PROFESSIONS OF FAITH
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12b
In the last three articles I suggested that the salvation of man is a work accomplished by God from beginning to end. I’m sure there are people asking the question, “but what about man, what about his part in the process of salvation?” I will comment briefly on that part near the end of this article. Right now I want to go back and review some of the points we have made. We started off with the question, is there a sin (or sins) that a person could commit, that would keep them from entering the kingdom of God?
Answer: Yes, some people call it the unpardonable sin. It can be described in this way; to decisively and finally reject the work of the Holy Spirit. Or reproachful, contemptuous or irreverent words uttered impiously against the Holy Spirit. Matthew 12:31-32 says, “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.”
To get the full weight or seriousness of this sin, one must understand the natural condition of man. To what extent did man fall into sin?
Answer: Every part of man was affected by the fall in the garden. Man isn’t just sick, he is spiritually dead. Because of man’s inability to respond, God must reach out to His creation as He did in the garden. A clear example of this is recorded in Acts 16:14, “The Lord opened her (Lydia’s) heart to receive the things spoken by Paul.” Just as God called Adam and Eve, He continues to quicken and call sinners today. Ephesians 2:1 tells us, “And you He (God) made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Then in Ephesians 2:8-9 it says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.
The condition of the natural man (spiritually dead) makes it necessary for the Holy Spirit to quicken men and enable them to respond. But can’t men know about God and see Him in creation?
Answer: Yes, people can see the evidence of intelligent design; that a divine being was responsible for creation. This fact will not cause anyone to want deliverance from sin. Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” In this passage in Romans, the result of God revealing Himself only caused men to hate God more and turn to themselves or other created things, Romans 21-32.
If God (by His Spirit) quickens and makes men alive spiritually, how are they changed so that they continue the Christian walk (persevere)?
Answer: God changes the heart, mind and will of man to the point that they become new creatures in Christ. The old has passed away, behold all things become new, II Corinthians 5:17. They no longer live for themselves; their desire is to glorify their God and savior Jesus Christ. After men enter the kingdom of God (are born again), the Spirit continues to work in the lives of people in the process of sanctification. This daily process does not produce sinlessness in this life, but leads to a more holy life until the person who is born again enters into heaven.
I think we could use Romans 8:28-30 as a description of what God does in the life of a person, from the rebirth until they are glorified. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
So where does man’s part come in? Isn’t it up to man to freely choose where he will spend eternity? I guess you could say man freely chooses but he doesn’t choose freely. The bondage of the will must be considered! As a young child I loved to play baseball: spring, summer, fall and winter (in the basement). If I would have been given a choice of gifts I could have, (such as Barbie dolls, a child’s make-up kit or a new Ted Williams baseball glove), I would have been able to freely choose which one I wanted. But I could never have chosen freely. I was already in love with baseball and a new glove. This is the same for the natural man; he has a choice, but he already loves sin and the pleasures thereof. He can freely choose but he can’t choose freely.
We are all responsible and accountable for everything we do, including accepting or rejecting God’s offer of salvation. Ecclesiastes 12:14 says, “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil.” The sovereignty of God never does away with the responsibility of man. They are both true and we must accept them even if we don’t understand how it all works.
I believe the sun, moon and stars are out there in space, even the Milky Way. Some of these things have an effect on this earth where we live. Just because I don’t understand it all, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t believe it; that would be silly! Believe the Bible and call on the Creator God of the cosmos to deliver you from your sins. Be responsible for your own actions.
Comments or questions, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lyndon Stimeling, of Richfield, has been writing about faith and family for many years. He has self-published two books, “Common Thoughts on The Word” in 2016 and “Eye of a Needle” in 2017. He has also had articles published in The Coming Home Journal and local newspapers and has written a children’s book.