, Paul was describing this spiritual deadness when he wrote to Timothy, saying, “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1Tim.5:6). Those outside of Christ are spiritually dead, yes; but they eat, talk, think, move, act, work, play, sleep and react in every way just as do the saved people who have spiritual life.
      It is no different with the third type of Biblical death, namely, the “second death” so called because it is the second and final form of spiritual death. The second death is simply a complete, final and eternal separation from God in the lake of fire (Gehenna) because of sin and because of rejection of Christ. Sinners in Hell will think, move, act, and otherwise manifest full sense of their faculties.
      So it is a strange sort of deadness; one completely foreign to any type described in the Word of God that the five-point Calvinist describes in his doctrine of total inability. It is certainly true that no sinner can come to Christ unless drawn by the Spirit of God; but the blessed Holy Spirit draws every man (John 12:32), giving man enough light so that he is, as Romans 1 :20 says, “without excuse.” And John says about Jcsus, ‘’That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9)

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