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THE WILL OF MAN
By JOHNNY RUTLEDGE
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Johnny Rutledge
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhen the will of man runs into the will of God, it is exposed and soon explodes.
I have often wondered what in the world is this thing in me that controls me, that causes me to be just the opposite of what I always wanted to be. Could it be the will of man—my own will?
The will of man is like an iron bridge built with plastic rivets. When a person does not know his own will, it will lead to and cause his destruction. The human will was made to destroy its host. Man, know thyself and live ...
What is this will, and where exactly is it? These questions, more than any others, stand out in my mind, and I am totally committed to the quest of finding answers to them. First and foremost, I wish to explore the possibility that the human will is actually a distinct, spiritual, functioning organ that hides itself within a man's heart or mind. It's very name, "will," means that it will be hindered by its own design, as revealed in the words of Jesus in Matthew 26: 36–39: The New King James Version—JR
Jesus came with them to place called Gethsemane and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there," and took with him two sons of Zebedee, and he began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then he said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with me." He went a little farther and fell on his face and prayed, saying, "O my father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as you will."
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there." 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me."
39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."
We are all thankful that Jesus rejected his own will and allowed his father's will to be—that God's will ruled over human will. The will of man was engineered to be destroyed; by its own design, it will be destroyed. When man came with his will to the earth, he was like fruit fallen to the ground and left there; without any assistance, that fruit is sure to die and never reproduce. And it speaks volumes about the one that sent man—or, should I say, created him. Just like the seed that God creates, which is deposited beneath the soil so the fruit can live again, man is sure to die if God does not assist in his development. Without God there would not be man, and without God man cannot sustain himself.
Maybe man would be more like God if he could master his own will and command it to remain constant all the time. But it seems to me that this is one of the problems man encounters when he is faced with a decision: as soon as the opportunity presents itself, he almost always chooses according to his own will, not God's. So I often wonder if we were given this will to go astray. Maybe God wants us to see what it is like to do the opposite of what he wants us to do. I'll admit that while I don't know what God was after, I seem always to know what I am after—or, as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:18–20, "For I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] nothing good dwells; for two wills are present with me. How to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do: but the evil I will not to do I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do; it is no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells in me." 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. In verses 21 through 24, Paul goes on to surrender to the very thing that causes him the most pain—his own will. We watch Paul struggle with this inward man, which he calls "sin" or "flesh," and finally he declares that with the mind he serves the law of God, and with flesh the law of sin.
I don't think it is any different for us today than it was for Paul in his day, as he concludes in verses 24 through 26, "Who can deliver me from this body of death—I thank God—through Jesus Christ our lord. With my mind, that is my spirit, I serve Christ our lord, but with my will my desire is to serve the flesh." 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
I believe that without the Holy Spirit's guidance, no one can serve Jesus Christ or be drawn to him. For in my life, it has been my will not to follow Christ; I only follow him because of his spirit, which lives in me, and because before I knew Jesus Christ I desired nothing good, and now all I want is to be close to him and to be in his presence daily.
Human will is just that: man's will and not God's. And as Adam, the first man, desired to do evil, so do I. Now, the difference between Adam and me is that I have a replacement for my will, and he didn't. Whatever he willed was his conclusion, and even with an exterior helper, Eve, his heart was doomed because he wanted only to please his flesh; what comes from the earth always desires to return to it. Before God cursed the earth, man's will and God's were one. Afterwards, the only way man could defeat this interior helper—his will—was to turn back to the one who made it and him.
Without the Lord, there is no help for the will of man. As it was in the beginning, it is and will be in the end. God had to save man from his own will; the death of one man became the life of all men. It was the will of the first man (Adam) to disobey the God that created him, and it was the will of the second man (Jesus Christ) to obey his God, who sent him as an example of a man who could control his own flesh and override human will. So what we celebrate as free will actually enslaves us to do evil. The will of man is not the will of God, or anything like it. Human will acts as if the flesh is its God; it wants only to obey what the flesh wants, and it does not desire the things of the spirit, for it is corrupt, seeing life through a gambler's eyes, always betting on the odds. Never following what is true and holy and simple, the way of the flesh is the way of man's will, for they agree, and one loves the other.
The only way man can avoid destruction by his own will is to surrender it to Jesus Christ. In doing so, he will be forgiven by the love of God, becoming a new creature through the process of regeneration, or being born again. Romans 10:9 tells us that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. The amazing thing is that being born again means having new spirit, not a new will. As I have stated before, if this will is separated from the spirit, it will kill, steal, and destroy. Evil does only what it has the power to do, so if it is my will to do good, it must be because of the goodness of God in me, grace extended to me by way of the cross.
Now that I have accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and savior, I can control my own will. Even when it wants to sin, I can stop it. When it wants to go against God's word or disobey his commandments, I can steer it to a safe harbor, away from where the seas toss and the harsh winds blow. This is my will: to do God's will. And now that Christ is the head of my life, it is easy for me to put my own will—the will of man—under subjection, walking with it instead of being led by it.
What is the will of man? I will explore two answers to this question: first, the will of man as his desire; and second, as his ability to do or not to do.
Let's look at human will as desire and explore whether it is even man's at all, or something altogether different than what we have come to believe, an innate command or power that tells all men what to do or not to do. Consider the word desire. Defined as such, human will simply comes down to whether we do or do not want something. The question is whether we have control over our own actions or something else has that control. We need to understand what is going on inside us, what we desire to do and not to do. Sometimes if given that choice, we choose wrong, and sometimes we choose right. So every time we come to a decision point, we should ask ourselves, Is this the right thing to do? What we have to remember is that the human will never corresponds with God's will, so we should not blindly go along with our own will. If it is not under the influence of the Holy Spirit, it will sin and possibly choose wrong. The only way for us to choose the right thing is to desire the right thing in the first place, and that must come from the spirit of righteousness inside us. We must have the same mind as Christ Jesus, a mind that desires to obey the father.
Desire means to long for, to want, or to wish to want. In Matthew 9:13 and 12:7, when Jesus quotes the Old Testament, saying, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice," he is not describing the father's perspective of what is truly important in our relationship with him. (See also Hebrews 10:5–8.) The will of man is to seek what he wants to capture him. He seeks to be caught. Sin is his greatest love. His mind forever seeks the pleasure of his flesh; the more his flesh eats, the more it wants. Human will does not desire life, only death. It has no thirst for righteousness, nor does it seek to do good, for to do wrong or bad gives it greatest joy.
I don't know why a just God would create an unjust will. But here is what I do know: it must have been to his liking, or else it would not be. As Sam Cook sang in his rendition of an old Negro spiritual, "We will all understand it better by and by."
THE HUMAN WILL
—according to Augustine and Pelagius
The British monk Pelagius and the North African bishop Augustine were contemporaries. They were both born in the fourth century A.D. Both claimed to be faithful teachers of the Bible.
In this article, I will specifically highlight their respective doctrine of the will, and show how it inevitably affected their doctrines of sin and grace.
The controversy between Augustine and Pelagius about man's will in his fallen condition was re-echoed a millennium later in Erasmus' Diatribe and Luther's answer in The Bondage of the Will. The able Reformer, like Augustine, knew from Scripture that sinful man has a will, indeed, but his will is enslaved and bent towards evil, and can do nothing except wickedness. For until man is converted, and his will is renewed by the Holy Spirit, his will is captive to Satan, and "are taken captive by him at his will" (two Timothy 2:26).
Though the will is never forced, nor destined by any necessity of nature to perform evil, yet sinful man has lost all ability of will to perform any of the spiritual good, which accompanies salvation. He is not able, by an act of the will, to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not willing to be converted. Jeremiah prayed, "Convert us, O Lord, and we shall be converted." Unless the Lord intervenes, man remains bound, for "the world loves darkness rather than light, because its deeds are evil" (Jn.3).
The natural man, according to Scripture (and Augustine), is altogether averse and opposed to spiritual good. Christ said, "You, being evil, are able to give good gifts to your children ..." thus strongly emphasizing that our deeds, however bright and commendable, do not make us good in ourselves. A corrupt tree bears corrupt fruit. That is all it can do. The natural man is not able by his own strength to turn to God, or even dispose himself towards God (Titus 3:3-5; John 6:44). He is dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-5). He is at enmity with God (Romans 5:6; 8:7).
Without a divine, gracious and radical renewal (accomplished in regeneration), man cannot fulfill any obligation to God. Grace is essential for man does not seek God. God seeks him.
Over against this, Pelagius asserted the full ability and potential in the human would. He taught that man could eliminate sin from his life by an act of the will. Man can keep the commandments of God, if he wants to. He reached this conclusion by twisted logic: "God would not command man to do what cannot be done by man." Thus Pelagius, in considering the will, forgot or rather played down the consequence of Adam's fall. Man was created able, but lost his ability through his apostasy. However, Pelagius asserted that no obligation could ever be placed outside man's limitless capacity for good.
How do these differing viewpoints affect the doctrines of sin and grace?
Evidently, for Augustine, if man has a perverse and wicked will, bound to sin, then we can see how sinful sin is, to what extremity sin has driven man. Man lost all knowledge of the true God, became guilty and sinful; he serves sin; all his faculties, including the will, are orientated towards the servitude of sin.
He does not want God; actually, he hates God and carves for himself a god in wood and stone or in this imagination.
Thus the will, directed against God, brings the most radical consequences. He has a corrupt nature from conception; he is under the influence of a prevailing effectual tendency to sin and wickedness.
What hope is there for man in such a state, being alienated from God by his willful ignorance "For though they knew God they did not glorify him ... but became vain in the imaginations?" In such an enslavement, Augustine sees God's grace to be the only solution, the only remedy. God comes to man when man is fleeing from him. He does not force him to act against him will, but in grace renews his will. "I will remove the heart of stone and give them a new heart, that they may obey me ..." (Ezek.). God's grace does not destroy freedom, for sinful man is far from being free. God's grace changes their will so that, once renewed, man freely chooses holiness rather than sin. "If the Son sets you free you shall be free indeed."
For Pelagius, his doctrine of man's wills is reflected (consistently enough) on his ideas about sin and grace. Pelagius taught that man's will, from birth, is a tabula rasa, neutral, neither sinful nor holy. It depends on man himself to use his will aright. Thus sin, for Pelagius, exists because we imitate the wrong doing of others. The sinner can overwhelm sin; it is not serious; it does not bring death.
Naturally, then, grace is nothing more than God's help. Man, according the Pelagius, is free to reject both the Law and the example of Christ. He can resist every inducement to follow Christ. Grace is clearly resistible for, as the poet Henley put it, "I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul." I alone determine my destiny, my future, whether it will be blessed or miserable. Man can accept or reject proffered grace at will. Therefore, at the end of the day, man is his own Savior, for what determines his salvation is his will. (This Pelagian venom is common in Arminian circles today).
Thus we see how one heresy easily and naturally leads to another one for support. At least Pelagian system is consistent, consistently erroneous.
Augustine, having a viable anthropology (the constitution of man, including the nature of his will), see grace as the Only Rescue for enslaved man.
At the Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.) and the Synod of Orange (529 A.D.) Augustine was vindicated and Pelagius condemned. The system of Pelagius was shown to be erroneous and contrary to the Scriptures, while the Augustinian doctrine of sin and grace was approved (see further my article "What Orange decided").
Faithful brethren in Christ, is Augustine's position our firm belief? Alternatively, have we drunk from Pelagius' poison? Search and see ...
I don't think we have drunk poison from some old man's cup of theological interpretation. But I do believe we are drinking the poison of every mild-mannered, neutral, lukewarm preacher, be it man or woman, who suggests that we can have a wonderful life if we just obey the simple law of believing in our own power: "If I believe it, I can do it or I can have it." This, too, sounds like Pelagius's system.
Excerpted from THE WILL OF MAN by JOHNNY RUTLEDGE Copyright © 2012 by Johnny Rutledge. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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