No worthy student of the Bible would question that God has a sovereign purpose or that all things are working toward the realization of that purpose. But it must be acknowledged as well from such passages as Rom 12:1, 2; Gal 5:16; Eph 4:30; 1 Thess 5:19 and 1 John 1:9 that the appeal is to the human will, with every implication present which might establish the truth that, in the divine plan, the human will determines the whole course of the believer’s life.
The failure at this point with high Calvinists arises from the fact that, in their zeal to defend the doctrine of divine sovereignty, they do not recognize how the very sovereignty of God in its outworking utilizes the human will as its instrument, not, however, by any form of coercion (rather by “goodness” Rom 2:4—NC), but by that form of persuasion which enlightens and engenders holy desires to which the will may respond and by which it may be motivated. Here it must be asserted with all possible force that when a decision is made regarding some step in the spiritual life, even under the most powerful, impelling inducements which God may impart, that action of the human will is sovereign and free in its own choice
This same procedure characterizes the whole undertaking when a soul is saved through faith in Christ. It matters nothing that the human will has no power in itself to accept the Savior. The heart must be moved completely by the Holy Spirit or no choice of Christ is made; but just the same when the choice is made it is not due to coercion but to the will acting in its sovereign freedom. None can doubt the implication in the text which avers: “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17).
It is misleading to assert that “whosoever God wills may come.” It nevertheless is true, but not in the same sense in which high Calvinists have presented it, namely, that whosoever God compels will come—rather it should be stated thus: that whosoever God calls with an efficacious call, which call is a persuasion sufficient to guarantee the determined choice, will, of his own sovereign determination, come.
Let it not be supposed that this interpretation of an important Biblical doctrine lends any support to the Arminian notion that unregenerated men—because of some hypothetical, universal impartation of “common grace”—may at any time, under any circumstances, and by virtue of their own unaided vision and determination accept Christ as Savior if they will to do so. Only tragic misconceptions have been the fruit of an extreme Calvinism which makes no place in its reckoning for the inherent, constitutional necessity of immediate divine action upon the human will before the right choice can be made at all.
The spiritual life is in all instances presented as the result of the free choice of the believer’s will; but this doctrine must not be left to stand alone. Another doctrine of even more vital significance is the truth that the will must be moved by God.
- L S Chafer
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