Sinner, Save THYSELF?

I asked a question instead of making a statement for a reason. If I ended the title with a period or exclamation point, a lot of folks might end up with apoplexy (cerebral hemorrhage). After all, I doubt that a believing Christian of any stripe (Calvinist, Arminian, Calminian, or otherwise) would dare suggest that we save ourselves. Also, at the end of the day, my personal opinion is not relevant. Thus, the question.

But ‘WHY the question?’, you might be asking. Well, I’m going to tell you why I ask it.

You see, concerning the salvation of lost men, there are only a few conceivable options concerning who does what leading up to someone actually being saved. The ‘actors’ involved are but two, God and lost sinners. Our options:

1. God saves us (sinners) all by Himself.

2. God saves us with our help.

3. We save ourselves with God’s help.

4. We save ourselves all by ourselves.

Of those four options, let’s get rid of No. 4, that we save ourselves all by ourselves, which seems to be a ridiculous idea. It’s not new and was actually articulated the 5th Century by a man named Pelagius (and his chief disciple Celestius) who taught that we are quite capable of living holy lives without God’s help – that the human will at birth is not inclined toward either good or evil, and whether we perform good or evil acts is a matter of unencumbered free will decision. We do what we do based on decisions we make, apart from anything outside of us pushing us in one direction or the other. We literally can ‘save ourselves’.

That leaves us with three remaining options. Let’s look at No 3. – that we save ourselves with God’s help. That option takes into consideration the sequence of actions that take place on the road to salvation, specifically that while God sent Jesus to die for our sins, it’s our free will decision that makes salvation a reality in our lives. In other words, God made it possible for us to be saved by the death of His Son, but we close the transaction with an act of the human will. I think there’s a bit of sound logic here, but I don’t know anyone who would sign up to the idea.

On to No. 2, that God saves us with our help. I think this is by far the prevailing opinion of most evangelicals, although we balk at the idea of ‘helping’ God save us. You could call it the ‘fallback’ position from No. 3, since we would never actually say we save ourselves, but at the same time, a human free will decision to follow Christ is still in play, as the deciding factor in our salvation. God did 99% of the saving, with our free will decision being only 1%. God did His part, now we do our part. That sounds good, but if we ‘contributed’ anything to our salvation, don’t we have ‘reason to boast’, whether we do or not? If yes, that would be a violation of Eph 2:8-9.

So…….that leaves us with No. 1, that God saves us all by himself. The other 3 options have been eliminated. You can believer that, or we can play at being ‘hypothetical’ and assume No 1 is the truth of the matter. IF No.1 is the truth of the matter, what does that have to say about our receiving Christ as Savior? It goes without saying that a human decision of some sort is involved, does it not?

Let’s get hypothetical again. IF a human decision is involved in the salvation transaction (and let’s assume it is), and IF a strictly human decision would give us reason to boast (prohibited), what does that say about our decision to follow Christ? Does it mean that God is the source of our decision?

Well, IF there are two ‘actors’ in our little scenario, God and a sinner, and IF the sinner can’t take credit for his decision, God, by default, must have brought about the decision. Not only that, God must have done something so powerful that when faced with the truth of the gospel message, the sinner’s greatest desire in this life is to say ‘yes’ to Jesus! What happened?

I think it was a ‘God’ opened heart! We see the perfect example in Acts chapter 16, with the conversion of Lydia in Philippi. Lydia listens to message of the gospel presented by the Apostle Paul, God opens her heart to really pay attention to Paul’s words, and Lydia is saved and baptized. Read the story for yourself.

God opens hearts to hear the gospel in order to save sinners, and God never fails. When sinners with God opened hearts hear their condition in sin, along with God’s solution in Jesus Christ, lost sinners run to the cross!

So there you have one old soldier’s thoughts concerning our starting question “Sinner, save THYSELF?”

I would love to hear comments, thoughts and questions that speak to the issue at hand, namely “Who saves whom?”

12 responses to “Sinner, Save THYSELF?

  1. Another way to look at it is with another IF. IF the last event in a series of events DETERMINES the final outcome (in this case a human free will decision), God has made salvation a possibility only, and a man has made salvation a reality.

    Like

    • I am so thankful we have the example of Lydia in Acts. God opened heart to believe and she believed. God is sovereign, and we are responsible to believe. Yet even our power to believe is a gift of God – an ‘invasion’ of the Holy Spirit into the human heart that breaks down all human resistance to the gospel message. That’s effectual grace, as far as I can tell.

      Liked by 1 person

      • BTW, there’s a host of commentaries that tell us Lydia might have been a Gentile who was attracted to the God of the Jews or a convert to the Jewish religion. Just because it doesn’t specifically say that God opened Cornelius’ heart doesn’t mean He didn’t. It seems like you are saying that Jews needed God to open their hearts but Gentiles don’t. Who taught you that? No need to answer.

        Like

        • Dan,

          You said:
          “. It seems like you are saying that Jews needed God to open their hearts but Gentiles don’t. Who taught you that? No need to answer.”

          My response:

          I got it from the source, THE BIBLE. It states it PLAIN AS DAY, if you guys would read the bible as a NOVEL, you can’t miss it.

          I give bible references, not commentaries.

          If you read the NT from an NIVR Version, instead of your pet version ESV, you will see ACTUAL REFERENCES that takes you back to the OT QUOTATIONS of things.

          That way, you avoid commentaries. Just read the bible…Jesus is the WORD of GOD, and Jesus said…(If you read the words of the bible, they are the words of Jesus, so all of the bible should be RED LETTERS. The word of God in written form, and the Word of God in FLESH FORM, both the same word.

          ACTS 28:28

          Acts 28:28 King James Version (KJV)

          28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.

          Ed Chapman

          Like

          • Ed,
            I found out that if I still had the email notice of a comment I can actually still approve it, so I did, in this instance. Just a couple of things concerning your reply.

            1. You said you use the Bible, not commentaries. Were you aware that marginal notes arde, by definition, ‘commentaries’?

            2. Concerning Acts 28:28, which you quoted to (I suppose) PROVE you point that Gentiles didn’t/don’t need to have their hearts opened. This is the KJV, your own preferred translation, obviously:

            16 And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.
            17 And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
            18 Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.
            19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.
            20 For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
            21 And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.
            22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.
            23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
            24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
            25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
            26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
            27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
            28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
            29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
            30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
            31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

            The context/scenario is Paul’s house arrest in Rome. Beginning in verse 17 we have Paul speaking to chief Jews (his Jewish brethren) about his arrest and imprisonment. In verse 20 He tells them that he is in chains ‘for the hope he had for Israel’.
            We are told that some of those Jews believed Paul and some didn’t, in verse 24.Then we have a prophecy from Isaiah that speaks of the future rejection of Christ by the Jews, which paved the way for the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, Paul’s chief mission.

            Then we have your ‘proof text’ for your opinion that Gentiles do not need their hearts opened to really hear the gospel because the text does not specifically say that God will ‘open their hearts’ and they will hear the gospel, whereas in Acts 16 we are told that God opened Lydia’s heart to hear. You are reading into the text something not IN the text, to prove a point not IN the text.
            ALL human hearts need to be opened to hear and respond to the gospel, unless you are saying that some (Gentiles) have it in their very nature to be able to respond to the gospel unaided by God, which would be (IMO) the Pelagian heresy that invaded the church in the 5th/6th centuries.

            There you have a somewhat in-depth response to one of your comments, possible because my Sunday School preparation was already complete for this morning. It probably won’t do it again. Your mind is made up.
            I have never just ignored you. I read all of your comments, but since your mind is already made up and it’s not my intention to convince you of anything, I don’t post them, for reasons already explained.

            Like

  2. Ed, you said:
    “The only IF that I can think of is, IF you believe, I will give you grace. That’s what Ephesians is really saying. But you think that is a work of man.”

    2 points in response:
    1. I think you misunderstand Ephesians.
    2. You grossly misrepresent the beliefs of the reformers in saying that reformers believe believing is a ‘work’ of man.

    ‘Nuff said about that comment, my friend.

    Like

  3. Ed,

    I know you are upset that I deleted your comments. I only intended to delete the ones I had not yet approved, which was most of them, since they seemed to be rehashes of things we have previously discussed and argumentative. I don’t want to argue. I also don’t want to have a string of long comments that don’t really have anything to say about the topic at hand. Lastly, I have observed that you are very set in your opinions about everything. My replying only seems to cause you to double down on your ideas, some of which are rather odd in the face of the context of scripture. I said context. You make use of passages here and there to prove points you deem absolute truth but placed in the context of all of scripture, rather silly. I am not challenging your faith, and I acknowledge your disdain for all “reformers”, which you have made very clear.

    I will ask one question at this point. Do you REALLY think that Jews were the only ones who need to have their hearts opened to pay attention to the gospel message preached by the Apostles?

    Like

  4. Ed,

    I tried re-approving one of your earlier comments using the original email notice, butit didn’t work. So here is a reply to part of one of your comments:

    1. You said you use the Bible, not commentaries. Were you aware that marginal notes arde, by definition, ‘commentaries’?

    2. Concerning Acts 28:28, which you quoted to (I suppose) PROVE you point that Gentiles didn’t/don’t need to have their hearts opened. This is the KJV, your own preferred translation, obviously:

    16 And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.

    17 And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.

    18 Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.

    19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.

    20 For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.

    21 And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.

    22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

    23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.

    24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.

    25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
    26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:

    27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

    28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.

    29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.

    30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,

    31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

    The context/scenario is Paul’s house arrest in Rome. Beginning in verse 17 we have Paul speaking to chief Jews (his Jewish brethren) about his arrest and imprisonment. In verse 20 He tells them that he is in chains ‘for the hope he had for Israel’.

    We are told that some of those Jews believed Paul and some didn’t, in verse 24.Then we have a prophecy from Isaiah that speaks of the future rejection of Christ by the Jews, which paved the way for the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, Paul’s chief mission.

    Then we have your ‘proof text’ for your opinion that Gentiles do not need their hearts opened to really hear the gospel because the text does not specifically say that God will ‘open their hearts’ and they will hear the gospel, whereas in Acts 16 we are told that God opened Lydia’s heart to hear. You are reading into the text something not IN the text, to prove a point not IN the text.

    ALL human hearts need to be opened to hear and respond to the gospel, unless you are saying that some (Gentiles) have it in their very nature to be able to respond to the gospel unaided by God, which would be (IMO) the Pelagian heresy that invaded the church in the 5th/6th centuries. If you believe that God helps some, but man’s free will decision saves him (semi-Pelagianism), you are in effect saying that man saves himself; that God made it possible but the determining factor in salvation is man’s decision.

    There you have a somewhat in-depth response to one of your comments, possible because my Sunday School preparation was already complete for this morning. It probably won’t do it again. Your mind is made up.

    I have never just ignored you. I read all of your comments, but since your mind is already made up and it’s not my intention to convince you of anything, I don’t post them, for reasons already explained.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s