IS GOD UNJUST IN MAKING DEMANDS ON SPIRITUALLY IMPOTENT PEOPLE?
“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now COMMANDETH ALL MEN EVERY WHERE TO REPENT!” [Acts 17:30]
Arminians contend “Is not God unjust in requiring us to do that which we are unable to do”? John MacArthur himself teaches that “The God of the Bible is not a God who makes demands on impotent people who are unable to comply and then crushing them because of their non-compliance ( Tape GC 50-21).” That God does make demands on impotent people who cannot comply is clear from the words of Jesus when He said, “No man CAN come unto Me, EXCEPT the Father draws him”. [John 6:44].
In numerous places in Scripture, however men are commanded to do things, which in their own strength they are utterly unable to do. The man with the withered hand was commanded to stretch it forth. The paralytic was commanded to arise and walk; the sick man to arise, take up his bed and walk. The dead Lazarus was commanded to come forth. Men are commanded to believe; yet faith is said to be the “Gift of God.” “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” [Eph 5:14]. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” [Matt 5:48]. Man’s self-imposed inability in the moral sphere does not free him from obligation.
God may most justly require of men perfect obedience to His Law, and condemn them for their not obeying it perfectly, though now they have no ability to keep it. In so doing, He gathers but where He has sown. He gave man ability to keep the whole Law; man has lost it by his own fault; but his sin could never take away that right which God has to exact perfect obedience of His creature, and to punish in case of disobedience.
We were bound to serve God, and do whatever He commanded us, as being His creatures; and also, we were under the tie of a covenant, for that purpose. Now, we having, by our own fault, disabled ourselves, shall God loose His right of requiring our task, because we have thrown away the strength He gave us whereby to perform it? Has the creditor no right to require payment of his money because the debtor had squandered it away, and is not able to pay him? Truly, if God can require no more of us than we are able to do, we need no more to save us from wrath, but to make ourselves unable for every duty, and to incapacitate ourselves for serving God any manner of way, as profane men frequently do. So the deeper a man is plunged in sin, he will be the more secure from wrath, for where God can require no duty of us, we do not sin in omitting it; and where there is no sin, there can be no wrath.
But let it be clearly understood that, when we speak of the sinner’s INABILITY, we do not mean that IF men DESIRED to come to Christ they lack the necessary power to carry out their desire. No; the fact is that the sinner’s inability or absence of power is itself DUE TO LACK OF WILLINGNESS to come to Christ, and this lack of willingness is the fruit of a depraved heart. It is of first importance that we distinguish between NATURAL inability and MORAL and SPIRITUAL inability. For example, we read, “But Ahijah COULD NOT SEE; for his eyes were set by reason of his age” [I Kings 14:4]; and again, “The men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but THEY COULD NOT: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them” [Jonah 1:13]. In both of these passages the words “could not” refer to NATURAL INABILITY. But when we read, “And when his brethren saw that their father loved him (Joseph) more than all his brethren, they hated him, AND COULD NOT SPEAK peaceably unto him” [Gen. 37:4], it is clearly MORAL INABILITY that is in view. They did not lack the NATURAL ability to “speak peaceably unto him”, for they were not DUMB. Why then was it that they “could not speak peaceably unto him”? The answer is given in the same verse: it was because “they HATED him.”
Again; in II Pet. 2:14 we read of a certain class of wicked men “having eyes full of adultery, and that CANNOT CEASE FROM SIN.” Here again it is MORAL INABILITY that is in view. Why is it that these men “cannot cease from sin”? The answer is, Because their eyes were full of adultery. So of Rom. 8:8—”They that are in the flesh CANNOT please God”: here it is SPIRITUAL INABILITY. Why is it that the natural man “cannot please God”? Because he is “ALIENATED from the life of God” [Eph. 4:18]. No man can choose that from which his heart is AVERSE—”O generation of vipers HOW CAN YE, being evil, speak good things?” [Matt. 12:34]. “No man CAN COME TO ME, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” [John 6:44]. Here again it is MORAL AND SPIRITUAL INABILITY, which is before us. Why is it the sinner cannot come to Christ unless he is “drawn”? The answer is, Because his wicked heart LOVES SIN and HATES Christ.
[Paraphrased and quoted from the writings of A.W. Pink]