One of the clear teachings of Scripture alone is that our coming to faith alone in Christ alone for our salvation is all by grace alone. Yet it is this very teaching that causes some confusion in people’s minds about God’s sovereignty and our responsibility in the process of salvation. Some are quick to say that God is unfair in choosing some to be saved in Christ and not others. Others suggest that since it is all up to God’s choosing anyhow, why worry about it. If there is nothing we can do, let’s just sit back and let God do his work, if He so wills.
Usually, when I teach on this difficult doctrine I try to highlight both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility by asking people to imagine a closed door through which we must enter. Throughout Scripture we have this constant refrain, call, appeal if you will, for God’s people to choose life, not death (Deut 30:11-20), serve God, not idols (Josh 24:15), turn, repent and live and not die (Eze 33:10-11), repeated calls in the NT for repentance and belief in Jesus Christ; knock and it will be opened etc (Mat 7:7ff), choose rest in Christ rather than slavery (Mat 11:28ff), eternal life rather than eternal punishment (Jn 3:16), life rather than death (Jn 5:24), a call to reconciled unto God (2 Cor 5:20), to mention a few. In all these texts, there is an implied responsibility for us to respond.
Now imagine all these texts and many more are on the one side of this closed door, graciously placed there by the Holy Spirit to call us through the door. When we enter through the door and close it behind us, we see only one text, (Eph 1:4-6) “For the Father chose me, a sinner in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, the Father predestined me to be adopted as his child through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” [emphasis added].
Now some people feel a little uncomfortable with this analogy, for it seems that you are making the decision to go through the door. In a way that is true but then again, you didn’t place those wonderful texts on the door, calling you to enter through. That remains the gracious work of the Holy Spirit bringing God’s Word to bear on your heart. And even if people do initially think they have had a part to play in entering through the door, does it really matter? It may take such a person another five years or longer to realise that all of it was God’s wonderful grace working through the power of His word and Spirit, that brought them through the door, all to God’s glory alone.
And it is only after God has caused us to enter through the door that we can begin to experience the beauty of knowing Jesus Christ and our salvation in Him and not before. And it is only because we know the beauty of Christ that we continue to implore people to embrace Jesus Christ as Saviour. And it is only after we have been drawn through the door, we can sing with the saints, “I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew; He moved my soul, to seek Him, seeking me; it was not I that found, O Saviour true; no, I was found, was found by You. it was not I that found, O Saviour true; no, I was found, was found by You.” JZ
Pastor John Zuidema
Since 1997 Pastor John has been ministering to Churches across Australia and New Zealand.