Call Sinners to Do the Impossible

I believe the Scriptures illustrate and teach that every time the gospel is preached we are asking sinners to do what is impossible to do.

Is not preaching the gospel a call to sinners to do the spiritually impossible? When Jesus proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt. 4:17), who was His audience? Those who were not yet repentant. So, applying the logic of the syllogism above, how can you ask hardened sinners to repent? Unbelievers to believe? The blind to see? The lame to walk? The dead to rise?

 

Recently, I was approached by a friend who asked me a question after I had preached. In the message, I had made a gospel call to the congregation. My friend asked, “Can a person dead in their sins ask Jesus for a new heart? Is that not the sole work of the Spirit?”

I understood the reason for his question. I had preached that those who knew they had a dead heart should ask Jesus for a new one. His commitment to Reformed theology made him believe this was a contradiction. The syllogism of the logic behind his question undoubtedly went along these lines:

  • Sinners are dead in their trespasses, having a heart of stone dead to God (Eph. 2:1).
  • Only the Holy Spirit can give someone a new heart (Eph. 36:26).
  • Therefore, a sinner cannot ask for a new heart.

Though I want to hold fast to Reformed theology and remain open to correction as well, on this occasion I did not believe I was inconsistent with the Bible or Calvinistic preaching. For as I answered my friend’s question, I reminded him that God often asks us to do what is impossible to do yet what He also promises He will do. I mentioned at the time that in the Bible God says that He alone can circumcise hearts, which is a sign of removing sin from them (Deut. 30:6). But he also commands the people of God to do it themselves (Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4). Upon further reflection, I believe the Scriptures illustrate and teach that every time the gospel is preached we are asking sinners to do what is impossible to do.

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