Answers to Questions in Response to an Article

Answers to Questions in Response to an Article
“Final Judgment Where Conduct Did Matter.”

Here are a few questions (not in order) that a subscriber asked, and I would like to take the time to answer.   I would also like to thank the person for these questions because they are questions I have pondered upon myself, so I will explain what I believe the Scriptures teach us.

Question:  But I thought the Holy Spirit is given to you, and it’s definitely not in a sinner. So how can they “stop sinning” without the Spirit’s help?

Answer:  In Reformed Theology, which a majority of the teachings come from, is that one can’t do anything good or clean up their life until they have the holy Spirit dwelling in them.  We often hear:

  • If we can stop sinning, then we don’t need Jesus
  • If we can stop sinning, then that means we are saving ourselves.
  • A person doesn’t have to stop sinning to receive Jesus.

What we find missing today is the matter of repentance.  It is a fact that sinners can clean up their lives.  Sinners can resist temptation if they really wanted to. As with the drug addict, the drunkard, the thief, the liar, the person addicted to pornography, etc., who say they can’t resist these temptations, often find new strength to do what they previously said they could not do. For instance, tell the man addicted to pornography that if someone were to hold a gun to his head and threaten to shoot him if he were to look at another pornographic magazine, he will not look. This could be said of any sins. If the drunkard were told by his doctor that he only has six months to live if he keeps drinking, the drunkard suddenly has been empowered to overcome his bodily addiction.

SweptYou see, a person has the capability and the ability to “clean” house without the holy Spirit (Matt. 12:43-45).   Everything can be placed in order and the house swept clean, but it is EMPTY.  It won’t be long before the person goes back to a life of sin because he has not purified his heart, and though he may have cleaned up some of his actions, he never had godly sorrow and repentance toward God (Acts 20:21) to receive the holy Spirit.  He remains spiritually dead.

Although mankind can stop sinning without the holy Spirit residing in him, what he is missing is the “refreshing” of the holy Spirit.  He needs to come to God in godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10)  for ‘pardon’of those past sins committed (Isa. 1:16-18; Isa. 55:7; Joel 2:13; Rom. 3:25).

Peter tells us in Acts 3:19,

“Therefore, repent, and convert, for the blotting out of your sins, so that times of refreshing may come from the face of the Lord,”

The person needs to repent and be converted, but also needs the refreshing of the Spirit for the blotting out of our past sinsSins committed need to be pardoned.  Until then, there is no reconciliation.

It is silly to say that if we can stop sinning we don’t need Jesus.  Yes we do, because we cannot clear ourselves of our past sins (Rom. 3:25).  While we are capable of obedience, our obedience is not capable of atoning for our sins. They are still on our record, because the wages of sin is death.  They have to be cleared from our account.

Sinners are dead in their sins, they are spiritually dead (‘Spiritual death’ simply means a ‘moral and relational’ separation from God which comes about by sinning).  The “refreshing” is the ‘quickening’ (made alive) that takes place only after one has turned from their sins and have prepared their heart (Prov. 16:1) for the reception of the holy Spirit (Eph. 2:5; Rom. 8:11).   A person’s repentance is proven by deeds (Acts 26:18-20).  The eyes of their understanding are open to the truth in a new and living way. (Eph. 1:18; Heb. 10:19).

Repentance comes BEFORE forgiveness of sins.  Godly sorrow produces the repentance leading to Salvation (2 Cor. 7:10-11).

The one thing man has never lost is his ability to choose.  All through the Bible man is told to repent (forsake his sins).  God grants everyone repentance.  In Reformed Theology (which is basically Calvinism), we are be told that God ‘grants’ repentance to whom He will.  In other words, according to this theology, God has to off-set a person’s so-called innate inability and grant the person permission to repent.  This teaching gives the excuse for people to continue in their sins since they are told they lack the ability to stop sinning.  They use such passages as 2 Tim. 2:25 and Acts 11:18 as their ‘proof text’.   Upon closer examination, this ‘granting’ is God offering man the opportunity to repent, not that God has to off-set his ‘inability’ to turn from his sins.  God wants ALL to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

This is understood by the people of Nineveh after they stopped sinning.  Was the holy Spirit dwelling in each of them in order to help them stop sinning?  When they repented it is said,

“Who can tell if God will TURN and relent and turn away from His fierce anger so we shall not perish.” (Jonah 3:9)

This is the message preached in Acts with the warning that God has appointed a day on which He would judge the world in righteousness and now commands ALL men everywhere to repent. (Acts 2:17:30-31; Acts 2:40)  So if God is only going to off-set the inability of certain selected people, it would be ludicrous for God wanting ALL to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  Everyone has a free will to choose.

The holy Spirit does influence people.  The work of the holy Spirit is to continually convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 12:32).  God is doing his part, but man must also do his part.  This is what it means by the word ‘Synergy’.  Synergy is defined as: Two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable.”  Such is the nature of real repentance.  God always does His part, but unless man does his part (forsake his sins), salvation cannot take place.

We can also speak of God’s ‘grace’.   God’s grace is seen throughout the whole of Scripture.  The most common definition of ‘grace’ is explained as “unmerited favor.”  This is not true.  The definition of grace is, “Good will, loving-kindness, favor of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”  

This grace is extended to everyone.  God draws all men, but all do not come.  All do not want to be obedient to this grace that God has extended to all mankind, the grace that teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts so that we may live discreetly and righteously and godly in this present age (Titus 2:11-12).

I also think we should mention the word ‘regeneration’.  People think this must happen before they can stop sinning.  In other words, many believe that a person must be “born again” before there are any real changes in their life.  There is this weird teaching I have read where people say we have to be “re-gened! They think that being born again has to do with physical or metaphysical change.  Yes, one must be born again, but being born again has nothing to do with our bodies changing physically.  Our nature does not change.  Being born again means a ‘moral change’.

Jesus told Nicodemus about being “born again,” but he didn’t understand.  Nicodemus was looking at the physical aspect of what Jesus was saying.  He says, “How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”  Jesus responded, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not know these things?”

Nicodemus was a teacher of Israel and did not know these things when he should have.  The Old Testament speaks of a God giving us a new heart (Psa_51:16-17; Eze_11:19; Eze_36:26.)  But this new heart is not given until we repent of our sins; until there is a moral change.  As Jesse Morrell adequately states,

Regeneration requires consent and cooperation. A man’s free will must be synergistically involved in his regeneration. God cannot change a man’s character without the cooperation of the man himself. That is why God said, “I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged” (Eze. 24:13). This is because unless a man is willing to have his moral character changed, it will and cannot be changed. It is impossible for Omnipotence to change a man’s moral character without the consent of his will because this would involve an intrinsic contradiction. Therefore, God and man both have an active role in regeneration. This is why the Bible says that God gives us a new heart (Eze. 11:19; 36:26), while also saying that men should make for themselves a new heart (Eze. 18:31). When a sinner’s will is changed from being disobedient to obedient, both God and the sinner have an active role in bringing about that change. God’s role is His gracious influence upon our will. Man’s role is the yielding of and obedience of his will.

Jesus said, “Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matt. 23:26). For Jesus to tell men to clean themselves on the inside (change their intention), takes for granted that it is their choice and that they can do this. Jesus was actually filled “with anger, being grieved, for the hardness of their hearts” (Mk. 3:5). This indicates that the state of man’s heart is man’s own fault, that the state of his heart is something which he causes and which he has control over.

The Bible even commands men to make unto themselves a new heart. God said, “make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die…” (Ezekiel 18:31). “Wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved” (Jeremiah 4:14). “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8).

What does it mean to change your heart? To change your heart is to change your intention. It is to change the motives for all your actions. It means that you are no longer living for yourself or have a selfish motive but are now living for God and the well-being of His universe, thus having benevolent motives.

Men are even commanded to circumcise their own hearts (Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4). Since they are commanded to do so, this means that it is their own responsibility and choice. To circumcise your heart means to repent or put off your sins (Col. 2:11). Therefore, to circumcise your heart means to repent of your sins but to have an uncircumcised heart is to have an impenitent heart.

When Stephen was open air preaching, he said to the crowd “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51). Stephen was rebuking them for disobeying a specific commandment, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked” (Deut. 10:16).

Why would Stephen rebuke them for being uncircumcised in their heart unless they were capable of circumcising their hearts? Why rebuke them for breaking a commandment unless they were capable of obeying the commandment? Why rebuke them for having uncircumcised hearts unless having such hearts was their own free choice? Why would he rebuke them for resisting the Holy Spirit unless they were capable of yielding to the Holy Spirit? Unless they were capable of doing these things, why rebuke them for not doing these things?

Stephen seemed to take for granted or assume the ability of his audience. He blamed them for their impenitent which must mean that their impenitent was their own free choice. You cannot rebuke a man for something which is not his choice. A man cannot be blamed for that which is beyond his control or for what he cannot help. 

Question:Exactly what is the purpose of the Holy Spirit dwelling in someone? Is it to help them not sin again?” I’m basing these questions on passages such as 1 John 3:3-11 and Romans 8:1-15. These passages seem to suggest the only people who are able to stop sinning are those who have the Holy Spirit.

Answer:  Because a person has the holy Spirit, it does not mean they no longer have the ability to sin.  We still can choose.  We are told not to “quench” the Spirit. (1 Thess. 5:19)  We can extinguish the influence of the holy Spirit right out of our lives through sinning.  Sin hardens the heart.  One has the ability to sin or not to sin just as they did before receiving the holy Spirit. (Remember, the people of Nineveh did not have the holy Spirit residing in them, but yet they stopped sinning).

If I may go back to the subject of being born again, we are often told about John 3:6-7.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

Reformed Theology tries to use these verses to prove that mankind can’t do anything where repentance is concerned because he has a dead spirit and must be born again.  God has to do it for them.  We do need to be born again, but again note, being born again means a moral change.  The new birth is in reference of God becoming our Father and us becoming His children.  It’s not something about a work over of the human spirit.  It is the job of the sinner to cleanse himself from all filthiness of the flesh (stop using his flesh as an instrument to sin) and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1).

The purpose of the holy Spirit?

When a person repents and is converted, that human spirit does not get changed or altered in any way. What happens is that the holy Spirit of God now seats with our spirit so the two spirits become one (like the husband and wife becoming one flesh, yet are separate).  We have God’s Spirit accompanying our spirit in fellowship.

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: Rom. 8:16

We have the holy Spirit bearing witness with our human spirit.  When we are born again, it’s not that we get a new human spirit; it is the addition of the holy Spirit.    We become spiritually alive again (‘quickened’ or restoration of breath).  It is likened unto the prodigal son who was lost in sin and repented of his ways and became alive again (Luke 15:24).

Once a person has received the holy Spirit, the holy Spirit is going to lead the believer into deeper truths of God, because no man knows the things of God except by God’s Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 

“But as it is written, ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,’ nor has it entered into the heart of man, ‘the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’  But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For who among men knows the things of a man except the spirit of man within him? So also no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit from God, so that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged by no one.  For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Cor. 2:9-16

When it comes to the human spirit, we can know things about each other through our human spirit because we are actively mingling and touching in getting to know one another.  It is the same when the holy Spirit comes in and joins to our spirit and there is a comparison one spirit with the other.

So the purpose of the holy Spirit indwelling believers is not to help them not sin anymore, the sinning should have stopped in repentance (2 Cor. 7:10-11).   As believer we continue to grow in our faith, having the same mind of Christ and being partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).  However, by ‘divine nature’ (physis),  it is automatically assumed to mean as having the very essence of God Himself.  As said above, some people go so far as to say we have been re-gened!  It has nothing to do with being re-gened, it actually has to do with having God’s moral character, which the context clearly demonstrates.  We add to our faith (See verses 5-9).

Question:  I also consider Romans 7 -I know Paul is not talking about himself, but illustrates a carnal man’s mindset. But I get confused when he says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit”  If the Spirit is only found in those who are “in Christ Jesus,” how can we tell a carnal sinner who doesn’t have the Spirit to “stop sinning” given what Paul just illustrated about their struggle with sin in Romans 7?

Answer:  Notice in Romans 7 (v. 18) where Paul says “for the will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”  In the pre-conversion state, the carnal man does have the “will” inside him to do good.  The carnal man does esteem what is good yet feels trapped and thinks he is unable to escape the bondage of sin and walk accordingly. The will is present and active.  The sinner will choose according to what he values.  For the carnal man, the enslavement to sin is the result of walking after the flesh.

When we talk about “flesh” in the Bible, the word is ‘sarx’.  Sarx = flesh, as in body of flesh, and nothing more. God is the author of our flesh (Ex. 4:11, Isa. 44:2, Jer. 1:5).  It is sinful to walk according to the flesh (2 Cor. 10:2), or to be living to gratify our flesh in over indulgence, but it is not sinful to walk in the flesh (2 Cor. 10:3.)  Our flesh is the occasion of our sin, or the source of temptation (James 1:14), but sin itself is a choice (John 5:14, John 8:11, Rom. 6:12; Rom. 6:19 Eph. 4:26). Flesh is nothing but an inanimate conglomerate of biological tissue that has no moral quality. However, if the SOUL living in the body of flesh gives itself over to exist for bodily satisfaction, the body becomes filled with inordinate lusts. It is then flesh full of sin – in the Bible called – “sinful flesh.” The flesh is not sinful by nature. It is sinful by application. We are the applicators.

Jesus told us all the issues of life come out of the heart (Matt. 15:18-19), and what is in the heart eventually manifests itself by the deeds of the body.  Note Romans 8:13,

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die, but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

Note how “flesh” has to do with the “deeds of the body.”  We are the ones who can control our body.  What manifest in the body is what comes out of the heart of a person. (Matt. 12:35)  Our flesh is an instrument which we can use for sin or for righteousness. (Rom. 6:13, 19).  Our flesh is sanctified when we have ceased to sin when we come to God in faith and repentance (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 7:10-11; 1 Thess. 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:23, 1 Tim. 2:8).  Each person has the aid of the Spirit to cultivate His influences if only they will obey.

I would also like to note that in Romans 7 it seems to refer to sin as a living entity, “I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died’” (Romans 7:9).

I have always heard the doctrine of original sin and Romans 7 used so often to prove it. And I think this still confuses some people. But now knowing the truth that sin is a “moral issue” it makes more sense. For instance, Paul talks about ‘sin dwelling in him’.  Sin became alive when he committed it (trespassed against a commandment) and experienced death (Rom. 5:12, which has to do with spiritual death because of personal transgression).  ‘Sin dwells’ in sinners because of choices that are made, for sin is a voluntary commitment to and pursuit of self-gratification (Rom. 8:5-7). That commitment ‘dwells’ in us because it is the stubborn set of the soul (the “will”).  For example, if ‘greed,’ which is sin, ‘dwells’ in us, it is because we put it there; we choose the evil passion and hold on to it in our souls.

Since we are born ‘alive’ (not morally and relationally separated from God), we do not experience death (spiritual), but once we transgress with the knowledge that we are transgressing, we die spiritually (separate ourselves from God by sinning, because iniquity separates us from God. Isa. 59:1-2) but we can become alive again (Luke 15:32) by forsaking our sins and coming to Jesus in faith and repentance, being refreshed by the holy Spirit, having our sins forgiven, and reconciled to God.

I believe it is harder for older people to repent because of repeated practiced habits over the years.  Sin hardens the heart and each year that goes by, it will be more difficult for a person to give up their sins.  Sin has and always will be a choice.  Sin originates in the will as it did with Lucifer, the fallen angels, and Adam and Eve.  None of them were made with a so-called ‘sinful nature’ that necessitated them to sin.

Rebellion comes by choice of our own free will that God has given us.

Reformed Theology has really made a mess of the simple truths found in Scripture.  I would like to end with what Jesse Morrell has stated about Calvinism:

Scriptural problems I have with Calvinism:

Calvinism says that God decreed all sin when the Bible says sin breaks the heart of God and wills holiness and obedience from His subjects.

Calvinism says that men are under the wrath of God for the sin of Adam when the Bible says that the son does not bear the iniquity of the father and we will all give an account for our own deeds.

Calvinism says that man’s free will was lost by Adam’s original sin when the Bible never says this but instead continues to appeal to man’s free moral agency after Adam’s fall.

Calvinism says that all men inherit a sinful nature from Adam when the Bible never even says that Adam’s nature was sinful but instead asserts that God forms our nature in the womb.

Calvinism says that all events are the eternal will of God when the Bible represents God as grieved, disappointed, and surprised over many events that have occurred.

Calvinism says that God has irresistibly decreed all events from eternity past, when the Bible says that God has canceled and reversed some of His own prophecies and teaches that the future is not yet entirely fixed and settled.

Calvinism says that God has given man a moral law which He is incapable of keeping when the Bible says that God is just, never allows us to be tempted above our ability, and only obligates us to love Him with all of our ability.

Calvinism says that Jesus Christ came and took our punishment when the Bible says that our punishment is eternal hell.

Calvinism says that Jesus Christ came and paid our debt when the Bible says that God forgives us our debt.

Calvinism says that Jesus Christ took the punishment of our sins when the Bible says that God forgives us our sins

Calvinism says that Jesus Christ came and took the wrath of God when the Bible says that God still has wrath after the atonement, that sinners are not saved from God’s wrath until conversion, that the atonement was instead a justification of His mercy, and that believers who return to their sins return to the wrath of God.

Calvinism says that Jesus Christ became sinful and guilty on the cross when the Bible says He died the just for the unjust and offered Himself without spot or blemish to God.

Calvinism says that those for whom Christ died can never perish when the Bible warns that those for whom Christ died can perish.

Calvinism says that Christ only died for a few elect when the Bible says that Jesus died for the world and all men.

Calvinism says that God wants most sinners to remain in their sins and die and go to hell, to somehow glorify His justice, when the Bible says God wants all men to repent and be saved.

Calvinism says that men cannot repent and believe when the Bible commands men to repent and believe and blames them if they do not.

Calvinism says that men cannot repent and believe because they are born spiritually dead because of Adam when the Bible says that men are dead or alienated from God because of their own trespasses and sins and says the prodigal son was able to return to the father even though he was dead to the father.

Calvinism says that God predestined individuals for heaven or hell when the Bible says that God has chosen to offer salvation to the Jews and the Gentiles, grafting in some and cutting off others based upon their faith or unbelief.

Calvinism says that God predestined some for Heaven and most for hell according to the pleasure of His will, when the Bible says that God sent Jesus to die for all, commands all men to repent and believe, is drawing all men unto Himself, is not willing that any should perish, and takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Calvinism says that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers when the Bible says that our faith is imputed as righteousness.

Calvinism says that God doesn’t see believers if they sin, but see’s imputed righteousness instead, when the Bible says God is omniscient and nothing is hide from His eyes.

Calvinism says that true believers will persevere unto the end when the Bible exhorts believers to persevere, warns of damnation if they do not, and speaks of some who have departed from the faith.

My list can go on and on but these are just some of the major points.

I would like to offer some reading material if anyone is interested.  They are:

The Natural Ability of Man

Does Man Inherit a Sinful Nature?

Escaping the Snare

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