The Will of God, or the Will of Man?
Throughout the history of Christianity, there has been a vigorous conflict between Christians (those who have been saved by the free will and sovereign grace of God), and those within Christendom who profess Christ, but who really partake in will-worship (as the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, calls it in Colossians 2:23). Will-worship has four primary forms.
Pelagianism, the doctrine named after the British monk Pelagius, maintains that man is born innocent, without an inherited sinful nature, and thus can turn to God in his own strength, through the exercise of his own “free-will,” all without any divine assistance. Although always rejected by Christians, by 418 AD, most of Christendom rejected it as heresy as well.
Semipelagianism, the second form rejected by Christians, arose in the early 500s. By 529 AD, during the Second Council of Orange, most of Christendom rejected it as heresy as well. Unlike Pelagianism, Semipelagianism admits that man fell in Adam, but maintains that the fall was not total. It maintains that man is still able to “cooperate” with God, and that the beginning of faith/salvation is solely an act of their “free will,” completely unaided by God.
Arminianism, the third form, was developed in the 1500s by Arminius as a refutation of the doctrines of free and sovereign grace (the basis of the Protestant Reformation). Arminianism, a variant of Semipelagianism, maintains that the fall of man was total, but that the Holy Spirit restores the will of man to the point wherein they can exercise their freewill to either accept or reject their notion of Jesus. This error also denies the sovereign grace of God, and makes His grace, and the work of the omnipotent Holy Spirit, resistible by the will of man. In our day, the vast majority of Christendom is either Arminian, Semipelagian, or Sacramentalist in nature. Sadly, there has been a great falling away from the Truth — as the Bible declared would happen, and is even now happening.
Sacramentalism: The fourth form, usually encompasses some or all of the other three forms. It is generally defined as the belief that (a) observance of one or more of the “sacraments” is necessary for salvation, (b) that partaking of one or more of the “sacraments” can confer grace unto salvation; and/or (c) that the sacraments are inherently efficacious. Sacramentalism exists today in the form of the Roman Catholic, Greek (and various other) Orthodox, Coptic, Anglican/Episcopalian religions, and other related religions within Christendom.
The True Gospel: rejects all forms of will-worship and states that only God’s will is truly free. After the fall, man’s will became corrupted, sold out to sin, and is in bondage to fallen self and Satan. As a result, mankind is completely incapable of either turning to God on its own (John 6:44), or taking any steps toward doing so. Likewise, because of the fall, mankind has absolutely no desire to seek after, or turn to, God on His own terms — which is solely through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:9-18; Romans 10:1-15).
It is through the free and sovereign love, grace, mercy, and will of God (John 1:12-13), that He saves His people; it is not through the exercise of the sinner’s will. Salvation, faith, and repentance (2 Tim 2:25) are all gifts of God; He gives these gifts freely to His people before they even ask, and without the need to wait upon them to “choose” Him. Christians do not choose God; God chooses them (Eph 1:4; Psalm 65:4; John 15:16). They do not “accept Jesus;” the Lord Jesus makes them acceptable before a perfectly Holy and Righteous God (by providing a righteousness for them, through His finished work on the cross, that guarantees all aspects of their salvation).
From before the foundation of the Earth (Eph 2:1-10), God the Father elected a people (too numerous for man to count), and gave them to His Son as His elect Bride; God the Son atoned for and redeemed the elect; and God the Holy Spirit gives spiritual life, faith, and repentance to each elect sinner at the time appointed of the Father. Specifically, their salvation is based solely upon the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ (Rom 4:6), without respect to, and without the contribution of, their will or work, conduct or character. In such a Gospel, the only true Gospel, all of the glory goes to God alone, through Christ; none goes to the saved sinner, who forever remains a complete debtor to the sovereign love, will and mercy of God (and would have it no other way).
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified”
by Curt Wildy