People bristle when you claim that what we do is determined by what we are. Yet, it is an undeniable fact. We sin because we have a sin nature. Pride gets in the way when we have to admit that, doesn’t it? It gets in the way when you claim that our salvation depends not on us—or anything we do—but upon God, who chose His elect before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). People want just a wee bit of credit for that, don’t they?

Four examples will demonstrate that one’s nature controls one’s will.

The Bible teaches that one’s thoughts, actions, and behaviors stem from his nature. To illustrate that one’s nature controls his choices and actions, consider these four biblical examples: God, Satan, Jesus, and the glorified saints in heaven. Observe how the Bible answers each of the following questions:

  1. Can God lie? The Bible’s answer is, “No, God cannot lie.” He does not have the ability to lie. The writer of Hebrews states explicitly, “it is impossible for God to lie,” (Hebrews 6:18). Why can’t God lie (or, for that matter, commit sin)? The answer is that His holiness is perfect; thus, He cannot sin in any way (including lying). He is also all-wise, hence He cannot make foolish choices. The choices God makes result from and are determined by who He is and all He stands for. His very nature keeps Him from sin.
  2. Can Satan tell the truth? The biblical answer is, “No.” That is, not unless it suits his purposes. Our Lord declared that, “When he [Satan] lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies,” (John 8:44). The devil can do nothing but lie because his nature is under the control of sin. Satan’s choices result from and are determined by who he is, and all he stands for. His very nature keeps Him from doing good.
  3. Could Christ have sinned when He was on earth? The biblical answer is, “No.” First, Peter 2:22 says, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” Even while He was in the flesh, it was impossible for Him to deviate from the Father’s will. “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise,” (John 5:19). The choices God’s Son made and the things He did while living on this earth resulted from and were determined by who He is, and all He stands for. His very nature kept Him from sin.
  4. Will Christians be able to sin once they have been glorified in heaven? The biblical answer is, “No.” In heaven, the Christian’s will shall then be able to conform perfectly to God’s will. “But nothing unclean will ever enter it [heaven], nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life,” (Revelation 21:27). Because he will possess a holy nature, he will not have the ability to disobey God. (Some would be horrified by the idea that the saints in heaven do not have a free will to choose to sin or not.) No, by their very natureglorified in and by Christ, they will not possess the ability to sin. (Without “free will,” will they be nothing more than puppets on a string? Is the Arminian ready to charge that the saints in heaven will be nothing more than robots? I think not). The choices which the glorified saints in heaven make will result from and be determined by who they are and all they stand for. By their very nature, they will be unable to sin.

In Summary: Which rules which? Does a person’s will control his nature, or does his nature control his will? The biblical answer is clear:

A person’s nature (what he is) determines the choices he is able to make and the things he is able to do.

This is true of God (His nature is holy; He cannot choose to lie). It is true of Satan (his nature is evil: he cannot choose to tell the truth). It was true of the Lord Jesus when He was on the earth in the flesh (His nature was holy; He could not choose to disobey His Father). It will also be true of the glorified saints in heaven (their nature will be holy; they will not be able to choose to sin).[1]

[1] The above is taken from Salvation is of the Lord: An Exploration of God’s Saving Work, by Deborah Howard.  This book compares and contrasts the belief systems of Arminians and Calvinists.  This clear, concise defense of the Doctrines of Grace in Reformed Theology is available at www.amazon.com.

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