Jesus appealed to reason when seeking to make his followers and even the scribes and pharisees see and understand God and His righteousness. Many, many Christians absolutely believe that God does not save anyone who does not come seeking Him and His forgiveness in Jesus Christ. We must make the first move then He takes over. We must come to Him of our own free will; He does not force Himself on anyone. Is this Truth? Is this what the conversation with Nicodemus bears out? Jesus appealed to reason for Nicodemus to understand about being born again, which most agree is the first step in a person’s salvation.
In the story of Nicodemus this is especially evident. The story is quoted below with Q&A. John 3:1
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Jesus doesn’t acknowledge the flattery of Nicodemus. Instead he tells us outright that unless a man is born again he cannot even SEE the Kingdom of God. If one cannot even see something it means two things. One cannot physically discern with the eye and one cannot comprehend the meaning of something or someone with the mind. Their thinking simply cannot make sense of the truth presented to it. It is like looking at a chalk board covered with the mathematical equations leading to the expression of the theory of relativity. Unless one has some idea of what all the letters and symbols mean there is no way to understand what they say or refer to. Or looking at the Lord’s Prayer written in Cyrillic or Greek when one has no comprehension of the Russian or Greek alphabet or language. One cannot even see the Lord’s Prayer. All one sees is meaningless marks on a page. Being suddenly infused with the ability to read and understand Russian or Greek would give one the ability to see (read understand) what one was looking at.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
Nicodemus appeals to reason as he sees it. He asks can a man enter again into the womb and be born again. This is an absolute impossibility and he knows it. But he is not taking into account the state of the man’s spirit which is what Jesus was talking about. Scripture gives us the condition of all men since The Fall of Adam–dead in trespass and sin. All if us save Jesus alone, since that Fall have inherited that nature from Adam–Dead in trespass and sin. This is the appeal to reason Jesus asks Nicodemus to recognize. Of Course a man cannot reenter his mother’s womb, that is ridiculous! It is the Spirit that must be born again because it was stillborn at conception and born dead in trespass and sin. Think, Nicodemus, of yourspiritual condition!
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Jesus said a man must be born of water and of the Spirit–born of water, born into the world as a child of Adam, and of the Spirit, the dead spirit must be regenerated, brought back to life by the Holy Spirit of God. All, every human who has ever lived save one alone was conceived a fallen child of Adam, spiritually dead. at some point after conception, the Spirit can, in the Providence of God, reanimate the dead. Case in point John the Baptist who leapt with joy in the womb when Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, visited them. That reaction of the baby John the Baptist must be considered the reaction of one born again who sees the Kingdom through spiritual eyes.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Flesh begets only flesh. John 6:63 says the flesh profiteth nothing, it is the spirit that quickeneth! There is no reasonable way to defend the idea that the spirit quickens itself, or that the flesh begets any spiritual good. In Scripture God uses truths of the physical realm to help us understand spiritual truth. In this case the physical truth is no one dies and then wills themselves back to life. The dead do not come back from the grave of their own volition. The dead do not call out for new life. The dead do not sit up and take medicine to cure themselves. The dead do not reach out for the paddles to shock their heart back to life. The dead do not bury themselves or come back to rewrite their wills after they are buried. The dead are utterly and absolutely helpless and at the mercy of others to be thrown into a ditch unmourned and unremembered or to be honored and remembered for generations to come. SO, since this is the absolute truth of the physical realm, the absolute truth as it applies to the spiritual realm is that the dead spirit that every child of Adam is conceived with is at the mercy of the Spirit for reanimation. The dead spirit does not cry out for help. The dead spirit does not seek a way out or a way to know God. The dead spirit is dead, incapable of any action of its own volition, it has no volition, it is dead. It is Completely at the mercy of God the merciful Creator of all that is and Giver of Life itself, while we were yet enemies He died for us and while we are still enemies in the flesh, He brings life to the spirit of each and every one of whom He chose to be in HIM from before the foundation of the world: His choice by His Sovereign power according to the good pleasure of His own will!
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
Reason says you should NOT be surprised that you need to be born again, spiritually, in order to have spiritual life!
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
No more than our physical senses can tell us where the wind comes from or where it goes, they do not feel the work of the Holy Spirit. Just as we do not remember our physical birth Jesus is saying it is unreasonable to expect that we can know the moment the Spirit does his work of regeneration or how long it has been since it happened. Man makes his plans but God orders his steps to show the outworking of redemption. The man born blind that Jesus healed was forty years old before God showed His power in healing him. Did the man ask why He waited so long?
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
Nicodemus had learned his theology at the hands of the Scribes and Pharisees. He knew only what they taught him because he never sought to apply reason to their teaching! He did not question everything and hold to that which was good.
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
Again Jesus appeals to reason that as a master of Israel, Nicodemus should know that God is the potter that hath absolute power over the clay(clay being all mankind) of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor(to be used unto the glory of God in this realm i.e. John the Baptist) and another unto dishonor(to be used to dishonor God and the body in this realm i.e. Judas).
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
Again appealing to reason as to how! We are asked to use reason to understand truth. The truth is the flesh profiteth nothing.
Now how does free will fit into this? Is the will of the flesh free? Well even if it is what good is it? The flesh profiteth what? Nothing! So what does Jesus say? Seek reason! The flesh presents its works to God and the spirit is dead in trespass and sin. Those who have ears to hear, have spiritual ears to hear the heavenly things of God. The ears of a corpse, physical or spiritual, hear nothing. They do not hear the truth that one must be born again until after one is born again!. Can the flesh’s sense of self-preservation want to try to imitate the life that is only available by the mercy of God? Sure? Does the flesh want to take credit for accepting the good news of the forgiveness of Christ? Sure! It is only the will of the regenerate spirit that can hear the gospel, that can choose Christ, that can demonstrate the gift of true faith that is the gift of God. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God in giving one ears to hear which are the spiritual ears of the regenerate spirit. Is it possible I am wrong about this? Sure. Is it reasonable? No. What is proven by Scripture beyond a reasonable doubt is that regeneration must precede faith. The exercise of true faith, the faith that reaches out from spirit to Spirit cannot occur any other way.
How is the Absolute Sovereignty of God denied by the theory of free will? If God decided who was chosen from before the foundation of the world, and then even one of those who were chosen decided during their life on earth that they were not going to comply with God’s plan, then the Decree of God that called that person would be rendered moot. The will of the creature would overrule the will of the Creator. God would not be The Sovereign Lawgiver but only the Big Man in the sky who’s plan may or may not work.