Would believing in Christ be an act of man’s will that is pleasing to God?

by Paul Franco on June 27, 2011

Calvinists, Arminians and middle of the road non-denominational denominations would all answer yes to this question. We would also agree that putting one’s faith in Christ for salvation is well pleasing to the Father. However, the Calvinist does not see eye to eye when answering the question, why one person believes in Christ and another does not. The Arminian and the middle of the roader answer this question by saying man’s “free will” is the deciding factor. They both agree that the unregenerate will of man has the ability and is capable of choosing or rejecting Christ. Both are able to produce various Bible passages that refer to man choosing to serve God, but they fail to understand “why” one is choosing to serve God.

The Calvinist or reformed, will agree that man does choose to put his faith in Christ, but it is the act of God’s saving grace which precedes personal faith that is the determining factor. The unregenerate stony heart has no ability to believe in Christ because he does not accept the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:14). God first regenerates the heart of the rebel sinner, then he is able to bow the knee and confess Christ as his personal savior (Eze 36:26; Tit 3:4-7; Rom 10:9-10). Let us examine this in the light of Scripture as we exegete Romans 8:8 where Apostle Paul says, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” We immediately see that the “will” of the unbeliever is not able to please God. Paul establishes the point in Romans 8:9b that anyone void of the Holy Spirit cannot please God because they do not belong to Him.

The unbeliever is a slave to sin (Rom 6:14-20), has a heart that is desperately sick (Jer 17:9), is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19), is dead in his sins (Eph 2:1), does not seek for God (Rom 3:10-12), and cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14). If believing in Christ is good and pleasing to God, how is it possible for the unbeliever who is in the flesh to please God by believing in His Son, when he is unable because he is void of the Holy Spirit? Paul answers by saying it is impossible for the unbeliever to please God. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to God, this is why he is unable to do that which is pleasing toward Him. When the unbeliever first experiences the inward circumcision of his heart by the Spirit of God, it naturally follows that he bows the knee and confesses Christ as Savior (Rom 2:29). When Christ sets the sinner free, he is free to do that which is pleasing to God (John 8:36). When Christ saves anyone it is according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He pours out richly by His grace (Tit 3:4-7). This is why no one is able to boast of saving himself, for every believer was once a child of wrath walking in the passions of his flesh following the course of this world and the prince of the power of the air, and was unable to please God by “believing” in His Son Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8-9; Eph 2:1-3). You must be “born again” by the Spirit of God in order to see the Kingdom of God, and the Spirit of God falls upon whomever He desires (John 3:3-8). Since Nicodemus was void of the Holy Spirit Jesus tells him that he was unable to believe the heavenly things, for he was spiritually bankrupt (John 3:12). “He who has ears, let him hear,” but Nicodemus did not have spiritual ears to hear Messiah (Matt 13:9). The Father raises the dead and gives them life, and these are the one’s that hear Messiah’s words and believe in Him (John 5:21, 24). The unbelieving person who is spiritually dead can no more raise himself to spiritual life, than the physically dead give himself new life in his mortal body. The spiritually dead person is described by Apostle Paul as the “natural man” or those who are in the “flesh”.

The unbelievers mind is set on the flesh and is concerned with pleasing himself, he is hostile to God and does not submit to God’s law, in fact he is so spiritually dead that he is incapable of submitting to God (Rom 8:7). Paul solidifies his argument of the natural man’s inability to “believe in Christ” apart from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, by stating “those who are in the flesh cannot please God”. The unbeliever is always (100%) “in the flesh” because he does not possess the Spirit of God (Eph 2:22). It therefore follows that the unbeliever void of the Spirit is unable to please God by “believing in Christ” for this would be pleasing to God, and contrary to the Scriptures.

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