The Question Column??

The Question Column??

Question: Could you please explain what a preconversion, depraved will would have to do in the intitial act of becoming a Christian?

Answer: This question from Latin America is difficult. In expressing an opinion, one would not be dogmatic. There are two very different and extreme answers to be found in theological books.

Another question must first be answered. Is man totally depraved? Or is he capable of distinguishing between good and evil and making a choice between them? Has he power to select in the absolute sense good over against evil?

In the Word of God the sinner is pictured as dead in trespasses and in sins (Eph. 2:1) and completely impotent (Rom. 5:6). The Spirit of God in this second reference does not emphasize man’s guilt — this He does elsewhere — but his inability to save himself. The Spirit also indicates man’s natural attitude of enmity against God (Rom. 5:10).

From these Scriptures, and from others, it seems clear that man in himself is completely depraved: physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. His mind and will are antagonistic toward God. The human will opposes the divine will.

How grateful one should be for the influence and work of God the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11). Through this work spiritual illumination reveals (Heb. 10:32) the nature of sin and the folly of resisting the Lord. It is when under such power that the will of man is broken and he surrenders that from God he receives “like precious faith” (2 Pet. 1:1).

There are those who conclude from 2 Peter 1:1 that this second epistle from the apostle to the circumcision is quite distinct from his first. The first Epistle of Peter was written to Hellenistic Jews; this second letter apparently was written to Gentiles. If this is correct, and it appears so, then both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians received precious faith.

The Greek verb “to obtain” implies that they had not won or earned this faith but that it had been allotted to them (Ellicott’s Commentary). In this all are equal; faith here is not quantitatively measured. The Apostle Peter indicates in this verse that the entire work of salvation is through the righteousness of God our Saviour.

The human will can be a great hindrance to salvation, but when it capitulates, the will of God allows the “precious faith” that claims salvation.

—James Gunn

(Please send all questions to Dr. James T. Naismith, 1121 Hilltop St., Peterborough, Ont., K9J 5S6.)