Part 2
Chapter 4—Of Efficacious Grace

Section 6—2 Corinthians 3:5.

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.

The argument from hence, proving the insufficiency of man's free will, and the necessity of the grace of God to the doing of that which is spiritually good, stands thus: If men are insufficient of themselves to, or cannot by the strength of free will, think anything that is spiritually good, much less can they will, and still less perform, that which is so. But,

1. It is said,[1] that this argument, "if it proves anything, proves too much; namely, that we are not sufficient of ourselves, logi>sasqai> ti, to think anything at all, whether it be good or bad." I reply, that neither the words of the apostle, nor our argument upon them, prove so much; nor the words of the apostle; since by ti, anything,he means either any good thing, or any evil thing, or any thing that is neither good nor evil; not any evil thing, for the imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil continually (Gen. 6:5), nor any thing that is neither good nor evil; for men are capable of themselves of thinking of things natural and civil, which, in a moral sense, are neither good nor evil. It remains, then, that he means any good thing which respects God, and Christ, and faith in them; as when our Lord says, Without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5); his meaning is not, that we can do no natural or civil action of life, or no evil action, without him, but no good one. Nor does our argument, on these words of the apostle, prove so much; since it is limited to things which are spiritually good. Moreover, the logi>sasqai, here used, does not signify barely to think, but to think with judgment and affection (see Phil. 4:8), which no man, with respect to spiritual things, is capable of without the grace of God.

2. It is urged,[2] that "the words relate to the apostles, and to them alone, and are a declaration of their own insufficiency to carry on the great work of conversion of the world to the Christian faith by their own strength and wisdom, without the illuminations and powerful operations of the Holy Ghost." To which I answer, that the apostle is indeed speaking of the ministry of the Gospel by him and others, and of the success of it, and of their trust and confidence through Christ concerning it (vv. 3, 4); yet in these words he speaks in general terms; Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think anything as of ourselves,either with respect to the work of the ministry, or the conversion of souls, or our trust in God, or anything else that is of a spiritual nature: but our sufficiency,for every spiritual work, is of God. And then he proceeds to take notice particularly of their fitness for the ministry they had of God. Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament.Whereas, if the words in the fifth verse relate particularly to the sufficiency the apostles had from God for the work of the ministry he must be guilty of a very great tautology in the sixth verse;for the sense of both must be this; We are not sufficient for the work of the ministry of ourselves, but our sufficiency for it is of God; o{v kai, who also hath made us sufficient ministers of the New Testament. Besides, if the apostles were not sufficient of themselves to think,study, or collect anything together, fit for the ministry of the Gospel, and so as to be useful to the good of souls, much less must a natural man be able to think any spiritual good thing, and still less be able to do anything towards his regeneration, or in the real work of faith and conversion, which is entirely owing to the efficacious grace of God.


[1] Whitby, p. 278; ed. 2.271.

[2] Whitby, ibid.; Remonstr. Act. Synod, circ. art. 4:p. 168; Limborch, p. 383.

Gill Index