Man Cannot - God Can
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Man Cannot - God Can

Romans 8:5-8

In this passage we observe the strong and expressive and accumulated terms
in which Paul describes the alienation of the natural man from God.
He declares that they who walk after the flesh, mind the things of the flesh.

  • That the minding of the flesh is death.
  • That the carnal mind is enmity against God.
  • That it is not subject to the law of God.
    That so great is the corruption of the carnal mind, it is impossible to please God.

    In verse 7 we learn how miserable the state of man is by nature.
    Man's wisdom and intelligence in his unconverted state are enmity against God so that
    he cannot submit himself to God's law.
    We learn that the ability both to will and to do anything must be from God.
    "Neither indeed can be." (Verse 7)

    All men in their natural state are the slaves of sin.
    They may boast that they are free, but that is a delusion.
    When Jesus addressed the Jews who professed to believe in Him but did not understand His doctrine,
    Jesus said to them: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
    They answered: "We are of Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man:
    why do you say, ye shall be made free
    ?" (John 8:32-33)
    Jesus answered: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin."
    (John 8:34)

    The Unconverted Boast Of Their Freedom

    Many will say, "My will is free."
    Man likes to think that he is absolutely free to choose anything he likes.

  • He likes to think that he can choose God if he so desires.
  • He also likes to think that he can choose to be a Christian, if he wants to do so.
    Man enjoys asserting his own self-sufficiency.
    That is why the gospel offends the natural man.
  • He is offended when you tell him that the only way to be saved is by the grace of God.
  • He doesn't appreciate being told that he is a pauper before God,
        and that the only way of salvation is to accept it as a free gift.

    The natural man says, " I have not sunk that low. I am not perfect but I am not a pauper.
    There is still something I can do
    ."
    It is the doctrine of grace that the natural man despises.
    That is "the offense of the cross."
    It exists because man believes in his own self-sufficiency; in his own inherent power.
    That is an expression of his disobedience.
  • He will not accept grace.
  • He will not believe it.
  • He rebels against it.
  • He fights against it.
    It is his assertion of his autonomy and his independence of God.

    Autonomous man is the idea of man as one who can manage his own affairs.

  • He needs no help.
  • He needs no assistance even from God.
    Autonomous man; self-sufficient man; self-determinative man; independent man;
    all of these terms describe man as his own god.
    He is lord of his own universe.

    Paul says: "The natural mind is enmity against God; is not subject to the law of God,
    neither indeed can be
    ." (Romans 8:7)
  • The Bible speaks of "children of disobedience."
  • The Bible says, " Ye are of your father the Devil, and the works of your father ye will do."
    Our Lord says the man without God cannot help it. (John 8:34)
    He is inclined to do evil and he will do evil.
    "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?
    How can ye do good, that ye are accustomed to doing evil
    ."
    "We will not have this man reign over us."

    Jesus said: " No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him..." (John 6:44)
    God's Word declares: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God;
    for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned
    ."
  • "Their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken."
    " How can ye, being evil, speak good things?
        For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh
    ."
    " No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost."
    The natural man is entirely incapable of choosing... he cannot.

    The Next Step Of The Natural Man

    He tries to lift himself by the hair of his head.
    This is an attempt to pervert faith.
    He tries to put his own effort in the place of Christ.
    This is a work or merit.
    It is something in itself.
    This is also true when faith is regarded as a work.
    If justification comes to us with faith as a work or merit preceding salvation, we could never be
    assured about it because we never believe as we ought.

    Salvation comes to us neither on account of our love nor our faith.
    It comes solely on account of Christ. Salvation comes through (or by means of) faith.
    Faith does not justify as a work of goodness, but simply as a receiver of promised mercy.
    We do not merit; we only obtain justification.
    Faith is but the organ; the instrument; the medium; the channel.
    Christ alone is the satisfaction and the merit.

    That we believe through grace; that faith is the gift of God; does not prove faith to be a work of ours,
    any more than Christ's raising of Lazarus proved resurrection to be the work of the dead man.
    The divine infusion of life in the one case and the divine impartation of faith in the other,
    so far from showing that there must be a work in either, indicates very plainly that there
    could not be any such thing.
    The work comes after the believing, and as the fruit of it.
    "Faith worketh by love," that is, the believing soul shows its faith by works of love.

    Yes, faith worketh; so also does love; so also does hope.
    These all work.

  • We read of the work of faith.
    That is the work to which faith prompts us.
  • We read of the labor of love.
    That is the toil to which love impels us.
  • We read of the patience of hope.
    That is the patience which hope enables us to exercise.

    But is faith a work because it worketh?
  • Is love a toil because it toileth?
  • Is hope patient because it makes us patient?
    When Israel looked to the brazen serpent, it was a ceasing from all other remedies,
    and letting health pour itself into the body by the eye.
    Was the opening of the eye a work?

    There Is No Merit In Faith

    "It is of faith, that it might be by grace." (Rom. 4:16)
    If there was the slightest merit in faith, it could not be a channel through which grace could work.
    It would be a counter agent to grace.
    Grace by its very nature excludes all merit on the part of man.
    Faith not only excludes the thought of merit, it actually includes the idea of helplessness
    and hopelessness.

    In faith one depends upon another to do that which one is unable to do for oneself.

    Jesus gave a clear illustration of what faith in Him means when He said to Nicodemus,
    " As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up;
    that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life
    ." (John 3:14,15)

    The Israelite in the wilderness (Num. 21:5-9) showed his faith by looking upon the serpent of brass
    that hung on the pole.
    In this one act of faith was expressed a confession of sin, and utter helplessness,
    and an acknowledgement that God's provision was his only hope.

  • He did not understand the significance of the serpent, nor why it was made of brass.
  • He did not analyze his faith to see if it was strong enough or of the right kind.
  • He did not question the intensity of his look.
  • He surely claimed no merit for looking.

    There were just two things in his mind:

  • His own absolute helplessness
  • The sufficiency of God's provision; the object of his faith
    This is all there is to that faith through which the lost are saved.
    God is the giver of faith.

    Paul says, "It is God who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us
    into the kingdom of his dear son, who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure
    ."
    " If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
    So, it is unscriptural and even heresy to teach men that God may be induced to cooperate
    with them in their further exertions.
    Conversion from beginning to end is the gracious work of God through His grace.

    God Himself is free grace.
    God gives forever and forever man receives.
    Paul would say that Christianity began for me the moment when I ceased straining
    and striving and struggling for heaven's favour, and when I was content to bow my head
    and accept the gift that I could never win.
    "It is all the doing of the God who has reconciled me to himself through Christ." 2 Cor. 5:18, Moffatt)

  • It is God's free grace.
  • It is grace for creatures to whom God owes nothing - nothing at all.
  • It is grace for sinners who deserve God's anger and nothing else.
  • It comes to us as a gift without presupposition or reservation.
    Grace asks not a word about what we are, what we have, or what we can bring with us.
    Man is not and never will be a co-redeemer, or a secondary source of grace.
    In fact, the man, who through grace believes in grace, will reject such an idea with horror.

    The passion and hunger for God comes from God, and God answers it with Jesus.
    Man's intelligence and will and heart and conscience never initiate anything in Christianity.
    Over the best moral and spiritual triumphs of this life the saints can only cry,
    "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory."

    Of ourselves we can do nothing.

  • There is no Creator, but God!
  • There is no Saviour, but Jesus!

    "And every virtue we possess,
    And every victory won,
    And every thought of holiness,
    Are His alone."

    This is the meaning of grace!

    This sermon is by Dr. Harold L. White
    You can email Dr. White at hleewhite@aol.com