César Malan

B. Childress
Mar 28 2011

The person who has been influenced by the ideas of universal atonement asks, where is there any room for the
responsibility of the sinner?  If salvation has not been procured for a particular person, why then is it offered to him?  
Besides, if salvation is offered to someone who was not the object of Christ's redeeming work on the cross, what wrong
does he commit before God in not believing in him?

A further question relates to the response to the gospel of a sinner under conviction of sin.  What possible incentive can
he have, asks that person, firstly to believe in the gospel, and then, having believed, to stand firm, to watch, to flee from
evil, and finally to battle on, persevering in faith?  He is fully aware, according to the teaching outlined in the previous
chapter, that his salvation does not depend on him, that his own will is ineffective, and that all he is required to do is
passively to let go and let God!  What possible motive is there for him to do anything by way of response?

Again, does this not fly in the face of Scripture?  It specifically addresses man's will and summons him to believe, and
then proceeds to censure him for refusing to respond to the gospel.  Finally, it declares that it is man's perverse will
which deprives him of the blessings which God wanted to give him.

Jesus, for example speaks of those who want to come after him (Matthew 16:24), and in his sovereign wisdom he cries
out, 'How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?  For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate
Turn at my rebuke; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you' (Proverbs 1:22-
23).  Through the mouth of Isaiah he says, 'Ho!  Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters!' (Isaiah 55:1).  Then later he
complains, 'I have stretched out my hands all day long to a
rebellious people' (Isaiah 65:2).  He accuses Jerusalem of
not wanting to be gathered together as a hen gathers its chickens under its wings (Matthew 23:37), and he wept over
the city because it did not
know the day which would have brought them peace (Luke 19:42).  In particular, he rebuked
the Jews for not wanting to go to him that they might have life (John 5:40).  Finally, one of the Evangelists informs us that
the Pharisees and Scribes
rejected God's purpose for them (Luke 7:30).  Elsewhere, two of his messengers tell these
same Jews that since they had
rejected the salvation that had been offered to them, the message would be taken to the
Gentiles (Acts 13:46).

Now when Scripture speaks like that does it not give us grounds for believing that salvation concerns everyone in
general, and every single individual in particular?  Does it not teach that Jesus purchased salvation for every single
person, for everyone, and that he laid down his life for every one of us?

In reply let me point out that this is a different question from the one that concerned us earlier.  The questions here
concerns man's
responsibility with regard to salvation.  We are no longer looking at passages which those who believe
in universal atonement quote in support of their 'error', but at another subject altogether.  I could refrain from adding this
further subject to our previous study, and reserve it for a further study.  However, since people link them, I will happily
write a few words in support of the sovereignty of divine grace in the redemption of the church by Jesus Christ.

To make our study somewhat less complex, let me point out straight away that two of the passages we have just quoted
refer specifically to the city of Jerusalem, or the Jewish nation, and have no reference whatever to the salvation of souls
(Matthew 23:37; Luke 19:42).  These verses therefore have nothing to do with our present study which is limited to the
responsibility with regard to the call of the gospel.  In addition, Matthew 16:24 speaks only of someone who has
taken the decision to follow Jesus, and has professed to be a Christian; it does not at all deal with the issue of whether
or not this man possesses the ability himself to turn to Christ.  As for those passages which describe the hardness of the
human heart, or the rebelliousness of sinners (and many other similar verses could be added to the list), they contain
nothing which in any way contradicts the basic truth that 'faith is the gift of God', which he gives to those for whom Jesus
died.  I will therefore deliberately omit any reference to them.

It seems to me, then, that only the following two texts are of any real interest to us in relation to our subject:

The first one is Luke 7:30 where we read that the Pharisees and Scribes 'rejected the will of God for themselves'.  Many
conclude from this that God had really provided salvation for them - that is, that Christ had really died for them, but they
flatly refused God's gracious purposes for them and so made it completely ineffectual.

But the text says no such thing.  Furthermore, the analogy of faith totally contradicts such an understanding of the
passage.  Now it is true that the word used by the Evangelist (or rather by the Holy Spirit through him) is often used in
the sense of
abrogate, annul, make useless and ineffectual.  That is the meaning in Galatians 3:15 where we read,
'Though it is only a man's one annuls or adds to it.'  More often, however, the word means
to reject, to
.  For example in Luke 10:16, where the Saviour tells his disciples, 'He who rejects you rejects me', he uses the
word in the sense of
rejection (stepping back from something) and contempt.

That is also the meaning of the term in John 12:45, 'He who rejects me, and does not receive my words', and in
Galatians 2:21, 'I do not set aside [reject, despise] the grace of God.'  The apostle cannot have in mind the idea of
annihilating the grace of God.  That would be an impossibility.

Now in the text we are looking at Luke 7:30, the word is used in this latter sense.  It simply means that by their arrogant
disdain towards the preaching of the Saviour, some of the Pharisees and Scribes, to their own ruin, rejected, thrust far
from them, the Lord's plan of salvation.  In other words, we can say that in their case the gospel became for these
ungodly men 'the aroma of death leading to death' (II Corinthians 2:16).

The second text that we must examine is John 5:40.  Here Christ's rebuke of unbelieving Jews carries the same meaning
as the above passage.  He reproaches them with the words, 'You are not willing to come to me that you may have life.'

We must examine this statement carefully to see what this rebuke really implies.  Those who disagree with me usually
quote it as signifying that, if they had really wanted, the Jews in question could have exercised saving faith.  Jesus had
every intention of becoming their Saviour and subsequently would indeed die for them.  This is implied in that they were
free to accept or reject the salvation he was offering them.  That is the interpretation which is usually given to this

Let me begin by making the observation that those to whom Jesus was speaking were the very same unbelievers who
earlier had tried hard to kill him (verses 16,18), and whom Jesus describes as preferring praise from men rather than
from the God whom they hated, and whose words they rejected  (verses 38,42,44).

Jesus knew exactly the state of their hearts.  Let us remember that he did not need anyone to testify concerning any
man - that is, to inform him about what was going on in a man's heart.  He knew all about their irreligious ungodly nature,
that they were the enemies of God, willingly opposed to everything he did and said.  That is exactly what he proceeded
to tell them.  'You will, what you want, what your heart is set on, is not to come to me to have life!'  He might well have
added, 'You in  your consciences know that to be true, for you hate the Father and his message of grace.  You boast of
your own goodness and glory in carnal religion.'

The Lord sees what these men really are, by their own deliberate choice.  He highlights the sinfulness of their nature
and condemns their evil will by which they oppose God.

'But that proves my point!' replies the person who believes in a universal atonement. 'Since these Jews will not go to
Jesus precisely because they do not want to go, it follows that if they wanted to, then they would go to him.  That is the
logical implication of the statement.  We clearly see that they possessed "free will", the freedom, that is, that everyone
has to accept or reject salvation.  That is what is meant by human responsibility.  And this
responsibility depends on the
fact that Jesus must have died for every man.'

In my reply I must express my amazement that those who otherwise show great discernment can be guilty of such false
reasoning.  Against all logic they confuse the presence of evil with the absence of good, the darkness of night with the
absence of day, the action of an evil will with the non-use of a will which is good - in a word, they confuse the expression
of hatred with the silence of love.

Is my friend incapable of understanding that what makes a man what he is is his will?  It is this very will, whatever it may
be like, which constitutes both the existence and the freedom of every intelligent, moral creature.  We hear so much talk
about 'free will', but this is where it operates.  What is it if not the will?  If a man wants, desires, wills something, and acts
in accordance with that will, is he not free in that choice or decision which he has taken?  For him, is not absolute liberty
the freedom to perform what he wills?

If, for example, the nature of iron consisted in its hardness, would not iron (if it could think and will) want to be hard?  
Would it not be hard as much by its own will (by its own free will and its own free choice) as by its nature?

It is exactly the same with regard to Satan.  Ask this enemy of God and adversary of Jesus Christ if he is a murderer and
a liar against his own will.   If he were to reply truthfully, what would he say?  'I hate God,' he would say, 'I hate him
because I want to hate him, because I choose to hate him.  That is what I want to be, a hater of God.  To the greatest
degree that I possibly can, I want by my every desire, thought, taste and action to oppose and overthrow his work and to
bring to eternal damnation every soul he ever created.  That is what I am, and I am so not against my own will.  I want to
be so by my own voluntary personal choice.'

Now could it possibly be argued that since a piece of iron was hard simply because it wanted to be so, it could for that
very reason also want to become soft, and so could become soft?  Will somebody really suggest that since the Angel of
Darkness is darkness by his own volition, he could if he wished also become an Angel of Light?  What sort of philosophy
is this which sees in a single will, simultaneously, the presence of two existences, one good and the other bad, and both
different aspects of the same will?  Can life and death dwell together in the same being?  Did Lazarus' corpse, which lay
putrefying behind the gravestone, also have itself the power to come back to life?

Is it not clear that such so-called 'wisdom' makes from a single creature  two separate existences, and endows one of
them with creative power?  Further, it is a flat denial of the teaching of Scripture, which states that eternal  life is the gift
of God (I John 5:11; II Corinthians 9:14), the new man is a new creation of God (Colossians 3:10), and all light comes
from the Father of lights' (James 1:17; John 3:19).

In the passage we are looking at, Jesus draws attention to the true nature of the Jews to whom he is speaking.  He
exposes what they of their own free volition and deliberate personal choice want.  'You do not want to come to me to
have life', or 'What you have chosen, where your determined will lies, is to refuse to come to me to have life.'  As a
consequence they are condemned by God for their deliberate and active enmity against
Christ.  Christ says that the explanation for this judgement is that 'Light has come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil' (John 3:19).  Perhaps a little parable will help to make it

There was once a mighty nobleman who had a servant who was blind.  Now this servant hated his master intensely,
even to the point that on several occasions he had felt like murdering him.  The master did all he could to ingratiate
himself to his servant, and to subdue his hatred, but to no avail.  Finally he had him thrown into prison.  Now at this point
the servant accused his master of tyranny and cruelty, claiming that he did not in fact hate him, and that his
imprisonment was therefore totally unjust.  Confronted with these accusations the master decided that he would expose
his servant's hatred before the other members of his household.  So he took with him several witnesses, and in their
presence confronted his servant.

    'My servant,' he said, 'open your eyes!'

    'Why should I?' asked the servant.

    'So that you can see me,' replied the master.

At this the servant, responding to the advice of his will, not his ability, replied, 'I don't want to!'

The master, turning to the witnesses, said, 'Did you hear that?  He does not want to see me!  Even if he could, he hates
me so much that he would refuse to look at me!'

Now the master, who himself had stopped going to see his servant, decided to do something wonderful that was well
within his remarkable power.  One night, while his blind servant was sleeping, he removed from him all his hatred and
replaced it with tender affection.

When the servant awakened, he was greatly surprised and deeply touched to discover in his heart an attitude totally
different from the one he had held previously.  While he was wondering how such a change had taken place, his master
entered the prison accompanied by the same witnesses.  Approaching the blind man, he made the same request as
before, 'My servant,' he said, 'open your eyes!'

    'Why should I do that, my master?' asked the servant, as before.

    'So that you can see me,' replied his master.

    'Alas!  I would love to,' cried the servant, 'but I cannot.'

As he was uttering these very words, his eyes opened.  Now he could see, and as he gazed in delight on the face of his
master, he cried out, 'My master!  It was you who changed my heart.  And now in addition you have given me my sight!'

Now while every illustration is imperfect, we can learn from this story.  We note that when the blind servant first replied to
the command to open his eyes by saying, 'I don't want to!', his reply was entirely voluntary and unforced.  Hatred
towards his master reflected and constituted his real nature, his inner being and the direction of his life.  The same thing
was true of the Jews in Jeremiah's day.  When God sent the prophet to them they cried out, 'As for the word that you
have spoken to us in the name of the LORD,  we will not listen to you!' (Jeremiah 44:16).  When God commanded them
to walk in the ancient paths and the good way, they replied, 'We will not walk in [them].'  When he sent watchmen to
summon them to hearken to the call of the trumpet, they replied,  'We will not listen' (Jeremiah 6:16-17).

Now by behaving in this way, were the Jews being constrained or enticed by something outside of themselves?  Was it
not rather a question of their own personal free will?  It alone, through its own independent choice, completely free of
any inclination other than its own, was responsible for their reply to Almighty God.  'Depart from us, for we do not desire
the knowledge of your ways' (Job 21:14).

It is there, and there alone, that human responsibility resides, both prior to conversion and after it.  Man has to give an
account before God for nothing else but for his
refusal to believe or to obey.  In the same way, a sinner will only ever be
asked one question by his Judge, 'Why did you choose evil?  Why did you prefer evil to good?'

That is what God's Book tells us about man's responsibility with regard to salvation.  Let us hear what the Bible says.

1. Through his wonderful creation of the world, God revealed to every man's heart (including the Gentiles) all that can
be revealed about him.  However, these pagans, the whole human race, left themselves without any excuse by refusing
to glorify the Creator of heaven and earth (Romans 1:19-21).

2.  The Scriptures also tell us that God engraved on every man's conscience (Gentiles included) the requirements of
his law which condemns or defends him before his Creator.  But these pagans, the whole human race, trifled with their
conscience, refusing to obey it.  So, through the perverseness of their will, they were brought under divine
condemnation (Romans 2:14-16).

3.  We are told in the bible that God gave his commandments and precepts to the children of Israel, commanding them
to observe them.  They deliberately refused to do so, and by their revolt made themselves more 'responsible' than the
Gentiles.  In fact, to the condemnation they had already incurred by twice wickedly and willfully refusing to respond to the
revelation God had previously given, in nature and in the human conscience, they added a third and greater crime.  
They despised the written laws of the Eternal God (Nehemiah 9:14; Daniel 9:10-11; Ezekiel 11:21).

4.  Finally, we read in God's word, 'God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by
the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).  The Son said to all the children of men,
'Come to me!  The will of my Father who sent me is that you, sinner, might believe in me, and have eternal life though
faith in me.'  But every man, without a single exception, be it in the past, the present or the future, responds to Christ's
gracious invitation exactly as Pharaoh responded to the words of Moses, 'Who is the LORD, that I should obey his
voice?'  (Exodus 5:2).  Man's rebellion is such that, for him to be able to obey Christ's invitation and submit to him, a
mighty manifestation of divine power is required (Ephesians 1:19-20).  God must transform man's depraved will, which
by nature desires only things which lead to hell, and given him a will which makes him appreciate and long for heavenly
things (Psalm 110:3; Galatians 1:15-16).

However we may look at it, human 'responsibility' is clearly taught in Scripture.  The unbeliever must respond to the
voice of creation and the voice of conscience.  The Jew is further responsible for his response to an additional, stronger,
clearer, third voice.  As for the professing Christian, he responds not just to these three voices, but also to a fourth, the
gospel call to receive salvation in Jesus.

At this point let me ask my friend to pay particular attention to what I have to say about this voice which we hear in the
call of the gospel.  Everyone, whoever he may be, who hears this voice, must listen to it and believe it.  He is responsible
before God for how he responds to the gospel, the message of Jesus and his grace, which was proclaimed to him.

However, it must also be said that whoever believes that Jesus died for every child of Adam, for the whole human race
without exception, proclaims an offer which is false, an illusory belief which has its origin in the mind of man.  In effect his
gross error leads him to tell every person, 'Jesus procured salvation for you as he did for everyone else in the whole
world.  However, it is conditional upon your believing and accepting it.'  This is just the same as saying, 'Believe that
Jesus has saved you and salvation is yours, for it is written that whoever believes in Christ has life.  To believe in Christ
means to believe that he has saved you.'

This means that the preacher who proclaims a message of universal atonement calls a sinner to make real, by his
assenting or believing, something which is not as yet completely real.  It concerns something which the Eternal God not
only really willed and prepared, but which nevertheless will only be complete (or rather which will only really exist) when
the person for whom God has decreed and procured it decides to ratify it by his act of acceptance!  What dishonour
such a concept of divine grace brings upon God's wonderful salvation!  And what a snare such teaching sets before
human pride, saying that while salvation is a gift of divine grace, a person must nevertheless accept it in order for it to

'But we too believe in
divine election,' retorts passionately my friend.  'We believe that God's gift of salvation is profitable
(that is the word they use) only to God's elect, to those only to whom the Holy Spirit is given.'

'Well then,' I reply, repeating what I have said already, 'How is it that if, as you believe, God gave his Son for every
sinner without exception, he gives his spirit only to some of them?'

'That is because the other sinners do not want to receive him.'

Now my reply to that must be that no one has ever willed or desired to receive him.  Here there is no difference between
one person and another.  All have gone astray and become useless.  All, every single person without exception, have
preferred darkness to light (Romans 3:12; John 3:19).

What you call
election is nothing other than that unthinkable notion which is expressed in a certain Confession of Faith
which says, 'God, who knows in advance all things before they exist, and sees all things before they come to pass, knew
before the creation of the world who would accept the grace offered them in Christ, and forthwith elected them.'  Now
clearly according to this view election followed (not preceded) man's will or desire.  In other words, man came
first.  He
gave to God that God should repay him!  Such teaching is a clear denial of the explicit teaching of Scripture (Romans 11:

Ah, my friend, the gospel of God does not teach such things!  Nor does a minister of grace preach such things!  He
does not tell a sinner, 'The Lord Jesus died for you.  Believe it, and bring about your own salvation!'  Such a statement
would not only be untrue, it would reduce the sinner's faith to confidence in his own ability.  Assurance of salvation would
then ultimately be nothing more than personal or subjective self-persuasion.  By contrast, the one who preaches 'the
truth as it is in Christ's proclaims to every sinner, whoever he may be, a fact, a reality, a truth of God which is for ever
true irrespective of whether or not he believes it.  It is as follows:

    1.  God declares that everyone is born a sinner, that he remains a sinner, and even becomes a hardened sinner.  
    Believe it!

    2.  God declares that man is incapable of doing the least thing, or offering the least personal virtue or merit to
    escape from this state of sin and to justify himself before God.  Believe it!

    3.  God declares that eternal life is the grace (or the free gift) of God, and that this gift is in Jesus his Son, and in
    him alone.  Believe it!

    4.  God declares that whoever believes - that is, whoever believes in this grace of God in Jesus, is justified and
    possesses life.  Believe it!

    5.  God declares that the believer receives the Holy Spirit and is then able to receive him further.  Believe it!

    6.  God declares that the true believer demonstrates his faith by his works.  Believe it!

    7.  Finally, God declares that the believer possesses the inheritance of the saints in light.  Believe it and rejoice in
    it, gloriously!

That is the true, unadulterated gospel.  This message is founded on the eternal principle that Jesus Christ, the Son of
God, was made, by the will of the Father, the
Saviour (the perfect Redeemer) of the church, not a Helper offered to all
humanity.  Now this truth is offered to every single person without exception.  Everyone is responsible for how he
responds to this message.  The responsibility of every sinner who hears it lies in the fact that if he does not believe it, he
makes God a liar (I John 5:10).  On the other hand, if he does believe it, he must give thanks to God for it, and above
all, practise good works so that, to the fullest extent possible, he will adorn this glorious and holy doctrine of salvation by
grace (Colossians 1:12; Titus 2:10; 3:14).

Let every humble, serious soul take great care lest he replace the sovereign testimony of God with the deceitful
imaginations of his own heart.

Let every gospel preacher, then, first and foremost, refrain from attempting to draw, interest, move or win souls by
presenting an imaginary or unreal salvation in which ultimately the delusion of personal piety, something flattering to the
flesh, replaces the demonstration of the Holy Spirit.  Let the preacher remember that the only plants rooted for heaven
are those planted by the Father himself.  These eternal plants are the doctrines of grace, not the false idea of a faith
where man somehow fabricates or accomplishes his own salvation.

Let the servant of the gospel also remember to approach his task with all possible seriousness and thoughtfulness.  
After all, no matter how popular or widespread his message might be, he is not dealing with what is but the figment of
someone's imagination, but with 'the truth of God'.  It is a question of the very nature of God, of his works, words and
promises, and not what the human mind or heart delights to imagine him to be.

Whoever embraces a teaching simply because it was presented with great eloquence, or because it was found to appeal
to the feelings of a large number of people, shows himself to be a follower of man rather than a faithful disciple of the
Holy Spirit.

To act in this way is certainly not to follow the example of Noah or Abraham who believed what God said, not what they
themselves conjectured.

It is what unbelievers, who are ignorant of the truth, do when they believe to be true what is only the result of their own
imagination.  They persuade themselves that it is true, and convince themselves that it gives them peace.

You, dear believer, must never follow a 'false Christ', no matter how popular and renowned he might be.  All your
endeavors and efforts would be utterly futile.  In the end, the fruit you have picked, thinking that it was perfect, will
crumble into ashes in your hand.  You must fix your gaze upon the Christ of God, and listen to and follow him alone.  He
alone is the one who came down from the Father, whose 'food [was] to do the will of him who sent [him]' (John 4:34).  
That will was that the Saviour should offer himself as a sacrifice for those (for all those) who had been given to him by
the Father (Hebrews 10:8).  God's great design was to consecrate for ever, through one unique unrepeatable and
unalterable sacrifice, those who had been sanctified (that is, set aside, chosen, elected) according to the will of the
Father (Hebrews 10:10,14; John 6:39).

Christ did indeed give himself for all, as the apostle Paul declares in II Corinthians 5:14.  This means that he offered
himself as much for pagans at Corinth as for worshippers at Jerusalem, since all without exception were 'dead'
(Ephesians 2:1), and '[fell] short of the glory of God' (Romans 3:22).  This true Christ opens his heart and his arms to
the whole of humanity.  He addresses '
All the ends of the earth', saying, 'Look to me, and be saved!' (Psalm 2:8; Isaiah
45:22; 52:10; Micah 5:4).  Let us take care to note, however, that this was in order that those who live for him and
through him might no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and rose for them (II Corinthians 5:15; Philippians
3:9; Romans 11:36).

Two imperatives arise from this.  First, dear follower of Christ, walk humbly and confidently, not depending on your own
self-confidence.  You have come to depend solely on the pure free grace of God for your salvation (from your election in
eternity past right up to your final blessedness in heaven).  Well then, rest assured that he has also justified those, and
all those, whom he called.  Recognize that those whom he has justified, all of them, he is also sanctifying, and will
continue to do so right up to the moment when he glorifies them in heaven (Romans 8:30; I Peter 1:3-5; John 10:28-29;
17:11-15; Jude 1).

Do not for a moment believe that the Good Shepherd gave his life for sheep who did not belong to the flock given to him
by the Father.  Nor must you ever believe that someone who was once a lamb belonging to that fold, first by the will of
the Father, then by the sacrifice of the Son, can ever be abandoned by the Holy Spirit and finally...perish!

On the other hand, dear Christian disciple, never doubt that those who belong to the Son of God, who have been
redeemed at such a great price, now belong to him in order that they might love and serve him.  That is the very reason
for which they have been 'laid hold of' by Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:12).

So, my fellow believers, let this great unchangeable truth saturate our hearts more and more every day of our lives.  We,
the church of Jesus Christ, the bride of Christ, must live as those who are 'subject' to our heavenly Bridegroom
(Ephesians 5:24).  It is on us that the duty is imposed (let us rather say that the glorious privilege is given) of '[declaring]
the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvellous light' (I Peter 2:9).  He called us in such a way that
we who 'were dead in trespasses [and sins]' (Ephesians 2:5), consented to receive this salvation.  We did this through
'the exceeding greatness of his power' which he exerted effectually in us when he recreated us in Christ, 'in accordance
with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he gave us in the One he loves' (Ephesians 1:19-20;
2:10; Colossians 3:10; II Corinthians 5:17).


THE CHURCH IS MINE, by César Malan, Copyright 2001, EVANGELICAL PRESS.