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Vol.  9  No. 7 July 2007  Page 15
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Does Man Contribute to his Own Salvation?

Tim Childs

By Tim Childs

    Soteriology is the theological study pertaining to the doctrine of human salvation through Jesus Christ. A pertinent and timely question that should be of universal interest is presented in the title of this writing. It is one that has been researched and studied, discussed and debated over the past several hundred years. Conclusions drawn will help direct the precious soul, desperately in need of the Savior, down the broad way unto destruction or in the straight and narrow way unto life eternal (Matthew 7:13-14).

    There are those, having been influenced by the theological persuasions of men like Augustine, Martin Luther and John Calvin who have advocated the position that man contributes absolutely nothing whatsoever to his salvation. With this line of reasoning it naturally follows, then, that baptism (which involves action on the part of the sinner) is not a contributing factor.

    Salvation is spoken of in Holy Scripture as being a gift from God to man, and obviously one that is undeserved. We come to learn, then, that God has acted with gracious benevolence and overwhelming love in providing the very means for our redemption and reconciliation, a Savior which is Jesus Christ, the Lord (cf. Luke 2:10). It logically follows, too, since salvation is a “gift” it is unearned, and it is supposed the recipient doesn’t need to do anything to qualify to receive it.

    In the past, there have been those who have tried to bolster their position by using the analogy of a man climbing a ladder. It has been asked: “Can a dead man climb a ladder?” The logical answer is “no,” and so therefore it is presumed that neither can a spiritually dead man climb a ladder (to heaven).

    First, God has not asked any of us to “climb a ladder” to heaven as there is no physical, or “spiritual ladder,” for that matter, to that grand destination for those who walk with God by faith. Secondly, God doesn’t take spiritually dead men to heaven via a ladder or otherwise. All need regeneration and renewal that is made possible through the Holy Spirit’s message. Can a dead man see the glory of God or hear the praises of him that ring through the universe (Psalm 19:1-3; Isaiah 6:3)? Can dead men know that God exists (Hebrews 11:6)? Can dead men know something about the goodness of God that leads men unto repentance? Can dead men hear the evidence and testimony that God has given to prove Jesus of Nazareth, born of the virgin, Mary, is truly his “only begotten Son”? If it is possible for a dead man (spiritually speaking) to know God exists, that God is good and full of grace and truth, and that he sent Jesus to redeem him and bless him in turning him from his sins and iniquities, why could not that same dead man respond by faith to heaven’s call of the Gospel just like the lost sinners did whose actions are recorded by Luke in Acts 2? They were commanded by our Lord’s apostle to “repent and be baptized” so that they could have their sins washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. If Noah had failed to get in the ark, he would have been destroyed by the deluge. If these had failed to get into the water and submit to heaven’s ordinance of baptism, they too, would have been destroyed, but by fire (1 Peter 3:21).

    Is it possible for an unregenerate, non-Christian man to seek after God? There is a segment of the population who would answer with a resounding, “No” response. But, what does God’s Word say? (Should God’s Word be pushed aside so one may not get confused with his own system of theology and human reasoning? Sometimes those who preach the Word of God are charged with “confusing” people because of the contradictions of their system of faith with the faith revealed from heaven.)

    God reveals the following through Solomon: “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me” (Proverbs 8:17). Here God indicates that the timing of one’s pursuit has something to do with its successful outcome.

    Next, Jesus addressed a great multitude in his Sermon on the Mount, and exhorted his audience who were not as yet in the kingdom of heaven to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Those, who were outside, were taught to make it their preeminent priority to find God’s way of making men righteous and enter the heavenly kingdom.

    Then, Paul, the Lord’s messenger, preached that all nations of men “should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27). This was spoken (remember, by the Lord’s messenger) to the idolatrous and profligate Athenians who were as dead as they could possibly be in their sins and iniquities. Paul further taught them that God, the Father in heaven, calls upon all men everywhere to repent (not just those perceived by John Calvin to be of the “elect”) (Acts 17:30-31).

    Finally, the Lord’s apostle, Peter, proclaimed the Gospel to thousands present on the feast day of Pentecost (Acts 2). To men and women who were dead in their trespasses and sins, having been guilty of crucifying the sinless Son of God, Peter exhorted them to “Save yourselves from this untoward generation (Acts 2:40).

    In no instance spoken by God’s divine messenger were lost sinners told to be patient, pray and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit to give one an inexplicable experience (mysterious good feeling), or through a direct operation convict and convert the wayward sinner.

    God’s Word teaches man to “call upon the name of the Lord” (Romans 10:13). This idea has been confused by religious teachers; however, it is used here to show man contributing or doing something in response to God’s offer of gracious pardon. Ephesians 2:8 teaches we are saved by grace through faith. We are not saved by grace only, nor by faith only; salvation takes both: God’s part and ours. Salvation is not forced upon any of us.
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