1. The Case Stated
In Romans 8:29 we read: "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren?"
Does God predestinate some people to be saved and go to Heaven and others to be lost and go to Hell so that they have no free choice? The answer is no! A person is predestinated to be saved only as he chooses by his own free will to repent of sin and receive Christ as personal Saviour.
How sad it is that churches are being split and believers divided over hyper-Calvinistic teaching. Many are using what they call "the five points of Calvinism" to promote this erroneous doctrine. These five points can easily be remembered if they are associated with the word T-U-L-I-P:
T- Total Inability for any sinner to repent and believe unless he
is foreordained to do so.
U- Unconditional Election which means that people are elected to be saved without any reference to anything they may do. People are also foreordained to be damned unconditionally.
L- Limited Atonement which means that Christ died only for those who are ordained to be saved and that He did not shed His blood for the sins of those He has ordained to be lost.
I- Irresistible Grace which means that we should not urge people to receive Christ. Those who are ordained to be saved will be irresistibly moved and overpowered by God's grace and will thus be saved.
P- Perseverance of the Saints which means God keeps those whom He has ordained to be saved.
Here is a good summary of hyper-Calvinistic teaching from Professor Hoeksema's book, "Whosoever Will":
"That work is absolutely divine. Man has no part in it, and cannot possibly co-operate with God in his own salvation. In no sense of the word, and at no stage of the work, does salvation depend upon the will or work of man, or wait for the determination of his will. In fact, the sinner is of himself neither capable nor willing to receive that salvation. On the contrary, all he can do and will is to oppose, to resist his own salvation with all the determination of his sinful heart. But God ordained, and prepared this salvation with absolute sovereign freedom for His own, His chosen ones alone, and upon them He bestows it, not because they seek and desire it, but in spite of the fact that they never will it, and because He is stronger than man, and overcomes the hardest heart and the most stubborn will of the sinner."
This teaching is contrary to the Word of God and is causing great heart-concern among humble Bible believers.
It might be helpful for us to hear what some of the widely-accepted Bible teachers have to say on this subject:
Dr. Harry A. Ironside: "Scripture plainly teaches election based upon God's foreknowledge. It is just as plain in its declarations of man's free will. All men are invited to accept the salvation that God has provided in Jesus Christ. 'Whosoever will' means just what it says." (What's the Answer? p. 54).
Dr. James M. Gray, past President of Moody Bible Institute: "Take the lines indicated by the division into Calvinists and Arminians, for example. The apparently opposite positions for which these schools of religious thought stand are both found in the Bible, viz, God's sovereignty and man's free agency; but it would seem as though no one finite mind could hold both equally at the same time. How necessary, however, that both be duly emphasized!" (Bible Problems Explained, p. 45).
Dr. William L. Pettingill: "The relation between God's sovereignty and elective purpose on the one hand and free grace and human responsibility on the other has perplexed the commentators throughout the ages. The best course is to believe all that God says and wait for Him to make it plain. God insists upon His sovereignty and also upon man's responsibility. Believe both and preach both, leaving the task of 'harmonizing' with Him." (Bible Questions Answered, p. 209).
C. H. Spurgeon: "Brethren, be willing to see both sides of the shield of truth. Rise above the babyhood which cannot believe two doctrines until it sees the connecting link. Have you not two eyes, man? Must you needs put one of them out in order to see clearly?" (Faith and Regeneration).
Dr. R. A. Torrey: "The Bible is the revelation of an infinite mind that presents all sides of the truth... We are not to try to explain away the clear teaching of the Word of God as to the sovereignty of God on the one hand, nor the clear teaching of the Word of God as to the freedom of the human will on the other hand." (The Importance and Value of Proper Bible Study).
Dr. Arthur T. Pierson: "Election taught in the Word, must be consistent both with the sovereign will of God and the freedom of man; and if we cannot reconcile these two, it is because the subject is so infinitely lifted up above us. Man is free. There are in your heart and mine seven thunders that utter their voices, such as 'I am,' 'I think,' 'I reason,' 'I love,' 'I judge,' 'I choose,' 'I act.' And all these voices unite in affirming 'I am responsible.' Moreover, God Himself directly appeals to choice: He says, 'Why will ye die?' (Ezekiel 18:31). As Revelation closes we read, 'Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely' (Rev. 22:17). Thus the last great invitation in God's Book is an appeal to the will. But—most startling of all—is Christ's lament over Jerusalem: "How often WOULD I have gathered thy children...even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and YE WOULD NOT' (Matthew 23:37). The yearning of God and the stubborn refusal of man are here put in clear antagonism. Luke 15 contains one parable in three parts. The first represents the Shepherd seeking the lost sheep. Thus far one might judge that all man has to do is passively to wait for God to come after him. But in the latter part of the parable we have the complementary truth, and from this part, if alone, it might be inferred that the sinner has everything to do, and God nothing. But putting the two together, we get the whole truth. While Jesus never spoke of 'election' or 'predestination' He gives us the parable of the sheepfold, of which He is the Door, and of the flock, of which He is the Shepherd; and because one of these does not put the whole truth before us, He gives us the two half-truths, joined in one double parable (John 10)" (The Believer's Life: Its Past, Present, and Future Tenses, pp. 24-26,30).
Hyper-Calvinism is a philosophy based on human reasoning rather than Divine revelation. They use terms such as "Then it must logically follow that..." They tell us that if God foreknew what would occur, then He must have ordered it. If He knew sin would come, then He must have planned the sin. The Bible does not teach this at all.
The result of this teaching is a cold response to the need of sinners. many feel that they do not have to witness, to visit, and to encourage sinners to be saved. This is not only sad but dangerous. They would have us believe that if any particular person is going to be saved, he will be saved irrespective of what we may or may not do about it. Of course (they say) we must still preach the Gospel to all for we do not know who among the audience are elected. Very seldom is an invitation given.
The problem is that man tries to rationalize God's Word. There are some things we cannot understand or we would be as God Himself. C. H. Spurgeon said: "I believe that the two great doctrines of human responsibility and divine sovereignty have both been brought out the more prominently in the Christian Church by the fact that there is a class of strong-minded hard-headed men who magnify sovereignty at the expense of responsibility; and another earnest and useful class who uphold and maintain human responsibility oftentimes at the expense of divine sovereignty...Truth has thus suffered on all sides; on the one hand brethren would not tell all the truth, and on the other hand they magnified out of proportion that which they did see." (Sermon 442, p. 182-183). This is the problem that confronts many churches today. Sincere Bible-believing men have magnified one aspect of truth far out of proportion on the basis of human reasoning rather than on Biblical revelation.
2. God's Choice and Election
One of the most important passages that the hyper-Calvinists use in upholding their doctrine of "limited atonement" is Romans 9:10-18:
"And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth."
The secret of understanding this passage is to notice carefully that Paul is not dealing primarily with the subject of foreknowledge and election TO SALVATION, but with the nation of Israel and its relationship to God.
In the first part of the chapter Paul deals with God's sovereignty in relation to eight unique spiritual privileges enjoyed by Israel. The Jews, however, felt that the promises of God had failed them for why would Israel nationally be set aside and the Gentiles brought into this place of blessing? Paul pointed out that God has always acted on the principle of sovereign grace.
God brought His people out of the nations as an elect people, separating them unto Himself. God had in mind a REGENERATED PEOPLE to enjoy the promises. Not all Jews belonged to the Israel of God. God chose Isaac over Ishmael, Isaac was a child of promise. The same principle applied to the children of Isaac and Rebecca. There is no question here of predestination to Heaven or Hell. We are not told here in verses 10-13, nor anywhere else, that before children are born it is God's purpose to send one to Heaven and another to Hell. Nor is it taught here that God saves one by grace and condemns the other to Hell. The passage has to do entirely with privileges here on earth.
God's purpose was that Jacob should be the father of the nation of Israel. Through him the promised seed, our Lord Jesus Christ, should come into the world. God had pre-determined that Esau should be a man of the wilderness—the father of a nation of nomads, as the Edomites have ever been. This is what the phrase "The elder shall serve the younger" really means. The phrase "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" teaches that God saw fit to honour Jacob and his descendants over Esau.
The election spoken of here is not a choice for eternal salvation or perdition, but God's predetermining of the role that individuals and nations would play in this earthly life. Salvation was available for Esau and any of his descendants willing to believe God. However, the land of Canaan, the law, the tabernacle, the temple service, the promises of national blessing were all reserved for Jacob and his posterity.
Let us hear what Dr. H. C. G. Moule says of this passage: "Election is always (with one exception, Romans 9:11) related to a community, and thus has close affinity with the Old Testament teachings upon the privileged position of Israel as the chosen selected race. The objects of election in the New Testament are, in effect, the Israel of God, the new, regenerate race called to special privilege and special service."
Dr. Griffith Thomas: "It should be carefully noted that St. Paul is referring to the seed of Abraham typically and spiritually (cf. Gal.4:29)... The reference is, of course, to Jacob and Esau in their national capacity, and not to any 'hate' of Esau while yet unborn...It is therefore no question of personal salvation by absolute decree."
Dr. H. A. Ironside, in his commentary on Romans: "Be it observed that it was not before the children were born, neither had done any good or evil, that God said, 'Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.' These words are quoted from the very last book of the Old Testament. We find them in Malachi... Dispensationally, Jacob was loved, Esau hated. There is no reference to the individual as such. 'God so loved the world,' and therefore every child of Jacob or Esau may be saved who will."
Another writer has also expressed the same thought: "Here and anywhere else that you have predestination and election, it is not to salvation. Nowhere does the Bible say that God has chosen this one to be saved and that one to be lost. This is not salvation. This is service. Let me show you that in Romans 9:12: 'The elder shall serve the younger."
In verse 16 the word "it" does not refer to man's salvation or to his approach to God. The "it" refers to God's mercy. "So then IT is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." It is the extending of divine mercy that is not "of him that willeth." Certainly, mercy toward a fallen race is of God, not man, and none of us deserves it.
Dr. Griffith Thomas says of this verse: "God's mercy is not merely a response to human resolve ('him that willeth'), or to human effort ('him that runneth'). His own divine will is the one and only source of His mercy. All men are sinners, and as God pardoned Israel when they were rebels, why may He not pardon the Gentiles also?"
The same essential teaching is brought out in Romans 9:17-18: "For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth."
This is not speaking about salvation. God hardened Pharaoh's heart but not until after Moses went to him and said: God says, "Let my people go." And Pharaoh said, "Who is God that I should obey Him?"
In his Commentary on Romans, Dr. Griffith Thomas said: "This would be an argument exactly suited to the Jewish objector. God was only acting upon the same principle as He acted upon in regard to Pharaoh when He hardened unbelieving Israel...It does not mean that Pharaoh was hardened for the mere sake of hardening, for we are told ten times in Exodus of Pharaoh hardening himself. He is used here as an illustration of divine power as manifested and revealed in the outcome of the monarch's self-will and hardening of his own heart. "I raised thee up," does not mean that he was created for the purpose of being hardened, but as Denney renders it, 'Brought thee on the stage of history.' It simply states that God brought about everything that belonged to Pharaoh's history, even though Pharaoh himself was perfectly free in his action...Pharaoh's heart was hardened by means of divine displays of power that were fitted and intended to have a precisely opposite effect...We know from the history that it was Pharaoh's disobedience alone that led to his being hardened. Neither Pharaoh nor anyone else was ever created in order to be hardened."
There is nothing taught in the Bible about man being predestined to eternal damnation. If men are lost it is because they will not come to Christ. You must settle for yourself whether you will be among the elect of God or not.
3. The Main Issue
The clearest statement of recent months regarding the teaching of the five-point TULIP belief has come from the new pastor of Jarvis Street Baptist Church, Toronto, Pastor Eric T. Gurr. In the Gospel Witness of December 11, 1975, he presents it this way: "Now, I am a Calvinist. By that I mean that I believe in the New Testament Gospel. Now, I know that Calvinism is not comprehended in the five points. Calvinism is much bigger and greater than the five points, and indeed Calvin himself knew nothing about them. Nevertheless, they do in themselves represent a manner in which a man may declare his position and his beliefs. I am, and have been for many years, a five-pointer. Now, I do not want to insult your theological intelligence. I imagine that most of you fell out of the cradle reaching for a tulip, so you know that the five points of Calvin can be represented as an acrostic on the word "tulip." T- is for total depravity of the human heart; U- is unconditional election; L- is limited atonement; I- is irresistible grace; and P- is the perseverance of the saints.
"Particular redemption probably is a better word than limited atonement, but what we mean by this is that when our Lord Jesus Christ died, He did not die redemptively for the whole world. If you believe that Jesus died redemptively for the whole world, it is you who believe in a limited atonement, because you believe that Jesus did not really do a redemptive work when He died upon Calvary's cross. You believe that He only made a redeeming work possible. Now I believe that when He died He did a mighty work, a final work, a work that Hell and the Devil shall never overthrow. Indeed, to believe anything other than this is to belittle the atonement; and it is to edge upon the blasphemous. For if you believe anything other than particular redemption, you believe that there are some in Hell for whom Jesus died..."
As Bible believers, I cannot understand why we want to be identified with Calvin at all. Calvin's teaching in many respects is totally contrary to the plain teaching of the Bible. He did not believe in the separation of church and state. He did not believe in the local church. he did not believe in Believer's baptism. Of course he was a millennial and believed in a covenant theology. All of this I reject.
I want to say today that I do not identify myself with Calvin at all. I identify myself with the Bible and refer to myself as a Bible believer.
The Word of God makes it clear that Christ's death on Calvary's Cross was for the sins of every person. We ignore the Bible completely if we believe that salvation is provided only for the elect few.
The Bible makes it clear that Christ is the Saviour of the world. In John 4:42 the plain statement is made that He is "indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." In 1 John 4:14 the same title is used of Him: "And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." Not every person will receive this Saviour but He came to die for the whole world. We read in 1 Timothy 4:10: "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." Paul laboured so that all might hear of the Saviour of all men. Christ is that Saviour, but in particular, He is the Saviour of those who trust Him personally.
This teaching is also found in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Let us also notice 1 John 2:1,2: "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, but also for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD." Christ is our advocate as believers. All sins were atoned for on the Cross. But Christ is also the propitiation FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD. Every person has his sins paid for if they will but come and receive Christ as personal Saviour.
In Isaiah 53:6 we read: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way: and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of US ALL." ALL have gone astray. ALL are sinners. The Lord hath laid on HIM the iniquity of US ALL. This included everyone. Everyone is a sinner. Christ died for all.
The story is told of a famous English preacher. He delivered a message and then rushed to the station to catch a train for London. A sinner heard the sermon, was convicted of his sin, and wanted to be saved. He followed the preacher to the train and after finding him said: "I want to be saved. I must be saved now. Tell me how!"
The preacher replied, "I must take this train to London. Do you have a Bible?" "Yes," replied the man.
"Good, then find Isaiah 53:6. Read it very carefully. Go in at the first 'all' and come out at the last 'all' and you will be saved."
The preacher went on the train and the burdened sinner returned home. "What did the preacher mean when he said go in at the first 'all' and come out at the last 'all'? he wondered. Finding his Bible he turned to Isaiah 53:6 and read these words: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;" He said to himself, "I can certainly agree with that for I have gone astray and I am a lost sinner."
Then he read the last part of the verse: "And the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." He read it over and over again. "I see it!" he said. "Jesus took my place and paid the penalty of my sins upon Calvary's Cross. I trust Him now as my Saviour." The burden of his sin was lifted and he was saved because Christ died for all sinners.
This same truth is also found in 1 Timothy 2:5,6: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; WHO GAVE HIMSELF A RANSOM FOR ALL." "All" includes everyone in the world.
The Calvinists teach limited atonement. According to their doctrine Christ died only for the elect. They believe that some people are ordained to Heaven and others to Hell. But this is totally contrary to the plain teaching of the Bible.
Notice Romans 3:22-23: "...for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." What an awful condition mankind is in. Every person stands before God as a sinner, condemned already to the Lake of Fire. (See John 3:18). Furthermore, there is not one religious exercise the sinner can perform in order to be reconciled to God. However, the Good News is that God has provided salvation in Christ. Notice also Romans 10:12: "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him." There is no difference for all have sinned. There is no difference for all may be saved. The Lord Jesus Christ is the "same Lord OVER ALL." He is not one kind of Lord to those predestined to be saved and another kind of Lord to those predestined to be lost. There is no difference in relation to all men as sinners. There is no difference in relation to all men who may be saved. The same truth is seen in Romans 5:18: "Therefore as by the offence of one [Adam] judgment came upon ALL MEN to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Christ] the free gift came upon ALL MEN unto justification of life." If the word "all" means everyone in relation to their guilt as sons of Adam, then the word "all" means everyone in relation to being justified by one, Christ Jesus our Lord. As many as became sinners by Adam's fall that same number were provided for by Christ's Cross work. There is no other honest interpretation a person can take in relation to this verse.
The fact is that the Bible teaches an atonement which is no more limited than sin is limited. We read in Romans 5:20: "Moreover the law entered that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." God's grace reaches even beyond where sin abounded. There is no such thing as Limited Atonement taught in the Word of God.
4. What the Bible Teaches
In Romans 9:20-24 we read: "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom He hath called, not of Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?"
In these verses we have the teaching of the potter and the clay. "Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" The word "formed" in this passage refers to God's spiritual dealings with men and not with original creation. Paul is speaking of God's right to harden an already unbelieving and disobedient people. "Hath not the potter power of the clay?" God is regarded as taking men as He finds them, just as the potter takes already existing clay and uses it. "The vessels of wrath" are described as "fitted to destruction," which means that because of their own sin they resisted God's will to their own destruction. The picture of the potter and the clay must not be overpressed for man has a will which the clay has not. Those who were spoken of as "vessels of dishonour" were not puppets in God's hand, compelled to do His will without any moral responsibility for their deeds. God called them such because He saw that the very iniquity of their hearts was leading them to follow the course of disobedience and He could not use them.
Another passage that will help us to understand this teaching is Ephesians 1:4,5,11: "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world...having predestinated us unto the adoption of children...being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will."
Let us hear what Dr. W. B. Riley says of this passage: "The term 'predestination' which has alarmed many, is only another expression of the eternal compassion, the eternal plan, the eternal purpose, the eternal project—redemption! The believer's position, however, is by the exercise of man's will. He has 'predestinated us unto the adoption of children...' but He will never foreclose on that which He has purchased without our personal consent. The day one is willing to be adopted, that day he becomes God's child... Our adoption is done the moment we consent to it; but the joy of it all, to the praise and glory of His grace—comes to us in every-increasing measure" (N. T. Expositor, Vol. 12, pp. 13-15).
Now notice that Paul does not say, "According as He hath chosen 'some' in Him to be saved before the foundation of the world" but "According as He hath chosen US (believers only) in Him...that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." This does not teach that some should be saved and others lost. The subject of the salvation of the soul is not mentioned here.
Dr. G. Campbell Morgan said: "The plan of the Church existed in the mind of God from eternity. He predestinated the Church [and note that it was the Church and not the people of the world] to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29).
Let us now look at 2 Thessalonians 2:13: "...God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation." The word "chosen" is not the common word for elect or predestinate. The context shows clearly that unbelievers perish because they "received not the love of the truth that they might be saved" (vs. 10) and "believed not the truth" (vs. 12). On the other hand the saved are called "brethren" because of their "belief of the truth" (verse 13).
The "chosen" are the "brethren beloved" who look forward "to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (vs. 14). This is the ultimate future awaiting every child of God.
There is an interesting verse in 1 Peter 1:2 that is often misunderstood "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." This simply means that from all eternity God has known those who would accept His offer of free grace. God's election is in relation to His foreknowledge. He foreknew those who would come as sinners and receive His grace by simple faith. Peter shows clearly man's responsibility: "Wherefore, the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fail."
A careful study of the Bible shows that God's desire is for all people to be saved. We read in 1 Timothy 2:3,4: "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." God will have all men to be saved not just an elect group.
Notice what Peter says in 2 Peter 3:9: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." God wants all to come to repentance.
Acts 17:30: "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." It is a perversion of the Bible to say that God elects some to Heaven and some to Hell.
The "Tulip" Calvinists tell us that a sinner cannot repent without the enabling grace of God. What they do not tell us is that every sinner does have the enabling grace of God to repent. The Bible does teach clearly that "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven" (John 3:27). It is also true that "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). But we must not conclude from these verses that some people cannot be saved. God deals with every sinner.
John 12:32: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL MEN unto me." John 1:7: "The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that ALL MEN through Him might believe." John 1:9: "That was the true Light, which lighteth EVERY MAN that cometh into the world."
The Book of Romans makes it clear that even those who do not have the Bible have the law of God written in their hearts, attested by their conscience, holding them accountable for their continuance in sin and for their rejection of Christ. Let me read Romans 2:14-16: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel."
Many times the "Tulip" Calvinists tell us that we should not tell people to repent who cannot repent. A lost sinner is dead and he can do nothing until God makes him alive. The Bible teaches that every lost sinner is dead in trespasses and sins and is separated from God. But these dead men have the freedom to choose God or the Devil, and indeed, they do make their choice. God says that He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If all should come to repentance than all may repent. God has commanded all men every where to repent (Acts 17:30) and if God commands all men to repent then they can repent.
Can a spiritually dead man repent? Yes, if God commands him to repent. Even those who are physically dead will one day hear His voice and obey Him. "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." When Christ speaks, a dead man can come out of the grave whether he is saved or not. When Jesus speaks, a man dead in trespasses and sins can repent and if he does not do so he will be forever lost.
The invitations of God are found all through the Bible. Isaiah 45:22: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH..." Joel 2:32: "And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered." This promise is repeated in Acts 2:21: and Romans 10:13: "Whosoever" means anyone and so anyone can be saved.
It is not true that God wants some people to be lost and therefore elects them to damnation. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because there were lost people there whom He did not want lost: "...how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathered her chickens under her wings, and ye would not" (Matt. 23:37). Here are people lost and condemned by their own free choice. It was not the will of our Lord.
I conclude by quoting C. H. Spurgeon: "I know there are some who think it necessary to their system of theology to limit the merit of the blood of Jesus. If my theological system needed such limitation, I would cast it to the winds. I cannot, I dare not, allow the thought to find a lodging in my mind, it seems too near akin to a blasphemy. There must be sufficiency in the blood of Christ, if God had so willed it, to have saved not only all the world, but all in ten thousand worlds, had they transgressed their Master's law. Having a Divine Person for an offering, it is not consistent to conceive of a limited value" (Spurgeon's Autobiography, Vol. 1, p. 174).
Used with permission of The Peoples Gospel Hour, P.O. Box 1660, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3A1 CANADA.