Preventing Grace

Edward Hendrie


            The bible makes it clear that man is dead in trespasses and sin. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:1. A man who is spiritually dead cannot make himself spiritually alive again; that is a rebirth that only God can accomplish. Even Jacobus Arminius had to acknowledge that truth.


            Arminius and his Romish accomplices had to come up with a way to work around that obvious scriptural impediment to a free will gospel doctrine. What they did was package their graceless free will doctrine in a package labeled “grace.” If the package is appealing enough, then the victims will not notice the spiritual poison inside.


            In order to deceive people into accepting his poisonous doctrine of free will, Arminius came up with the myth of “prevenient grace.” According to Arminius man was corrupted by original sin, but God provided a prevenient grace to all men. Endnote This fictional prevenient grace is supposed to free the will of all men and enable them to cooperate with God and believe in Jesus Christ. According to Arminius, by virtue of the prevenient grace of God all men have the free will to either believe in Jesus or reject him. Kenneth Jones, an Arminian theologian, explains: “The prevenient grace of God's convicting Spirit simply lifts the sinner up to the point where the choice is possible.” Endnote


            The prevenient grace doctrine is biblically impossible. The bible states that “there is none that seeketh after God.” Romans 3:11. To address man’s depraved condition, God, by his grace, gives those he has chosen for salvation the faith of Jesus. Romans 3:21-26. It is only those whom God has elected for salvation who are the object of his grace. John 17:9-12. Once God gives his elect the faith to believe in Jesus, his elect will certainly believe in Jesus. John 6:39. The faith of God’s elect is not left to the chance free will decisions of men. John 1:13. The claim by Arminians that all men are given a prevenient grace that frees their will to choose to believe in God is an unbiblical invention of corrupt haters of the sovereign God.


            Mark Herzer explains how prevenient grace is a necessary construct for the Arminians in order to keep the free will theory intact and at the same time acknowledge the fall of man. The prevenient grace construct is a way to explain how man can have a free will after the fall. The problem with the prevenient grace myth is that it saves no one. Under the Arminians model, salvation requires an act of man’s free will, aside from any influence by God other than his act of initially freeing the will through prevenient grace.

 

Their doctrine of prevenient grace is ultimately rooted in their insistence upon the absolute non-negotiable of their theology, namely, man must be free enough to accept or reject. They wish to be debtors to Free Will and we to Sovereign Grace. They argue that since prevenient grace came before our choice, therefore their theology is one of grace. But then again, this sort of argument was advanced by the Papists. It is true that this universal prevenient grace came before our choice; but it affected no one efficaciously. It led none to salvation. The efficacious act came from man who could accept or reject the prevenient grace. Man's choice is the sine qua non of their theology and not God's sovereign irresistible grace. We, on the other hand, declare, "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus!" Endnote


            Arminians had to come up with a theory to explain how man, who the bible states clearly is spiritually dead and enslaved to sin from the fall, could have a free will to believe in Jesus. It was out of this theological necessity that the myth of prevenient grace was born.


            Prevenient grace is a myth that cannot pass biblical muster, but it nonetheless is part and parcel of the Arminian theology. Indeed, Arminianism cannot stand without it. Arminian theologian John Miley avoids using the term “prevenient grace,” although in order to maintain his Arminian construct, he must adhere to the universal partial grace inherent in the prevenient grace concept. Miley calls prevenient grace “a helping grace.”

 

Man is fallen and corrupt in his nature, and therein morally helpless; but man is also redeemed and the recipient of a helping grace in Christ whereby he is invested with capabilities for a moral probation. He has the power of meeting the terms of an actual salvation. All men have this power. It is none the less real or sufficient because of its gracious source. Salvation is thus the privilege of every man, whatever his religious dispensation. Endnote


            Arminius defined the mythical prevenient grace given to all men as a “preventing or preceding grace.” Arminius stated: “No man believes in Christ except he has been previously disposed and prepared, by preventing or preceding grace, to receive life eternal.” Endnote In witchcraft words and symbols often have two meanings. There is one meaning for the general public and a hidden meaning for the initiated. Prevenient grace literally means “preventing grace.” The word “prevent” has two meanings; prevent means to stop in advance something from happening, but it also means to come before. In the context of Arminius’ writings, he intended for the public to understand that he meant by prevenient grace a grace that prepares the souls of all men for faith by freeing their wills to believe.


            The hidden meaning behind prevenient grace is that of “stopping grace.” The reprobate mind of Arminius thinks that man can do the impossible, limit and stop the Grace of God. According to Arminius, prevenient grace gives men the free will not only to believe in Christ but also to choose to reject Christ. According to Arminius, men are given power to resist the calling of God. Therefore, under this so called prevenient grace, men can actually thwart the will of God by rejecting God’s decision to save them. Prevenient grace is a grace in name only. It is actually a mythical concept that ineffectually attempts to frustrate God’s will to save a sinner. Prevenient grace is an anti-grace springing from an anti-gospel. There is not a single scriptural authority that supports the prevenient grace deception. In fact, as documented in this book, the theme of the bible weighs against Arminius’ so called prevenient grace.


            One of the denominations following the Arminian doctrine of free will through prevenient grace is the Methodist (Wesleyan) Church. The Methodist Church was founded by John Wesley, who was an ardent Arminian. Augustus Toplady had this to say about John Wesley: “I believe him to be the most rancourous hater of the gospel system that ever appeared in England.” Toplady further said that Wesley “is still as dead to the feelings of shame as he is blind to the doctrines of God.” Paragraph 8 of The Constitution Of The North American General Conference of the Wesleyan (Methodist) Church states:

 

We believe that man's creation in the image of God included ability to choose between right and wrong. Thus man was made morally responsible for his choices. But since the fall of Adam, man is unable in his own strength to do the right. This is due to original sin, which is not simply the following of Adam's example, but rather the corruption of the nature of every man, and is reproduced naturally in Adam's descendants. Because of it, man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature is continually inclined to evil. He cannot of himself even call upon God or exercise faith for salvation. But through Jesus Christ the prevenient grace of God makes possible what man in himself cannot do. It is bestowed freely upon all men, enabling all who will to turn and be saved. Endnote (emphasis added)


            The subtlety of the Arminian gospel is found in the use of the word “all.” The prevenient grace of Arminius is granted to “all.” Clearly the bible supports the doctrine that God imbues those chosen for salvation the ability to believe in him. However, that faith is a gift only given to his elect; it is not given to all men.


            God seeks men, men do not seek God. “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” (Romans 9:16 AV) From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he made it clear that he was Lord, and he chose his disciples, they did not choose him. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:16 AV)


            God has not changed his methods. Today, Jesus, the sovereign Lord of Heaven, chooses his elect for salvation. By choosing those who will be saved, he also necessarily chooses those who will be lost. “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” Proverbs 16:4.


            God exercises his will in all matters, God is sovereign. Man is impotent to impede the will of God. “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and who can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?” Daniel 4:35.


            How could Arminius say that all men have a free will to believe in Jesus when the bible states clearly that salvation comes not by the will of man, but totally of God? “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13 AV)


            The universalism of the Arminian anti-gospel has an attraction to the masses, because it is all-inclusive. Under the Arminian anti-gospel, all men have the ability to believe in Jesus, and anyone by their free will can do so. That is not the way of God under the true gospel. Under the gospel of Jesus, salvation is exclusive to those whom God has chosen for salvation. Notice in John 17:9 how Jesus specifically stated that he did not pray for the world; he prayed only for the elect given to him by the father. “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” (John 17:9 AV)


            In John 12:37-40 God reveals that those who do not believe in him don’t do so because they do not have the ability to believe in him! Those passages impeach directly the authority of Arminius’ prevenient grace, wherein Arminius alleges that all are given the ability to believe in Christ.

 

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. (John 12:37-40 AV)


            God makes it clear in John 12:37-40 that the unsaved will not believe in Jesus because God has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts to the gospel. The unsaved have been prevented by God from believing. “For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes.” (Isaiah 29:10 AV)


            Those who do not believe have been spiritually blinded by God. They have not received prevenient grace, which Arminius alleges was showered on all men, and frees their will to believe in Jesus. Unbelievers have instead received a spirit of slumber from God. They do not believe, because they cannot believe. Their will is not free, it is in bondage to sin, and they will reject God because their enslaved will prevents them from any other course.

 

What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: (Romans 11:7-9 AV)


            Romans 11:7-9 is yet more biblical authority that directly contradicts the prevenient grace doctrine of Arminius, which supposedly enables all men to freely believe in Jesus. Only the elect of God are given the free gift of faith, and that gift is given solely by the grace of God.


            The free will gospel in effect takes away sovereignty from God and puts man in control over eternal life. The Arminian god is not the sovereign God of the bible. The free will gospel is an ear tickler; it sounds good at first blush, but it is an unbiblical myth. Under the Arminian gospel man is primary, and an impotent god is secondary. In fact, their god is a virtual spectator who is holding out the gift of eternal salvation, hoping that some men by their free will choose to accept his gift. This Arminian god is forlornly left holding the bag, while most men exercise their free will and reject his gift of eternal life.


            The true gospel, on the other hand, holds that our faith is a gift from God, it does not come from our free will. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8 AV) Notice that Ephesians 2:8 says: “and that not of yourselves.” To what is God referring when he says “that?” It is obvious by the context that he means faith. Clearly grace is from God; that point needs no clarification. The only point that needs clarification is the source of faith; “that” faith is not of yourselves, “it [faith] is the gift of God.” That passage alone makes free will impossible as the means of salvation.


            Ernest Reisinger explains that the free will of man was the principal issue of the reformation:

 

When most Christians think of the Reformation, the first thing that comes to their mind is justification by faith alone. There is good reason for that assumption; justification by faith alone was the key doctrine that came out of the Reformation; however, it was not the key issue at the foundation of the Reformation. A careful study of the historical facts will clearly show that the issue of man's will was at the heart of the theological difference between Martin Luther and the Roman Catholic Church. Endnote


            The Roman Catholic anti-gospel has made new inroads since the reformation. Arminianism has been promoted by “Christian” luminaries all over the world including but not limited to John Wesley and Charles Finney of yesteryear to today’s Billy Graham, Dave Hunt, Chuck Colson, Chuck Swindol, Chuck Smith, and Hank Hanegraff.


            This Arminian gospel has today permeated most of the nominal “Christian” churches. That anti-gospel is a direct attack on the sovereignty of God. Under the Arminian gospel, man is sovereign. The Arminian preachers speak of Jesus, but he is more an ornament to their theology. B.B. Warfield once observed of the Arminian theology of Charles Finney: “God might be eliminated from it entirely without essentially changing its character.” Endnote Arminiamism is a continuation of the seduction begun in the garden of Eden, where the serpent deceived Adam and Eve into eating of the fruit that would give them knowledge of good and evil. He told them “ye shall be as gods.” Genesis 3:5.


            A person seeking Christ is brought to the point where he cries out for help from God “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Mark 9:24. However, a seeker exposed to the Arminian anti-gospel does not cry out for help from God, because he is convinced by the Arminian preacher that he does not need God to help him with his unbelief, it is all up to him and his own free will. He will be told that Jesus will not interfere with his free will decision.


            The Arminian anti-gospel actually prevents true repentance from sin and turning toward God. Instead the seeker is told to look not to God for help with his unbelief, but rather that he has the power of his own free will to believe. Oh, they are told to believe in Jesus, but their belief is not in the Jesus of the Bible. In order to believe in the Jesus of the bible, a person must have the faith of the Jesus of the bible, not the faith of their free will. “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Galatians 3:22 AV)


            Often a seeker is counseled by an Arminian pastor, who advises the seeker to recite a form statement. He is then told he is born again. However, there is no spiritual rebirth. The person is a counterfeit Christian who has a worldly belief in Jesus. That is not unlike the belief that even the devils have. James 2:19. That type of belief is not a saving faith. The counterfeit Christian goes through the motions of being a Christian, but his is just one of the many tares added to the wheat in the church. Tares look just like the wheat, but their end is quite different. Jesus explained this very phenomenon to his disciples in Mark 13.

 

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. . . . Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-42 AV)


            One might think that there must be some passage in the bible that supports the idea of prevenient grace. No, there is no such bible passage. In order to suggest that there is biblical authority, the Arminian use the satanic trick of quoting bible verses out of context. Virtually any false doctrine can be supported by biblical text taken out of context, even to the extent of trying to prove that “there is no God.” Indeed, Psalm 14:1 states: “There is no God.” It is an accurate quote, but it has been taken out of context. When we see the passage in context, we see that the quoted clause has quite a different meaning. The entire passage reads: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” Psalm 14:1. The context we see gives quite a different meaning than is intended by our hypothetical atheist. As we explore the Arminian scriptural authority, we will see that in a series of verses they have wrongly divided God’s word from its context to give a meaning contrary to God’s intended meaning.


            The Arminians strategy of taking bible passages out of context to make the case for prevenient grace, is illustrated by Dr. Jack Graham's effort. Jack Graham (no relation to Billy Graham) is the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. Prestwood is a mega-church with over 28,0000 members. It is the 17th largest church in the United States. Endnote According to the church website “Dr. Graham has served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest American Protestant denomination, with 16 million members and as president of the SBC Pastor’s Conference.” Endnote Graham also has a large and successful radio and television broadcast ministry called PowerPoint Ministries. Although Graham did not use the term prevenient grace, that is what he meant when he said the following:

 

Somebody says but wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, doesn't God have to give us even the faith to believe? You will hear this often. Because we are so dead and depraved in sin God has to give us even the faith to believe. He has to regenerate us before we can even believe in Him. Now thats a little backwards, isn't it?... But that is the way this logic--or illogic--goes. God has to regenerate you before you can ever say, I receive Christ. No the Bible says believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. You say but doesn't God have to give us faith to be saved. Didn't you say salvation is of the Lord? Absolutely. Even our faith comes from God. And guess what? Romans 12:3 says that God has given to every man, to all men a measure of faith. Every person has been given by God this faculty this opportunity to believe. Endnote


            Notice Graham cites to Romans 12:3. Typical of Arminian preachers, he takes the passage out of context. He states that Romans 12:3 supports the prevenient faith concept whereby God gives every person the ability to believe in Jesus. Graham has wrongly divided the word of God. When one reads Romans 12:3 in context, it is clear that the passage is not saying that every man in the entire world is given the ability to believe in Jesus. The passage is referring only to the saved members of the church.


            When Romans 12:3 is read in context it is evident that Paul is addressing the “bretheren” in Christ and explaining that grace is given in a different way to every member of the body of Christ. Some have, by God's grace, the gift of prophecy, others have the gift of ministry, yet others the gift of teaching, etc., and each are to be done “according to the proportion of faith.”


            So when Paul says in Romans 12:3 that God through his grace gave to every man a measure of faith, he means that God gave the various spiritual gifts in accordance with the differing proportions of faith for each saved member of the church body. The differing proportions of faith are determined by the sovereign grace of God. Every member of the church body has faith and is saved. But not every member has the same measure of faith or spiritual calling in the church. When Paul said “every man” has been dealt a measure of faith, it was in the context of a message to his “bretheren” in the church. The “every man” was a refferecnce to “every man” in the church.

 

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:1-8 AV)


            Prevenient grace is a man-made artifice constructed to fill a theological hole in the Arminian free will mythology. There is a complete lack of biblical support for the prevenient grace construct; it is based entirely on the imaginations of huckster theologians. John Hendryx points out the lack of biblical support for Arminianism:

 

[T]he Bible never teaches in a clear and open manner the concept of prevenient grace. . . . Arminians awkwardly force this on the Scripture in order to hold their system together. This alone should lead us to reject it. Unaided reason should NEVER be the foundation of our theological insights, especially one of such critical importance. Endnote


            Prevenient grace is a concept that is so difficult to reconcile with the bible that its proponents must come up with sometimes discombobulated explanations for it. On example of this is found in Tome Gender’s book, The Narrow Road: How Does God Save Sinners?. Gender states:

 

Prevenient grace will lead to genuine faith in Christ unless it is finally resisted by the sinner. In this way, it makes faith possible, without making it necessary. It preserves the basis on which God sovereignly chooses to deal with human being for salvation- by their free choices. Endnote


            First, Gender states that prevenient grace will lead to faith unless it is resisted. So, right off the bat we have a battle of wills. God wills the sinner to be saved, but the sinner has veto power over God’s will. Second, Gender states that faith is made possible, but it is not necessary. Gender’s theology has jumped off the biblical tracks. Faith is in fact necessary for salvation. Romans 3:28.


            Gender gives an explanation of prevenient grace wherein he tries to work in some biblical words as camouflage for his unbiblical Arminian theology. However, he uses the words in a way that strips them of their true meaning. His use of the words “sovereign” and “choose” are completely decoupled from their true biblical meanings. Gender states the prevenient grace is the basis for God to “sovereignly choose to deal with human beings for salvation - by their free choices.” That makes no sense. How can God “sovereignly choose” men for salvation, if those same men are supposed to be saved by their own “free choices?” The two concepts of man’s free choice and God’s sovereign choice are mutually exclusive.


            The theme of the bible is that God chooses man, man does not (indeed he cannot) choose God. John 1:13; 15:16; Ephesians 2:1. Gender states that God is sovereign, but man makes a free choice as to whether to believe in him. According to Gender, God does not choose his elect for salvation. Instead, God chooses to bestow a prevenient grace whereby the sinner then exercises his (mythical) free will to choose Jesus. Gender uses the term “choose” differently than does God when he stated that he chose us in Jesus before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4. God’s elect constitute a generation chosen by God. 1 Peter 2:9. Gender, as do all prevenient grace proponents, reverses the order of events and makes the sinner the one choosing God.



For more information on this topic, go to www.antigospel.com or contact Edward Hendrie at edwardhendrie [at] gmail [dot] com.