Monday, August 10, 2015

Do We (and Can We) Cooperate with God?

The essence of Arminianism, inherited from its popish and Pelagian roots, is that man cooperates with God in his salvation and sanctification. This is referred to "synergism," from the Greek words meaning "to work together." The contrasting view is Calvinism, which holds that our salvation and sanctification are works of God alone, works done in us, but not by us, a view called "monergism," from the Greek words meaning "work of one, or alone."

Every Sunday school student has been taught the story of Gideon and the Midianites (Judges, chapters 6-8). It's a fine story of God's rescue of His people from the tyranny of pagan invaders. However, it is rarely taught as a theological lesson.

Consider Judges 7:2: "The Lord said to Gideon, 'The people with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over Me, saying, "My own hand has saved me."'" Do you recall the reference? Gideon had assembled the men of Israel to give battle to the Midianites. Thirty-two thousand men had assembled (Jud. 7:3), but this was unacceptable to God, because the
Israelites could point to the number of their warriors as the source of their victory instead of God, something that He would not allow (see Isaiah 42:8 and 48:11).

This is monergism, God's singular work of redemption. Someone may be objecting that this passage isn't about salvation. Really? Is it not? God is here saving His people from oppression by human tyrants, as He did in the exodus from Egypt. That is a representation of spiritual salvation, in which God's people are freed from the oppression of sin and Satan. In logic, that is called arguing from the lesser to the greater. If God refused to let men claim credit for their freedom from mere political oppression, would He not refuse even more to allow us to claim credit for our salvation from sin? That would be a far greater glory, and forbidden by the Isaiah passages above.

Paul makes the spiritual application in Ephesians 2:1-4: "[We] were dead in the trespasses and sins,... and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." Not "weak" or "sick," or even "dying." Dead; a doctrine known as "total depravity." And just as a dead body cannot aid a doctor in resuscitating it, neither can we even desire to aid God in our salvation (Rom. 3:10-11). Thus, if we are to be saved from our spiritual bondage, it must be all by God's hand, by His gift, by His enabling (Eph. 2:8-10, Phil. 2:13, John 1:13, John 6:44, etc.). Consider especially Jeremiah 10:23: "I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps."

My hope is that there are people reading this who don't know salvation in Jesus Christ. These passages should be telling you that everything that you have been claiming as your ticket to heaven is an illusion. It is only the faith Jesus gives you as the instrument for receiving salvation from Him that can be of any hope to you. You can't do it yourself. Either He has done it all, or there can be no salvation for you. Please receive Him now. or, if you need further information, please email me at the address in my profile on the right.

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