Re: Thanking God for our salvation.
Paul Thanks God for the Faith of the Thessalonians
The following is a short discussion about the texts in which Paul thanked God for the faith of those to whom he was writing. Some synergists explain to me that Paul was only thanking God for His part in their coming to faith. In the following short essay I intend to explain why God, not in part, but in whole delivers us from our corrupt estate, and for this, He deserves not part or even most of the glory, but all of the glory. Here are some of the passages in question:
"For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. I Thess. 2:13 (...which effectually worketh also in you that believe.)
Notice that it is man's reception of the Gospel that is the explicit grounds for which Paul is thanking and glorifying God! Paul gives God all the glory for man's initial reception of the Gospel, and correspondingly thanks God for it. In his second letter to the same church Paul reminds them again who deserves thanks for their faith:
"But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
Our entire salvation, from first to last, is due to God alone, "the author and perfector of our faith" (Heb 12:2), for from Him and to Him and through Him are all things ... and, therefore, all the praise, glory, thanks and honor for our new life is to be given to God alone. We must conclude that it is not scriptural to thank and praise God for His "95%" in salvation, and then give man credit for the last remaining bit. If God is thanked for man's new life in Christ, it must be because He alone is perceived as responsible for it.
Theologically Consistent Prayers
If the synergist were true (we only thank God for his part) then he could pray the following prayer without wincing:
"God, I give you glory for everything else, but not my faith ... This is the one thing that is my very own that I produced of my natural capacities. For this little bit the glory is mine. I made better use of Your offer of salvation than others did. While You deserve glory for all I have Lord, yet my faith was the one part that I contributed to the price of my redemption, apart from and independent of the action of Your Holy Spirit."
Of course, no synergist would dare pray such a proud and offensive prayer but it is entirely consistent with his theology. Isn't it odd that most synergists, when they pray for other people's salvation, suddenly sound like they actually believe that salvation is by "grace alone" even though they would deny the doctrine of "grace alone" in theological debate?
Grace Exalts Christ, Abases Man
So why is "grace alone" so vitally important? First, it exalts the glory of Christ. Everything about the gospel is designed to glorify Christ and abase man. Therefore, anything that diminishes Christs glory is either directly or indirectly inconsistent with the gospel. Salvation by "grace alone" rightly abases man and duly exalts Christ. Paul, after declaring that By Gods doing you are in Christ Jesus who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness (I Corinthians 1:30) follows it up by stating that the design and purpose of the gift of justifying righteousness is that just as it is written, let him who boasts, boast in the Lord (verse 31). In other words, monergism ensures that our boasting is entirely in the Lord. It ensures that He receives all the glory. There isnt anything weve done or will do that we could boast of in our new life. Therefore, any teaching on grace that in any degree involves mans doing for its accomplishment diminishes boasting in the Lord, and detracts from His glory. Paul explicitly says that all boasting is entirely excluded in grace for the simple reason that all human involvement is entirely excluded as its cause.
Why? Because our salvation is grounded entirely on what Christ has done for us. What we could not produce or provide (faith and obedience), Jesus produced and provided for us. It is based solely on His objective saving work, a work done entirely outside and external to us. First, it is grounded on Christs work of atonement. We are justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24). The design of the gospel is to magnify Gods glory and this is done to the greatest degree by a free, justifying grace. It is done when mans involvement is entirely excluded, when man is entirely debased. (Fernandez) So then justification by faith alone exalts Christs glory because it produces in us a faith that looks away from self unto God for salvation (with even the spiritual abillty to comply with the conditions ofthe gospel (faith) itself being a gift of God - Eph 2:5, 8).
The Folly of Synergism
To a synergist, those who cooperate with God's grace are saved and those who
don't are lost. So my question is why does one man cooperate and not another?
This kind of synergism would make salvation ultimately depend on what we independently
do with that information by drawing on some innate principle (moral ability)
within us that our unbelieving neighbor does not have. The synergist belief
is that God only takes us all to a certain half-way "neutral" point
by grace, but then leaves the final decision whether to believe entirely in
the hands of autonomous, natural man. One man responds positively and another
negatively. Why? is the question. Synergists often tell me that while grace
plays a role in salvation, yet the Holy Spirit and grace have nothing to do
with their ability to come to faith in Christ, since the gospel is only an offer
that carries no power in itself. In other words, They believe their independent
faith cooperates with grace while someone else was not able to. Again, why?
This means, that in the synergists belief system, the Holy Spirit has not enabled
people in any way to have saving faith, over my neighbor, since this decision
is totally independent of God's action of grace. The result is that natural
man must draw upon some affection or impetus within his unaided natural self
to determine his/her salvation. This means that one man naturally had this capacity
(to receive Christ) while another (who rejected Christ) did not. But our salvation
does not depend on the humility or obedience of man since it is a gift of
grace itself that we are obedient and humble. God is not responding to some
virtue He sees in us, but saves us because of His mercy alone. This breaks the
most fundamental Scriptural principle discussed above which says "anything
that diminishes Christs glory is either directly or indirectly inconsistent
with the gospel." For...
"Who has ever given to God,
...........that God should repay him?"
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
........To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Rom 11:35-36)
"What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Cor 4:7)...Believe the Scriptures when they say, "no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3)... All men should glorify God for the Holy Spirit who works the affections that give rise to faith in you as well (John 1:13, Rom 9:16) "...just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. (John 5:21)
Take time to meditate upon this great truth hammered out by the Puritans' reflection on the Bible in the Westminster Confession:
Under the terms of the covenant of grace, God "freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe." (EZE 36:26; JOH 6:44)
- Westminster Confession of Faith 7.3