Volume 11, Issue 1: Doctrine 101
Man is Responsible-Part 2
A few years ago, a friend of mine who is a financial consultant told me of an encounter he had with a prospective client. The person, an officer of considerable responsibility and commensurate pay (I'll call him the Colonel), came to see my consultant friend about setting up some sort of financial plan to provide for himself and his wife after he retired from military service.
The Colonel and his wife had spent their twenty-plus years in the military service spending all of his pay and then going into debt to take frequent, extravagant vacations to the Caribbean at posh hotels. Their vacationing had cost them heavily. They were over $100,000 in debt without any tangible assets to help offset their obligations. On top of this, the Colonel was only a few months away from retiring. He was about to lose his only source of income which he and his wife had been using to service the debt that they had accumulated over the years from spending it solely on consumable goods. He had no job prospects and they did not own a house.
My consultant friend had to regrettably acknowledge that there was nothing he could do to help the Colonel and his wife, other than to strongly urge them both to stop spending any more money on consumable items other than essentials, and to start seeking employment so they could begin to rid themselves of their accumulated debt. The officer, in desperation, demanded that there must be something my friend could do to help him since he would soon be without any income and had a mountain of debt to pay. But my friend sadly assured the Colonel that a few months of wisely managed financial planning could not compensate for two decades of profligate living.
I would guess that most Christians today, while feeling a sense of compassion for the anguish and financial hardship that this officer and his wife had brought upon themselves, would nonetheless still think it only right that this couple pay their creditors. To not do so would be tantamount to a violation of the eighth commandment, "Thou shalt not steal" (Ex 20:15). And likewise, even though the Colonel and his wife had no physical assets nor potential sources of income with which to pay their debt, most Christians would agree that the Colonel's present inability to pay did not absolve him of his responsibility to pay.
Although we as Christians are willing from a human perspective to attribute financial responsibility, despite the debtors' culpability in accumulating the debt and his inability to pay, yet many Christians are unwilling from a spiritual perspective to acknowledge the same principle in the area of man's salvation. What do I mean?
Man is responsible for his own sin, inherited from his father, Adam; "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12 NKJV). "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23 NKJV). Sin entered the world through man, so man is responsible for sin. And because all men have inherited their progenitor's sinful nature, they share the same responsibility for their own sins.
Man's sin, like the Colonel's debt, must be paid; there is no spiritual equivalent of declaring bankruptcy. The Bible teaches, "For the wages of sin is death..." (Rom. 6:23 NKJV). "Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt" (Rom. 4:4 NKJV). "Now the end has come upon you, And I will send My anger against you; I will judge you according to your ways, And I will repay you for all your abominations" (Ezek. 7:3 NKJV). God justly holds men responsible for their sinful deeds.
And just as debt is financially debilitating, so too, sin is spiritually debilitating, preventing the sinner from responding to or even acknowledging spiritual truth. "There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God....There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom. 3:11,18 NKJV, emphasis added). "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Is. 59:2 NKJV). Even if an unregenerate sinner were to pray to God, God says He will not hear! What prayer could a lost sinner possibly pray to be saved if his sins keep God from even hearing his prayer?
And although a man may be able to work his way out of financial debt over time, any attempt to pay our own debt of sin is considered as further debt; "And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (Is. 64:6 NKJV) and "...for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2:16 NKJV).
Why do we as Christians, the ones whom God has redeemed with the precious blood of the Lamb according to His abundant mercy in Christ Jesus, insist so defiantly that God would not require man to do anything which he is incapable of doing? If unregenerate men are capable in any way to save themselves or to help save themselves by coming up with their own faith, then what need have they of a Savior or Redeemer? Such talk is pure silliness.
What would be the meaning of being redeemed if we somehow had the ability to do anything to help save ourselves, if we could work our way out of sin over time? It is a rhetorical question. The Bible teaches us, "That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12 NKJV). We need to repent of our hard-hearted unbelief and give God the glory for saving us when we were helpless and hopeless, sinful men who were fully responsible for our iniquities, yet totally unable to do anything about it.