God made man in His image, male and female, He created them in His likeness (Gen 1:26). All that God created was very good (Gen 1:31). God is holy (Lev 11:44). God is righteous (Dt 32:4). God is all-knowing (Jn 16:30; 1 Jn 3:20). He gifted Adam and Eve with the virtue of knowledge. They knew God. He gave them right standing before Him. They were righteous. He also set them apart from the rest of creation. They were holy unto God.
Along with their minds and hearts, their wills were functional, with God’s goodness bestowed upon them. As creatures, man had both a body and a soul. With the knowledge of God, Adam had the wisdom to name the animals (Gen 2:19). Man had dominion (Gen 1:26).
Man’s fall into sin was utterly ruinous (Gen 3). Corruption visited Adam and Eve with a degree of totality. Every aspect of who they were, body and soul, was totally depraved (Rom 3:10–12). First came spiritual death, as they were removed from Eden (Gen 2:17). Physical death followed (Rom 6:23).
Man was no longer good (Rom 3:10–12). He no longer had right standing (righteousness). He was unholy (1 Tim 1:9). His knowledge of God was so distorted that man turned to the creatures (Rom 1:18–32), and even to himself, and said, “god!”
With the loss of the knowledge of God, man no longer had the fear of God (Prv 1:7). Man did what was right in his own eyes (Jdg 17:6). Right was whatever his selfish interests deemed personally profitable.
Fallen man, with his sin nature (Eph 2:3), was inclined to only do evil, all the time (Gen 6:5). In the futility of his mind (Eph 4:17), and with the wicked deceit of his heart (Jer 17:9), man chose evil because he had made himself a slave to sin (Jn 8:34; Rom 6:6) — by his free will and choice, while still innocent in the Garden. There was no going back (Gen 3:24).
Adam’s progeny are conceived in the corruption of original sin (Ps 51:5; Rom 5:12), which is inherited by all people. Men choose evil because they are evil, by nature and practice (Eph 2:3). As image bearers, no longer bearing the image of God (righteousness, knowledge, holiness), they now bear the image of their father, the devil (Jn 8:44; 2 Cor 4:4; 1 Jn 3:10). Men are liars (Rom 3:4). They are sinners (Rom 3:23; 5:8); and under the wrath of God (Rom 1:18), for their endless transgressions of God’s holy Law (1 Jn 3:4).
Jesus Christ is the icon of God (Col 1:15). It is unto the image of the only begotten Son of God that salvation transforms sinners into conformity (Rom 8:29). Sinners are restored to the knowledge of God, by receiving the knowledge of Jesus Christ (Prv 9:10; 1 Cor 2:16; 2 Cor 4:6), who is Himself the truth (Jn 14:6). Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God (1 Cor 1:24). By His grace, alone, comes the revelation of God through the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the Bible, God’s Word of truth (Ps 119:160; Jn 17:17).
This gracious revelation informs God’s chosen, redeemed, regenerate people of their transfer to the kingdom of God, where righteousness dwells (Col 1:13; 2 Pet 3:13). They are justified before God because the alien righteousness of Jesus Christ has been imputed to them (Ps 24:5; Rom 4:11; 5:17; 2 Pet 1:1).
This gracious revelation also informs the saint that God has begun His gracious work of sanctification in her (Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 4:3, 7; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). God’s Spirit and God’s Word are crafting this new creature into conformity to Christ (wisdom, righteous, holy). She is to put on the new self (clothe herself in Christ), which, in the likeness of God, has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth (Eph 4:24). The new creature in Christ is being renewed to a true knowledge, according to the image of the One who created her (Col 3:10).
With the image of God (knowledge, righteousness, holiness) lost in Adam’s fall, the image of God (knowledge, righteousness, holiness) is restored in Christ, who is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). This is our salvation, and it is not by the will of man (Jn 1:13; Rom 9:16).
It is a Pelagian error (sin is only an action by choice), advanced by the Arminian error, that claims the neutrality of the will of man from Adam to Christ. The crux of the Arminian error is the separation of the spiritual gifts/bestowed virtues (image of God) from Adam’s will (neutral). In order to maintain the sacred idol of man’s free will, after the fall, Arminians must claim that Adam’s free will was not connected, in any way, to the virtues of the image of God in Adam before the fall.
Stated another way, pre-fall Adam could choose good or evil, even good and evil, with a perfectly neutral (uninfluenced) will. With his free will decision (sin), his loss did not affect his free will (neutral) decision after the fall. Today, man still has the wisdom and power to choose good and evil. This error naturally leads to the next error — denial of man’s total depravity (unwillingness and inability to seek God). In their view, fallen man is not helpless, nor hopeless.
The consequences of elevating the state of fallen man (Superman with some kryptonite issues), ultimately devalues and denies God’s sovereignty in salvation. This fallacy — neutrality of man’s free will — forces God into creating a conditional covenant, whereby man is the ultimate determiner of whether or not he will be saved.
In this prevarication, the election of God is null. Predestination is denied. The regeneration of dead souls, by the life-giving Holy Spirit, is made subject to the self-will and decision of the dead. The dead set themselves apart (holy), with great wisdom (knowledge), to reposition themselves aright (righteousness), by their own (uninfluenced by anything) will.
Rejecting Arminian heresies such as these, we acknowledge the truth of Adam’s total corruption and loss of God’s image. We rejoice in the sovereign grace of God’s salvation of us, as totally depraved sinners. We are enthralled with His restorative process of the image of God in Christians. We are humbled by the reinstitution of knowledge, righteousness, and holiness in us. We, who have been joined (ingrafted) in union to Christ (Gal 2:20; 1 Cor 1:30; 1 Jn 4:13), delight that this is entirely by God’s free will and gracious choice. This is the power of the Gospel (Rom 1:16), at work in us who believe, and who believe because of His gift given to us (Rom 5:5).
The will of man was free in Adam before the fall; but it was enslaved after the fall, only to be restored in its power to choose good, in Christ. It was never neutral, as the Arminians erroneously teach.
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 7, 2022