God, Jesus, & the Holy Spirit

“But God…”


 

From Genesis to Revelation the Bible sets forth the Divine Initiative of God to save some from eternal judgment. In Genesis 3:15 there is the promise of God. “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” In Revelation Rev 22:17 we read that the “Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

The first step in the salvation of a soul is undertaken by God, so that unilaterally and exclusively, it can be said, “Salvation is of the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9) The truth of the Divine Initiative in salvation is clearly set forth in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Eph. 2:1-3)

What Paul describes in this passage is the radical character of the natural man due to the Fall. The character of man is that of total depravity in every facet of his soul. The will, emotions, intellect, and body of man have been affected by the Fall. Total Depravity is not to be confused with Utter Depravity. While man is not as bad as he can be at any given point, he is as bad off as he can be from the hour of his birth. His sin nature is manifested. The Psalmist says that the wicked goes forth from the womb lying. “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” (Psalm 58:3) The effect of sin in the soul must not be minimized or diminished. The structural damage of sin in the soul is extensive and pervasive. Sin has affected the totality of a person’s humanity. There is a Radical Corruption in each person that must be recognized and dealt with.

The governments of the world try to deal with this Radical Corruption of man by passing countless laws of prohibition. The medical community tries to deal with the Radical Corruption of the human heart by psychotherapy and medication. Social Liberals try to counter the Radical Corruption of the heart by offering self-help programs, and engaging in social welfare programs.

Many Denominational churches try to deal with the Radical Corruption of individuals by preaching sermons on morality, and appealing to the better nature of people. All of these human efforts ultimately fail to radically change an individual. Why? Jesus said that men, women, and young people need to be born again. The heart is too deceitful and too wicked to be changed by laws, psychotherapy, medication, self-help efforts, social welfare programs, or exhortations to live a moral life. The heart is in need of a new birth.

There could easily be universal despair if we did not have the words of Ephesians 2:4. “But God.” “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:4-10)

The concept of Radical Corruption emphasizes that the fallenness of man is not something that is peripheral, or transcendent, but is at the root of his nature. Sin is not an accidental blemish on the surface of man’s sol. Sin has captivated the soul’s humanity. It has penetrated to the very root of the tree of life. Paul indicates the seriousness of man’s fallenness when he says, “You were dead in trespasses and sin.” Elsewhere Paul speaks about being in bondage to sin, and being, by nature, children of wrath. (Eph. 2:3) The natural man walks the way the world walks, which is contrary to the known will of God. The natural way is not God’s way.

Individuals, by nature, are voluntarily in bondage to the world, the flesh, and the devil, for they do not seek after God. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Rom. 3:10-12) Paul presents man, by nature, as being in a helpless and hopeless state of existence thereby inviting the ultimate wrath of God. “But God.”

Ah, but God had mercy. God looked at the frailty of His creation and took pity on some. God decided to save some to the praise of His glory. Herein is the gospel. Herein is the good news. “But God…” The gospel is only good news when it is contrasted with the bad news of sin. The bad news is that man is under the Law which judges, and condemns the soul to hell. The bad news is that people are enslaved to the devil. The bad news is that individuals are dead in trespasses and sin. Man has no island of righteousness left in his soul. He is dead to righteousness. He is in the flesh, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom. 8:8)

The good news is that despite man’s Radical Corruption God will have mercy. God will take, His own Divine Initiative, to save sinners. God, who is rich in mercy, has made us alive, even while we were still dead in our transgressions and sin. When an Armenian, or a Semi-Pelagian evangelical talks about salvation, they often try to illustrate what happens at the moment of salvation.

The Christian worker often concedes that fallen man is not healthy. He is very sick. Indeed, he is sick unto death. He is in the terminal illness ward of the spiritual hospital. There is nothing the patient can do to heal himself. Death is certain, unless the right medicine is administered. In grace, God has provided the medicine, but it is up to the patient to agree to take it. God Himself pours the medicine on the spoon, and offers it to the dying patient. The spoon with the healing medicine is placed on the lips. At the moment, the patient can either accept the medicine, or reject it. If the patient opens his mouth, and accepts the medicine, God will save him. If the medicine is refused, the patient will die, not only for time, but for eternity.

The problem with this illustration is that while concession is made that man is in a very serious condition, he is still alive. To be a Biblical illustration, the patient would have to be dead. To be a Biblical illustration God must come into the room after the doctor has pronounced the patient dead. It is at that point that God offers the Divine cure by the power of regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Paul teaches that God quickens us when we are dead.

A better illustration, is that a man is found dead at the bottom of the Sea of Sin. He is dead. God takes that dead man from the bottom of the Sea of Sin, brings him up and places him on dry land, and imparts to him life. There is a Divine mouth to mouth spiritual resuscitation. God breathes life into the dead soul and it lives. The dead live by the power of God, not by a choice of their own will.

That first quickening of the dead, from the flesh to the spirit, is a Divine Initiative. A person is transferred from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light by the power of God. After God gives life, a person can repent. A person can choose to believe in Christ. A soul can love God. A soul can obey the Law of God so that it might be said, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

Now if God is the one who must not only administer the proper medicine, but resurrect the corpse, a valid question arises. What is the purpose of evangelism? The Biblical answer is this. God has ordained not only what will come to pass, but the means by which all that He has ordained will come to pass. God has ordained that souls will be saved through the preaching of the gospel. “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:14-15)

Another reason to evangelize is because Jesus has commanded it. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:18-20) The Church is commanded to carry out the will of the Lord. The Church is to witness and evangelize. That is a God given responsibility. God has reserved to Himself the responsibility of electing those who are to be the heirs of salvation. Those whom God chooses to show mercy to, He predestinates to be conformed to the image of His Son, that Christ might be the firstborn among many brethren.

God does not need to use human agents in advancing the gospel so that souls will be saved, but He so desires to do just that. Therefore, God has given to us “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” (2 Cor. 5:11a) While evangelism is a duty, it is also a delight. There is joy in seeing individuals come to faith in Christ. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:6)

“Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”

What an unspeakable privilege it is to evangelize others. Every Christian can have a significant part in a significant entity. There is no greater work on earth than to bring people to Jesus Christ, for in Christ there is eternal life. “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Rom. 10:11) No one will ever be disappointed in Jesus. Nor should anyone hesitate to come to Christ, for His invitation is open. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

The Church is to give people a vision for what it is doing in the matter of evangelism, and invite individuals to become a part of it. Many will respond. To preach the gospel, to nurture young Christians in the faith, to help those who are weak, and to lift up those who are downcast is the highest calling on earth. May the Lord put souls on the heart of every Christian to do the work of an evangelist.

“Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”

Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Tho’ the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”

Knowles Shaw, 1874

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