Ez. 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
Calvinists normally love the idea that God randomly chooses some individuals out of a crowd of people and give the former a new heart, a new Spirit, which will enable them to have faith in God and to be able to follow him. (Who cares about the rest, right?) Unfortunately they run into problems within the same verse when we can read about being caused to walk in God’s statutes. In NIV it reads “move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws”. So if Calvinists are among those who have been given a new heart as per Ez. 36:26-27, does this mean that they always obey God’s decrees without failing even once? Have they completely stopped sinning? It is a relevant question because Calvinists are usually more keen than others to teach that all men “always sin in thoughts, words and deeds”. Or can we conclude that God fails at times when he tries to cause his elect to walk in his statutes, knowing that also Calvinists can choose to sin at times?
I think the better solution is to side with the Free-will option which suggests that it is the holy Spirit which is referred to here as the great Helper which can guide us (move us) on the right path, but not necessarily unconditionally or without our participation. Hebr. 10 phrases it as “I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them”. “Causing” could signify “forcing” but it could also mean “influencing” which would here make a lot more sense. That would also help the Calvinists who must try to explain why God fails to “force” people to always obey him, as they suggest the verse says. On the other hand, loads of Calvinists confess that they believe God also causes people to sin (since nothing happens against his will) so whether people avoid sin or not, God would still be the one who makes them behave the way they do. This leads to another question:
If some people are given a particular heart that suddenly makes them obey God and walk in his statutes (which would here include sin), does this mean that prior to this moment they were not forced to walk in his statutes and in whatever way God wants them to walk? If they were forced to obey God also prior to the new heart, what difference did the new heart really make? If God chooses some people (his elect) to always walk in his statutes, will the rest (the non-elect) be able to deviate from God’s preferred path and walk their own ways?
The promise of a new heart is by faith, and concerns the holy Spirit in our hearts
The promise of a new purified heart is by faith as can be seen in the verses below and it can be cleansed in the blood of Jesus. The new heart is in reference to a heart that is dedicated to God and the holy Spirit indwelling in our hearts as well as through participation of a the covenant which Paul describes in Rom. 8. It is through the power of the Spirit that the believer can put to death the misdeeds of the flesh and live according to the Spirit. This is the fulfillment of the promise given in Ezekiel 36:26-27, but we can also read about other prophesies in the same chapter (concerning the promise that the dispersed Israel will be able to come home). The passage is in harmony with the Bible’s teaching that the promises and benefits of the new covenant are by faith (not being born as a Jew under the law of Moses) and include a new heart and the holy Spirit which we will get in response to our true repentance.
The author of Hebrews encourages us to draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith. How do we get a true heart? By having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. How can this be achieved? By repenting of our sins which God expects us all to do (Acts. 17:30):
Hebr. 10:16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;21 And having an high priest over the house of God;22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
The covenant referred to above is the one mentioned in Jer. 31. Here we can read about a former covenant which Israel broke:
Jer. 31:30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.35 Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name:36 If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.
We are also asked to cleanse our hands and purify our own hearts
Ja. 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. CLEANSE your hands, ye sinners; and PURIFY YOUR HEARTS, ye double minded.
So how our WE going to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts? By standing on faith and by confessing sins, repenting and thus become cleansed in the blood of Jesus. We do not have the authority to forgive ourselves for breaking God’s law, but it is up to us to repent and start living a holy life with the help of the holy Spirit given to us after our conversion.
Peter speaks about the heathens and their possibility to also receive the Holy Ghost (without having to go through a circumcision of the flesh) and explains that our hearts are purified BY FAITH:
Acts 15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts BY FAITH.10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Through the mercy of Christ we can be forgiven for our past iniquities and thus be cleansed from our sins and be complete. Sinning will always cause spiritual death, but we can be quickened (becoming spiritually alive) if we decide to repent from our sins. We can be risen with him “through faith”!:
Col. 2:10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.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;14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
The order of salvation: pursuing faith, confessing sins, repenting, being cleansed (regeneration), being born again, getting the holy Spirit and becoming a child of God
Peter makes it clear that the order of salvation is 1) having faith, 2) repenting, 3) resulting in cleansing/washing (=regeneration), 4) resulting in being born again, 5) resulting in getting the holy Ghost and becoming a child of God. God will certainly not declare us cleansed and righteous while we are still living in sin:
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
Also John says that we must confess our sins (repent) in order to be cleansed from them:
1 John 1:9 If we CONFESS our sins, he is faithful and just to FORGIVE us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
And below we can read that his own received him not (strange if people are chosen to be chosen elect from the foundation of the world) but that those who a) received him were given the power to b) become the sons of God (those who believe in his name). It does not say the other way around that the sons of God were given the power to believe and receive him:
John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Below we can read about Paul’s disappointment concerning some Galatians (for whom Jesus was crucified) who risked to believe in vain despite having begun in the Spirit. He asks “who has bewitched you?“, and if Paul was a Calvinist he should have known that the answer must be “God did, because he directs all of our steps” if nothing happens against God’s will. Paul also asks if they received the Spirit by works of the law (the law of Moses) or by the hearing of FAITH, indicating that they were not first given the Spirit and afterwards given faith. No, naturally faith is first and then we are provided with the Spirit:
Gal. 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
Other information in the same chapter – Ez. 36
Hes. 36:5 Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.
What would be the reason for God’s jealousy if all things turn out God’s way?
17 Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman.18 Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it:19 And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them.20 And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of his land.21 But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went.22 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.
Wow, above we read about Israel (God’s elect) defiling land, worshiping false gods, profaning God’s name, and this naturally cause God’s fury. Why would God be furious about things that turned out the way God wanted? We can read “according to their way and according to their doings I judged them”. I thought it was always God’s doing if nothing ever happens against his will? And why judge people who constantly obey God whether they avoid sin or not?
25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Also above we can read about Israel turning to filthiness and idols which they must be cleansed from. After the washing of sins, the holy Spirit is the great Helper.
31 Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.32 Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.33 Thus saith the Lord God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded.
Above we can read about “your own evil ways” and their doings that were “not good”. Why were they not good if God made them act the way they did? No, here we can once again read about people who have walked on their own ways, against God’s will. They have been guilty of iniquities and abominations before God, and obviously a righteous God would not cause anyone (must less Israel) to perform wicked abominations. Why does God suggest they should be ashamed and confounded for their own ways, if their ways always lined up with God’s way?
Examples of hardening of a heart
Deut. 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. 17For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward
Jer. 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
Hebr. 3:7 Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness
Ps 95:7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 HARDEN NOT YOUR HEART, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
Pro 28:13He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.14 Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.
2 Chron 36:11 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. 12 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORDhis God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the LORD.13 And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel.
Deut 15:7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.
Deut 30:1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (Notice that God will circumcise their hearts AFTER they return to Him which is a condition.)
1 King. 8:58 That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.—61 Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.
2 Chron. 12:14 And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.
Read about Pharao’s rebellious heart here.