Thursday, 30 June 2016

IS SALVATION 100% GOD'S WORK?

Someone shared on Facebook that salvation is 100% God's work. His theological understanding probably has been shaped by the following verses:
  • “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).
  • “Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault” (Jude 24).

Though God promises to keep believers strong and safe till, one day, we are ushered into heaven, other factors also come into play.
  • Though God is working in believers, giving us the desire and the power to do what pleases Him, we still have to work hard to show the results of our salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear (Philippians 2:12-13).
  • Though God is able to keep us from falling, it does not mean nothing is required on our part. In fact, we must build each other up in our most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring us eternal life. In this way, we will keep ourselves safe in God’s love (Jude 20-21).
  • Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ (Hebrews 3:12-14).

Here is my response to the one who shared that salvation is 100% God's work:

If salvation is 100% God's work, then we might as well sleep in on Sunday, go for golf and dim sum, stop praying and reading the Word and live our lives the way we desire it. This kind of view, which places the ball entirely at the court of God, is erroneous and fails to take into account huge swathes of scripture that show otherwise.

To assert that salvation is entirely God's work is to deny the role of personal responsibility, forget man’s susceptibility to temptation and deception, do away with the need for endurance and faithfulness till the end and ignore the fact that man has a free will—he can choose either to obey God or live for himself, even after being saved.

In the course of his journey of faith, man can get deceived, choose to deny God or willfully live in sin, and thus overturn and nullify the good work of salvation that God has started in his life.

While it is true that only God can forgive and justify a repentant sinner (John 5: 24), salvation cannot be 100% God’s work. God expects those He has forgiven to henceforth play their part—exercise personal responsibility—by forsaking a sinful lifestyle and turning to God in obedience and righteous living. So how can salvation be 100% God's work?

Jesus, who forgave the woman caught in adultery, required her to forsake her previous sinful lifestyle, "Go and sin no more." To say that we can carry on living in sin—since God's righteousness has already been imputed to us and He sees us as pure—is a gross perversion of God's free gift of grace (John 8:11, Acts 26:20b, Titus 2:11-12).

                                                              
If man fails to keep his end of the "bargain", he may miss out on the ultimate reward of the salvation process that God started in him—eternal life (Philippians 1:6).

While it is true that, at the point of conversion, a believer is justified in Christ, he can fall into sin, harden his heart, deny God and, thus, lose his favour in God's sight (Romans 11:22). His righteousness is not necessarily permanent but dependent on his will, and susceptibility to deception and temptation.

If justification brings about an unassailable position of permanent righteousness for a believer, why is there a need to overcome temptation and deception? Why are there warnings against falling away and apostasy? (Hebrews 6: 4-6) Where do we get the notion that the Christian life is passive and that victory comes easy? Did not Paul proclaim he was glad he fought the good fight of faith and kept the faith at the end of his life? (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

So, at this juncture, it is easy to see why there is a need for persevering faith on our part before the good work of salvation which God began in us culminates in success (Hebrews 10:36-39, Matthew 24:9-13).

Salvation is a process with a beginning and an end, after which believers get to reap the reward of eternal life. Though we are saved by faith to enter into a journey of faith (Romans 1:16-17), believers still have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Faith is a word with broad ramifications. If we claim we believe in God, we have to take action according to what we believe. Otherwise, we will be like satan who also believe God exists (James 2:19).

If Noah merely believed in God but failed to act by building the ark, he and his family would have perished (Hebrews 11:7).

Similarly, in the case of Abraham: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:21-24).

Furthermore, salvation involves the paradox of divine election and free will. No doubt, God is the main protagonist in our salvation: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10). 
  • Even before the world began, God chose and predestined us to be His special, holy people. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:4-5).
  • God keeps those who know Him and obey Him safe and strong till they attain eternal life: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).
But the flip side of the coin is that man has a crucial role to play too. This is not to imply that man can earn his salvation, but rather he can become his own worst enemy, meaning that if he fails to fulfil certain conditions, he may lose salvation's ultimate reward—eternal life (Matthew 24:9-13, Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:36-39, 1 Corinthians 10:1-12, 2 Peter 2:20, Revelation 3:5).

Those who think they can just accept Christ, say the sinner’s prayer or make a decision for Christ in a meeting, and then push the “autopilot button”, coast along, and let God take over entirely have failed to understand the biblical concept of salvation, which is a process and not a ‘once a for all' thing.

Salvation: Work it out but not through self-effort
Though believers need to work out their salvation, this stance in no way suggests that we can accomplish it through our own self-effort. We cannot stay strong in the faith, except through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit as we seek His face (Philippians 2:12-13, Psalm 84:5, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Amos 5:4).


Salvation is, at once, the easiest and most difficult thing. It is easy as it is appropriated by faith. However, as the song goes, it is also difficult as it “demands my soul, my life and my all”.

So how can salvation be effortless? How can it be wholly God's work? (Luke 9:23, Philippians 1:29, 1 Peter 1:7, 1 Peter 2:21, Revelation 3:5).


                                                                          
“It would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to “yield themselves” up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier’s life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian.”

Dr Michael L. Brown

RELATED POSTS

IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
Though believers in Christ are heaven-bound, there are conditions to be fulfilled before we arrive at our final destination and claim our eternal reward. Some say that God will never forsake believers and that nothing will ever separate us from His love (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20, Romans 8: 38-39). But has this ever crossed our minds? God may not leave us but we can walk away from God. It takes two to tango.

PROGRESSIVE SANCTIFICATION
Though a believer cannot possibly attain sinless perfection this side of eternity, he can be comforted by the fact he can make significant progress if he yields to the work of the Word and Spirit in his life (Philippians 3: 13-14, Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Galatians 5:16, Ephesians 4: 22-24).

CAN WE TAKE GOD’S LOVE FOR GRANTED?
God’s love towards believers is immeasurable but can we take it for granted?
The purpose of this post is to emphasise the fact that believers cannot take God’s love for granted. We cannot be complacent by merely trusting in a prayer or commitment we have made once upon a time. We need to grasp the fact that there is God's part AND our part in our faith journey and we have to faithful till the end (Philippians 2:12-13, Matthew 24: 9-13, 2 Timothy 2:12, Hebrews10: 36-39).

IS FAITH ACTIVE OR PASSIVE?
http://bit.ly/1KrLg3X

4 comments:

  1. The above is a post to stem the dangerous tide of easy believism, antinomianism, Once Saved Always Saved and hyper-grace.

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  2. “It would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to “yield themselves” up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier’s life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian.”

    ― Dr Michael L. Brown

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  3. While it is true that only God can forgive and justify a repentant sinner, salvation cannot be 100% God’s work. To assert that salvation is entirely God's work is to deny the role of personal responsibility, forget man’s susceptibility to temptation and deception, do away with the need for endurance and faithfulness till the end and ignore the fact that man has a free will—he can choose either to obey God or live for himself, even after being saved.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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