Is the Dead Sinner Unable to Act?

By Larry Ray Hafley

Calvinists of various shades and shadows picture and portray the sinner as a passive, inactive recipient of divine grace. Calvinism says the sinner is unable to answer the call of the Spirit for the same reason that a dead man cannot obey oral commands and verbal demands. A corpse cannot act until it is given life. Correspondingly, a dead sinner cannot perform until the Spirit of God quickens and renews him. If the poor sinner has the misfortune of being left out of those whom God has elected to be saved, he is doomed and damned, and there is nothing he can do about it. Worse still, there is nothing God or the Spirit will do about it, for, according to Calvin, it was God’s “good pleasure” to damn the damned. The Spirit will not effect a “work of grace” on his heart, and he cannot hear or heed on his own. “Nevertheless God continues to hold them responsible to respond to his call” (The Five Points Of Calvinism; p. 3).

Hypothetically, even if the Spirit were to feel remorse for the sinner and rebel against God and operate on his heart, it would not accomplish anything. The surgery would fail because Calvinism says Christ did not die for the sinner in the first place. So, the Holy Spirit need not bother.

The Definition Of “Dead”

All agree that the sinner is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13). The sinner is spiritually dead. The Calvinist says this means the sinner is unable to move. Like a corpse in a coffin, he cannot respond. But is this the meaning of the term “dead” as applied to the sinner? Paul defined the term for us in Col. 2:13: “And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” To be quickened (made alive) is to be forgiven. Therefore, to be dead means to be unforgiven. Further, Paul showed that to be “quickened” is the same as being saved. See.. his interchangeable use of the terms in Eph. 2:1,5. To be made alive is to be saved; therefore, to be dead is to be unsaved.

The divine definition:



Thus, the term “dead” as applied to the sinner is not parallel in all respects to the physical corpse. A dead man cannot hear. So, the Calvinist says the dead sinner cannot hear the Gospel. This perverts Paul’s definition of the term, and what is equally as bad, it “makes void” the very words of Jesus in John 5:25. Said He, “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” First, the dead_ hear, then they live. The Calvinist, however, puts the passage in reverse and perverts; Christ’s words when He says the dead sinner cannot hear until after he is made alive by the Spirit.



In Rom. 11:14,15, Paul used the term “dead,” not to indicate inability to act, but to refer to the condition of being lost, unsaved. “If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” If the Calvinist is correct in his definition of dead when he says the dead sinner is unable to act, Paul was wasting his time. He was seeking to “provoke to emulation” those who were dead. How do you provoke a corpse to emulation? Paul wanted to save some of them if he could. Their salvation would be “life from the dead.” Again, salvation equals life, while being unsaved is equal to being “dead.”

Dead In Sins And Dead To Sins

The sinner is “dead in sins” and cannot obey the Gospel says Calvinism. He has to be quickened by the Spirit before he can act. “You might as well ask a corpse to obey you as to ask a dead sinner to obey the Gospel.” Being dead in sins, the sinner cannot obey according to Calvinists.

If this be true; what of the child of God? He is said to be “dead to sin” (Rom. 6:2; 1 Pet. 2:24). Should we conclude that the child of God cannot sin? If the sinner’s being “dead in sin” means he cannot obey the truth, then the fact that saints are “dead to sin” ought to prove that saved ones cannot commit sin. If we use the Calvinist’s definition of “dead” the conclusion is inescapable, i.e., the Christian cannot sin. However, the saved may obey sin in the lusts thereof (Rom. 6:12,13,16). Thus; the term dead does not imply the absolute impossibility of acting, whether on the part of the saint or the sinner.

Truth Magazine, XX:3, p. 2
January 15, 1976