Do you know what a Pelagian is? Neither did I until I read this chapter. However, I disagree with Mr. Sproul that we are ALL Pelagians. It is also difficult to identify myself with Augustine save in theological arguments. However, this book was not written as a theological argument, but rather is a text to help Christians to believe God. Therefore, our sole identification must always be drawn to Jesus Christ.
The conclusion drawn from the association to Pelagius is that we Christians are perfect and able to perfectly obey the commands of God. He says, "Pelagius thought otherwise, arguing that God could command, morally speaking, only that which we have the ability to do. He declared that God would be unjust if He commanded us to do
something we aren’t able to do. Based on this reasoning, Pelagius argued that
we have the capacity in ourselves to keep even God’s command that we must
be perfect, that we must obey the whole of His law. Pelagius denied the doctrine of original sin. He held that Adam’s sin affected Adam only, and that all men born after him have it in themselves to obey God perfectly. Pelagius’ view eventually was roundly condemned as heresy by the church, but he still continues to haunt us."
Again, I soundly disagree with this generalization. It may be true that some Christians suffer from this belief. Sproul's conclusion of the matter later on leads me to believe their is a better generalization applicable to Christians regarding their unbelief of Gods forgiveness and cleansing.
He got it half right when he described Pelagius' denial of the doctrine of original sin. Had he gone on to describe just what that sin is, and its effect in the lives of all mankind (including Christians), he would have concluded a better argument.
That SIN was described in Genesis 3:4-6, "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat."
Eve willingly, freely choose to turn her back on the LORD God to herself, that she might be like god. Ever since, with that nature upon us, we all turn from God. Only He can turn us back. Only He, by the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, can save us from that SIN. Post salvation, the only reason we have any hope at all, any reason to believe that we are forgiven, cleansed, and free from sin is because God commands us to repent. We are able to repent. We are able to turn from that nature that tells us, "I am god", just as the Thessalonians were in I Thessalonians 1:9.
Because we still have the nature to turn to our own selves as god, we are not struggling with believing that we can earn God's favor. When a Christian allows that "dead man" of sin, his whole being is focused upon himself, seeking self-favor, self-satisfaction, self-glorification. The problem is, that "dead man" is indeed dead and cannot give what we want. But without repentence, we continue to struggle with ourselves for this gratification. Sproul skirts around this point but never comes out and says it. I think it is critical to understanding what he is saying. And what he is saying is very important.
We must indeed KNOW that we are forgiven, clean, and free. We must experience that freedom in Christ. When we reckon ourselves dead indeed to sin and alive unto God through Christ Jesus, we must do more than simply give mental ascent to the fact. We must LIVE it experientially. Sproul says powerfully, "Even if we aren’t convinced that after conversion we ought to be able to keep the law, we do tend to diminish the reality of the sin that remains in our lives." This is the warning. Do NOT diminish that remainder of sin. It is just as powerful and deadly as always. It will kill you no matter how small you think it is. And listen to this:
Just when you think it is small enough for you to handle, realize that you have just turned again to yourself, your god, and the futile belief that you can forgive, cleanse, and set yourself free from this little thing.
The rest of the chapter provides many excellent Biblical examples of experience. Like these men and women, we know that there will be times when we turn from God and do not believe Him. When the Holy Spirit speaks and checks, listen to His Words. To obey, turn to God. Repent. Seize the moment of mental ascent and act in obedience by faith. Do the thing God says to do. Believe He can. Believe He gave you just the right amount of faith to believe and do the thing. Turn it to experience before your eyes. If you do not, your mind will always, always, always, deceive you to turn back to your own dead god.
God says at the end of the book of I John, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen." This is the conclusion of the matter regarding I John 1:9. Stay away from your dead god. I find it most effective to allow the Holy Spirit to convict me not only of this ultimate deed, but also of those things that would draw me to it. "Lead us not into temptation...."