Sunday, September 24, 2006

Could Lazarus Have Resisted Christ's Call to Come out of the Tomb?

"Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did." John 11:38–46

Lazarus was dead, not critically ill or at the point of dying. He was already a corpse and was decomposing. The stench from his rotting body was repugnant to his sister Martha. The miracle of his resurrection was accomplished without means, that is, without balms, medicines, cpr, and so forth. The only power Christ used here was the power of his voice. He uttered a command, not a request or an invitation. He made no attempt to woo Lazarus from the tomb. This resurrection was strictly monergistic. Lazarus rendered absolutely no assistance. He was incapable of assisting in any way because he was completely dead.

Some may argue that though Christ supplied the initial power of Lazarus’s resurrection, Lazarus nevertheless had to respond to Christ’s command to come forth from the tomb. Is this not a cooperative work, a synergism between Christ and Lazarus? Most of the confusion regarding regeneration enters the picture here. Obviously Lazarus did respond. He came out of the tomb in obedience to Jesus’ command. After life flowed anew in Lazarus’s body, he became quite active.

Monergistic regeneration has to do, not with the whole process of redemption, but strictly with the initial condition or first step of our coming to faith. To be sure, Lazarus acted. He responded. He came forth from the tomb. But the crucial point is that he did none of these things while he was still dead. He did not respond to the call of Christ until after he had been made alive. His resurrection preceded his coming forth from the tomb. His restoration to life preceded his response.

Arminians do not appreciate this analogy and protest that we are here comparing apples and oranges. Obviously in the case of physical death, a corpse cannot respond or cooperate. It has no power to respond because it is dead. But there is a difference between physical death and spiritual death. A physically dead person can do nothing either physically or spiritually. A spiritually dead person is still alive biologically. This person can still act, work, respond, make decisions, and so forth. He can say yes to grace, or he can say no.

Here we reach the ultimate point of separation between semi-Pelagianism and Augustinianism, between Arminianism and Calvinism, between Rome and the Reformation. Here we discover whether we are utterly dependent on grace for our salvation or if, while still in the flesh, still in bondage to sin, and still dead in sin, we can cooperate with grace in such a way that affects our eternal destiny.

For more study on this: R.C. Sproul: Grace unknown : The heart of reformed theology.

4 comments:

Pastor Ryan said...

These are very good points, I can't say that I have ever given much attention to it.

Chris Hinton said...

Who's Justice?

Justice said...

He is a friend of Neph's

Pastor Ryan said...

You mean your nephew?