The Apostle Paul: a product of Free-willism, or saved by Sovereign Grace?

damascus 1

Grant Swart

If God hides our sin or lessens it, He is faulty; if He leaves it still upon us, we die. He must then take our iniquity to Himself, make it His own, and so deliver us; for thus having taken the sin upon Himself, as lawfully He may and lovingly He does, it follows that we live if He lives; and who can desire more?

 – John Bunyan

These represent a few notes from my evening of contemplating the biblical attitude which should be adopted toward the free-will worldly attitude of those advocates trying to  impress God. 

I certainly did not “choose”, summon or influence Christ, nor did I ever make a decision “for” Him. I never did anything good and, according to my own ability, I never will. I can never be a better person “for” Christ. I never sought God, I never understood God (Rom 3:11). I never called out to God in a way which could have encouraged Him to come running to my eternal aid. He reached out and grabbed me when I was dying, because He willed it to be so.

I am and will always be a sinner, I am worth no more today than I was before God called me to Himself, save for the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am satisfied, humbled and overjoyed at what Christ did for me, when I least of all people deserved to be saved. I desire nothing more, I require nothing more, I do not need to, nor can I ever,  convince anyone of the facts. I have Christ, God Himself, who gave Himself for me. I did not pay for my salvation in part, I did not work for it, it was given freely to me by my Christ, who paid for it in full. There are no refunds, what is finished (John 19:30), cannot be made unfinished.

Throughout all of the Apostle Paul’s post- salvational life, he never denied nor tried to deny the truth of what he was. He consistently referred to his previous self-righteousness, opposition and hatred toward God (1 Tim 1:13). He made it clear that, even after his salvation, he remained just as wickedly sinful and incapable of doing enough to please God, as he had been before the day on the road to Damascus. He referred to that by saying: “O wretched man that I am” (Rom. 7:24).

Paul never tried to present himself as important or even possibly as good as the next man. He did not regard himself as worthy of being named as an Apostle (Eph 3:8, 1 Cor 15:9). He does, however, make it clear that he was called, elected and appointed by Grace. He emphasizes that he was placed into a special position by God Himself. That is, the same position that all truly saved Christians have occupied since the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost.

It is also clear that God did not “allow” Paul to become an Apostle. Additionally, it should be evident that Paul did not want to be an Apostle, or any manner of Christian. God called Paul by Divine Will: (1 Cor. 1:1) Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God . . .

Paul did not want to serve God or to follow Christ, until God forced his eyes shut and then opened them with the new ability to see the truth a few days later. Likewise, we are all blind until God opens our eyes at the moment when He calls those whom according to His Will. “Why”, some may ask, “is that not what the Free-willers, the revivalists and mega-church congregants  of the world accept? They seem to be such good, dedicated and outspoken Christians?” The answer is straight-forward, it is because they remain opposed to God, they refuse salvation by His Grace,  they are blind and will not accept the fact that they are unable to change their ways sufficiently to please God. They need to feel as if they have done something good with their lives, their attitudes, their sins. They want to experience righteous feelings and show them off to the world. Free-willers have a real need to experience the approval of other men, they need to “feel” worthy in and of themselves.

“It is by God’s will that sinners are divinely selected and appointed to be saints by the grace of God (Rom. 1:7). The last thing I ever wanted to do was submit to God’s will and way of salvation by the Person and work of Christ, but like the man of authority in Matt. 8:9, God said to this man,”Come!” and I came.”  – Chris Cunningham

Paul distinctly taught that, in the same way that he was called, all Christians who were to come after him in history would come to believe on Christ. There is nowhere that we can hide our filthy past in which we acted as hateful opponents of God. There is no way that we can disguise our memories, or fool ourselves of our lost past positions, in which we were floundering in the ways of the world.

God made us, God saves those of us whom He will save, because after the fall we simply could not do anything perfectly right in His sight. God is perfect Holiness, Adam was created perfectly and with a free will, and by applying that free will sinfully, mankind became perfectly imperfect. How can one expect a perfectly Holy God to accept any form of imperfection, as the Free-willers expect Him to? We have always misused our free will, applying it to choose between different forms of evil and works based self-righteousness. We cannot choose or desire Holiness, because while we are in an unregenerate state, we do not comprehend what Holiness is.

We willfully broke God’s law, period, and the punishment for that is death (Rom 6:23). We are wretched and unworthy of entering into God’s Presence, we slew His Son in a most terrible way. We hung God Himself up on a wooden cross. With rusted nails we brutalized all of Creation, past, present and future on a dead tree. We tried to eradicate God forever. We tried to bleed every last drop of life giving Blood from His Body. Yet, the Free-willer maintains that, even after doing all of these things, we can simply summon a desperately weakened god to save us once we feel inclined to call on him. Scripture, however, speaks of a Sovereign, Almighty, Jealous, Righteous, Holy, Omnipotent and Omniscient Saviour, who has the right to save those whom He loved from and unto eternity. (Rom 6:23)

All that is worth mentioning about me then, can be traced back to His calling me out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). The Apostle Paul, the Apostle largely responsible for taking the Good News to the Gentiles, said exactly the same – he did not apply his free will in choosing Christ, he applied his free will to oppose Christ. God changed all that, and Paul had no say in the matter.

There remains no difference then, between those who profess to be Christians based on their free will decisions, and those who remain unsaved in the world. How can there be any difference, as both of those people remain natural people by implicit and conscious application of their own overstated free will? Natural people do not know God, because by their nature they do not seek God, they have been removed from God’s presence.

Neither of them have been willing to submit their own free will to the Will of God, so that the sinfulness of themselves can be completely forgiven by the free Grace of Christ’s Perfect imparted atonement. Rather, they cling with aggressive and vehement tenacity to their own free will and professed abilities to overcome and atone for their sins, than trusting completely and utterly on the finished work of Christ. They refuse to accept the fact that Jesus paid for all types of sins of His children in full, rather than for all types of sins of every single self-righteous person (1 John 2:2); they refuse to allow glory to God alone, in fear of losing their own pitiful piece at terrestrial glory.

1Jn 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

If that verse is not clearly set against all forms of Arminian heresy and free-willism, then all translations of the English Bible are pretty rude and blasphemous, dear reader wouldn’t you say?

Soli Deo Gloria!


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