salvation

Regarding salvation in Christ, Do we choose God? or Does God choose us? Yes.

Let me clarify my purpose in this blogpost. I’m writing this post to help my congregation and readers better understand their salvation in Biblical terms, and to revel in the wonder and glory of a holy God who would willingly send his Son to die in order to save us.

Here’s a key verse in this conversation:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah 1:5

Before we write off this verse as specific to Jeremiah, note how Paul describes salvation in rather similar terminology for all of us as followers of Jesus.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:29-30

Several phrases correlate: knew and foreknew, consecrated and predestined/conformed, and appointed/called. The implications are striking.

As a pastor and professor (but mainly as a Christian), it is my duty to be Biblical. God defines the terms and gets to set the parameters for our theology. I recognize there will be theological dissension on some points. But where Scripture is clear, I must be clear. So what do we do with these verses that highlight God’s foreknowledge, election, and predestination related to our salvation? We believe them.

But what about verses that highlight whoever would come to Christ can be saved? (see John 3:16 or Romans 10:13). We believe them as well.

The real question is whether or not these verses and others we could draw from indicate inconsistency in Scripture regarding salvation. In other words, are these passages in tension? Another way of asking the question would be: “How do you reconcile God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility?” Charles Spurgeon, 19th century Baptist pastor answered: “You never have to reconcile friends.” The point is that biblically, God’s sovereignty and our responsibility are not in tension.

God predestines and elects. If he did not do so, none would be saved. That is clear from Jeremiah 1:5, Romans 8:29-30, and other passages as well. Predestination and election reflect God’s sovereignty. They remind us that God takes the initiative in our salvation. Furthermore, God sent Jesus to die on the cross (his initiative). God sent the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and draw us to himself (his initiative). The Bible declares clearly that our salvation derives first and foremost from God.

God invites and redeems. Salvation is an offer from God to sinners. This offer comes through the Holy Spirit and the communicated gospel.

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Romans 10:13 -15

What is our part in salvation then? Our part in salvation is that we come as as sinners. We bring nothing good that deserves salvation. Rather, we bring ourselves in need of salvation. To receive salvation is to repent of our sin and believe on the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10). Salvation then is a gift to be received, not a wage to be earned (Romans 6:23).

These biblical reminders about our salvation encourage several responses from us as believers:

  • We should be grateful that God initiated our salvation. God’s sovereign work in our salvation encourages us to praise and thank him. It leads us to worship.
  • We should be Biblical in our understanding of salvation. Through the centuries, there has been significant tension regarding the order of salvation, divine sovereignty, human responsibility, Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism, and Calvinism. This blogpost will not solve those tensions. (We may explore some of those tensions in future posts). However, if we will affirm what the Bible affirms, we will certainly not be found in error regarding our theology of salvation.
  • We should communicate the gospel regularly. The only way someone will receive salvation is to hear and respond to the gospel of Christ. Believer, it is your responsibility and mine to share the good news of salvation regularly.

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

My current sermon series has been “Patterns of Prayer.” During this Covid-19 crisis, racial tensions, political turmoil, and uncertain lives, I felt it necessary to focus my study on the subject of prayer. Prayer is something that everyone knows about, but most of us would admit that we could do better. For me, this series has been tremendously beneficial. God has taught me more about himself in this series than maybe any other that I’ve preached.

So why write an article about it? This post is aimed to encourage you to pray. Specifically, intercede for someone else.

Here are some reasons you should make time to today to pray:

  1. God invites you to pray. In Luke 11:9, Jesus teaches us to ask, seek, and knock. He wants us to bring our burdens before him.
  2. You need prayer more than you think. Prayer is our avenue of talking with God. Too often we ignore God because of all the other things we have going on. Make time to talk with God today.
  3. Someone else needs you to pray for them. Interceding for another person is a privilege. God partners with our prayers to meet the needs (physical, spiritual, emotional) of those around us.

When you pray today, pray specifically and pray scripturally. For example, pray for your friend by name. Pray for their healing, their need to be met, their soul to be saved, etc. But pray in a specific way that will allow you to know if God answers the prayer. While prayers like “bless my friend” or “be with the missionaries” are well meant, they are not specific enough for us to know they have been answered. Specific prayers allow us to experience the answers.

Also pray scripturally. If you are praying for someone to come to know Christ, pray that God would open their eyes to see his glory (2 Corinthians 4:4) or that God would convict their heart of sin (John 16:8-11). If you are praying that a friend would experience peace, pray that your friend would be thankful and experience the peace of God that passes understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). If you are praying for a child or grandchild to know God’s will, pray Psalm 23 over their decisions and opportunities. Praying scripturally helps us align our prayers with God’s will.

Praying specifically and scripturally allows us to experience God’s answers to prayer. Here are a few of the specific ways God answered my prayers recently.

  • Our family prayed for God’s protection while we traveled. Answer: A vehicle in front of us experienced a blowout and a tractor trailer nearly rear-ended us. We experienced God’s answer for protection.
  • A family friend had brain surgery, and we prayed for her peace and that the surgery would go as planned. Answer: She was released from the hospital earlier than expected and experienced God’s peace during and after the surgery.
  • A church member was admitted to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms. We prayed that the medical team would have wisdom in his care, and that his health would improve. Answer: His issue was not a stroke, but something more manageable. He is now home.
  • A lady who is connected to our church has been struggling with sensing God in her life. For nearly a year, we’ve prayed that God would save her and make himself real to her. Answer: This past week, she put her faith in Christ alone for salvation.

God doesn’t always answer every prayer request as quickly or in the way that I might ask. But he does answer. I would encourage you to develop a prayer journal where you track how God works in your prayer life. Reflect often on his answered prayers. Remember, you can bring anything before God in prayer, but he loves it when you intercede for someone else.

Photo by Danylo Suprun on Unsplash