The Flesh Profits Nothing
Why am I a Christian compared with some of my best friends I grew up with who are not? Is it because I was more righteous, or I was more intelligent? We all know better than that. I can only say I have no earthly idea why God in his mercy, while I was dead in my sin and trespasses made me alive through the Holy Spirit. And as Paul makes it so clear in Romans 9, its not because God looked down the corridor of time and said I know that if I give the offer of the gospel to R.C. Sproul he’s going to jump at it. Because if God would have looked down the corridor of my personal history, he would have seen one who had only one destiny, and that was perdition. There are a lot of doctrines we can study abstractly, but few that we experience with more drama than this one. Brothers and sisters, what did you do to get into the kingdom of God that was not the result of a monergistic work of divine grace immediately and supernaturally changing your heart of stone to a heart of flesh, where suddenly the scales fell from your eyes and that which seemed odious or indifferent to you prior to that moment suddenly became bathed in the highest sweetness and the most glorious beauty that it became the most intense desire of your heart because somebody came into the cell of your soul and set you free, by grace, by grace alone?
I honestly don’t know how Jesus could make it any clearer when he says, “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing” (Jn. 6:63). The flesh profits nothing. Earlier in the discourse with Nicodemus he said “That which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit,” and “unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” We have a whole generation of evangelicals who believe that man in his fallen condition still can see the kingdom, still can enter the kingdom, still can come to Christ. Within a couple of years after the ninety-five theses, one of the earliest volumes Martin Luther wrote was the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. I am convinced that if Luther were alive today and were living in America, the book that he would write would be the “Pelagian Captivity of the Church.” And Luther, commenting on John 6 where Jesus says, “The flesh profits nothing,” writes in the margin, “That nothing is not a little something.” But do you see that in the Pelagian or even semi-Pelagian view it profits eternal life? You might say, well we wouldn’t have that profit if we didn’t get a loan from God, we needed the start-up capital to make it. But in the final analysis it was the flesh that makes the decisive move, and that is not Sola Gratia! And Luther saw the link between Sola Fide and Sola Gratia, and that link has been severed in our time!
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