Finney: Man Can Obey God

One reason Charles Finney was so successful as an evangelist was his insistence that all people are accountable for their actions. Finney didn’t allow excuses; in his view, too many people would hide behind a theology that said they couldn’t obey God. He considered that illogical and dangerous to one’s spiritual state. In his Revival Lectures, he is quite blunt:

Revival LecturesWe, as moral agents, have the power to obey God, and are perfectly bound to obey; and the reason that we do not is, that we are unwilling. The influences of the Spirit are wholly a matter of grace. If they were indispensable to enable us to perform duty, the bestowment of them would not be a gracious act, but a mere matter of common justice.

Sinners are not bound to repent because they have the Spirit’s influence, or because they can obtain it, but because they are moral agents, and have the powers which God requires them to exercise. So in the case of Christians. . . .

When God commands us to do a thing, it is the highest possible evidence that we can do it. For God to command is equivalent to an oath that we can do it. He has no right to command, unless we have the power to obey. There is no stopping short of the conclusion that God is tyrannical, if He commands that which is impracticable.

The children of Israel were told in Deuteronomy, chapter 30, that they were capable of obeying God:

For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?” . . . But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.

I’m also reminded what the apostle John says in chapter 5 of his first letter:

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

We are called to lives of obedience, and He’s given us the ability to be obedient. It’s time we stop making excuses for sin.