Continuing on with class homework for my friends who *want to know*…we will next tackle Romans 8:7-8, a passage often used by the Calvinist as a proof text for their doctrine of Total Depravity–the “T” in “TULIP”. Total Depravity refers to the idea of mankind’s complete inability to respond to the gospel. It bears repeating, that I am not a Calvinist, nor an Arminian, but rather a Christian who stands on the Bible as my final authority. We don’t want to be like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, who elevated their own teachings and traditions to the level of scripture. Likewise, nor should we measure scripture by the writings of John Calvin, or Jacob Arminius, or whoever’s name we choose to plug into for truth.
So, that said, what saith the scriptures?
“Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:7-8
Okay. Concrete statement here: “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” So what’s the problem? From my understanding, Calvinists believe that if one cannot please God, one cannot be saved. And their assumption here, is that this verse indicates that no one can please God. Now there are many different shades of Calvinism out there, with some or all of the points of TULIP being either accepted or rejected. This is not intended to be a blanket assumption of all Calvinists, just an “in general” observation.
So the key phrase in this passage to cross-reference, is “please God”, because we need to see what God himself says in the Bible about what “pleases” him to give us light as to the core of this teaching. It’s been interesting to me, as we’ve studied Calvinism, how contradictory Calvin’s interpretations are to scripture. Yet if we let the Bible speak for itself, by cross-referencing, we see no contradictions…but rather we get LIGHT! So let’s commence…
Okay, in cross referencing “please God” we find some good stuff.
1 Corinthians 1:21, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
We see here that “it pleased God…to save them that believe.” There is that reference to “believing” again, this time in reference to “pleasing God”! If you keep reading in 1 Cor. 1, you see “foolishness of preaching” defined in verses 23, 25, 27, and 28. God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise…things like our gaining life through one who died, gaining a blessing by one who was made a curse, being justified by one who was condemned–this is all foolishness to men blinded by self-conceit and vain philosophies. Not to mention that God chose fishermen to propagate the gospel, when he could have chosen eloquent scholars. We see this in verse 26, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, [are called]:” It is interesting to note here that Saul-who-became-Paul was a scholar of scriptures, a Pharisee…yet he admits to being “rude in speech, though not in knowledge”, and God gave him a thorn in his flesh to keep him humble…something to do with his eyesight.
Okay, next scripture up:
Hebrews 11:5-6, “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
We see here simply, that it is faith that pleases God. And by faith, the believer walks after the Spirit, not after the flesh. Enoch’s testimony was one of faith, which pleased God. Faith is defined here as coming to God, believing that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Coming to God, believing. That really corresponds with our previous study on John 6.
This Hebrews passage also shows that man is responsible for his faith or lack of faith.
Let’s not forget to read Romans 8 in context, starting with verse one:
Romans 8:1, “[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (FYI, italics added to indicate an important portion of this verse that is left out of new Bible versions)
And the rest of Romans 8, leading up to the verses we’re questioning, plus verse 9, I will put here also:
Romans 8:2-9, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded [is] death; but to be spiritually minded [is] life and peace.
Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Don’t you love that “But” at the beginning of verse 9? To be “carnally or fleshly minded” is death, it is not of the Spirit of Christ, BUT ye are not in the flesh…Paul is speaking to believers here, in the whole context of the importance of walking after the spirit, not after the flesh.
So if verses 7-8 are used by Calvinists to prove that mankind cannot be saved because they cannot please God, then we see, in context and by cross referencing, the simple truth that walking after sinful flesh does not please God and without faith, it is impossible to please him. But for His grace, by faith! “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:” Eph. 2:8.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
How do we get faith? Scripture is very clear on this as well:
Romans 10:8-17, “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, [even] in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Can man please God, then? YES, by faith believing!