Luk 16:27 And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house--
Luk 16:28 for I have five brothers--so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' Luk 16:29 But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' Luk 16:30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' Luk 16:31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"
As I was thinking about this passage about Lazarus and the rich man I thought there was a point to be made. There is something in these verses that completely destroys the idea that everyone has the ability to accept or reject the gospel; Arminianism to be precise. Dives makes the mistake that so many do, even many Christians, which is that it is possible through convincing evidences, miraculous displays or some kind of human reasoning to convince the natural man that he should repent of his sins and trust in Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
The problem is that the Bible is quite clear that until one is regenerated, is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he cannot exercise faith. Simply put one cannot demonstrate signs of spiritual life until one is given spiritual life and we are all born spiritually dead, 1Co 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Notice that Dives says that if Lazarus rises from the dead or appears in some way to his brothers they will take his warning more seriously than the Scriptures that they already have. The presupposition is that they can be convinced; they just need strong enough evidence. He assumes that the written Word is not enough but to see someone raised from the grave is a sure fire way to prove that there is a God and his Word is true.
But Jesus’s rebuttal is crystal clear and if one is honest with the Bible he must deal with this doctrine. The Word of God, the good news recorded in it, is sufficient to convert sinners and the most spectacular miracle will not convince sinners when the gospel cannot.
The reason is expanded on later in John 3 when Jesus explains to Nicodemus that one cannot see the Kingdom of God until he is born again. There must be an inward work because a work from without falls on deaf ears and blind eyes.
Christians often are tempted to think that simply preaching Christ isn’t enough but we have to convince sinners through “proving” the existence of God or entertainment or by performing miracles or something that will catch their attention. But the text above is unmistakable that all they need is the gospel for it alone is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The reason God saves only through the gospel is so that when a sinner is converted God alone gets the glory for it was his power not our mental abilities. If Lazarus came back from the grave and convinced the brothers to repent it wouldn’t have been Christ who would have been the focus but Lazarus.
In fact someone did rise from the dead and the issue for sinners isn’t really proving whether he did or didn’t rise, it is that the natural man doesn’t want to submit to his God. It takes a new heart to repudiate who we are and turn to Christ and until that happens, miracles and proof aren’t the issues, repentance of our sinfulness is.