John 1:12-13, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power
to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on his name: Which were
born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of
This morning, the subject of the will is one of the most misunderstood concepts
of the Bible. One the one hand, some men believe that man's will is completely
unrestricted, and he is basically capable of doing anything. To illustrate such
a belief, it would be like a man standing in the midst of a vast, open field
able to go anywhere, doing anything with no bounds whatsoever. Yet, Scripture
affirms that man, by nature, is incapable of understanding spiritual things:
much less actually doing them. (I Corinthians 2:14) Therefore, man's will cannot
be boundless, for man has limitations according to nature, but on the other
hand, some men believe that man's will is really no will at all. Everything has
been foreordained for him and to him, rendering him incapable of doing anything
outside of this mystical "fate" for him. This is best illustrated by a man,
completely bound with a chain, unable to move the slightest appendage, and
restricted in every
sense. As is usually the case, the Biblical concept of the will is somewhere in
between these two extremes. Man's will is restricted according to nature to do
only natural things. While he is incapable of doing otherwise, he still does
natural things because he is pleased to do them. Man, after the new birth, is
able to continue doing natural things, but now he is also capable of doing
spiritual things as well. Man's spiritual conduct is similar to his natural
conduct in this sense: what he does spiritually, he is pleased to do.
Looking at the will of man, from both sides - natural and spiritual, man is not
coerced into doing what he does, but rather, he does what he enjoys according to
the nature that he has. Many times, we look at man's sinful condition and almost
apologize for it. Man would do better if only he could, but man's sinful
condition is so dreadful and terrible that man fully enjoys it. As sinners by
nature, we enjoy sinning by practice. Man's sin is exercised according to his
desire and will, so that man, by nature, is not only incapable of becoming
spiritual - he has not the slightest desire, inclination, or will towards it.
Therefore, for a change of will and desire, something must be done from an
outside agent if man is to have a spiritual nature.
John's point, that is so often overlooked by the Arminian world, is that our
birth from above is not according to our will, our parent's will, or any other
will save the will of Almighty God to work it into the heart of all of His
children. We are born by His Almighty power, will and purpose, and sovereign
pleasure to do so. Why is it God's will to give His children spiritual life? He
is pleased to do so. As our will shows our pleasure, His pleasure, according to
His will, is for all of His children to experience that vital union with Him.
This will is not only declarative, but it cannot be overthrown in its surety and
infallibility. What God purposes to do, He does. What God is pleased to
accomplish, He performs. Since man is both incapable and unwilling to receive
the slightest spiritual thought, inclination, or desire, when God makes His
children capable, He also makes them willing. (Psalm 110:3) While that could
perhaps sound strange,
consider what happens when the body receives something that it does not desire.
Immediately, the body raises defenses to reject that which is inserted.
When the Lord's children experience that power from on high that regenerates the
soul and quickens the spirit, the flesh does indeed resist it as a warfare
immediately ensues, but the nature that is endowed has no inclination or will to
reject that work. In fact, the new man is completely harmonious and willing to
what has happened with desires and pleasures to fulfill spiritual things. This
new desire, inclination, or will is to do what pleases that new man. What
pleases him? What pleases him is what pleases the One that created the new man.
Our regenerate creature is incapable of sinning, for he bears the very image and
face of Jesus Christ the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
The question then becomes, so does man still do the things that please him? The
answer is yes, for when he sins, he pleases the flesh, and when he does
righteously, he pleases the spirit. At the same time, part of him abhors what he
does as both natures are at complete odds and polar opposites of one another.
One is the blackest of black, while the other is the same spotless white of the
holy, harmless Lamb of God. So, while we could not and would not have ever done
anything of a spiritual nature, unless it was the will of God to give us the
ability by His power and grace, what do we make of the spiritual will in verse
12? This verse is so often used to ingratiate the sinner with the idea that he
can win God's favour by believing on His name, but verse 13 clearly annihilates
and obliterates that notion. So, what does verse 12 mean?
When someone is following after the spirit (exercising their spiritual will),
they not only are doing certain things, but they are doing them for the right
reasons. A person that does a generous thing for the purpose of being praised
for it is feeding their prideful flesh. A person that seeks honour for being a
Christian is promoting a servant instead of the King. But, a person that adorns
their person with a meek and quiet spirit, clad in the garments of charity, and
showing forth their belief in Christ by word and deed, is given the power to
become a child of God. This phrase is not how we start our existence as God's
children vitally, for we are told directly following precisely how that was
accomplished. So, what does it mean to "become the sons of God?" In Titus 2:1,
Paul exhorts the young minister to preach things that "become sound doctrine."
Paul was not saying that by Titus's preaching them they would start their
existence as sound
doctrine. Rather, they were things that already fit within the realm and
framework of sound doctrine.
The word "become" in both cases denotes something that accompanies, adorns,
accentuates, and harmonizes with something else. Things that become sound
doctrine are things that are proper adornments to sound doctrine. Greed does not
become sound doctrine, for Bible doctrine will not allow for greed to fit within
the picture. Charity does become sound doctrine, for it flows, augments, and
mixes beautifully within the fabric of the story of God's redeeming love. So,
belief on the name of the Son of God, accounting Him faithful who promised,
assuredly standing steadfast in what He has said, walking by faith, and looking
unto that glorious day that He will take us home to be with Him become sons of
God. It is becoming on a child of the King to walk after Him in newness of life.
He did not make himself fit to walk in newness of life, but it is becoming of
his nature (spiritually) to honour the King by willingly following after Him.
Why do we follow after the things of the flesh? Our old nature enjoys and takes
pleasure in it. Why do we follow after the things of the spirit? Our new nature
enjoys and takes pleasure in it. What praise would it be to our Father if we did
things for and to Him because we could not help doing so? Next to that, wicked
man will not be able to stand before God at the end of time and declare, "I just
couldn't do otherwise Lord. Because of Adam, I could not do right." Indeed,
Adam's sin is enough to damn us forever, but the Lord will still point out what
they did, and there will be the knowledge that they enjoyed what they did. But
again, what praise would there be to God for our coerced compliance to do
spiritual things? However, there is great praise to Him when our willing hearts
yearn and seek to do the things pleasing in His sight. It becomes us, dear
friends, as a dress can become a young lady. The dress does not make her
beautiful, but it
brings out the beauty already there. Our walk does not make us beautiful and
cleaned up for God's grace, but rather, it brings out the beauty that His grace
has already put there.
Therefore, may we seek willingly to honour Him with our walk. The correct
Biblical illustration is neither an open, boundless field or completely
constricting chain. Rather, our old man is like a man in a room that moves
freely within that room, but still bounded by that room of the natural and
sinful realm. Our new man is like a man in a different room that moves freely
within that room, but still bounded in it to the spiritual and righteous realm.
The new man can no more do sin than the old man could do righteousness, but now,
having two natures, we are capable of both. What we bring forth shows where our
desire is at the time. May we follow after the things that lead to peace and
goodness, for they show forth the beauty within and bring glory to the Lord