Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Extent of Our Sin (John 6:25-69)

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44)

While most churches have a doctrine of original sin, not all agree on the extent to which that sin affects humanity. The conflict comes in understanding what is meant by free will. Many have asked the question, “Why would God command us to conform to His law if we do not have the ability to obey?” How you answer this determines your view of how extensive sin has affected fallen humanity.

Three prevalent views on this subject are Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Augustinianism. Each maintains that man has free will, but they define and apply it differently. Freedom means that man has the ability to choose what he wants. Pelagianism, named after the fourth-century monk Pelagius, says man has the ability to choose the good. Pelagius argued that man can obey God perfectly, and thus gain eternal life, without any grace. He rejected Augustine’s view that original sin prohibits man from pleasing God. He believed man has the ability on his own to achieve perfection.

Pelagianism stands in stark contrast to the truth of the Christian faith. The heart of Christianity is the redemption of man. Because man is sinful and cannot earn salvation, he can only obtain eternal life through faith in Christ. Only through His righteousness can man be saved. Only by God’s grace can man receive the ability to choose according to God’s desires. Fallen man has free will, but his desires are sinful. He is in bondage to his own sinful inclinations that flow from a sin nature. Only when God changes our hearts can we have the freedom to obey Him.

Semi-Pelagianism maintains that fallen man needs God’s grace to come to faith in Christ and lead a life of obedience, but man must meet God half-way. This view says original sin has affected man but not so thoroughly that he is unable to turn to God in faith. Semi-Pelagianism would say that fallen man needs help from God, that man is not dead in his sins but merely sick.

The Scriptures clearly proclaim that man is dead in his sins and that no man can come to Christ unless the Father enables him. Only God can change a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Only by grace alone can fallen man embrace Jesus Christ who takes away our guilt and declares us righteous before a holy God.

Read Romans 6:15–23. Examine your own desires. Are you a slave to your sin or to righteousness? In what ways have you been set free from your bondage to sin? Paul says we are slaves to the one we obey. How do we have freedom in Christ when we are slaves to righteousness?