Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2004 9:49 PM

Brother James White alleges in his book, "The Potter's Freedom," that Lazarus was already made alive prior to Jesus' commanding him to "come forth" (pages 284, 285).

James says that "Corpses do not obey commands, corpses do not move." So Lazarus could not have "come forth" unless he was already alive and able to comply with the Lord's command, according to James.

James says this is the same way it is with a lost sinner: namely, he is already born again before he believes. He could not obey the command to believe unless he was already born again and able to do so, according to James. This is basically the same argument of the Pelagians, Campbellites, Hardshells, Arminians, and Mormons -- a "command implies ability."

In referring to the case of Lazarus, James says "the unregenerate man is just like Lazarus," so as Lazarus was allegedly made alive to be able to hear Christ's voice, so the dead sinner allegedly has to be made alive in order to obey the command to believe.

Was this view in regard to Lazarus the view of some more prominent, more influential Calvinists? I checked the views of C. H. Spurgeon, John Gill, and Arthur W. Pink to see if they taught the same idea about Lazarus as held by James White, that Lazarus was made alive before he heard the voice of Christ. I found that these men differ with the view of James, and they believed that Lazarus came to life when he heard the voice of Christ, it being the Word of power which restored life to him. They believed this is the way it is with sinners -- sinners hear the Word of God and the Holy Spirit blesses it to the creation of faith.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

The Complete Index to Spurgeon's sermons reveals that he preached at least two sermons on John 11:43, 44, sermons numbered 1776 (Volume 30) and 2554 (Volume 44).

In sermon #1776, page 221, Volume 30, Spurgeon says:


“And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.” — John 11:43, 44.

The voice of him who wept was heard in the chambers of death-shade, and forth came the soul of Lazarus to live again in the body. “The weakness of God” proved itself to be stronger than death and mightier than the grave. It is a parable of our own case as workers. Sometimes we see the human side of the gospel, and wonder whether it can do many mighty works. When we tell the story, we fear that it will appear to the people as a thrice-told tale. We wonder how it can be that truth so simple, so homely, so common should have any special power about it. Yet it is so. Out of the foolishness of preaching the
wisdom of God shines forth. The glory of the eternal God is seen in that gospel which we preach in much trembling and infirmity. Let us therefore glory in our infirmity, because the power of God doth all the more evidently rest upon us. Let us not despise our day of small things, nor be dismayed because we are manifestly so feeble. This work is not for our
honor, but for the glory of God, and any circumstance which tends to make that glory more evident is to be rejoiced in.

Let us consider for a few moments the instrumental cause of this resurrection. Nothing was used by our Lord but his own word of power. Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” He simply repeated the dead man’s name, and added two commanding words. This was a simple business enough. Dear friends, a miracle seems all the greater when the means used are apparently feeble and little adapted to the working of
so great a result. It is so in the salvation of men. It is marvellous that such poor preaching should convert such great sinners. Many are turned unto the Lord by the simplest, plainest, most unadorned preaching of the gospel. They hear little, but that little is from the lip of Jesus. Many converts find Christ by a single short sentence. The divine life is borne into their hearts upon the wings of a brief text. The preacher owned no eloquence, he made no attempt at it; but the Holy Spirit spoke through him with a power which eloquence could not rival. Thus said the Lord “Ye dry bones live”; and
they did live. I delight to preach my Master’s gospel in the plainest terms. I would speak still more simply if I could. I would borrow the language of Daniel concerning Belshazzar’s robe of scarlet and his chain of gold, and I would say to rhetoric, “Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another.” The power to quicken the dead lieth not in the wisdom of words but in the Spirit of the living God. The voice is Christ’s voice, and the word is the word of him who is the resurrection and the life, and therefore
men live by it.
Let us rejoice that it is not needful that you and I should become orators in order that the Lord Jesus should speak by us: let the Spirit of God rest upon us, and we shall be endowed with power from on high: so that even the spiritually dead shall through us hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.

In sermon #2554, pages 49, 54, 55, Volume 44, Spurgeon says:

“And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.” — John 11:43, 44.

The very fact that Lazarus came from his grave, after he had lain there four days, and was corrupt, and that he was called from the sepulcher by the mighty voice of Jesus, is to us a proof that the dead shall rise at the voice of Jesus at the last great day. . . .

Now let us deal with the subject in another manner. The death of Lazarus, his burial in the tomb, and his corruption, are a figure and picture of the spiritual condition of every soul by nature. The voice of Jesus, crying, “Lazarus, come forth,” is an emblem of the voice of Jesus, by his Spirit, which quickens the soul;  . . .

II. But now comes the wonder-working process, THE VOICE OF LIFE. Jesus said, “Lazarus, come forth.”

We commence, then, with this wonder-working process by saying that the giving of life to Lazarus was instantaneous. There lay Lazarus in the grave, dead and corrupt. Jesus cried aloud, “Lazarus, come forth.” We do not read that a single moment elapsed between the time when Christ said the word and when Lazarus came out of his grave. It did not take the soul an instant to wing its way from Hades into the body of Lazarus; nor did that body need any delay to become alive again. So, if the Lord speaks to a man, and quickens him to spiritual life, it is an instantaneous work. There are some of you standing there, apparently alive; but you feel, you acknowledge, you confess, that you are dead. Well, if the Lord speaks to you tonight, life will come into you in a moment, in one single instant. The power of grace is shown in this, that it converts a man instantly, and on the spot it does not take hours to justify, — justification is done in a moment; it does not take hours to regenerate, — regeneration is done in a second. We are born, and we die, naturally, in instants; and so it is with regard to spiritual death and spiritual life; they occupy no period of time, but are done instanter, whenever Jesus speaks. Oh! if my Master would tonight cry, “Lazarus, come forth,” there is not a Lazarus here — although covered with the shroud of drunkenness, bound about with the belt of
swearing, or surrounded with a huge sarcophagus of evil habit and wickedness, — who would not burst that sarcophagus, and come forth a living man.

But mark; it was not the disciples, but Jesus, who said, “Lazarus, come forth.” . . .  Oh! does not this lower the pride of the minister? What is he? He is a poor little trumpet through which God blows, but nothing else. In vain do I scatter seed, it is on God the harvest depends; and all my brethren in the ministry might preach till they were blind, but they would have no success unless the Spirit attended the quickening Word.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771)

No one was ever a more staunch Calvinist than Dr. Gill, and he always associated the use of means with the power of the Spirit in calling men to Christ. Here is what he says about the case of Lazarus:

Commentary on John 11:43:


Ver. 43. And when he had thus spoken,.... To God his Father, in the presence and hearing of the people; he cried with a loud voice; not on account of the dead, but for the sake of those around him, that all might hear and observe; and chiefly to show his majesty, power and authority, and that what he did was open and above board, and not done by any secret, superstitious, and magical whisper; and as an emblem of the voice and power of his Gospel in quickening dead sinners, and of the voice of the archangel and trumpet of God, at the general resurrection;

Lazarus come forth; he calls him by his name, not only as being his friend, and known by him, but to distinguish him from any other corpse that might lie interred in the same cave; and he bids him come forth out of the cave, he being quickened and raised immediately by the power which went forth from Christ as soon as ever he lifted up his voice; which showed him to be truly and properly God, and to have an absolute dominion over death and the grave.

ARTHUR W. PINK (1886-1952)

In A. W. Pink's Commentary on John, pages 613, 614, 615, we find the following:


"And when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth" (John 11:43). . . . It is striking to note that Christ here did nothing except to say, "Lazarus, come forth." It was the last great public witness to Christ as the incarnate Word. And, too, it perfectly illustrated the means which God employs in regeneration. Men are raised spiritually, pass from death unto life, by means of the written Word, and by that alone. Providences, personal testimonies, loss of loved ones, deeply as these sometimes may stir the natural man, they never "quicken" a soul into newness of life. We are born again, "not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (1 Pet. 1:23)."Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth" (John 11:44). At the sound of that Voice the king of terrors at once yielded up his lawful captive, and the insatiable grave gave up its prey. Captivity was led captive and Christ stood forth as the Conqueror of sin, death and Satan. . . .

A most striking figure of this was Lazarus. Dead, in the grave, his body already gone to corruption. At the almighty word of Christ "he that was dead came forth."

It is obvious from these brief quotes from Spurgeon, Gill, and Pink that James White holds a view on Lazarus which is in direct contrast to that of these Calvinists. It seems that James' sole purpose in referring to Lazarus is an effort to support his "logical" apparatus to sustain his Pelagian-like view that "command implies ability," and that this necessitates his theory on the new birth that "life precedes faith." He must have Lazarus alive before he hears the Word of Christ, for this is the "ordo salutis" view of the new birth which James is determined to prove. -- Bob L. Ross

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