Men are ever distorting God’s way of salvation. Because God is sovereign in salvation (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1), He is never thwarted by the machinations of empty deceivers. Still, the devil is blinding the minds of the unbelieving, so they might not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor 4:4). Unless God has actually regenerated a soul, thus, overriding the work of the god of this world with the true knowledge of salvation, misrepresentations should be expected. There is seemingly no end to the variations of intorsion, but every mispresented scheme of salvation has one common denominator: it is man-centered.
We need to be saved because we have all sinned against God (Rom 3:23; 5:12). We have broken His Law (1 Jn 3:4). As criminals, we must pay the penalty for our transgressions, iniquities, and sins (Rom 6:23; Heb 9:27). If we do not satisfactorily atone for our lawless deeds, in the time allotted, we must suffer eternal punishment in hell and the lake of fire (Mt 25:41, 46, Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15). That is bad news, and it is why God is calling all men, everywhere, to repent (Acts 17:30). Repent to what? or to whom?
We must establish the exclusivity of God’s agent in the salvation of peoples’ souls: Jesus Christ (Tit 2:13). We repent from sin, Satan, the world system, and we repent to place our trust in Jesus Christ for propitiation and forgiveness (Eph 1:7; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven, that has been given among men, by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Jesus Himself claimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me (Jn 14:6).” This immediately rules out all other Christ-less world religions and philosophies.
Why is Jesus Christ the only way of salvation? It is by God’s design that God’s Son would come into the world (Jn 3:16) and take on flesh (Jn 1:14). The origin and source of biblical salvation is God in heaven. God is the Savior, and there is no other (Is 45:21; Titus 3:4). God does all things for His own glory, for He alone is exalted (Ps 148:13). As it pertains to those who are actually saved, in love, He predestined us to be brought into conformity to His Son, Jesus Christ, so we can be presented holy and blameless before Him (Rom 8:29–30; Eph 1:4–5).
How has God saved us? In answering this question, we begin with the negative and then address the positive. You were not saved according to this nor that, meaning these man-centered schemes that exclude, or even sometimes, include Jesus Christ. We have noted how world religions and philosophies exclude Jesus Christ. There are other contrivances, too. In these deviant schemes Jesus Christ is preached, but it is not the Jesus Christ of the Bible who is preached. What is the difference? The false Jesus, concocted by man, always puts some part of the onerous of responsibility for being saved on men.
Why does this work so well? The devil hates Jesus Christ, and so making something or someone else to be god and savior is one side of the equation. The other side is that men secretly long to be god and savior. Satan has always tempted man to play god (Gen 3:5), whether it be in the Garden of Eden or on top of the tower of Babel (Gen 11). People love to control others. It is what money and politics is all about.
In the devil’s strategy, people, not God, appropriate the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Men will decide whether Jesus is worth trusting in for salvation or not. Men claim to have accomplished the work entrusted to the Holy Spirit when they claim to choose Christ for themselves. They become staunch defenders of their free will to choose or not to choose Jesus Christ as Savior. Let us consider some examples of how men steal glory from the Holy Spirit in salvation. The New Testament is filled with denunciations of these false ideas. Here are a few.
First, you were not saved according to your choice. You did not choose Jesus, nor choose Christ, nor choose to generate your own faith. When Jesus calls a person to be a disciple, he emphatically says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you (Jn 15:16a).” The apostle Paul illustrated this with the example of Jacob and Esau, “…for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls…(Rom 9:11)” We rightly forward the idea of God’s choice, not man’s choice, because salvation is according to God’s purpose and God’s choice (Rom 11:5; Eph 3:11).
God’s choice of who will be saved is obvious by what He repeatedly calls the people He actually saves: chosen; chosen ones; chosen race; chosen people; elect; His elect; God’s elect; etc. God’s chosen race, like Jacob, gives thanks, “because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation (2 Thess 2:13).” In the Greek New Testament, “chosen” and “elect” come from the same word (eklektos). Simply stated, salvation is not your choice. You have not decided to follow Jesus.
Second, you were not saved according to your works. We have already seen in Romans 9:11 that your salvation is “not because of works.” Paul emphasized this to Timothy, too, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity (2 Tim 1:8–9).” Paul clearly stated, “not according to our works,” and equally important, note the timing of salvation, “from all eternity.” When did you make your choice, again?
God saves His people according to mercy, not according to deeds done in righteousness (Titus 3:5). All the works of men are considered filthy rags (Is 64:6). So, men are not good (Rom 3:11), nor do they do any good unto salvation. Even making the right choice about Jesus, a good work indeed, does not save a person, if it were even possible. There is no place in the Bible where a man attains right standing with God by anything other than imputed righteousness, afforded to him by God’s will and Christ’s work. God has said, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy (Rom 9:15).” It is God’s mercy, not your works.
Third, you were not saved according to blood relations (Jn 1:13a). Being born into a Christian home is a wonderful grace from God. To be raised in the admonition of the Lord is the best education in the world. We must remember Esau, however. Esau was born the son of Isaac, the patriarch. Just as Isaac and Ishmael had the same father, Abraham, who was in covenant relationship with God, so Jacob and Esau had the same father, Isaac, who was in covenant relationship with God. God said regarding the twin sons of Isaac, the covenant beneficiary, “Jacob, I loved; but Esau, I hated.” These are all blood relations, but clearly this does not warrant God’s favor in any way. God has mercy on whom He chooses, regardless of one’s legacy, genealogy, or pedigree.
Fourth, you were not saved according to the will of the flesh (Jn 1:13b). There is nothing in man that seeks after God (Rom 3:11), and this includes the flesh of men (Rom 8:5–7). Though the fires of hell grow warmer, as the years of a man pass along, he loves the prospect of hell more than the prospect of God and His glory. The flesh is weak, so weak, that it is called, “dead.” The paralyzed man thinks about walking, imagines walking, talks about walking, watches others walk, is ready and willing to walk, but he cannot walk by the will of his flesh. He is dead to the prospect of walking (illustrated in Jn 5).
Spiritually dead people walk in the flesh, but they are paralyzed when it comes to the things of the Spirit. They take on the titles, “old self” and “carnal man” and “dead in trespasses and sins.” There is no choice, no work, no familial relationship that can change the circumstances for a spiritually dead man. He has an animating life in his flesh, but He does not have the life of the Son of God in his soul.
Fifth, you were not saved according to the will of man (Jn 1:13c). There is a certain type of person one meets in church who claims that God has afforded her the free will to choose her own salvation. She claims God would not be fair and just, otherwise. God replies with a question, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own (Mt 20:15)?” Unfortunately, this person has joined company with preachers and teachers of this errant way. These people have all the vocabulary of Christianity, but salvation is all about man’s free will. Listen closely to their boast in their own free will, whereas the truly regenerate soul claims, “I was lost, but He found me” or “I was blind, but He gave me sight” or the most honest confession of all, “If God had not saved me, I would have never chosen to follow Jesus Christ.”
Does the Bible teach that sinful man has a free will? The answer is, “No.” God has a free will because He is God and without sin. Man is said to be a “slave of sin (Rom 6:6).” Slaves do not exercise free will. Their masters control them. Sin is the master of sinful men. He has enslaved the flesh to drink, eat, inhale, inject, snort, fight, and fornicate its way to destruction. Man has no choice but to self-destruct in his sins.
Men in quicksand may have the will to be free. Men who have fallen off the cruise ship may have the will to be on dry land. Men who cower in the path of the tornado may have the will to be in a better shelter. A man who lays at peace, in a better shelter, during an earthquake may suddenly have the will to be outside of that shelter, but time and chance have rendered his will impotent. Where is your choice, your works, your flesh, and your will when God says, “You fool, tonight your soul is required of you (Lk 12:20).”
If we were left to the will God gave to us, and Satan stole in the Garden Fall (Gen 3), then we would choose as abhorrently as Adam and Eve did. Think of the advantages they possessed before using their God given free will. Now think of your far worse state and all of the disadvantages of the world of sin you dwell in, not to mention your enslavement, and you, not having free will, think you could choose better than Adam and Eve? Clearly, you think more highly of yourself than you ought.
Men do have a will, and they will to do, the will of their master. Sin, their master, leads them and guides them on the pleasure boat to the face of the hurricane. Sin is the captain of their cruise ship, and he has no intention of setting a course for safe harbor. The will of man in these scenarios is hopeless and helpless. He is unable to will, nor to work His own salvation in any way.
Finally, you were not saved according to anything of yourselves (Eph 2:8b). In this we have our all-inclusive statement that salvation, in whole or in part, does not belong to man in any way. So, we can conclude, you were not saved according to your choice or decision, nor were you saved according to your works. You were not saved because of the family you were born into, nor because your flesh had one ounce of will power to embrace the Almighty. You were not saved of your free will because your will was never free.
It would be remiss to leave you without the true way of salvation, and so I leave you with the glorious, good news of our Triune God. Salvation belongs to God from beginning to end (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1). God the Father has decreed it, using His free will and choice, to save some people out of the billions of humanity who have joined in the rebellion against Him and against His anointed Son, Jesus Christ (Ps 2:1). The motive for this gracious act of God is love (Jn 3:16; Eph 1:4–5; Rom 5:5, 8).
This love was demonstrated by God the Father sending God the Son, Jesus Christ, into the world (Jn 1:14; 3:16) to save sinners, the ungodly (Rom 5:6). Jesus Christ came into the world to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21), not simply to make salvation possible, but He actually saved us (Titus 3:5). He, too, demonstrated His love for His people (Jn 15:13; Rom 5:8). We were in Christ before the foundation of the world, with our names written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 13:8; 17:8). Jesus Christ shed His blood on the Cross of Calvary to actually pay the captives’ ransom (Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45. He bore our sins and bought us for a price (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pet 2:24). He has taken His church, the Israel of God, for His bride (Mt 16:18; Gal 6:16; Eph 5:25; Col 1:18).
The Holy Spirit brings Christ’s secured salvation to each living person God the Father chose and gave to His Son (Jn 6:37, 44, 65; 17:2, 6, 24). With the indwelling Holy Spirit giving faith to the elect soul, and remaining as the permanent, powerful presence of God, the regenerate believer is the Christian born of God and living unto God. Before, she was dead in sin, but now she is dead to sin.
Jesus Himself gives the assurance of His finished work on the Cross and the Holy Spirit’s soon-to-be finished work of sanctification (Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). “I will not cast out” and “no one can pluck them from my hand, my Father’s hand” and “I will never leave nor forsake” are promises of a blessed and finished salvation.
This is how you were saved: the Father’s decree, the Son’s work, and the Spirit’s application. You are a mere beneficiary of salvation, if indeed, you were saved. At this truth from the Bible, all God’s people sing “hallelujah,” while the passel of the proud will continue to choose to decide whether they believe this or not. As for me and my house, we sing “hallelujah, what a Savior!” He has saved us, not we ourselves.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 26, 2021