In this article: Man's greatest and most basic need Spiritually dead Born again Slaves of sin and Satan Blind Deaf There are none good, none seek after God The Solution: God draws and quickens His saints Election and predestination Invitations, Knocking, repenting, etc. What can we do then?
Man's greatest and most basic need is that we need to become right with God.
God has provided a way through Jesus Christ. Therefore, the way has been defined. The next logical question is how one is saved. The answer to this question has huge consequences. And this question boils down to the question of whether man can reach out to God, or does God have to reach out to man. Upon this, all sorts of theology are shaped, such as one's understanding of free will and the Bible's use of the words predestination and election. How one understands these issues shapes a multitude of other doctrines including the understanding of huge portions of Scripture.
Most of what is found below is passages from Scripture. The evidence from Scripture overwhelmingly points to one answer for the basic question.
We shall see that mankind is spiritually dead, blind, deaf, and slaves of sin and Satan. We cannot help ourselves. We cannot lift a spiritual finger. We cannot even seek God. We are dead...just as God said that death was the penalty for sin way back in Genesis 2. If you are reading this, you are obviously not physically dead, but you are a sinner. We are all sinners. You, then, are spiritually dead unless the Lord has made you spiritually alive. As we will see, God has to do ALL the work. When this truth is realized, the meaning of huge portions of Scripture pop off the page and become alive and becomes harmonious. The doctrines of election/predestination, eternal security and others all flow from this truth after it is received as Truth.
We are dead in our spirit because of sin:
Ephesians 2:1 And you has he quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins:
Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all lived in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;)
Ephesians 2:6 And has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Ephesians 2:7 That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Ephesians 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Matthew 23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whited sepulchers [graves], which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
Like the Pharisees, we are also dead...unless God quickens (makes alive) us.
Ezekiel 37:1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
Ezekiel 37:3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, you know.
Ezekiel 37:4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. - God uses His Word to make bones (people - see verse 11) alive.
Ezekiel 37:5 Thus says the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live: - It is God who breathes life into our spirits.
Ezekiel 37:11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel... - Bones = people
Ezekiel 37:12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus says the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. - Since this whole situation is figurative, we can conclude that the phrase "land of Israel" could quite reasonably be figurative too. The land of Israel is seen as a place of deliverance. Israel came out of Egypt (the land of slaves...figuratively speaking, a land where we are slaves to sin/Satan, i.e. dead in our sins) and were delivered into the land of Israel (the land of deliverance...figuratively speaking, the Kingdom of God where we are delivered in our spirits from sin)
Ezekiel 37:13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, - it is God that does all the work. We are dead. Repeated again in the following verse.
Ezekiel 37:14 And shall put my spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall you know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, says the LORD.
Luke 9:60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but you go and preach the kingdom of God. - how can the physically dead bury the physically dead? At the very least, Jesus is saying that the spiritually dead need to bury the physically dead.
Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. - From the familiar parable of the prodigal son. He was alive, but spiritually dead.
John 5:21 For as the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them; even so the Son quickens whom he will. - in this context, Jesus is speaking again of the spiritually dead.
John 5:25 Truly, truly, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. - This is another reference to the spiritually dead people who surrounded Christ were hearing His Word (through Jesus Himself) and some were being spiritually quickened.
In John 11, we have the narrative account of Lazarus being raised from the dead. It has been pointed out (rightly so I believe) that this is also a historical parable. Lazarus represented all of us before we are quickened by God. He is a dead corpse capable of doing nothing. He can't see, hear, or respond to anything spiritual. Then, at the end of the account, we find that it takes Jesus to empower him;
John 11:43-44 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth... - We notice that Lazarus didn't do anything. He couldn't, he was dead. It wasn't until Jesus empowered him that the dead came forth.
Romans 5:15 But the free gift is not like the offence. For if through the offence of one [Adam] many died, much more has the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, abounded unto many. - We all spiritually died when the federal head (represented all of us) of our human race, Adam, sinned.
Corinthians II 5:14 For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
1Timothy 5:6 But she that lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. - this is obviously not talking about physical death, but rather spiritual death.
Peter I 4:6 For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. - how can a physically dead man hear the Gospel preached, it must mean spiritually dead.
Revelation 3:1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things says he that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead. - physically alive, but spiritually dead
It is obvious in the physical world that a dead person can do nothing on his own. The same is true in the spiritual world. We can do nothing to help ourselves spiritually because we are dead.
Just as the dead cannot do anything about his condition, he also cannot born himself again. This is another picture that God gives use to show us our total helplessness in the matter of spiritual quickening. It is God who has to "born" us again (or... born us from above [more accurately] in some translations).
John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Truly, truly, I say unto you, Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God
John I 5:1 Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loves him that begat loves him also that is begotten of him.
Peter I 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever.
Just as the Israelites were slaves of the Egyptians, we are slaves to sin and Satan. How did the Israelites get free? They could do nothing themselves. They were helpless. They were delivered from slavery by the power of God. We must be delivered from sin by the power of God. We can do nothing.
John 8:34 Jesus answered them, Truly, truly, I say unto you, Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin. Along with:
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; = we are all the slaves of sin.
Romans 6:17 But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Romans 6:18 Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness.
Romans 6:20 For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness.
Romans 6:22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, - which is a quote from Jesus who was referring to Isaiah 61 below
Isaiah 61:1 The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
Isaiah 61:2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
Isaiah 42:6 I the LORD have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
Isaiah 42:7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
Timothy II 2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
Timothy II 2:26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. - they recover themselves through the faith that has been given to them - Ref: Eph 2:8
Luke 4:5 And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
Luke 4:6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give you, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomever I will I give it.
Luke 4:7 If you therefore will worship me, all shall be yours.
Luke 4:8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get behind me, Satan: for it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. - we note that Jesus did not deny that all of the kingdoms of the world were give to Satan. Anyone who commits sin is his servant.
Corinthians I 10:20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I do not want you to have fellowship with devils.
Corinthians I 10:21 you cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: you cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. - one is either a slave of Satan, or a slave of God. There is no in between.
John I 3:8 He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
Revelation 12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world:
John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. - Satan is a prince of this world because he rules over this world.
John 6:70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? - once we sin, we are owned by the devil...we all have sinned, so we all are children of Satan...unless God intervenes.
John 14:30 Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world comes, and has nothing in me.
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.
Matthew 4:16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
Luke 1:79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
John 1:5 And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believes on me should not abide in darkness. - to believe, we first must be quickened. We are unable to believe on our own.
Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Colossians 1:13 Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
Just like being dead, we can do nothing about curing our physical blindness if we are blind (even in this modern day of technology). The same holds true for spiritual blindness. We can do nothing to ourselves (much less of ourselves) to cure our blindness. We are helpless. We must be healed by God. We can do nothing.
Obviously the Pharisees were not physically blind, but rather spiritually blind:
Matthew 15:14 Let them alone: they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch [Hell].
Matthew 23:16 Woe unto you, you blind guides, which say...
Matthew 23:17 you fools and blind...
Matthew 23:19 you fools and blind...
Matthew 23:24 you blind guides...
Matthew 23:26 you blind Pharisee...
John 9:39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which do not see might see; and that they which see might be made blind. - obviously Jesus is speaking of spiritual blindness rather than physical.
John 12:39 Therefore, because they could not believe, Esaias said again,
John 12:40 He has blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted [through their faith which is a gift], and I should heal them.
Romans 11:7 What then? Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded
Romans 11:8 (According as it is written, God has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
Corinthians II 3:14 But their minds were blinded: for the same veil remains until this day not taken away in the reading of the old testament;...
The same spiritual blindness is found in not only the Jews, but all who have not been cured by God, Himself:
Corinthians II 4:4 In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which do not believe, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Ephesians 4:18 Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
Revelation 3:17 Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and do not know that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: - this passage is of particular interest because it is one in which spiritual blindness is directly equated to being poor (spiritually poor that is), and naked (spiritually naked that is). Perhaps this could present us with a different view of what nakedness means in Matthew 25. Our greater need is for spiritual clothing (being without Christ's robe of righteousness (Rev. 7)), and the lesser (but still important) need is for physical clothing.
Just like being blind, there is nothing we can do about deafness for ourselves. It is all God's actions.
Matthew 11:15 He that has ears to hear, let him hear. (repeated 7 times)
Matthew 13:13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they see, but do not see; and hear, but they do not hear, neither do they understand.
Matthew 13:15 For this people's heart has become calloused, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
Mark 4:12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
Acts 28:27 For the heart of this people has become calloused, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
John 5:25 Truly, truly, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
John 8:43 Why do you not understand my speech? even because you cannot hear my word.
John 8:44 you are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do...
John 8:47 He that is of God hears God's words: you therefore do not hear them, because you are not of God.
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
Revelation 2:7 He that has an ear, let him hear... (repeated 6 times)
Acts 7:51 you stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do you.
Jeremiah 6:10 To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach unto them; they have no delight in it.
Romans 11:8 (According as it is written, God has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
As we saw earlier, God quickens us through His Word. He also gives us ears to hear through His Word.
If there is any doubt after God has called us dead, blind, deaf and slaves of sin/Satan, He also mercifully lets us know that we cannot do any good as He defines good, or even seek Him. He has to do it all for us.
Psalms 14:1 The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good.
Psalms 14:2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
Psalms 14:3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that does good, no, not one. - repeated in Psalm 53:1-3
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Romans 3:11 There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God.
Romans 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are all together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one.
Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing;...
Matthew 19:17 And he [Jesus] said unto him, Why do you call me good? there is none good but one, that is, God:... (repeated 3 times)
After all of that bad news, God gives us hope. It is He that has to draw us, and quicken us. We can do none of that ourselves. We are so spiritually dead, deaf, blind, and enslaved that we can't even seek after Him. All we can do is ask for His mercy.
John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me, draws him: and I will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:39 And this is the will of the Father who has sent me, that of all which he has given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again on the last day.
John 5:21 For as the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them; even so the Son quickens whom he will. - He is speaking of spiritually dead.
John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. - The word spirit here is referring to the Holy Spirit. Note, yet another reference that the Word of God is the instrument that God works out His salvation plan.
John 8:32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. - free from our enslavement to sin/Satan. We know from John 17:17 that Truth = God's Word. So, this, again, is a reference to the Word of God (found in the Bible... and only in the Bible nowadays) as being the instrument of choice.
John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
John 3:5 Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say unto you, Except a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
If God has to do all the work for any kind of spiritual response to happen, then it logically follows that He picks whom He does a work onto. This is tough for us to swallow. If one accepts that we are spiritually dead, blind, deaf, etc., then one has to accept election and predestination since it is only by God's action that any are saved. If you reject the above conclusions that we are dead, blind, deaf, and slaves, then election/predestination is probably not even an argument in your mind. I therefore, will only touch on the matter.
Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son,
Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will:
Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
Romans 9:15 For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.
Romans 9:17 For the scripture says unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
Romans 9:18 Therefore he has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and hardens whom he will.
Romans 9:19 you will say unto me then, Why does he yet find fault? For who has resisted his will?
Romans 9:20 No O man, who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me like this?
Romans 9:21 Has not the potter power over the clay to make of the same lump one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?
I will not dwell on this any long except to say that the Greek word for "elect" and the Greek word for "election" is used 30 times in the N.T. And that doesn't include all the times the word "chosen" is used. In addition, the Greek word for "predestination" or "predestinate" is used 5 times in the N.T.
Several "invitations" are given throughout the Bible. One can legitimately ask, how can we make sense of these if we are spiritually dead? Most of these are commands rather than invitations. Whether or not we can obey a command does not change the command. God has given commandments that we cannot possibly obey. We are to look to Him to fulfill our obligation for us when we cannot obey His command fully. Let us look at a few of them.
Peter I 1:16 Because it is written, Be holy; for I am holy. - we cannot possibly be as holy as God. He sent His Son to fulfill that command for us.
Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. - we cannot possibly be perfect. We look to Jesus to fulfill that command for us.
Mark 6:37 He answered and said unto them, You give them to eat... - this is an answer Jesus made to the apostles when they asked Him how to feed about 5000 men. He knew how He was going to do it, but His apostles didn't. He commanded them to do something they couldn't possibly do. They had to look to Jesus to fulfill the command.
Let us look at a few common "invitations":
Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood [heathen gods], or the gods of the Amorites [more heathen gods], in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
The "choose" choice that is often quoted is actually a choice between serving one heathen set of gods or another heathen set of gods. God does not say that they even have a choice in not serving these gods. Serving the Lord is not one of their options since they are spiritually dead for the most part. He states plainly that Joshua and his house will serve the Lord. God evidently quickened Joshua and his family.
Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: - as we have already seen, there is none that will even seek after God.
Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me. - we have seen earlier that we are all spiritually deaf. We cannot hear His voice, so the door remains closed...unless He heals our spiritual ears.
Peter II 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is patient toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. - Certainly the Lord doesn't want us to perish. He did not create us for Hell. We perish due to our own willful sin. We cannot blame God for that.
We are commanded in several places to repent...we can surely repent, can't we? But even repentance is actually also a gift from God.
Romans 2:4 Or do you despise the riches of his goodness and tolerance and patience; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
Timothy II 2:25 In meekness instructing those that are in opposition; if God perhaps will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
Well, in our selves, nothing. We are totally at the mercy of God. We come before Him with nothing that would appeal to Him. We can only appeal to His mercy. It is not until we give up trying to justify ourselves before God that He reaches down and justifies us to Himself by Himself. And, if God is drawing someone to Himself (John6:44), then they will at some point cast themselves totally upon Him for His mercy. Perhaps you are at this point in your life or have been in the past. Consider the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector:
Luke 18:10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector.
Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.
Luke 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
Luke 18:13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but struck his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
Luke 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be humbled; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.
What did the Pharisee bring to God? He brought all of his self righteousness. All the reasons why God should justify him. What did the tax collector bring to God? Not a thing. Just like a Christian. He realizes that he his "poor in spirit". He only appeals to God's mercy. He doesn't even know if God will have mercy upon him. God, in His mercy, shows us that He justified the tax collector. But what did the tax collector do to earn this justification? Not a thing. It was totally God's granting of His mercy.
Like the tax collector, this is all that we can do before God. Beg Him for His mercy. Perhaps He will be gracious and grant it once again, as He has done for so many in the past.