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“The doctrine that in regeneration there is a cooperation of divine grace and human activity.” Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
Revelations 3: 20
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2: 12, 13
Does God have requirements that are essential to our justification and salvation?
Even the staunchest, faith only advocate, will usually admit that we must believe and we must repent and confess the name of Jesus in order to be saved. Grace does have requirements! I would suggest that there are more! We must deny ourselves, we must be converted and become as a little child, we must be born again of water and the Spirit and we must eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus. The point is that both “grace” and “law” have requirements. The difference between “grace” and “law” is how these requirements are approached. The difference is that “grace” is approached by “faith” and “law” is approached by “works”.
What is the import of the phrase? “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
There are at least two possibilities. Many subscribe to the idea that salvation is by faith alone despite the fact that there is no statement to that effect in the Scriptures and there are more than twenty factors that are said to save. The import is not “salvation by faith alone,” but that faith is the principle of life. “For the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3: 11) Faith must be the spring from which all of man’s response flows. The difference between those responses that are pleasing to God and those that are not is faith. Those responses that are pleasing to God spring from faith in God. Those responses that are not pleasing to God spring from faith in ourselves, our abilities, our heritage, etc.
When the Reformation began, the thrust of at least some of the reformers was to begin a discussion about some of the excesses within the Catholic Church, particularly the sale of indulgences and its relation to repentance. Instead of a discussion they got an inquisition. The ensuing events created a vacuum of theology into which many of the ideas of John Calvin flowed. John Calvin was strongly influenced by Augustine. His ideas were monergistic, God acting alone without regard to anything in man. This view seems to flow from their concept of the sovereignty of God: God is sovereign; therefore everything that happens is an expression of His will.
Grace according to Calvin:
In the Restoration Movement with which I am familiar, grace was not often the subject of sermons nor emphasized in classes. When it was, the emphasis was that the Father gave Jesus to die for us and had given His word which if obeyed would save us. Faith was seen as one of the steps of salvation, equal to the others but not necessarily the principle of life. Sometimes we would try to express the relationship between grace and man’s responsibility. We would say that grace is God’s part and obedience is our part. Grace was recognized as a gift of God; one in which He was under no obligation to offer. Looking back, it seems there was almost a deistic element to our theology.
Sometimes our preacher would say that salvation is like a man falling in a pit (sin) and God has thrown him a rope. It was the responsibility of the man to pull himself out.
In this article I would like to examine this relationship between what God requires and what He has done for man from the Scriptures.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2: 8-10
When we through faith obey the counsel of God; baptism is not a work of man but of God. When we through confidence in our ability to keep God’s commandments are baptized; it is a work of man and not of God. Whether baptism is a work of man or of God is dependent upon whom we have placed our faith.
The election is a mystery. When we turn to the topic, we find that God in his omniscience and foreknowledge (1 Peter 1: 1, 2; Romans 8: 29, 30) has elected us (Ephesians 1: 4), not on the basis of some act of positive volition on our part, but on the contrary, according to those who would abase and humble themselves (Matthew 16: 24). The election is predictive and not determinative, thus God chooses the elect and the elect are free to make their own choices. The elect are predestined to the adoption as sons (Ephesians 1: 5). God does not pour out his grace upon some and withhold it from others, but instead He pours it out on all men (Titus 2: 11). The truth is that only those who have humbled themselves are fit receptacles for that grace (1 Peter 5:5; James 4: 6) and can benefit from it.
God in His wisdom, commands us to do those things necessary to come to Him in accordance with His great grace. This necessarily is through faith instead of our works or grace would not be favor (Romans 11: 6). We should never think that grace excludes obedience of faith; grace excludes only those works that do not proceed from faith in God. The Scriptures teach that God has not only commanded us those things that would save us, but He is actively involved in our lives in way we can not even think or imagine not only to will but to do those requirements.
The man in the pit of sin.
In thinking back to the man in the pit who was thrown a rope, a more accurate illustration would be to say that man has indeed fallen in a pit. Instead of God throwing a rope to us, He has jumped into the pit with us in the person of His Son. The Son, by virtue of His righteousness, is able to climb out of the pit, but amazingly and graciously the Son is able to carry along all of those who will be united with Him
Last thoughts: It would be a serious error to place man’s response on a par with God’s work. God initiated His plan and choose us by His foreknowledge before the world began. He wondrously carried forward this plan for thousands of years until at the appropriate time it was fully executed by Jesus our Lord. Then He sent the Holy Spirit to insure that God’s will was preserved for us in the Scriptures and gave us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, giving life and purpose to our lives.
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Last Update 09/26/12