(This is based, in part, on John Gerstner’s Primer on the Predestination from a compilation of his primers in the book Primitive Theology. I am using Primitive Theology for my Sunday School class. There is a growing list of links on the left for the posts for this class.
We are on step three of a four step "proof" of predestination:
- Proof of the Doctrine of Total Depravity
- Establishment of Man’s Moral Inability
- The Divine Initiative (Rebirth)
Step 3. The Divine InitiativeHere we find ourselves, if the arguments for total depravity and moral inability have convinced, at a rather interesting place. Scripture is telling us that we cannot save ourselves—in fact we cannot even participate in our own salvation. So we had better find passages that teach of a divine initiative. By divine initiative, we mean that God takes the first step—we don’t even cooperate. We call this step regeneration, or rebirth, or being given a new heart, or being born again, or receiving new life, or receiving a new nature.
In a nutshell, divine initiative means that God changes us--not in response to anything we do, but because it pleases him to do so.
What if we don’t find such teaching? We would have to conclude that our interpretation of total depravity and moral inability was wrong. Because we do know there is a gospel; some will be saved. If we interpret that man cannot save himself, and yet there is no indication of a divine initiative, then total depravity and moral inability must be false doctrines.
On the other hand, if we find clear teaching on divine initiative, then that strengthens our confidence in those same doctrines. In other words, there is a synergism among these doctrines: they stand or fall together.
This nature of this divine initiative must be that God copes with man’s desperate situation. It is the fulfillment of the Psalmist’s words “Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power;” When God reveals his mighty strength in changing a man’s heart and giving him a new nature, that man becomes a man of violence who takes the kingdom of heaven by force. Because of God’s initiative, he is now so determined to know this Christ, whom he sees clearly for the first time, that he will permit nothing to stand in his way.
That is how the divine initiative works out. We are morphed to a point where we seek God. But how do we know that we didn’t arrive here on our own—by the power of our intellects or by observing other Christians? We know because we are told by Jesus, in John 15:16, You did not choose me, but I chose you.
We come to love Jesus, but why do we love him? John tells us, in 1 John 4:19, it is because Jesus first loved us.
The Psalmist also tells us when we will seek Gods face: when he tells us to:
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” (Ps. 27:8)Jesus tells the Pharisees that they do not hear his voice, because they are not his sheep. And his followers do hear his voice, because they are his sheep (John 10.17) But what makes a person hear, what makes a person a sheep of the Great Shepherd, and the person next to him, listening to the same words, deaf to His voice? It is that one has been changed while the other remains in the flesh.
Here are a few passages that make this rather explicit:
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deu 30:6)The teaching that we see here is simple: it is both necessary and sufficient that God changes you before you seek him. Something has to happen to a person before they will accept the things of the Spirit of God. We contribute only our sins—everything else—not ninety-nine but one hundred percent—is a gift from God. He doesn’t heal us, he resurrects us from our death to trespasses.
26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek 36:26-27)
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. (John 6:44)
to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:18)
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, (Eph 1:17)
even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (Eph 2:5)
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:14)