Balance in the Force?
I get into these discussions constantly about Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. It is, it seems, an ever present struggle for me. Also, as of late, I have found myself drawn into the discussion about what is required for salvation. Is believing in Christ and receiving the free gift of salvation enough? Or … is there a list of things that go along with this that are necessary for rescue from damnation? I don’t really like to argue, and I hope my readers know this. When I blogged about these things, it was not because I was looking for an argument. I am just a person who has been saved and received something wonderful from the Lord and I want to be sure that I know what I can tell others about this. Of course, I read the Bible myself and study and figure much of it out. However, I feel troubled when I talk to another person who is in the same situation as I (born-again believer reads the Bible) and they emphasize a completely different take on something that I think is pretty important. If it were something non-essential, like what version of the Bible I use, or whether or not the church is going through any of the Great Tribulation, then I wouldn’t worry about it so much. These afore mentioned two issues are not of a non-essential nature, though, to my mind. They are important.
TULIP/Sovereignty of God - It is important for me to know whether or not I can say to someone, anyone I meet, “Jesus Christ loves you and died for your sin.”
Repentance/good works salvation connection - Can I tell a potential convert that all he/she can do is cast himself on the mercy of Christ and ask forgiveness for sins which was already obtained by Christ … or … do I need to tell them that they need to forsake sin and submit to the Lord, making a full commitment of their life to Him?
Do you see how it is not just an argument for the sake of argument, but a very important issue for me to make sure I have right? I always thought before that I did “get it.” But, I been challenged by Christians that I respect … and utterly shocked (having been quite naïve) that all evangelicals did not have the same understanding of the availability and simplicity of the gospel message that I cling to and proclaim. So, I have joined in the discussion and have read countless blogs, with comments, while studying my Bible on all the issues brought up.
Something has occurred to me though about why I may fall in the particular spot in the argument that I do, however.
Sovereignty of God – I seem to be emphasizing the responsibility (and thus, the implied ability) of man to respond to the gospel. This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in the Sovereignty of God. I do. Daniel (at Doulogos) encouraged me to look at the conversion of Cornelius. “Salvation is not a willy-nilly affair” … he told me. He is right. His pointing this out to me made me realize that perhaps in my struggle to turn the coin over before his eyes (and other Calvinists), I may be appearing as one who does think salvation is fortuitous. Well, I don’t think it is at all. God has ordered our steps and done everything to bring us the salvation that we all so desperately need. I truly believe this because the Bible teaches it! He is Sovereign. However, I believe the flip side of the coin, too. I believe that a person will perish if he does not respond to the salvation provided by God. We must believe and receive as the Bible teaches. (We’ve been over all of this … see the TULIP series in my sidebar, if you weren’t around here a couple of months ago).
Repentance/good works salvation connection - Anyways, I also think that Christians should live uprightly and repent of sin. When witnessing to an unbeliever, I don’t burden them down with a call to give up this sin and that sin, however. I try to get them to recognize the fact that they are a sinner and tell them that Christ has died for those sins, ALL of their sin, not just premarital sex and drug abuse, but jealousy and laziness etc… sin that we are all guilty of. If they place their trust in Christ, the first thing I encourage them to do is to devour the Word of God, because everything He wants us to know is right there. If I continue to be in contact with them, of course I encourage them to turn from sinful ways, appealing to their new desire to please the Lord, which I would hope they would be developing if they read His Word. However, I do realize that everyone is different and that our walk is different, individual to individual. Our experiences vary, our commitments vary, our “measures of faith” vary, and our zeal varies.
One thing is sure, however. Salvation is by grace through faith and that not of ourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works …
So ... there is what I understand about the two facets of each of those two issues (four facets in all).
Why do I emphasize the Responsibility of Man when it comes to the two-sided coin of Sovereignty of God/Responsibility of Man? Here is what occurred to me. I have been mostly surrounded by Calvinists since I hear of the whole doctrine. The Sovereignty of God is really emphasized in my circles. I believe, if I were surrounded by a bunch of Arminians, I would be striving with them for the Sovereignty of God! If I was in a church that taught Open Theism and that God is just waiting to see what happens, I am sure I would probably seem like a Calvinist ZEALOT to them.
Also, if I was in a group of Christians that were regularly “living it up” and claiming that God doesn’t mind … if my circles were saying, “We’re saved by Grace, after all, we can do whatever we like!” If this were the kind of people that I was exposed to, I think they might mistake me for a legalist, because I would challenge them on their idea. I don’t think we should “live however we like” and abuse the grace that has been given to us. There is a balance in the message of the Bible that I feel is missing in a lot of the Bible believers that I know.
Does anybody understand what I am saying here? Does it make any sense?
Brethren be willing to see both sides of the shield of truth. Rise above the babyhood which cannot believe two doctrines until it sees the connecting link. Have you not two eyes, man? Must you needs put one of them out in order to see clearly? (C. H. Spurgeon)