It is never the intention of the born again to steal glory from Jesus Christ, our Lord. In fact, this is what we have been delivered from. It is the natural man who thinks more highly of himself than he ought to (Rom 12:3; 1 Cor 2:14). In his pride, he takes credit for the wise decisions of his will and boasts in his good works, only to be arrogant, in his marketing himself as something special.
Sinners, deceived in the manner of Adam, are enticed to think and act like gods (Gen 3:5). In this, the pursuit of glory and riches is considered noble (Esther 1:4; 5:11; Ps 49:6). It may sell under a different name like “the American dream,” “Manifest Destiny,” “Make America Great Again,” or “Building to be the best,” etc., but the competition to be in first place is nothing new (Gen 4; Eccl 4:4).
The Apostle Paul serves us by example because his treachery before his conversion was particularly foul. What does the apostle attribute for his radical transformation? Is it his seeking after God? Or, his free will decision? His own self-assessment “chief of sinners” (1 Tim 1:15), gives us one examination for true conversion…self-loathing. The regenerate one is made aware of the separation between holy God and totally depraved humanity. Correct self-view is the beginning of humility. We must acknowledge Him in all our ways (Prv 3:5–6).
As witnesses of Jesus Christ, having received power, when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon us (Acts 1:8), we do not preach ourselves (2 Cor 4:5). This is problematic because the flesh wants to talk about itself. We are self-centered creatures driven by our sin nature (Eph 2:3) and the pleasures of sin (Heb 11:25).
Having the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), who always did what was pleasing to His Father (Jn 8:29), His objective was to ascribe glory and honor to God (Jn 12:28). Christians must have this same view, as Paul described his own position and ministry, “17 Therefore, in Christ Jesus, I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. 18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit, so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum, I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ (Rom 15:17–19).”
Working against this sentiment in Christ’s church is the spirit of man-centered theology. The Arminian takes credit for his free will decision, derived from self-generated repentance and faith. He must boast in himself in these eternity-altering matters. The Arminian is master of his own destiny…or so he thinks.
Whereas the apostle Paul refused to speak of any accomplishment, except what Christ had accomplished, the Arminian does not shy away from speaking about his own wise decision. If pressed, regarding his obvious disconnect with the Apostle Paul, he will claim that God gave him enabling grace, but only when he himself was ready and sought that grace.
The natural man is always inclined to want to control his relationship with God. He wants God, but only on his own terms. This is why the doctrine of the sovereignty of God is so difficult for unbelievers and immature believers.
Setting the parameters for their relationship means God is defined by whatever sinful man thinks God is in reality. This is why we can only trust God’s revelation, the Bible, and why right interpretation is crucial for knowledge and right worship. We must worship God in truth. If we determine what God is, by twisting Scripture, we suffer in ignorance and unbelief.
The discerning ear and mind can detect words that position man in control of God. One may inquire as to the source of power, to accomplish any step in the work of salvation. Is the origin of power of man or of God? Is the wisdom to actually achieve the end goal, of God or of man?
The Arminian is convinced that salvation is a joint project between God and man (synergism). Therefore, credit and glory are also shared. Because God does not share His glory with another (Is 42:8; 48:11), the Arminian position fails, for He who does the work gets the glory (Is 26:12). The Reformed acknowledge God’s work in salvation, which means they give Him the glory for the great things He alone has done (Dt 5:24; Rev 19:1). He is the Potter and we are the clay (Jer 18:1–6; Rom 9:21).
Christian, we have learned Christ, and we speak of Christ in absolute terms. You must be careful to honor Christ above all else and in all things. It is right to give Him thanks and praise. You must boast in the Lord Jesus Christ, by preaching Him and not yourself (1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 4:5). As your union with Christ becomes more apparent from His teaching (Jn 14:27), you will present Jesus Christ in like manner to which Jesus Christ presented God the Father.
Our preaching is not in words of human wisdom from the world (1 Cor 2:4); rather, in spiritual thoughts and words, we proclaim Him (1 Cor 2:13; Col 1:28). Not speaking anything except the Person and work of our exalted Head, the Christian mind must be set upon the things above, where Christ is seated on the throne of God (Eph 1:20; 2:6; Col 3:2). He is there because all His works are good and just. Therefore, we go and tell all nations about Him (Mt 28:19–20; Mk 16:15).
May we listen carefully, and may we speak in the same manner. Christ is our all in all (Col 3:11). He is exalted, for from Him, through Him, and to Him are all things (Rom 11:36). That leaves nothing and no one else to boast in. May the Spirit of Christ make us faithful to speak nothing, except what Christ has accomplished through us.
Spokane Valley, Washington
August 31, 2022