- 3. God expects us to exercise our free-moral agency. God holds us responsible for our behavior. The plea of the early evangelists, therefore, was, “Repent!” (At 2:38; 2 Pt 3:9). Such was a call for people to exercise their free-moral choice to bring their lives into harmony with God’s will. “Cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (2 Co 7:1). “Do not touch what is unclean” (2 Co 6:17). Such pleas on the part of the Holy Spirit would be senseless if we could not make free-moral choices in relation to God’s plea through the gospel without the aid of the Holy Spirit. They would not make any sense if the individual could not make a choice to respond on his own accord.
In the context of these exhortations, we wonder why there is the absence of pleas to submit to the supposed inner workings of the Holy Spirit if indeed He is to do such in the life of the alien sinner or saint. The point is that God will hold each individual responsible for his or her own behavior, regardless of one’s beliefs concerning the influence of the Holy Spirit. Paul warned, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Co 5:10).
The fact that we will be held accountable for behavior in judgment means that the Holy Spirit will carry no burden for spiritual growth that would end in the Spirit’s accountability for our behavior. The Spirit will not come into judgment for our bad behavior. Each Christian will be held accountable for his own moral behavior.
In order to influence the moral behavior of man, the Holy Spirit works through the medium of revelation. In this way the free-moral choice of each individual is guarded. We are without excuse if we refuse the Spirit’s pleas through the word of God to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pt 3:18).
Our understanding concerning the work and influence of the Holy Spirit must respect the free-moral choice of each individual. This is necessary because if the free-moral choice of man falls in any way, the justice of God in final judgment also falls. Therefore, God has shielded the heart of man (his moral behavior) by making man a free-moral individual. Camp concluded,
“Any work of the Spirit that does not conform to God’s way of teaching His Word, or that would destroy or set aside man’s free moral agency, is a misconception of how the Spirit works.”5:35
Through our free-moral knowledge of revealed truth, we are allowed to either respond negatively or positively to God’s law. However, the influence of the Holy Spirit must not be viewed as directly influencing the our moral behavior apart from our responsibility to make choices for ourselves. If it is the work of the Spirit to directly control or influence our moral behavior, then our free-moral choice is violated. If our free-moral choice is violated, then the justice of God cannot stand in final judgment if one is lost. Boles concluded,
God has never forced man to serve him. In the long history from the first of Genesis to the close of the New Testament, not one instance do we find where God has refused to let man do as he pleased …. God never compels man to serve him; he has never coerced or forced man to do his will. He has always left man free and has never used any coercion, nor has he used any coercive methods to force man to obey him.6:262
While we speak of the restraint and constraint of the Holy Spirit, yet we recognize that the Holy Spirit leaves man free to choose his own course in the work that he does. Man can turn a deaf ear to the words of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit will not force him to hear.6:263
Can God stand just in final judgment if the Holy Spirit is allowed to directly influence the moral behavior of man? Can any Christian be justly condemned to hell if it is the work of the Holy Spirit to influence directly the moral conduct of that Christian in order to keep him saved? If only one apostate Christian is lost, then would we not question the ability of the Holy Spirit to keep one saved?
If it is the work of the Spirit to directly activate man’s response to the revealed word, then He must do so in a way that does not leave Him responsible if either a Christian is eternally lost. We wonder what effect the Spirit would have on the Christian’s moral behavior to the extent of guarding him from apostasy. Whatever understanding one derives from the Scriptures concerning the work of the Spirit, or influence of the Holy Spirit upon the moral behavior of man, his interpretation must not make the Spirit infringe upon the free-moral choice of the individual. If our free-moral choice is set aside by a supposed direct action of the Holy Spirit, then God’s justice would be brought into question if only one Christian was eternally lost.
[Next in series: May 19