Article 10 – Human Ability & Responsibility

Articles of Faith

10-1 In his original creation man was endowed with the ability to will and do good or evil and was accountable for his willing and doing.1 But through the fall of Adam man lost his ability, apart from God’s grace,2 to will and to do those things necessary for a right relationship with God;3 however, he is still accountable to God for obedience to all of His commands.4 Man has not lost his ability to make decisions,5 but left to himself, he acts only in accordance with his fallen, sinful nature.6 

10-2 “Only by God’s infinite grace can man will or do anything necessary to his salvation.7 By that grace, God saves those men whom He causes to will and to do good;8 however, He does this without nullifying man’s ability to act responsibly.9 

1 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen.2:16,17). 

2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath (Eph.2:1-3). 

3 There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God (Rom.3:11). Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God (Rom.8:8). 

4 God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Rom.2:6-10). In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). 

5 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (Deu.30:11,19). 

6 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom.3:10,12). Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil (Jer.13:23). (See also footnote 2). 

7 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy (Rom.9:16). 

8 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:18) Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – (13) children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13) 

9 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Phil.2:12,13).

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