Man Can't, But God Can
Elder Wm. Doyal Thomas
Pastor - Philadelphia Baptist Church
Decatur , Alabama
    There is an infinite difference between the capacities of man and the omnipotence of God. This should come as no surprise to any, but apparently most men have not correctly considered this fact beyond their vanity and pride in self-centered egotism. Their thoughts are invariably in contrast to reality as they reason within themselves and do much err.
    Why is this true, if indeed it be true? Why is it that man thinks and acts in such obvious opposition to the truth in relation to his lack of ability and understanding of the things of God? Why does man demonstrate such lack of knowledge and wisdom when he lives in this present age of so-called enlightenment and enrichment?
    It will be my purpose in this writing to present some correct answers to these questions, and it is intended that these answers will be based upon Biblical fact, and that they will be presented in the spirit of love for those who shall read these words. It is not my desire to leave the Word of God and reason in my natural mind, or in the mind of other men who may have written on this matter. I do not want to imagine, and then declare. I want to be truthful and concerned for truth in all things, and to be enabled to so speak.
    The reason that man can't, is that he is incapacitated in all his faculties as the result of sin. Man is not able to think correct thoughts, nor is he able to perform correct acts toward God and the things of God. Knowing that this will be taken as a hard saying by some, I nevertheless shall affirm that it is true. Being a man of flesh, my own carnal nature rebels at this truth, yet my spirit acknowledges that it is reality. I would like to think that I can do right things, but the truth of the matter is, I cannot.
    Let me now call your attention to the declaration of our dear Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, as He affirmed that man can't. "Why do ye not understand my speech? even because YE CANNOT HEAR MY WORD." (John 8:43).
    Knowing that these words were spoken by Jesus Christ, who will contend with Him? Who will be so impertinent as to question His choice of words as He spoke to the unbelieving Jews who confronted Him as He taught in the temple. Who indeed would dare to say that He was not telling the truth. Some so dared then, and some so dare now!
    But who would dare, you ask. And I answer, all those who hold to the position that man is an active participant in the salvation of men. All those of the arminian position so dare, and repeatedly so as they preach their heresies declaring that man's own volitional powers are instrumental in the birthing process of a spiritual being. All such, regardless of their elevated position in religious circles. No matter how much certain men are held in high esteem because of their position in the "electronic churches" of today's TV exposure, nor what great outpourings of charisma they may demonstrate, they, by and large, are self- seekers and glory hounds, and so declare that man can, when Christ said that they can't.
    We realize that many there are that deny the inability of man. But that is no reason why we should avoid the subject, and seek not to expose the error of those who so deny this doctrine. It is the truth, and God holds His churches, and His servants accountable for their failures to declare all the counsel of God. May God give us grace and divine enablement at this time to speak the truth, and in so doing, do honor to His great Name, Person, and work.
    Jesus declared to the eleven apostles, as they were assembled as the church that He began, (the only one that He ever started, by the way) to do His work as He had authorized and commanded. Here's what He said to them:
    "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20). Now, since man's total inability is taught throughout God's Book, how can
churches and individuals deny it, or fail to proclaim it, and remain in compliance with Christ's command? They cannot. If they, or we, do not teach the truth, then they, and we are in direct disobedience to the Lord.
    Hear me preacher! Hear me churches! If you deny the total inability of man, and the depravity of his fallen nature, and do not teach it, then you, (not those other folks), but YOU are in direct disobedience to God. You are sinning against God. He said, "... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:" Now, did Jesus teach that man is unable to save himself? Did He teach that man was unable to hear God's word, when left to himself? Did Jesus teach that it was sin that had ruined man, and that sin had darkened his faculties and had rendered him impotent to think right, or to do right?
    "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father., From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." (John 6:63-66).
    In these verses Jesus dealt with depravity. And His preaching caused some to turn from Him in hatred! Can we expect less? Can we, as finite creatures, whose understanding is so limited, expect to be more understood; to be more accepted than our dear Lord Himself? Can we?
    The God man, the very Personification of wisdom and righteousness was not heard and received by most men. His message was not believed by most men. Nor will we be heard and believed by most men. But, praise God, some did hear Him, and some will hear us. It is therefore acceptable to us to know that even though we will not be held in high regard by many, yet some will be made to rejoice in the precious truth of God's Holy Word as it is preached. We will, therefore, be content to preach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, to men, women, boys and girls just as they are, and leave all the results in His capable hands.
    Now, we would that you should read the text scriptures again, and then follow this message very carefully.
    Here, Jesus announced that the words which He spoke were the words of God, and in them is life. He also made it very clear that the Spirit does the quickening (Making alive), and that the flesh is completely, COMPLETELY, unprofitable in the matter. The flesh, being the natural man who is dead in sins and in trespasses is not instrumental, nor effective in the matter of making one who is dead to live.
    Does this impotency on the part of the flesh not announce to you that the flesh is depraved, that is, void of any ability to accomplish that which is pleasing to God, or profitable to man? Remember verse 63? "... the flesh profiteth nothing." Nothing? NOTHING! The flesh profiteth nothing. Jesus declares that it is the Spirit of God, as opposed to the fleshly, carnal nature of fallen man that quickens, and that the flesh profiteth nothing. That is, the flesh is completely unprofitable in that it, the flesh has no ability to be profitable.
    Because man is totally lacking in ability to birth himself, or to aid in the birthing of himself, he is declared to be impotent, and being so he cannot come to God. In his own strength, which is no strength at all, man cannot come to God. Jesus reiterated this truth in verse 65, and reminded His audience that He had already told them this truth before. Notice verse 65: "And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." Therefore, SAID I, meaning, that He had previously told them this same truth. I told you, and now I tell you again, "... no man can come unto me EXCEPT it were given unto him of my Father". The coming to Him then is the result of their having been given the ability to come, and that of the Father.
    Listen now to these words: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day". (John 6:37-44).
    Take note of verse 44: "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day". Here is where Jesus first told His audience that they could not come to Him except the Father provide the enabling ability, or the drawing power for them to come to him. And it is to this verse that Jesus makes reference when He again speaks of man's inability to come to Him, as He said in verse 65 of the text that we read.
    Now in the next place we ask, Do men come to Jesus? Some do. Others do not. Does God the Father draw men to Jesus? Listen to Jesus as He speaks to Nicodemus in John 3:14-15: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life". God had ordained, or appointed that His Son was to be lifted up as a Sacrifice for the sins of His people, and in due time He brought that appointment to fruition. He does draw men to Christ, lifted up, dying in accordance with the Scriptures. But, does man come to Christ, even though God commands all men everywhere to repent? Some do. But others do not and consequently they that do not die in their sins are forever separated from God. Why is it that some come to Him and others do not? To some it is given. To others it is not given. Verse 65 says, "... no man can come unto me EXCEPT it were given unto him of my Father". Also note: "For unto you it is GIVEN in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe of him, but also to suffer for his sake". (Philippians 1:29).
    Believing, then, is a gift of God! Believing is an expression of faith! "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). And what is faith: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". (Hebrews 11:1).
    Believing is an expression of faith, and this faith is also of God. The source of faith and of expressing that faith that has been given by the act of believing is of God. It is all of and by Him, and apart from Him and His gifts, there can be no faith felt, and no expressions of that faith as evidenced by those who believe. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God". (Ephesians 2:8).
    God commands repentance and faith. He makes those demands upon all men. All men in their depraved, fallen, helpless estate have the same demand placed upon them, and that is, repentance and faith. And because the demand is the same for all men, and because the depravity, or lack of ability is the same for all men, then those who do repent and show forth faith, must, of absolute necessity do so as some power outside of themselves enables, yea, even constrains them to do so.
    God has concluded all to be under sin, that He might show mercy upon whomsoever He is pleased to show mercy. God has commanded repentance and faith of all men, and shows mercy upon those of His own choosing and then enables them to comply with His demand. Thus they repent of their sins and are turned to God as He gives them faith to believe Him. God grants repentance and God gives faith to His people.
    The apostle Peter spoke of this act of God as he related his experiences in dealing with those of the household of Cornelius as is recorded in Acts, chapter 10, when he spoke in chapter 11. "Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life". (Acts 11:17,18).
    Man is a totally depraved, totally corrupt being. And that is because he is a sinner. Adam sinned, and all sinned in Adam. Adam fell, and all fell in him. Now, there is no recovery from that fall; not even hope for recovery to be found in man. Numerous are the scriptures that verify that this assessment is correct. Note these: Job 14-4; Psalms 51:5; Psalms 58:3; Genesis 6:5; Psalms 14:3; Jeremiah 17:9; Jeremiah 13:23; Jeremiah 10:23; Job 40:9-14; Isaiah 64:6; Ecclesiastes 7:20, and many others which could be cited.
    Now to that evidence that God has levied against man, listen as he speaks through the apostle Paul: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:7-8).
    Because man is depraved, he cannot come to God; he cannot please God. But God is able to do His will, and He does draw some men to Christ, and He does so draw them, in loving kindness to Himself, savingly.
    In II Samuel, chapter 9, there is the account of King David and Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the grandson of Saul. Here, Mephibosheth is presented as being in a terrible predicament, and is totally lacking in power or ability to extricate himself from his awful circumstance. He is typically presented as being the expression of every lost, forlorn, depraved, impotent sinner who desperately needs help, but is unaware of his actual state. He is the epitome of lost men in their lost condition.
    But according to a covenant that is in force between his dead father, and the King of Israel, he is about to be dealt with in mercy, and his deliverance is about to be effected. He doesn't know it, but he is now, and has been under the protection and provision of a wondrous covenant.
    Please read the entire chapter and note these things.
    1. Mephibosheth is lame on his feet.
    2. He is held captive in the house of the strong man in the land of Lodebar.
    3. He does not know of the covenant.
    4. He is not planning to improve his circumstances for he knows nothing different than that he has always known.
    5. King David remembers the covenant and undertakes in behalf of the beneficiary of that convenant.
    6. King David sends for Mephibosheth, and fetches him, positively fetches him, to himself.
    7. King David places Mephibosheth as if he were his own son, at his own table to enjoy all the benefits and blessings of being one of the King's sons.
    It is awesomely true that man can't. He can't save himself. He can't help to save himself. He can't come to God that he might be saved. He can't think correctly as to his condition, nor as to any possible remedy. He can't desire the things of God, nor can he know that he can't. And he will never know except God make it known to him.
    You may imagine that I have painted a more horrible picture of man that what the Scriptures paint of him. But I haven't. I haven't even begun to speak of the awfulness of man and of his complete lack of ability or desire. God has said much more of fallen man than I have been able to relate.
    But my God is able. In every area where man can't, God can. For He is able. He is able to know of my need. He is able to care for His own. He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him. Let us all acknowledge that God is able, and that will resound to His glory and praise. Remember, our God is able. Amen, and Amen.

(The Baptist Herald - November, 1990)

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