Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 9, Number 37, September 9 to September 15, 2007

A Dialogue of Conflicting Concepts

Wherein Grace and Works
Are Seen Not to Mix
In the
Obtaining of Salvation

By Glen Barry

"Sir, you profess to be saved, to be born again, — a Christian. Tell me, how come you are saved? How did it come to be?"

"Well, you see, Jesus died to save the world and He is not willing that any should perish. He saves those who accept HIM. I accepted Him and therefore I am saved."

"Sir, I agree that Christ Jesus died to save a world of sinners and that He is not willing that they should perish. I further believe that He died for them because God the Father gave them to Him as His inheritance before the foundation of the world (Psa. 2:8; 33:12; Eph. 1:4; Rev. 13:8; John 6:37-40; 10:11,14,15, 25-29; 6:44,45; Matt. 11:27) and that because the Father gave them to God the Son then they shall all come to God through Christ. He said, ‘All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.' It is true also that such sinners do accept or receive Christ Jesus the Lord, believing on Him for salvation in time and eternity. But what is more, they come to this because they are ‘accepted in the beloved' (Eph. 1:6). In other words, God the Father has accepted them in His Son and because by His love He chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world, then He will never reject them but He will reject others. But tell me, Sir, why is it that you profess to be among the saved and to have assurance that Christ will not ever reject you?"

"Well, it is as I said. I accepted Jesus as my Savior so He will not reject me."

"But what prompted you to ‘accept' Jesus?"

"I became convinced that I was a sinner and that I could not be saved by doing good works, so I accepted Jesus."

"But Sir, is your salvation still based on a good work you did in order to be saved?"

"What do you mean?"

"Is not receiving Christ a good work?"

"Yes! And I took care of that!"

"Are you sure you are not still trusting in ‘work' that you did, thus actually yet trusting in yourself?"

"Well, I would never have been saved if I had not trusted in Christ?"

"That is true, but what prompted you to receive Him? You say you were a sinner, but what took place to convince you that you even needed a Savior? You did not use to see the need."

"Why, the Holy Spirit convicted me."

"Then you admit that if He.had not convicted you, you would never have come to Christ?"

"Yes, but He convicts all men."

"Well, Sir, if He convicts all men in this way, why do not all men do as you did, that is, why do not all men come to Christ?"

"I guess, because they are too rebellious and blinded by Satan."

"But were not you rebellious and blinded by Satan?"

"Yes, but I accepted Jesus."


"I don't know what you are getting at. I already told you why. It was because I was a sinner."

"Sir, what I am getting at is that if you have truly trusted in Christ, then you are not trusting in some work you performed, even the work of receiving Christ. If you came to Christ after Holy Spirit conviction, while other men do not come, you cannot say you were not as bad as they, therefore you obtained salvation. For all men by nature are at enmity against God and the natural man cannot receive Christ or the things of God because he is spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-5)."

"Well, I am not spiritually dead now; not after I accepted Jesus."

"If you are truly trusting Him, then you certainly are not dead, but you would be dead if you are actually trusting in your trust or trusting in the fact that you accomplished an act that caused you to be born again. You should know that when you are dead spiritually you do not discern spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14). A life principle must be worked in you, your spirit must be quickened to life before you can see spiritual things. You must have spiritual eyes before you can see Christ and believe. You were dead and did not even see a need to be saved. If you are saved now then you were given spiritual eyes to see your lost condition and to see a revealed Savior as the only way of salvation. Thus if you were blind but now you see, and in seeing you receive Christ and believe, why are you different from what you were before?"

"Well, I guess God made me different."

"Amen. Now you are seeing some light. God made the difference. It is by God's grace that any sinner is brought to the end of himself, is given to see he needs to be saved, is given a desire to be saved, and is given the revelation that Jesus Christ is His Savior. Salvation is a personal revelation of Christ to the soul—not just as the Savior of the world—a world of sinners—but the revelation that the salvation He purchased is for me and that consequently lam forgiven. As a sinner, I was guilty before God. When He showed me this, I appealed to Him for mercy. This was His drawing me to Himself. By nature I would never have come to Him. Everything needful He supplied. I needed sight to see myself. I needed sight to see Him. I needed a heart to love Him. I needed a heart even to want Him. I needed a heart that would hate sin. I needed spiritual life that could respond to His love. Being spiritually dead, I did not possess these things. But He gave them. As a result of such gifts I respond and believe. With such life being given me by the Savior, I can do none other but believe for that is the result of spiritual life. Truly, salvation is of the Lord. I did not cause Him to grant life to me. I did not know I had been dead. I did not cause Him to speak forgiveness to me when I petitioned Him for mercy but He did it by pure and free grace. His grace He bestows in perfect freedom according to His sovereign purpose and good pleasure. If anything on my part obligated Him to grant His grace, then it would not be grace; it would be debt on His part. But being free, God does not work because of debt. If He did then He would not be free. It might seem that He granted me eternal life because I believed but that is NOT the way it is! But He granted me eternal life (the new birth) and because I live, I believe. All glory belongs to God. I did not break the bonds of Satan or give myself life or spiritual discernment. God did it all in me when I had no ability even to cry to Him. Even my first cry was a sign of spiritual life. Now I believe but still cry for Him to help my remaining unbelief."

"I think these things you are saying are deep, but I am beginning to see that actually l am not a partner with Christ in my salvation. He did and He does supply everything. I do trust Him. I have received Him but I see that is not the cause of my salvation. He was working it all out all the time. Though l am now active in life I did not know I was so passive in death! Oh, thank the Lord that He saved me! What if He had not bothered to even convict me? What if He had not given me desire to be saved? What if He had not given me a heart to want Him and to hate sin? What if He had not done it? Oh, I would then still and forever be lost! What a Savior we have to glory in!"

"Yes, my brother, this is a great salvation from the great Savior. We were totally lost, unable to do anything. We could not know and appreciate our spiritual state. God does not bring every man to Himself in salvation. It is not to our credit or because of anything in us by nature that He brought us to Himself. But we praise Him that He sovereignly chose us and revealed Himself in salvation. To God alone be the glory. I could not save myself or even help Christ but He did it all. ‘Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified' (Rom. 8:30). ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence: Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He bath purposed in Himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will: That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were SEALED with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory' (Eph. 1:3-14). Praise God for a faithful and victorious Savior who does not try to save but who totally conquered Satan and delivers His people, buying redemption for them with His own blood."

Reader, what is your response? Do you bow before the sovereign domain of Christ Jesus or do you refuse to bow? Many think they are saved because they think they have done a weak, pleading "Jesus" a favor by "accepting" him. They imagine that Jesus is now helpless to save them since He has "done all He can do"—supposedly. But this is not the Lord Jesus of the Bible. He does all His pleasure and works all things after the counsel of His own will according to His purpose and pleasure. His people He makes willing in the day of His power. He is never defeated. He works in His people both to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). He saved all the Father gave Him to save and none shall perish because He keeps them by His sovereign and almighty power (John 6; 1 Peter 1:5). Again, the "Jesus" you "accept," is He weak or almighty? Is He a beggar or a King? Is He defeated or victorious? Is He at your mercy or are you at His mercy? Is your will more powerful than his or is He able to conquer any wifi that opposes His? Does He lack ability to carry out His love in saving sinners or does He lack love so that He withholds His strength so those He died for will be lost anyway? The true Jesus, the Lord of all, who gave His life for redemption, will certainly give lesser gifts to bring elect sinners to Himself. But do you "accept" and worship the Christ Jesus of the Bible or the counterfeit image made in the likeness of man who is quite powerless to save? Spend much time in the Scriptures, for they testify of the true Christ. He has the sovereign right to receive or reject you. He has the right to forgive or withhold forgiveness. You must deal with the sovereign God of Scripture who sovereignly draws to Himself whom He will and has mercy on whom He wills (John 6:37, Rom. 9, etc.). But He is a gracious Savior. His mercy endures forever for those who are brought to trust in Him. He will not turn any repentant, pleading sinner away. "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him. All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:44,37). Can you hear, do you hear His qualifying invitation and command, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest"? He promises also to such, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isa. 1:18).

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

Subscribe to Reformed Perspectives Magazine

RPM subscribers receive an email notification each time a new issue is published. Notifications include the title, author, and description of each article in the issue, as well as links directly to the articles. Like RPM itself, subscriptions are free. To subscribe to Reformed Perspectives Magazine, please select this link.