If God did not require what sinners cannot preform, then they would have no need for the Son of God to fulfill all righteousness for them, or for the Holy Spirit to work holiness in them. If we say that God cannot justly require sinners to perform that obedience which they cannot perform, we undermine both the law and the gospel. Because such obedience is precisely what God does require, the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit to conquer the sinner’s resistance to God and His will becomes a necessity. Power is necessary to change the sinner’s nature, causing him to love the will of God (which is to love the law of God). The power of the Holy Spirit in conversion puts God’s laws into the minds of people and writes God’s law on their hearts (Heb. 10:16), thus creating them in Christ Jesus ”for good works” (Eph. 2:10). The Spirit’s power works in quickening and raising them from the dead, opening their eyes, and calling them “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
If God only required what people could do for themselves, then all that He does for them in Christ would be unnecessary. Inasmuch as the commandments are beyond our ability, they show the fullness and suitableness of the promises of the gospel. God did not give the commandments to man after the Fall with expectation that we had the ability to keep them. Rather, they were given to convict us of our helplessness and inability to keep them, and thereby to cause us to cast ourselves on God’s mercy and seek His grace and forgiveness. And He will never be sought in vain.
The fact that we cannot keep the commandments is no surprise to God. He perfectly knows our inability, and the man who feels his own inability is fully encouraged to depend upon the power of the Savior. This brings together the supreme authority of the Lawgiver and the total insufficiency of the creature. It unites the full provision of the Savior and the all-sufficiency of the grace of God.
- We pray to God for what we lack.
- We are thankful to God for what we have.
- We trust God for what He has promised.
If God were to reduce our duty and make it commensurate to our ability, it would mean that the weaker we are, the less is our obligation; and the more sinful we are, the less is required of us.
Those who reject the law because man has no power to keep it seem to forget that they have no power even to believe the gospel. The command to believe is just as impossible for the natural man as the command to obey. The absence of ability does not imply absence of obligation in either case (John 6:44).
~ Ernie Reisinger, The Law and the Gospel (Cape Coral: Founders Press, 2019), 84-85.