Does Man Have A Free Will?

(Part Three of Four)

(Editor's Note: The following article by brother Hafley is the third of four appearing in the January, February, March and April issues of Watchman Magazine. Each article consists of 3 sections [or smaller articles]. Combined, they systematically answer the Calvinist doctrines of Total Depravity and Individual Predestination. I commend them to you. To read the January article, click here. To read the February article, click here.)

(Section 1)

Does man have a free will to choose to come to Christ, or must God perform a direct operation of the Spirit on the heart of the sinner to enable him to receive and believe on Christ? Wayne Camp, a prominent Baptist author and lecturer, contends thusly:

"Only in the day of God's power will a person be willing. Psalm 110:3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. This clearly reveals that no man, in and of himself, is capable of doing the will of God. He cannot will to come to Christ unless God enables him to by his regenerating power. When God does enable him by his regenerating power he will be willing and he will come to Christ -- "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." The inferred negative is, they will not be willing until God brings his power to bear upon them. No one will be willing until the day of God's power. Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. One cannot come to Christ of his own might and power, or his own alleged free will, but he will come when the power of the Spirit of God enables him. "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." Then, and only then, will a person be willing to come to Christ" (Camp, The Grace Propagator And Promulgator, August, 1995).

Psalm 110:1-4

Psalm 110:1-4 is a "messianic Psalm;" that is, it prophecies of the Christ who was to come. We know this is so because: (1) Jesus applied the text to himself (Matt. 22:41-45). (2) The Holy Spirit applied it to the priesthood of Christ (Heb. 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21). (3) Christ was to rule when he sat at God's right hand (Psalm 110:1-4). He is now seated at God's right hand (Eph. 1:20; Heb. 1:3; 1 Pet. 3:22). Therefore, he now reigns and rules. Today is "the day of (his) power" (Psa. 110:3; Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:13-19).

Far from proving Camp's Calvinistic contention, the passage says just the opposite. It says, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power," but to suit Camp, it should say, "Thy people shall be unable to be willing in the day of thy power." Further, the "inferred negative" of "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power" is not, as Camp contends, "Thy people shall not be 'willing until God brings his power to bear upon them in the day of thy power.'" Rather, the "inferred negative" is, "Thy people shall not be willing when thou art not in power." Nothing is said about their being unable to will. Nothing is said about bringing power to bear upon anyone to enable him to do anything that he is not yet capable of doing. Nothing is said about anyone being unable to come to Christ. Nothing is said about the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart of unregenerate man. Nothing is said about the effects of any work of God on the hearts of the unregenerate. Yet, this is what the text must say for Camp's view to be correct. Mr. Camp, "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar" (Prov. 30:6).

Comparison And Contrast

First, under the Old Testament, one was born into God's kingdom in the flesh, by the flesh. This is what puzzled Nicodemus. He stood before the Lord with the blood of Abraham coursing and throbbing through his veins, yet he is told that this is not sufficient. It is no longer physical descent, fleshly birth, that matters (Phil. 3:3-6). The heirs of the loins and lineage of Abraham are now to be determined by faith, not by flesh (Rom. 2:28, 29; Gal. 3:6-29). In that system, one was born into the kingdom of Israel without his will being involved in the matter. Before he could know or choose, he was circumcised and brought up as a child of God.

"But it will not be like that," said the prophet, when the new covenant is inaugurated (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:8-13). Men were brought up from birth and taught to know the Lord who was their God, but it shall not be so in the kingdom and covenant of the Christ. "They shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me" (Heb. 8:11). Under the Old Testament, a child was brought up in the kingdom and taught to know his God, but in the New Testament, the law of the Lord is written "in their mind" and "in their hearts" so that one already knows the Lord, for it is only by knowing the truth, only by knowing God and his Son, Jesus Christ, that one can be in the New Covenant kingdom (Jn. 8:32; 17:3). An infant in Israel had to be brought up and taught, "saying, Know the Lord." However, in the kingdom of Christ, one already knows the Lord, else he would not be a citizen in the kingdom--"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

This is a part of what the Psalmist's statement is all about. "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy (the Christ's) power." It will not be a rule such as was exerted by men with royal robes and military might. It would not be a kingdom that one was born into of the flesh. Rather, it would be a kingdom wherein the subjects and citizens would be "willing" participants "in the day of (the mighty Messiah's) power." It would not be a kingdom of regal rule under a stately scepter. It would be a reign of righteousness under a spiritual scepter, wherein "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power" (Rom. 14:17; Heb. 1:8).

This concept confused the Samaritan woman (Jn. 4:9-42). She wanted to argue for worship in a physical, material place. "Mt. Gerizim there in the foreground is the place where men ought to worship. It is not at Jerusalem as the Jews say," argued the woman. She could not visualize a kingdom in which one must be "willing." After correcting her, saying that Jerusalem, not Gerizm of the Samaritans, was the place of worship, Jesus then said, "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him" (Jn. 4:23). "Soon, lady, neither Gerizim nor Jerusalem will matter," said Jesus in effect. The kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). In that kingdom, one's fleshly lineage will count for nothing and amount to nothing (Phil. 3:3-7). True worshippers shall worship, not in the flesh, but in the spirit, not in the shadow, but in the substance, the truth. The birth will be that of the spirit, not of the flesh. For that to be accomplished, you will have to know and understand the truth, the word of the kingdom (Matt. 13:19-23; Jn. 8:32). In effect, when the word is sown in the heart, when the law of God is written in the mind, ye shall then know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (Lk. 8:11, 12; Heb. 8:10-12; Jn. 8:32). Or, as the Psalmist said, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power."

It is a contrast with the nature of the Old and New Covenants. In the first, one is physically born into a fleshly kingdom. One's will is not involved in his entrance into it. In the New Covenant, however, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power."

Second, compare and contrast Camp's conclusions with the Bible. Says he, "... no man, in and of himself, is capable of doing the will of God. He cannot will to come to Christ unless God enables him to by his regenerating power. When God does enable him by his regenerating power he will be willing and he will come to Christ .... One cannot come to Christ of his own might and power, or his own alleged free will, but he will come when the power of the Spirit of God enables him." Mr. Camp, what if God never exercises his power upon an individual? What if God never enables one to come to Christ? What if God never regenerates a man who is unable to will to come to Christ? What of that man? What shall his end be? Whose fault is it if that man is abandoned without even the will to come to Christ?

In view of Camp's comments, note the following: (1) "Wherefore (as the Holy Spirit saith, today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts" (Heb. 3:7, 8; 4:7). The Hebrew writer assumes that his audience could "hear" the word and voice of the Spirit. "But," it might be objected, "these are regenerated people; the Spirit has already done his work on their hearts." If so, why appeal to them to "harden not your hearts"? Could they "harden" their hearts? The Hebrew writer thought they could! But according to Camp's interpretation of Psalm 110:3, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." They cannot be unwilling, according to Camp. They cannot harden their hearts, he says. Further, if the sinner cannot "soften" his heart and make it receptive, how could the saint "harden" his heart? If it takes a direct, miraculous Divine power to soften the hardened heart of the sinner, why does it not take an equally direct, Divine power to harden the softened heart of the saved? "But they refused to hearken ... and stopped their ears, that they should not hear, Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord ... sent in his spirit by the ... prophets" (Zech. 7:11, 12).

(2) Jesus said to people in his day, "For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them" (Matt. 13:15). What did Jesus say the problem was? Did he say, with Camp, that the difficulty is that they cannot hear, and they cannot understand, and they cannot come to me because God has not yet operated on their hearts? No, that is not what the Lord said, but it is what he would have to have said if Camp's contention is correct.

(3) Mr. Camp argues that man is "unable" to effect a change in his nature or character. In this, he differs with the Lord Jesus. "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God" (Matt. 18:3). To "convert" is to change, to turn. Unless one turns his present nature to that of a little child, he shall not enter into the kingdom (Cf. Acts 3:19; 26:20)! One may choose to humble an uncircumcised, hardened heart (Lev. 26:41). If one's heart is hardened, he can alter it; he can change it; he can circumcise it, that it "be no more stiffnecked" (Deut. 10:16). These are things that Scripture says one can do, but Camp says he cannot. Which do you believe?

(4) Compare Camp with Christ. Camp says man "cannot will to come to Christ unless God enables him to by his regenerating power." Jesus said, "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life" (Jn. 5:40). The Lord did not say, "Ye cannot come to me that ye might have life." He said, "Ye will not." To please Camp, the passage should say, "Ye cannot will to come to me," but it does not say that. Why does it not say that? Because "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power."

"But," someone objects, "these will not come because God has not yet regenerated them." If so, when God "regenerates" them, they will already have life. They will not then need to "come to (Christ) that (they) might have life," for they will already have it, if they have been regenerated by the Spirit. Either way, the passage does not fit Camp and Calvinism.

(5) Camp says, "no man, in and of himself, is capable of doing the will of God." Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father" (Matt. 7:21). Jesus' words assumed that men could "do the will of God" (Lk. 6:46; 8:21; 11:28). "Blessed are they that do his commandments that they may have right to the tree of life" (Rev. 22:14).

As the Psalmist said, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." Thus, "whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).

(Section 2)

"God must work in a person if he is to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Now, I would remind the reader this verse was addressed to saved people. The people of the church at Philippi were dedicated Christians. That church shined as a bright light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. But, they were not to take credit for doing it of themselves. They could not say, 'I have served God of my own determination and my own motivation: my very own free and sovereign will.' Even we who are saved must depend on God to work in us 'both to will and to do of his good pleasure.' How much more must a sinner have God to work in him to will and to do of his good pleasure. He cannot act out of his own alleged free will and thereby come to Christ. God must work in him if he is ever to will and to do of God's good pleasure and come to the Lord Jesus Christ" (Wayne Camp, The Grace Propagator and Promulgator, August, 1995, p. 5).

"What Advantage Then Hath The Saved?"

Calvinist commentator Camp has argued that the dead, alien sinner has no will to exercise to come to Christ. Now, we find that he believes the same is true of the regenerated child of God. Not even the enabling power of the Spirit can create and generate in the saved a will which is free to act and obey God. What advantage then hath the saved? What is the advantage of being regenerated and of having a renewed heart if one is still not choosing to serve God of his own free will? This concept makes all men, both saints and sinners, puppets on a string. Neither can act. God must pull the strings, whether for salvation or damnation.

The question before us is not, "Must God work in us to do his will?" He certainly must (Phil. 2:13). The issue is, "How does God do this work in us?" Camp says he does it directly, immediately, without any cooperation from the non-existent will of man. If this be true, whose fault is it when one does not "will to do of his good pleasure"?

(A) Some in the church at Sardis had "defiled their garments" and were not "worthy" to walk with the Lord (Rev. 3:4). If the worthy ones could not say, "I served God of my own determination and my own motivation: my very own free and sovereign will," could the unworthy ones say, "Yes, it is true, I defiled my garments, and I am not worthy to walk with Christ because God failed to work in me the will to do his good pleasure"? Could they blame God for their failure? If not, why not? (B) When the Lord rebuked the church at Ephesus, telling them they had left their first love, and urging them to remember, repent and return, could the Ephesian church have said, "Sorry, Lord, but it is all your fault. You have failed to properly motivate and work in us 'both to will and to do' your good pleasure" (Rev. 2:2-5)? (C) To the lukewarm Laodiceans, Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him" (Rev. 3:20). A lazy, lukewarm Laodicean replies, "Lord, I hear your voice, but I do not have the determination or motivation to get up and open the door for you. You will have to 'will' me to do it before I can get up and open the door. Remember, Lord, I did not choose to become a Christian; you made me one without my will. So, now, I guess you will have to make me get up and open the door, too."

The Colossians were to "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing" (Col. 1:10). How were they to accomplish this worthy walk and please God? God had to work in them, but how? Paul prayed for them "that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy" (Col. 1:9, 10). It is through the "knowledge of his will" that one is enabled by the Lord walk worthy of the Lord. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom" (Col. 3:16). But how do I obtain, such knowledge? I am commanded to understand "what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17). I must know it, but how? "Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:4).

God did work in the Philippian church, but he did not do so without their cooperation: (1) "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ" (Phil. 1:27). (2) "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). (3) "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12).

Assuredly, God must work in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Again, "How" does he do this work? (1) "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, as it is in truth, the word of God which effectually worketh in you that believe" (1 Thess. 2:13). God works in us; he "effectually" worketh in us through the word of God! (2) To the Colossians, Paul said, it is "the word of the truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth" (Col. 1:5, 6). God bore fruit in them; he did it through "the word of the truth of the gospel."

God's Work In The Sinner

If one says, "John cut the thick rope in half," and then says, "Here is the sword that cut the rope in half," we understand that through the agency of the sword, John cut the rope in half. So, God operates and works through "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17). Through it, the Spirit works, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). Hence, "ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit .... Being born again ... by the word of God" (1 Pet. 1:22-25).

Camp says of the righteous, "They could not say, 'I served God of my own determination and my own motivation: my very own free and sovereign will.' Even we who are saved must depend on God to work in us 'both to will and to do of his good pleasure.'" Mr. Camp, could the unrighteous, non-elect say, "I did not serve God because I was not motivated by God to do so: Even we who are damned must depend on God to work in us "both to will and to do of his good pleasure," and if he does not do this work, we are left helpless and hopeless, doomed forever to a devil's hell?

The "sinner," says Pastor Camp, must "have God to work in him to will and to do of his good pleasure. He cannot act out of his own alleged free will and thereby come to Christ. God must work in him if he is ever to ... come to the Lord Jesus Christ." First, God does the work of converting the sinner. Second, he does it by the Spirit. Third, he does it by his power. God quenches the thirst of man. He does it by his power. Water is the power of God to quench thirst. Man cannot simply "will" to have his thirst quenched. He must utilize God's power to quench his thirst. Likewise, God saves. He does it by his power. The gospel "is the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16). Man cannot merely "will" his salvation. He must utilize God's power unto salvation (Mk. 16:15, 16; Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:40, 41).

The Ephesians, both Jews and Gentiles, had access unto God "by one Spirit" (Eph. 2:18). Through the Spirit, they had fellowship as "fellowcitizens" in the household of God (Eph. 2:19-22). They did not effect their fellowship by simply willing it to be so. No, they had access "by one Spirit unto the Father." But Ephesians 3:6 says the Gentiles were "fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." "Well," someone says, "that is confusing. I thought their fellowship was 'by the Spirit.'" Remember, John cut the rope. The sword cut the rope. John used the sword and cut the rope. So, by the Spirit, Jews and Gentiles had access and fellowship unto God. By the gospel, they were made fellowheirs, fellowcitizens. The Spirit used his sword, the word of God, to make them fellowheirs and of the same body (Eph. 1:13; 2:18; 3:6; 6:17).

The Corinthians were "sanctified ... by the Spirit" (1 Cor. 6:11). God worked in them and sanctified them "by the Spirit." How did he do so? (1) "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (Jn. 17:17). (2) "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel" (2 Thess. 2:13, 14). (3) "I have begotten you through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15). Hence, when Paul preached the gospel unto them, they were saved by it (1 Cor. 2:2-5; 15:1, 2). Thus it is written, "And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized" (Acts 18:8).

Saints, too, are sanctified by the Lord (1 Thess. 5:23). But he does not effect this sanctification without our participation -- "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication" (1 Thess. 3:3). Through the word of God, we learn how to live, how to conduct ourselves (Eph. 4:20, 21ff.). "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psa. 119:11). In this way, God sanctifies us and works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

(Section 3)

Wayne Camp has given "three Biblical principles" which he says tests "the power and sovereignty of man's will." We shall take and pass his tests and see that Mr. Camp has "flunked out."

"The Skin And Spot Principle"

"One test that will determine if your truly have a free will is the skin and spot principle. This principle is set forth by the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

"Can an Ethiopian, by willing it so, change the color of his skin? Can a leopard, by willing it so, change his spots? If the Ethiopian can, of his own free will, change his skin, and if the leopard can, of his own free will, change his spots, then you just might have a case for free will. It would be easier for an Ethiopian to will a change in the color of his skin than for you to will the new birth and salvation for yourself. It would be easier for a leopard to will a change in his spots than for you to will a change in your heart.

"A few days ago I took a drive through the dairy state, Wisconsin. There I saw many dairy herds. One herd of Holstein cattle had an interesting cow in it. All the other cows were spotted normally, a mixture of black and white, the usual pattern for Holsteins. One cow, for some reason, had very little black on her, just two or three small spots. That cow appeared to be just a pure a Holstein as did the others. She was built just like the others. She probably gave as much milk as the others. But, she did not have the typical coloring of the others. Even if she were purebred Holstein as she and the others appeared to be, she did not have the typical coloring. Now, suppose she decided she wanted the coloring the others had. Could she, of her own free will, change her spots? No! She will remain the same color as long as she lives. Her owner could not change her color by willing it so. So, she will continue to stand out like a sore thumb as long as she lives. Others, as I did, will drive by, and wonder at that one weird looking cow in that herd. In all the herds of Holstein dairy cows I observed, I saw none like her.

"Even if the leopard could change his spots, and even if the Ethiopian could change his skin, that does not mean you absolutely could change your sinful nature into a new nature" (Wayne Camp, The Grace Propagator And Promulgator, August, 1995, p. 5).

A Beef With Pastor Camp

We are not cowed by Camp's Holstein herd. He has "udderly" milked his argument dry. Suppose this unholy cow "wanted the coloring the others had." Could she change her color of her own free will? "No!" Now, suppose the owner says, "Because you were born totally, hereditarily discolored, you are going to be bound and hand and foot and cast into the eternal slaughterhouse." "But," the cow replies, "I could not help it; Through no fault of my own, I was born this way! Are you still going to condemn me?" "Yes, I am," replies the rancher, "you can 'steak' your life on it, because I cannot simply sit and 'will' you to be normally colored." "Maybe not," bellows the cow, "but you could have taken the skin of a purebred Holstein who had died, and you could have 'imputed' his perfect skin to me if you wanted to do so. This you could have done! Instead, you are going to slaughter me for being born totally discolored."

Though Pastor Camp did not mention any "bull" in his illustration, somehow we know there were some close by!

Jeremiah 13:23

Jeremiah 13:23, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil," does not occur in a vacuum. It has a context. First, note the General Context:

1) "I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?" (Jer. 2:21). Observe: Their nature had changed.

2) "O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved" (Jer. 4:14). Observe: They could choose to wash their wicked hearts so that they might be saved.

3) "They have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return" (Jer. 5:3). Observe: "They" made the choice. They were not born totally depraved; their faces were not born "harder than a rock;" they made them that way!

4) "Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush" (Jer. 6:15). Observe: This speaks to the thought of Jeremiah 13:23. After making their faces "harder than a rock," they were so steeped in sin that they could not be moved by it. They had no sense of shame or guilt (Cf. Jer. 2:23, 35). In this condition, they hearts were impenetrable.

5) "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken .... Behold I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it" (Jer. 6:16-19). Observe: The problem was not that they were incapable of hearing because they were born unable to do so. No, God appealed to them, "But they said, We will not hearken."

6) "Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to abide in this place .... if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings .... Then will I cause you to dwell in this place .... I spake unto you ... but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not.

"....But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward .... they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck .... This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction" (Jer. 7:3, 5, 7, 13, 24, 26, 27). Observe: Their hearts were not born in a hardened condition; they made them that way. God appeals to them as though he expected that they could respond and repent. Was this a cruel joke? Did the Lord know that, like the miscolored Holstein, they could not respond, that they were unable to hear and "amend their ways"? God condemns them for not "receiving correction." Is it a just God who condemns one for doing that which he is incapable of doing?

7) "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it" (Jer. 17:9). Observe: How did their hearts get in that condition? "Cursed be the man ... whose heart departeth from the Lord" (Jer. 17:5). Their heart was not born apart from God; it "departed" from the Lord! How do we know this? In the same chapter, in the same context, we note: "But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction" (Jer. 17:23). Why could they not hear? Why could they not "receive instruction"? Because, they made their neck stiff. God did not do it. They were not born that way. They made their hearts "desperately wicked."

Second, note the Specific Context. Observe passages in the immediate context of Jeremiah 13:23. As noted earlier, verse 23 is not an isolated text. It is not a remote island, unrelated to anything else. It is stated in a context, both general and specific; it is found in a body of revelation. It is a member of that body, and is related to it.

1) "This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing" (Jer. 13:10). Observe: According to the text, were they born unable to hear God's word, or did they "refuse to hear (God's) words"? Did God create them as "evil people"? Were they born as "evil people"? The answer appears below:

2) "For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the Lord; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear" (Jer. 13:11). Observe: Far from making or causing Israel to depart, God says, "I caused (them) to cleave unto me." Well, Lord, if you made or "caused" them "to cleave unto" you, why did they not do so? Because, "they would not hear." Not because, they could not hear, but because "they would not hear."

3) "Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken .... But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord's flock is carried away captive" (Jer. 13:15, 17). Observe: The Lord is still appealing to them, urging them to repent. He would weep, he said, if they should refuse to hear. Were these mocking, crocodile tears from a God who had made them unable to respond? Deep down, did God know, as Camp believes, that these folks were born unable to hear? Had they, like the "weird looking cow," been born incapable of acting? If so, what kind of God is this?

4) "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil" (Jer. 13:23). Observe: They would not do good, but why? Elder Camp says they were born into that state. To suit him, it should say, "then may ye also do good, that are born totally depraved." These Jews had "forgotten" Jehovah (Jer. 13:25; Cf. 2:32). (One cannot forget what he has never known, which is another problem for Camp and Calvinism.)

However, the context indicates that they would not do good because they were "accustomed to do evil." In other words, they had so hardened their hearts and had become so instilled in evil that they would not do good. Is this consistent with Scripture? Yes, and here is proof:

First, as noted, it is consistent with both the general and specific context of Jeremiah.

Second, (a) "But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels" (Psa. 81:11, 12). God "gave them up" (Cf. Rom. 1:24). When they would not hear, God let them go. This describes those in Jeremiah 13:23. (b) "And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:10-12; Cf. Ezek. 14:4-9). These could have been saved, but they refused to believe; they loved the pleasure of unrighteousness, so God gave them up to their damnation. This is a counterpart of those in Jeremiah 13:23. (c) "Having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (1 Tim. 4:2). Flesh that is seared with a hot iron is unfeeling, insensitive to touch. This describes those in Jeremiah 13:23. What of a conscience that is so seared? It was not born that way; it was in their departure from the faith, giving heed to false doctrines, that their conscience was seared. (d) "But exhort one another daily, while it is called today: lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:13). One's heart is not hardened at birth; it is "hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." Being "hardened," they will not do good who are "accustomed to do evil." (e) "Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin ... an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children" (2 Pet. 2:14). Because they had "exercised" or "trained" their hearts with covetous practices, they could not cease from sin. This is like those in Jeremiah 13:23. Were they born into this condition, unable to change? No, through training their hearts in lust, they became hardened in sin.

All the way through, "the skin and spot principle" confirms that men indeed have a free will. Sadly, some use that will to harden themselves in sin and seal their eternal fate. "The impossibility of the Jews responding to Jesus' teaching rests not upon an arbitrary decree of the Father but upon the immutable character of His divine law and the invariable consequence of its violation .... the Jews had refused the light of truth and had so hardened their hearts ... that they were now completely blind. This blindness was the inevitable consequence of living in darkness .... That which Jesus had revealed ... was intended to soften their hearts, causing them to turn to God. But when they refused to let it accomplish its purpose, God used it to blind, harden, and petrify .... The Jews had closed their hearts .... They and they alone were responsible" (Homer Hailey, That You May Believe, Pp. 128, 129).

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