The Doctrine of Absolute Inability

We have embarked upon a wonderful study of some very important doctrines on these Sunday nights.  And from my viewpoint, it’s kind of open ended.   I’m just kind of following the flow and seeing where it goes.  But I’m having a wonderful time.  As you well know through all these years, we predominantly, if not almost always, work through texts of scripture, and that way we are obligated to affirm what the Word of God says because it’s what it says.  And there is always the, I suppose, potential accusation that when you leave the flow of expositional preaching and you embark upon a topical study or a doctrinal study, you may be caught up in something philosophical, you may be caught up in something rational, or something logical and you may be drawing conclusions that wouldn’t stand the test of scripture.

And so I want to affirm to you that everything that I say I trust will be before your very eyes drawn out of scripture.  And I would encourage you, like the noble Bereans, to do a little work yourself and search the scripture and see if these things are so.  I certainly don’t want to bring to you a rational theology, although it’s not irrational.  I don’t want to bring to you a philosophical approach to theology.  I don’t want to follow the path of human reason to conclude the things we conclude.  I want to bring you what the Word of God has to say and the Word of God does speak to these very, very important doctrinal issues.

Just by way of brief review, we started out when we ended the book of Jude, by looking at the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints or the preservation of the saints.  That is to say that if you’re ever saved, you’ll always have the hope of eternal life.  You cannot ever be unsaved.  You can’t lose your salvation, because he is able to keep us from falling and to present us before his presence with great glory.  That’s how Jude ends.

And so we talked about this doctrine of security or preservation or perseverance.  And in the end, we said we are preserved to the end because we are chosen from the beginning for that purpose.  And that took us into the doctrine of divine election, the doctrine of predestination, that God determined before the foundation of the world who he would save, who he would bring to glory.  Therefore whoever it is that he calls, he justifies, whoever he justifies, he glorifies.  And so the great doctrine of preservation is connected to the doctrine of election or predestination.

And for at least three messages we took you through the important passages of scripture that teach the doctrine of election and laid it out for you as it is in the Word of God.  And having understood that doctrine, those of you who have been with us, you’re going to find it everywhere and you’re either going to accept it wherever you find it, or you’re going to spend the rest of your life fighting it when it jumps off the page.

Now, any discussion of the doctrine of predestination or the doctrine of divine sovereign election, or, if you will, sovereign salvation as a work of God is based on another doctrine, on another doctrine.  God must save us.  He must choose us, call us, regenerate us, justify us by his divine power, because we are neither willing nor able to do it for ourselves.  And this takes us to what I’m going to call the “doctrine of absolute inability.”  I’ve never heard it called that but that serves my purpose to explain what we mean.

Now to start this discussion, I want you to open your New Testament to John 11 – John 11 – and this will provide for us, I think, a good analogy to kind of launch us into our discussion.  John 11 is a notable chapter to all who understand the Bible because it records the resurrection of one of Jesus’ most intimate friends, a man by the name of Lazarus, who had a couple of sisters named Mary and Martha, and at whose home Jesus spent time.  They were believers in him and friends.  As the 11th chapter of John opens, Lazarus – who lived in Bethany about two miles east of Jerusalem just on the back side of the Mount of Olives – Lazarus became ill.  In fact, verse 2 says he was sick.

And his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent a message to the Lord saying, “Lord, behold he whom Ye love is sick.”  That indicates to us that Jesus had a very special affection for his friend Lazarus.  Jesus hearing it, verse 4, said, “This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”  God has a purpose in this sickness and it is not ultimately to bring about the death of Lazarus.  Jesus loved Martha, verse 5, loved her sister, loved Lazarus, but when He heard that He was sick, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.  He didn’t respond.  And finally, as you remember, He went.

And when He arrived late by Mary and Martha’s standards, verse 17 says, “He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  And many of the Jews – ” verse 19, “ – had come – ” to Mary – or “ – to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning theirbrother.”  This was kind of a community deal that happened when there was a death.  Everybody surrounded them and mourned, tried to comfort them.  In verse 21, Martha indicts Jesus and says to Him, “Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died.”  She had great confidence in His healing power and apparently none in His resurrection power.

He said to her, “Your brother shall rise again.”  “And she said, ‘I know that he’ll arise again in the resurrection on the last day.’  And Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?’  She said, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.’ ”

So they had this little theological discussion and she locked in on the final resurrection as the only hope for her brother.  But as the story goes on, and you come down to verse 32.  “Mary came where Jesus was, saw Him, fell at His feet saying to Him, ‘Lord if You had been here my brother would not have died.’ ”  This is the same comment that her sister had made.

“And when Jesus therefore saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her – ” this whole mourning crowd “ – also weeping, He was deeply moved and spirit was troubled and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’  And they said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’  Jesus wept.  So the Jews were saying, ‘Behold how He loved him.’  Some of them said, ‘Could not this man who opened the eyes of him who was blind have kept this man also from dying?’ ”  So, you know, just about everybody thought He could heal the sick.

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Source: Grace To You | John MacArthur