I have grown weary of formulas, even ones “based on the Bible” as they say. Whenever man comes up with a formula, death ensues. There are always other men who will try to follow the formula, and those men will be forever disappointed. Whether Roman Catholic liturgy, which has shown to the world what ritual will do to the spiritual life, or well-meaning Protestant evangelists who come up with lists, “how-to” methods of salvation and/or living the Christian life.
How many tracts have you read suggesting a “plan” of salvation which only give man a to-do list that sounds a lot like Romanist salvation-by-works? I remember growing up in my own denomination (which forever claimed to be a non-denomination) and hearing the “five steps” to salvation: Hear, believe, confess, repent, be baptized. At that point, one could put an equal sign (=) at the end and the words, Holy Spirit, at the end.
Trouble is, there is a lot of truth in those formulas. Those elements of the “list” are indeed a part of the process God will lead His own along as He is saving them from this world, and from sin, and from Hell. But men who look at the words and try to replicate what they have seen in others or the Scripture will be left cold.
Fact is, you must be born again. Fact is, God Himself initiates the New Life. Without God’s interposition of Himself into a man’s heart, man will not even begin to be thinking about God. A dead man, and we are all dead in our sins before Christ, cannot believe, or repent, or confess Christ. Why would he want to? To say that man must perform a series of works, however spiritual those works might sound, is to claim that God needs assistance in bringing His gift of life. Not so. alcool salerno We aided not in our physical birth, nor do we aid in the spiritual one.
You must be born again. Men hear such a statement and mistake it for a command. How can any man give birth to himself? Nevertheless, the seed of life in him by the preached Word, is finally brought to a point in a man where he is aware that something is happening. Belief and confession and more will flow from this enlightenment, and eventually the Spirit of God will envelop that person in His very Self.
Salvation is also called a gift from God. A gift that does not come from myself. “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.” No list of requirements for a gift. Only responses.
This is not to say that there is no list being carried out. Oh there is! But the list is God’s. And through God and His men, the works are done in the man. But the man will testify later, it was not me, God did it all. It only looked like I was doing all this, but from start to finish it was Divine grace.
God’s list is found, in part, in Romans 8:29-30. Let’s look at the items on God’s list.
Item 1: He foreknew the sinner. God knew all men from all time. But certain sinners He knew in a very special way. Some want to say here that it was on the basis of what God foreknew about each sinner, that is, the sinner’s response to the Gospel and God in general, that God chose them. In this scheme of things, man does the choosing. Man practically earns his salvation for having chosen God.
But the doctrine of election makes no Biblical sense this way, though our human sense is satisfied. One cannot go much further in Scripture- the next chapter in fact!- before he comes across Paul’s “brutal” assessment of such thinking. He reminds his readers of Jacob, chosen before birth, before any works had been done, chosen to be loved of God. He brings Pharaoh to the stand, and reminds us all that God chooses whom He wills, and hardens the rest. And He is allowed to do that. There is no unrighteousness with God.
God foreknew. He foreknew whom He would choose. The “why” is not given. But the fact of His choosing is. We must accept it as it is and not apply our own paltry system of justice to it.
Item 2. God predestinated. He knew the group He would set on a track that would lead to Him. And for them He created a plan whereby they would be saved. Conformed to Jesus is the terminology here. Some will be saved by those man-made plans, for those plans often speak truth. Others will try to enter by a ritual or a 5-step program, and will be left out. Only the elect will be conformed to Jesus, in His way.
Item 3. The group is in place. The plan is in place. Now God calls these very ones to Himself through the public proclamation of the Gospel. Oh, many are called. All over the world, people are called. But in the midst of all this calling, only the few, the chosen, advance. The ones He knew. The ones for whom the plan works. They get it. They move on.