INABILITY THEORY: REFUTED
They who are in the flesh cannot please God.
The claim that this inability to please God includes a decision of the will
is an assumption that is not supported by the rest of Scripture.
This passage refers to DOING something while under the influence of the sin
These acts of human good, while perhaps having benefit to and for others,
are performed under the umbrella of independence from God.
Religion, philanthropy, science, philosophy – all are systems and isms where
man tries to better himself and to relate to the world and/or to God on
terms other than what God has designed.
Depravity does not extend to the function of the volition.
Volition is the freedom and ability to THINK anything that a person wants to
Depravity refers to
(1) The state of spiritual death through the presence of the sin nature.
(2) The constant influence of the sin nature on the mentality causing a
preponderance of sinful choices and actions. It is an influence that
inclines the mentality of the soul toward evil. It is not an irresistible
power. Volition is not enslaved to the sin nature, but it is greatly
influenced by the sin nature. However, other influences can be brought to
bear on man’s mentality which can produce non-sinful choices and actions.
This can be shown all throughout the Scriptures.
Ecclesiastes 7:29 indicates that people are born (created) with a nature
that tends toward following God’s system of morality. “God made men
upright.” The word is yAshAr and is consistently used throughout the Old
Testament to refer to some aspect of God’s system of morality. “But they
have pursued (sought out) many viewpoints (devices, rationalizations).”
This refers to the influence of the sin nature which constantly pulls and
pushes people in the direction of independence from God and
self-gratification. This inclination is described at Genesis 8:21. “the
inclination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” The “viewpoints” that
are embraced by the deception of the sin nature revolve around human
selfishness, and operate apart from the standards of God’s moral system.
We learn at Romans 2:14-15 that the unbeliever can
and sometimes does choose to follow the GOOD standards of divine morality.
Doing this does not advance the person toward salvation, but it is
acceptable and pleasing to God because this system of morality is God’s
intent for all members of the human race, and He is pleased when those
standards are followed.
God’s system of morality is designed to provide order and stability in the
human race so that maximum freedom can be realized by the inhabitants of the
earth. When these standards are violated by individuals, societies or
nations, then freedom is hindered and the advance of religious liberty is
impeded. The ultimate in human freedom is realized and preserved through
moral nations. It is God’s design that independent nations exist so that the
greatest possibility of “religious” freedom can exist and allow for the
unhindered proclamation of the gospel.
People, even in their fallen, depraved condition, do in fact, seek God. This
is the expression of a free “will.” The will of man can and does accept the
things of God when they are clearly revealed to him.
Thus, God has designed and ordered the boundaries of human societies and
nations in order to hinder the enslavement of any one group of people by
another, and thus hinder the communication of the gospel and man’s response
to it. When societal freedom is preserved, this allows for the citizenry to
freely seek God and respond to the salvation invitation that God extends to
all members of the human race.
“And He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of
the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of
This describes the establishment of independent nations to prevent a
“Nimrod” type religious dictatorship from once again dominating the rest of
“so that they should seek God.” This is a present active infinitive of
purpose which proclaims the reason for the establishment and preservation of
independent nations on the earth.
This also indicates that man IS ABLE to seek God even in his fallen
condition. This “seeking” of God refers to the initial positive response
toward the existence of God at the point of becoming AWARE of God
SEE TOPIC: God Consciousness
The THEY refers to “mankind” as mentioned in the previous verse, and
indicates that this capability extends to the entire human race.
“If perhaps they might grope for Him. This is an aorist active optative of
The verb means to handle or touch and refers to more personal information
about God than what can be known through the various instruments of becoming
God conscious. It obviously refers to the hearing of the gospel which brings
a person face to face with the loving desire of God that all men be “saved
and to come to a knowledge of the truth,” (1 Timothy 2:4).
The optative mood in this “if” clause, speaks of an intended and desired
result, while at the same time indicating the POTENTIAL. Regardless of the
environmental conditions of any one person, that person still has the
POTENTIAL to (1) become aware of God’s existence (God consciousness), (2)
grasp the details of God’s salvation plan (hear the gospel), and (3) “find”
God, which is the entrance into a relationship with God through faith in the
“Though He is not far from each one of us.” The idea of “not far” refers to
the availability of relationship with God or access to God. From the
standpoint of God-consciousness, God has revealed Himself through several
instruments of revelation. Acts 14:17a, “He did not leave Himself without
Psalm 19:1-3, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”
Romans 1:19, “because that which is known about God is manifested among
them; for God manifested it to them. For since the creation of the world,
the invisible things of his existence; His eternal power and divine nature,
are clearly seen being understood through what has been made, so that they
are without excuse.”
From the standpoint of hearing the gospel, God is faithful to provide the
information to those who have responded in a positive way toward the
revealed existence of God. I think that this can be determined by a simple
progression of logic.
(1) God loves the world, and that means all people within the world. John
3:16. To claim that this refers to the world as a whole and not the
individuals within the world is a nice sleight of hand trick in a magic
show, but it denies the clear “reasonable” meaning of the words in the
“God so loved the world . . . that WHOEVER (any individual within the
world).” Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that
while we were yet sinners, Chris died for us.” At verse 6 Paul wrote, “For
while we were still helpless, Christ died for the ungodly.” This is not
referring to a select few out from among “the ungodly,” but it refers to ALL
the ungodly as a class of humanity that of course, includes everyone. Thus,
while Paul makes PERSONAL application to the ones who have believed (Christ
died for US), it includes as well those who have not and indeed, will not
(2) God’s love for ALL has compelled Him to provide salvation for ALL. John
3:16, “For God so loved the world that HE GAVE His only begotten Son.”
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 “For the love of Christ presses upon us having
concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for
all (even those who do not believe) so that those who live (the ones who
believe), should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and
rose again on their behalf.”
Hebrews 2:9 indicates that Christ tasted death for all.
At 1 Timothy 2:6 Paul indicates that Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for all.
Thus, it must be concluded that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world
(John 1:29; 4:42: 1 John 2:2; 1 Tim. 2:6) and accordingly, God DESIRES that
all be saved.
1 Timothy 2:4
“Who desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
(3) Accordingly, God extends the invitation, indeed, the COMMAND for all men
to change their mind (repent) about God and about their present belief
system. Acts 17:30-31.
“God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent because He
has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a
Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him
from the dead." Therefore, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but
he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides
on him" (John 3:36).
The humanly manufactured theory of the need for some kind of “regeneration”
before man is able to choose for God is non-existent in the Old Testament.
The issue is CHOICE based on knowledge of the truth. This was summarized by
Paul as he quoted Joel 2:33, “Whoever will call upon the name of the LORD
will be saved.” Romans 10:13.
Cain was challenged by God to make such a choice. Genesis 4:7.
“If you do what is right, surely you will be lifted up (accepted); and if
you do not do what is right, sin (the sin nature) is crouching at the door,
and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
Cain is told that not only CAN he, but he must resist the influence (desire)
of the sin nature in order to become right with God. But Cain had already
rejected God’s system and adopted his own religious system that was
introduced to him by Satan himself using the sin nature (1 John 3:12).
For details on this entire chapter see commentary on
Any inability to respond in a positive way toward the things of God –
including the standards of morality that God has designed for the orderly
function of the entire human race – exists because of a condition of the
soul that has resulted from a previous choice to embrace some aspect of
And as long as the person continues under the influence of that darkness
mindset, he will be blinded and unable to accept truth.
That is why repentance must come first – before faith.
Repentance is a change of mind about one’s present belief system,
recognizing it as inadequate and impotent. This change of mind likewise
recognizes God’s system as the right one, and this leads to acceptance of
the gospel which is faith in Christ, I.E. receiving Him as Savior and Lord.
The proclamation of the gospel includes the instructions to CHANGE the mind
Mark 1:14-15 “Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God, and
saying, ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and
believe in the gospel.’”
John’s message was the same.
“Repent for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand.”
“John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe
in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
Thus, in order to genuinely trust in Christ, one must reject his present
But as long as someone volitionally holds onto that belief system, he will
be unable to express faith in Christ because that present belief system is
controlling him. But it is NOT an inability by NATURE, but in inability
through having already accepted a substitute belief system.
The religious Jews of Christ’s day had embraced a system of works salvation
based on a distortion of the writings of Moses. As with all isms contrary to
God’s established design for salvation, Judaism enslaved the adherents and
blinded their minds to truth. In such cases, an accurate communication of
the gospel will “pierce” the heart and challenge the soul to respond.
John recorded how Jesus dealt with this pre-disposed belief system. John
Jesus first exposed this Mosaic works system as being empty of God’s word
because the adherents have failed to trust in Christ. Verse 38.
“And you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him
whom He has sent.”
Verse 39 shows how the Mosaic system CLAIMS to have Scriptural support, but
it fails to recognize what the Scriptures teach about the Messiah.
Verse 40 states the failure to CHOOSE Christ even though the Scriptures
testify of Him.
“And you are unwilling to come to Me.”
This is a present active indicative of thelō plus the negative OU.
At verse 48, Jesus shows that their INABILITY to believe comes from their
adherence to their present belief system.
“How can you believe?” How can you have ability to believe?
“WHILE you are receiving glory from one another?”
This is a present active participle and indicates the action that is going
on, that functions as a deterrent to the expression of faith.
“And you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?
Jesus said that they are not seeking. He does not say that they are UNABLE
Thus there are TWO factors that prevent them from believing in Christ.
They are clinging to their human works system of self-righteousness and
Mosaic legalism, which heaps mutual glory upon one another.
(2) And in contrast to that, they are not seeking the glory (recognition and
praise) that comes from God. In other words, they don’t want to operate on
God’s terms but are insisting on their own terms for relationship with God.
It thus indicates the REASON they are unable to believe.
It is because they are clinging to and following their present belief
So once again, their inability to believe does not come from an enslaved
will, but it comes from their adherence to their belief system, which
“inherently” rejects the truths taught in the Old Testament about the
Messianic promise; His arrival and His work.
Also at John 8:41-47, Jesus exposes the inability of the religious crowd to
relate to Messianic truth because they are under the influence of a belief
system, that through Satan, has blinded them to the truth.
Verse 43, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you are
unable to hear my word.”
They can’t understand because they can’t HEAR. There is an influence in
their soul that
prevents them from listening to the words of Jesus. That influence is their
own desire to carry out the design of Satan. In other words, they don’t
DESIRE to hear anything that is contrary to their accepted belief system.
This is exactly what Jesus pointed out previously at John 5:40. “And you are
NOT WILLING to come to Me.”
Similarly at Matthew 23:37, Jesus informed the nation of God’s desire to
embrace the people. But “you were NOT WILLING.”
Verse 44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires
of your father.”
This is their present belief system and the powerful influence of that
As long as they continue to WANT to follow their present belief system, they
will NOT WANT to hear the truth.
In the context of the Jewish nation, a true desire to hear and accept truth
revolves around the Messianic promise. Those who truly believe in the
Messianic promise are OF GOD, and will accordingly HEAR the words of God.
These religious Jews have rejected the truth behind the Messianic promise
and have embraced a belief system that has replaced “faith in the Messiah”
with “faith in human works.”
Verse 45, “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.”
The TRUTH is contrary to their satanic belief system that makes human merit
and works the basis for acceptance before God. Accordingly, they CHOOSE to
Here, He simply makes the statement, “you do not believe.” He has already
explained the REASON why they don’t believe. They CANNOT believe because
their present belief system has blinded them.
They think they can see. That is, they think they are experiencing true
spiritual reality. But since they have rejected Jesus as the promised
Messiah, they have committed the sin of unbelief. And it is that sin of
unbelief that excludes them from experiencing true spiritual reality. John
1. For judgment I came into this world: The purpose of Christ is to save and
His judgment has 2 stages. Of course, the ultimate judgment of eternal
death. But during his ministry, his message was to expose the spiritual
blindness of the unbelievers and especially the religious crowd that was
blinded by Mosaic legalism.
2. that those who do not see: they have no spiritual life reality.
Christ’s ministry is to those who have no life; those who do not see.
3. MAY SEE: so that they might experience spiritual reality
4. Now Jesus uses “see” in a different way; “and that those who see.”
Here he refers to those who THINK they see. They THINK they are experiencing
spiritual life reality, but instead they are deceived by self, by their
religion, and by Satan (John 8:44).
5. MIGHT BECOME BLIND: the ones who THINK they see NEED to become aware of
their spiritual deficiency. Only someone who SEES his spiritual need can
trust in Christ.
If they were BLIND; if they were AWARE of their spiritual need, then they
would not have sin. They would not have THE SIN OF UNBELIEF.
But since they say, “we see”: This is their claim to spiritual life reality,
but it simply means that their spiritual deficiency remains and they remain
in unbelief. Their sin of rejection and unbelief remains.
This of course, is the only sin that cannot ever be forgiven; it is the
unpardonable sin, and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
At John 15:22, we learn that the SIN OF REJECTION (unbelief) would not have
been committed UNLESS Jesus had manifested himself and His words to them.
“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they
have no excuse for their sin.”
Verse 24, “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did,
they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated me and My
Father as well.”
Here, Jesus identifies the SIN as the expression of hatred toward Him and
the Father; the sin of rejection.
Paul writes about this at 2 Corinthians 3:15, “But to this day whenever
Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart;
This is the spiritual blindness that clouds their perception. However, when
the gospel is proclaimed, the conviction of the Spirit exposes that
blindness. This enables them to face the facts without distortion and CHOOSE
what they shall do.
Verse 16, “But whenever he turns to the Lord”: This is the CHOICE to trust
At that time, “the veil is removed.”
The blindness of Mosaic legalism is lifted and they, with an unveiled face,
are able to participate in spiritual life reality and advance in spiritual
growth as per verse 18.
At John 8:43, “Why do you not understand what I am saying?”
“It is because you cannot hear my word.”
Why can’t they hear? It is because they are not positive to the things of
God. They are so steeped in Mosaic legalism that they will not accept Jesus
as the Messiah.
The religion they have embraced hinders them from trusting in Jesus.
But once again, “nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him.” John
Some were more objective and more HONEST with their knowledge of the
Men like Nicodemus, who realized that SOMETHING was there; something needed
to be investigated. Jesus pointed him to the SPIRITUAL issues of Moses and
steered him away from the LETTER OF THE LAW.
As at John 5, the religious crowd has put their hope in Moses (v. 45); the
letter of the law. And they “search the Scriptures, because you think that
in them you have eternal life.”
But they are so steeped in the human merit of Mosaic legalism; seeking to
IMPRESS one another (“you receive glory from one another”), that they are
HINDERED – “How CAN you believe.” But in all of this, the REAL ISSUE is
verse 40, “and you are UNWILLING to come to Me that you may have life.”
And at vs. 46-47, the issue is CHOICE:
If you BELIEVED Moses, you would believe Me.
But if you do not BELIEVE his writings, how WILL YOU BELIEVE My words?”
AS LONG AS they continue to adhere to their religion, they will be UNABLE to
That is the issue of ABILITY. They are unable NOT because God has not
enlightened them, but because they remain in their false system of faith.
They must SEE AWAY FROM IT, through the convicting of the Holy Spirit, and
put their faith in the RIGHT OBJECT. All religion involves faith, but it is
not JUST FAITH that saves. It is faith IN THE RIGHT OBJECT. There is no
MERIT in faith; the MERIT is in the OBJECT. The only object that has merit
and gives faith substance is Jesus Christ; the promised Messiah.
Thus, the blind man who was healed, is challenged with the issue of faith in
Christ and accepts. John 9:35-38.
Jesus: Do you believe in the Son of Man?
Man: Who is he so that I might believe?
Jesus: I am He.
Man: I believe.
What then of this blindness? What of this inability to believe? It still
goes back to the basic DESIRE of the soul.
Just as Jesus taught, “If anyone is WILLING to do His will, he shall know of
the teaching (the gospel), whether it is of God (truth) or whether I speak
from myself (independently from God.).” John 7:17.
Thus, the gospel can still get through to the mentality so that the issues
will be made perfectly clear to the self-consciousness of the soul, and a
choice can be made. For the gospel is the power of God leading to salvation
to everyone who believes. Romans 1:16
The person who hears the gospel will be impacted by the three power-factors
John 16:8-11. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteousness
(1) The issue of sin is the sin of unbelief: “Because they do not believe in
(2) The issue of righteousness is the fact that man has no merit within
himself to commend him to God and must rely upon the righteousness of God
being bestowed upon him. Christ succeeds in His salvation ministry and goes
to the Father. The success of OPERATION CROSS was for a “demonstration of
His righteousness at the present time so that He might be just and the
justifier of the one who has faith in Christ.” Romans 3:26.
(3) And the issue of judgment is the fact that without faith in Christ and
the imputation of God’s righteousness, each person will experience eternal
judgment and separation from God,
sharing the destiny of Satan, the ruler of this world.
The communication of the gospel will thus, PIERCE into the heart and produce
At Acts 2:37-41, this “piercing” of the heart by the communication of the
gospel resulted in the positive response of many of the Jews (“What shall we
do?), and the subsequent acceptance of the gospel (belief in the truth).
At Acts 5:33, this “piercing” (“they were cut through in their hearts”),
resulting in a negative response and the rejection of the gospel.
Likewise at Acts 7:54, after they were “cut through in their hearts,”
(convicted by the message of the gospel), they rejected it and became
violent, killing Stephen.
It is because of this PIERCING influence of the gospel that Satan is
continually attempting to bring an opposing influence into the soul of the
At 2 Corinthians 4:3-4
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are in the
state of perishing.
In whose case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the
unbelievers, so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory
But this Satanic influence can be offset as Paul indicates later at 2
“Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.”
And at verse 20.
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating
through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
And at chapter 6:1-2.
“And working together, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in
vain . . .
behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation.”
In addition when someone rejects the truth of the gospel, Satan is there to
DISTORT and “take away” that information from the person’s soul so that he
will not consider it at a later time. This is what Jesus described at Luke
“And those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes
and takes away the word from their heart, so that they may not believe and
The devil is not allowed to DO THIS until the person first rejects the word.
And once the word is removed from the heart, the person will not be able to
respond to the gospel unless he hears it AGAIN. That is why we repeatedly
pray for the unbeliever to hear the gospel even though we know that that
person had already heard it. WE cannot pray for someone “to be saved.” We
can only pray that they hear the gospel over and over again.
And surpassing all obstacles, it is still the gospel that “is the power of
God leading to salvation to everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16.
Thus, as the Scripture proclaims, “Whoever believes in Him will not be
And, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans
And as Paul clarifies, there MUST be the communication of the gospel in
order for someone to be ABLE to believe in Christ. Romans 10:14
“How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how
shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?”
“So then faith is out from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
And Peter confirms, “for you have been born again not of seed which is
perishable, but imperishable – through the living and abiding word of God.”
The power of the gospel is its ability to ATTRACT or DRAW the hearer to the
invitation from God to be saved. For of course, no one is able to come to
Christ apart from that DRAWING. John 6:44
Jesus said. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;
and I will raise him up on the last day.”
And then to explain what this DRAW is Jesus continued, “It is written in the
prophets, ‘and they shall all be taught of God.’” John 6:45a
It is the teaching about God that draws. It is the message of the gospel
The message of the gospel revolves around the sacrificial death of Christ on
Thus Jesus said at John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, I
will draw all men to Myself.”
But the DRAW; the invitation must be accepted.
John 6:45:b, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to
HEARING refers to the perception aspect of the gospel proclamation.
LEARNED refers to the belief and acceptance of the truths of the gospel
which constitutes a change of mind about God and about his present belief
COMES refers to personal trust in Jesus as the Savior.
And then to explain what constitutes those three things, Jesus said at verse
47, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”
It is claimed that only those whom the Father GIVES to Christ will come to
John 6:37, “All that the Father gives to me will come to Me.”
And it is assumed that the Father “gives” BEFORE faith is expressed. But
nowhere is that stated. What actually happens is:
(1) A person will HEAR the gospel and be convicted.
(2) That person will accept the truths of the gospel. This constitutes
REPENTANCE – a change of mind. And it is AT THIS MOMENT that the Father will
GIVE that person to Christ.
(3) And then that person will believe in Christ as Savior. As seen before,
the order is first a change of mind and then faith. Mark 1:15. “Repent and
believe the gospel.” The GIVING of the person is not the giving of faith or
any divine determination to make that person believe. The giving is based on
the person’s acceptance of the truth of the gospel. Jesus repeats this at
“For this reason I have said to you, that no one IS ABLE to come to Me
unless IT (ability) has been granted him from the Father.” The ability to
come to Him comes from the drawing of God which through the gospel,
proclaims the issues of sin, righteousness and judgment. And then through
conviction and repentance (change of mind) the person will come to Christ
(believe in Him).
The Drawing of God via John 6
Depravity and free will