You Are Not Saved By Faith

March 9, 2011

A week ago, the Christian internet broke.

A week ago, I said I wanted to be a universalist.  (Which doesn’t make me a universalist.  Just a wannabe.)  And the flow of visitors and comments continues.  Lots of high fives, and lots of people questioning my sanity.

I’m not going to rehash what I said last week, or comment again on universalism, Rob Bell, or anyone else.

But, in the space of a blog post, few people can write a theological masterpiece, and I need to set something straight today.  Because even though I want to be a Universalist, I’m also partly a Calvinist.  Not a whole one.  More like a two and a half point Calvinist.  The kind of Calvinist that would be burned at the stake by John Calvin.  But you already know my feelings about him.  I believe the word I used to describe him was “wang.”

A lot of the universalism-bashing has been done by self-described “Calvinists” or “Reformed” Christians.  They’re the guardians of the “elect” aren’t they?  The thing is, if Calvinists really believed the five points of Calvinism, we still wouldn’t agree on universalism, but we’d have a lot less to argue about when it comes to universalism.

What Makes You Think You’re Saved?

Why do you think you’re going to heaven and other people aren’t?  Because you’re a good person?  Lots of people think that.  But anyone who can rub two theological sticks together knows better than that.

Is it because you did your best to do what God wanted?  Lots of Christians are there too, but only because they haven’t read lately that all of our obedience amounts to filthy rags.

Is it because you have faith? Ah, yes.  There’s what you were all waiting to read.  We are saved by faith. Very Lutheran.  We are saved because we have faith, and that’s exactly why the world is going to hell.  The world doesn’t have faith.  We made a decision to follow Jesus and we got dunked or sprinkled and we probably cried.  That’s why we believe we’re “saved.”

If We’re Saved By Faith, Then I’m Screwed

There might be a problem with our faith though.  Some of us have just switched one righteous act for another.  What if your faith has become your “righteous act?”  You used to rely on helping old ladies to get into heaven, but now you rely on the fact that your faith is really strong.  Sure, all of our billboards and bumper stickers say “Jesus Saves.”  But we don’t totally believe it.  We like to take some of the credit.  Many of us quietly believe that our faith in Jesus saved us.

If that’s true for you, then good luck.  I don’t think I trust my faith to save me.  My faith has faltered constantly.  It’s weak.  I stumble.  I doubt, and I don’t want a Jesus that’s only as reliable as I am.  I need him to be faithful even when I’m not, which is a lot.

Jesus made fun of his disciples for having so little faith.  He told them that if they had faith, they could move mountains.  He made a big deal out of having faith.  But he never said their faith would save them from hell.

Stop Having Faith in Your Faith

The constant war cry from Calvinist and Reformed bloggers this week has been, “If universalism is true, then it doesn’t matter what you believe or how you live!  Grrrrrr!” This question assums that faith (and clean living) gets us into heaven, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.

But if you believe that mankind is depraved, that God has elected who to save, that Christ atoned for sin, that grace is irresistable, and that once you’re saved you can’t get “unsaved,” then you are a Calvinist.  Every one of those five points screams, “You are not saved by your faith or how you lived because God did everything!” If you slam universalism because it’s “not fair” that all the unbelievers got saved, then your faith is just like any other self-righteous rag.  You also sound jealous of the unbelievers and “sinners,” and that’s not an attitude very becoming of a saved person.  If you’re really Reformed, then there should be no such phrase as “saving faith,” because faith is more of an “accessory” that saved people carry around.

And if this all sounds wrong and backwards to you, that’s okay.  You’re just not a Calvinist…or part of the elect!

I don’t know if I’m a Calvinist, but here’s what I do know: We need to have a lot less faith in our faith to save us, and start believing we are saved by the Savior.

Now it’s your turn, so tell us what you think.  Are you a five point, two point, or half a point Calvinist?  Does our faith have anything to do with getting saved?  Is faith a mark of those people who are saved, or just people who know they are saved?

112 responses to You Are Not Saved By Faith

  1. I believe (or have faith) that I am saved by faith. I must–“for you have been saved by grace through faith”. It isn’t my faith that saves me, it is grace–but faith is the only way we can receive that grace. Grace also is something we all could use a little more of from time to time. Especially in our public dealings with one another. Who would want to join a community of in-fighters and “Wang-callers”? God Bless you, Friend.
    Paul recently posted..An Unreasonable Soul

  2. Good morning, Matt,

    I’m not sue I understand what you’ve written here. Remember that some of your fans are denser than others. I can’t even program a vcr, how am I supposed to understand salvation?

    The way I figure it, Jesus, for God only knows what reason, sometimes seems to like me. One of those Savior quirks, I suppose. And apparently, although I don’t understand, or believe, or trust, or do good stuff, He’s added me to His collection anyhow.

    When I was a kid I collected matchbook covers, I’d even pick one up out of the gutter to add to my collection, even if it were dirty and soggy and torn. I suspect that the Lord picked me up in much the same way. Saving is what the Savior does. And Jesus seems pretty good at it.

    Although, just between you and me, I do sometimes question His sense of good taste about who He saves.

    Once Ginny and I pulled up behind this car with the bumper sticker reading, “If You die tonight, will you be in Heaven or in Hell?”

    I asked Ginny, “If we die tonight will we be in Heaven or in Hell”?

    My lovely wife answered, “John, if we die tonight, we’ll still be in debt”.

    John Cowart

  3. Matt, you sound like a guy who believes what he believes ’cause it is true to you and not because it is what you have been told to believe (IMO that is a good thing).
    If I were honest with a bunch of my church friends they would probably label me a heretic for some of the things I think, believe and hope to be true (or not to be true).
    I heard Rob Bell speak live once (and living at the other end of the world that does not happen often), and the thing I remember from that talk was one of the things that he believed God would like to say to us and that is “Stop trying to figure me out!” (God not Rob).
    We get glimpses into who God is through the scripture. But history has proven again and again that the pictures we paint of God through our understanding of the scripture are wrong time and again (or if not wrong, then most definitely different and changeable). (I’m not debunking the bible, just our interpretation of it).
    So I am going to let God do the saving. He can save who he likes for the reasons he likes. I want him to save me, both before and after I die, so I try to live a saved life. If God wants to balance justice and mercy with a lot of grace (and I believe he does) then I will be eternally grateful.

  4. It’s weak. I stumble. I doubt, and I don’t want a Jesus that’s only as reliable as I am.

    So true, so true. I believe that Jesus chose to step into our world and become the sacrifice that we could never become, that if I believe that He died for me and I live for Him then I am saved (or in the process of being saved – I’m not in eternity yet. Or maybe I am, but that’s a whole ‘nother idea.) I can’t do anything to make Him love me any more or any less than He does already, and I will do my utmost (I’d say best, but that sounds like it’s me doing the saving) to live for Him by His book of Life.

  5. Maybe some people run from us once we start talking about Jesus (of which I am often ashamed to do) because we start talking about what we believe about him, and all that person hears is an affirmation of my self. Perhaps when we talk about Jesus we should talk about how he saves.
    Jeremy @ confessionsofalegalist recently posted..On being ashamed

  6. As I was reading this, I realized how much churches in general add to salvation. I quote Greg Boyd here (not an exact quote) but… “When we get to heaven, there isn’t going to be a theology quiz to get in”.

  7. Mind explosion! Great post!
    Wes Molebash recently posted..The Tragedy Of “Why Me”

  8. There should be some kind of magazine-style quiz that tells you how much of a Calvinist you are.

    Mostly As: 5 point. Congratulations! You’re a part of the elect!
    Mostly Bs: 3.5 point. The new Calvinists might still take you.
    Mostly Cs: 2 point. You know that God spits the lukewarm out of his mouth, right?
    Mostlt Ds: 0 point. Depraved and doomed.
    Sarah recently posted..Facing Our Fears

  9. We were talking about the idea of people having faith in their faith last night at our meeting. We were discussing our way through Romans 4, and we were identifying some of the things we trust in today in the same way that the Jews trusted in circumcision. Glad to see that you’re having similar thoughts. And although I’m probably a -5 on the Calvinist scale, I like what you had to say here.
    Captain Quaker recently posted..Win-Lose

  10. There was a time I was such a good little Calvinist I could even make Limited Atonement sound convincing. Now? …I think Perseverance of the Saints has a nice ring to it.
    David N. recently posted..Top Twenty Eight Tuesday- Books I’m Totally Buying as Soon as Our Tax Refund Gets Here

  11. I think it was Rob Bell that said, “is it possible we are too busy to know that God is there?” I think that is probably the case for most Americans. Up here in New England, we don’t discuss Jesus very much, it’s politically incorrect. There is no social Bible belt here. If you want to be a Christian here, the road is very narrow. The average church is about 120. And the average Catholic Church is about 4,000.

    I have always struggled with the fact that Jesus died for everyone, and yet so many don’t experience Him – too busy is probably the reason. Besides there is work to do, bills to pay, soccer games to get to, shopping, vacation, and TV.

    Salvation is solely based on what is what is written in the heart, regardless of theology. (Romans 2:15) I am not saying there isn’t good and bad theology, there is. God, however; is more graceful than Rob Bell, Billy Graham, Terry Jones and John Piper put together. There is a perfect theology, and I don’t think any one person owns it. For the most part theology is a logical attempt to explain God; it can’t be done.

    We can only know who God is by knowing Him! I know, earth shattering.

    For those that are actually saved and have the seal of the Holy Spirit, the will know that by his assurance. (John 15:26)

    The church in general has a screwed up view of faith. First faith is not belief. We can believe anything we want, but faith in Jesus is a connection – a deposit.

    Second, doubting Thomas had more faith than most of the church. He was there when Jesus raised Lazarus form the dead. He was there when he fed the 5,000 etc. Few in the church have that kind of faith. Thomas doubted that it was possible to have a relationship with a dead, but eternally living Christ – it was a new theology.

    Third, faith doesn’t mean that we can’t screw up. King David did, and God did toss him from the fray.

    Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but to make dead people live. Real faith (not belief) communicates with God, and the sheep know his voice. (John 10:4)

    How come that doesn’t happen, maybe we are too busy. I don’t know.
    David recently posted..Biblical Church Models – Have We Been Sniffing the Glue

    • You make so many great points, David! I can’t seem to disagree with anything you said. I love how you point how that trying to explain God logically is futile. He is not logical, hence the need for faith and a strong desire to know Christ intimately.
      Carla recently posted..Catholic or Cath-o-lite

  12. You’re doing great on the faith saves stuff. You’re right – very Lutheran. (I say that as a Lutheran.) I’d add that to understand things as Lutherans do, you also have to add in that in baptism, God does everything. It’s not our act of obedience, it’s not an ordinance, it’s a sacrament. So when you start down the road of questions like “What if my faith isn’t enough?” you can stop short and be reminded that you are baptized. God did it for you. You didn’t do that, and you didn’t do any other thing for your salvation. God chose you in your baptism, and gave/gives you faith through the Holy Spirit.

    I LOLed at “the Christian internet broke.” So true! Though I might modify Christian to Evangelical, or maybe Calvinist. A whole bunch of Lutherans have hardly noticed the Rob Bell conniption, even though many of us use his videos with youth.
    Ted Carnahan recently posted..Regional Assignment- Region 4

  13. 50% Calvinist, i.e., two and one-half point. “For by grace are you saved through faith.”
    vanilla recently posted..Ash Wednesday

  14. Grace. Romans 5, the greatest chapter in the Bible on Grace. Grace sought me out. Grace paid the price. Grace made things right no matter how wrong they were. Grace is exceeding, abundant, beyond, wild, extravagant, over the top and unexplainable because we were not worth it. It doesn’t make sense. All I know is that one minute I was godless, clueless, not interested and ignorant and then the next moment I wanted Jesus, was aware of Jesus, needed Jesus and I made a connection with Jesus. Grace interrupted my mundane existence. He did it all.
    Brian recently posted..A Real Church – sermon 3-6-11

  15. //If you slam universalism because it’s “not fair” that all the unbelievers got saved, then your faith is just like any other self-righteous rag. You also sound jealous of the unbelievers and “sinners,” and that’s not an attitude very becoming of a saved person.//

    And wasn’t this the very thinking that Jesus combated among the Pharisees?

    Great post Matt. It got me thinking.
    Charlie Chang recently posted..269 Retelling Ecclesiastes 3-1-8

  16. Two and a half point Calvinist? Sounds likes a new sitcom, starring Charlie Sheen.
    Charlie Chang recently posted..269 Retelling Ecclesiastes 3-1-8

  17. I think there is a correlation between the recent “rise” of Calvinism and the recent “rise” of the seemingly universalist evangelicalism. I think both have come as a response to years of kids being taught that above all else, they need to get their friends to “say the prayer”. Anyone who has spent significant time getting people to “say the prayer” has had to ask serious questions:

    “How come that guy who said the prayer was back out of the church two weeks later?”

    “How can that person who said the prayer in high school now claim to be an atheist in college? Are they still saved?”

    “How come everyone at school hates me?”

    Somehow, our modern evangelical obsession with getting people saved through every tract, bait-and-switch, and Avon modeled marketing ploy available has led to a generation who is sick of gimmicks. So a theology where everyone is saved/a handful of lucky people are saved is pretty appealing.

    Because, if it really isn’t a work we do, then how does it work? If trying really hard to get the goth kid who sits next to me in English class to “say the prayer” didn’t work, then what does?

    • Exactly. I totally agree…I think! :) Of course, if you take Calvinism to it’s logical extent, then we need no tracts, no evangelism, because God has elected who will be saved, and those people will come to faith no matter what. Somehow, taking any human theology to its extreme reveals its weaknesses.

      • I find it interesting that the Calvinists are arguing “If universalism is true, then it doesn’t matter what you believe or how you live!”, because I have always wondered that about Calvinisim. If we’re truly just lucky and get picked, then it doesn’t matter how we live. In the end, it all works out if we’re one of the lucky ones.

        It’s a gross misunderstanding of Calvinism, I know, but I kind of wonder if Calvinists are grossly misinterpreting Rob Bell’s book that none of them have read yet.

      • Earlier, you agreed with depravity. If that is true, which it is (because it’s Biblical), that shows that no one deserves to be saved. However, the fact that God loves us and chooses to save anyone is amazing enough news worth telling everybody. That is what the Calvinist would say, and that is what I believe Calvin himself would say.
        Brooklyn Cravens recently posted..Hating Change

    • How come everyone at school hates me? hahaha!

      Excellent points! I’ve also read how kids go to a retreat every year and go up and get saved. It was so much fun getting saved last year, how could we resist the second, third, and fourth time!

      We shouldn’t focus so much on saying the prayer as much as we should be showing others Christ’s light. And if we do happen to have someone ask us to say “the prayer” with them, it doesn’t end there! Newly saved people still need our love, time, and prayers. We should care about them as people not just another soul we can add a notch on our belt for!
      Carla recently posted..Catholic or Cath-o-lite

  18. ““If universalism is true, then it doesn’t matter what you believe or how you live! Grrrrrr!” This question assums that faith (and clean living) gets us into heaven, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.”

    OK, I firmly believe that first statement to be true because that’s how many universalists present it. (And I don’t know where I fall on the Calvin scale.) If everyone gets into heaven, then there’s no need for Jesus and that’s the way most universalists present their theology. And if there’s no need for Jesus, then there’s no need for Jesus’ words in the Bible. And in essence, you’re making Jesus out to be a liar when he says He is the way, the truth and the life. When he speaks of the sheep and the goats. So to me, that statement is not about works or faith in faith but rather what I see as someone trying to take Christ as a whole out of the equation. If you throw away Christ, you’re telling folks how they live doesn’t matter because with Christ in your life you want to strive to live a better way.
    Jason recently posted..Day 67- How He loves us

    • I believe in universal reconciliation and have for about eight months. Lots of questions to God, the questions I’d been fearful of asking Him. Kept hearing that sweet voice saying “who are you to question God”? Don’t listen to that voice anymore! Who am I ? His daughter! Never feared questioning my dad when he was alive. Though there are close to 100 scriptures supporting UR, it’s good to pay attention to your heart and what your heart tells you because God has given you a new heart and His Spirit does teach you.
      It’s sad that most believe Jesus died and took on our sins to save us from hell period. That was the mission. When Jesus ascended into Heaven, then was The Holy Spirit able to dwell in us. God in us. We now were able to know God and know the love of God as our Father. Romans 3:3 What then if some were without faith? Will their lack of faith make of no effect the faithfulness of God? By no means. It’s not possible to know the Grace and love of God until you let go of every preconceived notion of what you need to do to win Gods love. It’s by far the most difficult thing to do. We believe if we don’t go to church or to the alter or take communion or get on our knees three times a day and daily read our bible and do x amount of good deeds a day and ask forgiveness each night and fast and tithe, the list goes on. We think
      God will let go, or we might believe He loves us but doesn’t like us and will stop blessing us or harm us or our families or our finances or our health. We think we might forget about God if we stop these rituals, we really don’t have an ounce of faith in Him, our faith is in ourselves. Only when we let go of these things do we find an amazing truth that God will not let go. That if the love of God was in you it’s not possible to leave you if you become a couch potato eating bon bons all day. This is when freedom begins, when you really lay it all down. We’ve been brainwashed to believe it’s outward acts of sin we must lay down and pick up a thousand other things to be burdened by. We think this is our cross to on one hand let go of the law claim Grace yet add an updated list of ” to do’s”. Jesus said His yoke is easy and it is once we refuse to believe we need another single thing but Him. It’s not Jesus plus! Fear of not having enough faith is not believing Jesus when He said it is finished.


    Or as Tony Evans (I think) once put it, “It’s not your faith in Christ that saves you… it’s your faith in Christ that saves you!”
    Eric recently posted..Recommended Reading mostly on Words and Music

  20. Probably a little bit of both. By human nature, I see myself waving my faith flag around to show I am Christian, and if you don’t have a faith like mine, I am judging. I know this is sinful, but we are sinful by nature right? So, on the other hand, I know that faith in my savior has allowed grace for such horrific sins. I think this can be said with almost any Christian asset/theology because by our rebelliousness, we are drawn to glorify ourselves before God.

    I heard an interesting sermon not long ago over Romans 2:6-11. The message of the sermon was this (paraphrased):

    ‘You are saved through faith, and faith is measured by your obedience to commands. Therefore, works are necessary to enter the Kingdom because it will describe your faith (salvation).’

    What do ya’ll think about this? What is ya’ll’s interpretation of this passage?

    • Yeah, we can make a big circle. James describes “true” faith as caring for widows and orphans. Jesus said that those who believe him will put his words into practice. It’s kind of like the fruits of the spirit. Fruits and obedience indicate a believer.

      • I think the problem with legalism has always been an obsession with fruit. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about gardening, it’s you don’t get fruit from an unhealthy plant, and you don’t get a healthy plant from unhealthy soil. Good soil, sun, and water produce good plants, and good plants bear fruit.

        You can’t produce fruit if you aren’t a healthy plant, and Jesus provides that.

        Now, who plants us in the healthy soil? Do we get there ourselves, or do we have no choice where our seed lands? Should we use Miracle Grow, or organic treatments? Will my tomato plants get big enough to give me some tomatoes before Summer? All serious questions …

  21. Excellent post. I have been thinking many of the same things myself lately. The New Testament actually seemed quite conflicted on whether good works are needed or faith enough. I find myself also thinking that my faith is just about as weak as I am. But God is SO MUCH BIGGER than my weakness. He is so much greater than my faith. I suppose it never made much sense to me to think that God couldn’t do whatever He wanted and save whomever He wants. At this point in my life I’m trying to think a lot LESS about whether other people are saved and a whole lot MORE about how I should be living my life. Not to become saved, but because I really should be following what my Lord told me about how to live.

    I am reading a book that I think you might find very interesting. It’s called Good News of Jesus by L. William Countryman.
    Cara recently posted..Ethical Eating Challenge – January Results

  22. Faith is the gift of God. If you mustered up the faith to believe, then I’m afraid you are still “saved by works”.

  23. Hi Matt,

    I think this is my first time commenting on your blog (which I enjoy regularly via rss).

    I’d have to agree that “If we’re saved by faith, then I’m screwed” is true… as long as you’re talking about some kind of self-induced faith. Because if we do have to work up our own faith we will fail just like we fail at working out our own perfection.

    And that would really suck because the NT is just chock full of phrases like “righteousness that is by faith from first to last”, “righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe”, “Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith”, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”, “we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand”. (And those are just from the first half of Romans, there’s lots more)

    But Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians (also ch. 12) talk about faith being a gift of God- just like every other good thing. If it’s a gift, we don’t have to produce it ourselves and so it’s all good. 😉 We can’t take pride in it or work it out ourselves- we just have to rest in what God has already given us.

    You said, “I don’t know if I’m a Calvinist, but here’s what I do know: We need to have a lot less faith in our faith to save us, and start believing we are saved by the Savior.”

    I think that the problem is there: “faith in our faith”. When we realize that it isn’t ‘our’ faith but God’s faith at work in us (just like our lives are Christ’s life being lived out in us) then we have no basis for pride or a works mentality.

    Well I’ve gabbled on a lot and maybe this isn’t too clear but those are my two cents for the day. :)

    God bless you and keep you,

  24. Like I said in the last post about this…I’m with David Crowder, “Oh Happiness there is Grace enough for us and the whole human race”

  25. Anything other than full and complete reliance on Jesus to save is a hindrance to us. Good point, Matt. Pride comes before a fall. I know that’s in the Good Book somewhere too and it’s very true. :)
    jasonS recently posted..New Book- New Giveaway!

  26. Awesome post brother, I agree completely. And well written.

  27. I grew up in a very Calvinist/Reformed denomination. Actually worked in a Hallmark store in the mall that Rob Bell turned into his church building, if that gives you any indication of the locale/mindset. Christian day school & college that were Calvinist–the whole nine yards.
    Am I still a Calvinist? I’m probably Calvinist-ish.
    Total depravity–I see it all around me. Unconditional election–I just don’t think about that too much anymore. Atonement–definitely, but not too wild about it being limited. Irresistible grace–absolutely. Perserverance of the saints–in need of it constantly.
    The catechism curriculum we had followed the “sin-salvation-service” model. Now I tend to think of it as “gutter-GRACE–gratitude.” It’s all grace.

    It’s because God is so big and so important in our lives that we get caught up in these debates. I mean–we’re talking about concepts of absolute and ultimate importance, right? So there is this drive to get it absolutely and ultimately correct. But we can’t.
    So we go back to grace. Whether we get the absolute mechanics of salvation right or not, we’re not saving ourselves.
    It’s all grace.

  28. I believe that I’m saved by faith…in the sense that it was something that God instilled/ initiated/ created in me. The point of “grace through faith” is to not boast. Boasting in faith is just as silly as boasting in works. Praise be to God.
    Jo_of_TSN recently posted..Where be your gibes now

  29. We are saved by grace, and the vessel of that grace is faith. It is all a gift from God, not based on our merit or action.

    The reason I am not a universalist is not because I am reformed, but because of what the Bible about Hell and Faith.

    I am a Calvinist, but more because that is the term that applies to the theology I believe, not because I have any particular love of Calvin. I haven’t actually read him much.

    I had a professor in college who is a universalist, and I think he thought that went along well with Calvinism.

    The book “Sinners in a the Hands of a Good God” (not to be confused with the Edwards sermon with a similar name) was really good in helping me wrestle through Calvinism and Universalism as concepts.
    LexLaura recently posted..Important Issues 2-The Predominence of Scripture in the Life of a Christian

    • I second the recommendation for “Sinners in the Hands of a Good God,” which, despite the change in title, also reconciles the idea of how an “angry” God can still be considered “good” – probably not enough to convince someone who does not believe in Christianity, but maybe enough to reassure a believer that has doubt.
      Jo_of_TSN recently posted..Where be your gibes now

  30. Look here…let me set you straight in the space of a Comment on a blog…

    Matt, I totally got your post on Universalism…and I LOVE THIS POST!

    Great Take…I think there are semantics issues that can be hashed out and argued ad nauseum regarding this topic and Calvinism…But my point is…AWESOME POST! Great stuff to ponder and meditate on
    Lazarus recently posted..Tracking Down Brian

  31. I just returned from a mission trip to Honduras. Or as I like to call it; My Honduras.
    I spent the morning reading your post on Universalism, and now this one.

    While in my Hondy, I was struck by many things; but one I want to share here.

    Who am I, that I should be born in the land of the free and the brave? Who am I that I should live in the lap of luxuray while my brothers and sisters in Christ fear daily for their lives?
    While I was there, one of the pastors that work w/ our organization was murdered. Another was threatened. There are armed guards everywhere. There are guards with AK-47’s at the gas station. There are guards with automatic pistols at Wendys. Yes, that’s right, Wendys. Cute little red headed pigtailed Wendy’s.
    And then I get to hop on an airplane, and come back to America, all safe and secure and complacent.

    Who am I, that I was born in America, and not Honduras?

    Who am I, that I should be chosen to get into Heaven, and they should not?

    It is by grace you have been sved, through faith-

    I think this is what

    • AND THIS NOT FROM YOURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD- not by works, so that no one can boast.
      Ephesians 2:8-9

      So, what I was going to say before I so rudely interrupted myself;
      I think this is completely applicable to this discussion.

      Who am I to think I can get into heaven? Who am I to think you can’t?
      I wasn’t born in to America because I’m better than those born into Honduras. Maybe they’re better, because they were born into a more difficult situation than I was. Maybe God looked at my soul, when he created it, and said, “this one’s not as strong, better put her in America.

      So I don’t know if this makes me, a Universalist or a Calvanist.
      I do know that it makes me more humble that I’ve ever been.

      Who am I? God’s greatest creation.
      Who are you? God’s other greatest creation.
      And He desires that none should perish, not one.

  32. We love because He first loved us. He woos. We respond. Faith, too, is a gift. He gives it, then tests it to make it strong — authoring and perfecting and enabling us to please Him. It’s all gift. All grace. That’s what I think.
    Jeanne Damoff recently posted..The Great Known

  33. It seems like Universalists and Calvinists have more in common than they would like to admit. Because, if only God’s predestined elect are saved (as Calvinists believe), it doesn’t really matter how you live or what you believe, because if God didn’t choose you to be one of the elect, you’re damned. And of course, nothing you can do can change whether you are one of the elect, right?

    So then, Universalists also say that only God can choose who makes it into heaven and that it doesn’t matter how you live…. except in this scenario, He chooses everyone.

    Is it just me, or is there a funny similarity? Granted, the difference is profound, as well.

  34. Here’s the Lutheran ‘party line’ … “We are saved by grace, through faith”

    Our faith does not save us, it is a gift, or by product of being saved.

    God calls us and chooses us. he is free to do so, is He not?

    Is He a real God with freedom to act and save whom He will save? Or not?
    Steve Martin recently posted..The Beatitudes – a Lenten sermon

  35. Have you considered what Karl Barth started out with (he went some different ways with it than I do)?

    Christ is the Elect; we find our election through Him.
    Christ is the condemned; if we cannot get past the cross, then we are still under God’s wrath which is supposed to be satisfied by the cross.

    A friend of mine who is a staunch Calvinist does not agree with this view even though he claims a Christocentric theology, and I see this as fulfilling that requirement fully.

    I would also have to say that it is not our faith which saves us, but grace has saved us (Ephesians 2). Our faith in that is our accepting this truth.
    Daniel M. Klem recently posted..Birthing Controversy

  36. I think the main problem is the evangelical tradition preaches a faith that is gnostic and more in tune with the esoteric musings of the Greek philisophers.

    The Hebrews (and therefore the “faith” of the bible) always understood that Faith = Belief + Trust + Action.

    The Gnostic/Greek/Westerner will stand at the bridge pylons and pontificate at length about the integrity of their structure. The Jew will walk across.
    Andrew recently posted..Cutting to the chase of humility

  37. I think faith is “both/and.” It is God’s gift/fruit and only shows up in my life when I am transparent enough to turn over the reins. But my willingness to be transparent is an act of faith. Guess I will be spewed out :0
    Jim L. recently posted..Stop

  38. I think it is very difficult to read the book of Romans and not become a 5 pointer. You are correct on this Matt, true Reformed teaching points out that even faith is a gift from God along with the gift of repentance. Even though most people have mixed feelings about Driscoll, he said something once that stuck with me: “There only three options on who gets to choose who is saved: Man, The Devil, or God. I don’t like our odds on the first two.” (that’s my paraphrased version anyhow.) Point is God chooses and who are we to argue with him.

  39. It’s actually kinda funny how similar Universalism and Calvinism really are. Both focus on God’s sovereignty. They stand on the same mountain, but they face opposite views.

    The Universalist says, “God is sovereign! While everyone has sinned, God can save everyone if he wants to!”

    The Calvinist says, “God is sovereign! Everyone has sinned, and God save “x” and punish “x” if he wants to!”

    What’s funny is how people poke a lot of fun at Calvinists because they find it unfair that God would save everyone, even though Calvinists are grounded in Scripture. Why do I find it funny? Because even though Universalists point to God’s sovereign ability to save everyone, they tend to demonize God’s sovereignty and find it unfair that he can save whomever or punish whomever he wishes despite verses like Daniel 12:2. Afterall, why was Israel chosen anyway? I think you get my point.

    Either way, people are funny. Whether Calvinist or Universalist, both camps can definitely take themselves too seriously at times. The most important task is to stay faithful to Scripture and not human logic. And while it’s good to poke fun at those who need to calm down, we must be sure that the different parts of the church are working together under Christ, not competing –> 1 Peter 3:8.
    Brooklyn Cravens recently posted..Hating Change

  40. It’s all a mystery and that’s the way God wants it. His ways are not our ways. I’m just thankful that I am His.

    Lazy Silly Girl

  41. As the TULIP goes, I’m a full on T, I, and P. I can’t get on board with the U’s and L’s. Maybe I’m really, really wrong (I say that to God more than anything) but my heart cannot reconcile a God who only chooses to save some, not others. But maybe, I’m wrong.
    Marni recently posted..Yeah- Im back

    • I can’t reconcile the idea that some like yourself find God to be sovereign enough to save everyone who deserves hell (human beings, that is), but you dislike the idea of a God who is sovereign enough to save some and not others, despite the fact that all men deserve punishment (Romans 6:23) and despite the fact that God killed the One who never deserved anything bad so that anyone could be saved at all.

      Considering we have Scripture for man’s wickedness and Christ’s perfection, can you show me some Scripture that shows how ‘unfair’ it would be for God to sovereignly save people and punish others? Furthermore, can you tell me why exactly Israel was chosen to be the nation of God in the first place? Perhaps I am misunderstanding something.
      Brooklyn Cravens recently posted..Hating Change

      • I have no problem with God not saving some people. The problem that I have is God deciding before the creation of the earth to create/predestine some people to go to hell. That just seems mean. And that’s not the God I know.

        • Why? God is sovereign. We don’t look up the dictionary definition of ‘good’ and ‘love’ and conclude that God falls in that category. We humbly look at God and see that everything He does is good and loving because of who He is.

          You know what seems mean? That we would throw every good thing that God created back in His face because of our sin. It seems mean that we would murder an innocent, sinless, perfect man named Jesus.

          And what seems most loving to me lies in the fact that God would save any one, for NO ONE deserves to be saved.

          The God I know is the God that shows mercy and love on everything as He pleases. Romans 9 makes this very clear. A God who allows everyone into heaven is nowhere found in Scripture. A God who saves some and not others is completely Scriptural, and is completely fair given that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Time is irrelevant, because our sin is devastating. God knew what we would do before He made us; you know He is not stupid. He made us anyway, with a Sovereign plan to bring His kids home.

          It is not from here that you say only some come to God and others don’t, so there is no point in telling people about Jesus. But really, the Good News is that God does save period. The Good News is that Jesus did come so we could live in relationship with God now. We should not worry about how God does this or that, because we are not God (Isaiah 55:8). We should only concern ourselves with Jesus, God’s love, and the fact that we now have the opportunity to be with our loving Father.
          Brooklyn Cravens recently posted..Hating Change

          • I agree with everything you have said.
            I don’t think you understand what I am saying. Yes, there is no one righteous, not one. That includes me. I have done nothing worthy of life everlasting. NOTHING!

            My problem with Calvanism is this: God CREATED some people for hell?!?
            “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
            Ephesians 2:10

            So God created me for good works, because I am part of the elect, but he created my unbelieveing neighbor for hell, before the foundations of the earth?
            If my neighbor chooses to reject Gods saving grace, then of course he will go to hell. But for God to create him for the purpose of hell, that’s what I don’t buy.

        • Indeed, I see what you are saying. To say that God created people to specifically go to hell is, in my opinion, not the best way to approach the concept. Rather, God created everything for His glory. To that end, I would again refer you to read Romans 9, specifically verses 15 and 21.

          The problem with Calvinists is they will rush to tell you that God does create some for destruction, when we don’t know God’s heart completely or his specific methods. All we know is he is full of love and full of mercy, and that all deserve hell from the minute we were created. Including you and me. However, you already realize this. But in this way, since God creates us knowing of our sin and creates us with a capacity to not choose him, in a way you could say that God creates everyone for hell. Why? Because that’s what we all deserve. I wouldn’t say it that way, of course, because (as I said before) God creates everything for his glory. It all comes back to him, not to a place like heaven or hell.

          That’s how Calvinists should really tell the story, because really Calvin would ascribe to Scripture and not human theology. However, sadly many Calvinists are cold and will tell you if you’re elect good job and if you’re not then you’re screwed.

          Again, God has complete sovereignty to specifically punish anyone he wishes, because all deserve it. Likewise, he has all sovereignty to show mercy to whomever he wishes. I personally believe this, because that is what I have found all over Scripture. Definitely check out Romans 9 and Psalm 115:3.

          Thanks for talking with me, Jillian. It’s always fun conversing with believers about things :D.
          Brooklyn Cravens recently posted..Hating Change

          • “It all comes back to him, not to a place like heaven or hell.”

            Amen, brother Brooklyn! That statement sums up this entire thread.

  42. Matt, I can’t believe you broke the Christian internet!

    You make very good points, and I love how you are willing to discuss such interesting and touchy topics. Most Christians are too scared of stepping outside of their own doctrinal ideologies to engage in such discussions, or at least to engage in them openly and honestly.

    I think we can all agree that we are saved by Jesus (the Savior) through faith/grace and that we are given the choice to have faith, to turn away from God, or to trust fully in Him. This is all very mysterious and we could discuss until we die and find out the truth. The truth is God is mysterious, we can only understand so much of Him.

    But you brought up some other points I’d like to touch on (I’m trying to be brief, and I’m not very good at that). You said faith is like an accessory that saved people like to carry around. How true! I wrote a blog trying to figure out why so many Christians aren’t taking the Church outside the walls of church and doing Christ’s work of feeding the poor and taking care of widows. I strongly believe its because we have created arrogant Christians who are so proud of their faith and are so busy believing for miracles in their owns lives that they don’t have time to help others. And that they actually believe that others struggle because their faith isn’t strong enough, and our faith is better and got us where we are. The Church has a giant faith filled head and had misplaced Christ’s command to humility.

    I’m also seeing a lot of labels being thrown around. Calvinist. Universalist. Lutheran. Wang. Conservative. The Depraved. I have long since shed any label I think I might need. I follow Christ, I long to understand His Word. Period. There are many denominations and many labels but if we all believe Christ is our Saviour what’s all the fuss about? Maybe we aren’t bringing about Christ’s will in this world because we refuse to unite and try so hard to distance ourselves from other Christians who’s ideology differs even slightly with ours. Call me Catholic, call me Evangelical, call me a Bible thumper, I don’t care. I just want to follow Jesus and keep a humble heart and glorify Him. Check out my latest blog where I extrapolate on this idea.
    Carla recently posted..Catholic or Cath-o-lite

  43. I’ve been discussing the theology behind Calvinism with my husband, and we came across/ to an interesting point: what if Jesus is the elect? Then, those saved through Him are also ‘part of’ the elect…

    That way of thinking makes sense to me, since my faith happens to be founded in, and centered around, Him. Am I eliminated from the Calvinist group for such a thought? Maybe so, but I would rather Christ save me then Calvin.

    • You have it right! I don’t know that I would exactly say Jesus is the elect itself, but I would say with confidence that he is head of the elect, the church (Colossians 1:18). You are completely correct, then, when you say those saved through Jesus are part of the elect! The entire church is the elect.

      And I would not say your view dispels you from the ‘Calvinist’ group, per se. A lot of people think Calvin had some logical thoughts around God, made a posse called “Calvinists” and read Scripture through that lens. However, Calvin merely taught from Scripture itself and simply taught what he followed as truth, which is why all of the points of Calvinism have a TON of Scripture to back them up. I can’t say with confidence that Calvin would argue for the same things that so many so-called Calvinists do, but I can say that when Calvin says or hears something, he will validate it with Scripture. As would our King Jesus, as should we.
      Brooklyn Cravens recently posted..Hating Change

  44. I am pretty much a five point Calvinist (at least I thought so until I read your note!) but if I am getting your argument, I think too much of my faith, even though I believe my faith is a gift from God without which I would not be saved from Hell. Thus, I’m a little confused about what you have written. My faith is, like you described, weak and often faltering. Thus, I can only trust in what God has provided to me, which, apparently, is actually about the amount of a mustard seed! But I’m counting on God through the saving grace of Jesus to get me to heaven. Where am I going wrong here?

    I get the whole idea you are a universalist wannabe – it’s such a “nice” way to think. Why wouldn’t we all want to see everyone saved?

  45. We’re saved by grace, not by faith (Eph. 2:8). Lutherans DON’T believe we’re saved by faith, because faith is something we do. We are saved by God’s grace, which comes to us through His word, and the Holy Spirit, which causes faith in our hearts. Faith is what we show to others, bc they can’t see God’s grace. Just like you can’t see wind, but you can see wind damage.
    So – yes, if we’re saved by faith, we’re all screwed, bc faith is something I’m doing to earn salvation. Very catholic.

  46. “: We need to have a lot less faith in our faith to save us, and start believing we are saved by the Savior”

    The Scottish Calvinist Horatius Bonar said the same thing in “The Everlasting Righteousness”, I would commend that to your reading.

    2 quotes from it:
    “The work of Christ for us is the object of faith; the Spirit’s work in us is that which produces this faith: it is out of the former, not of the latter, that our peace and justification come.”

    “Faith is not our savior. It was not faith that was born at Bethlehem and died on Golgotha for us. It was not faith that loved us, and gave itself for us; that bore our sins in its own body on the tree; that died and rose again for our sins. Faith is one thing, the Savior is another. Faith is one thing, and the cross is another. Let us not confound them, nor ascribe to a poor, imperfect act of man, that which belongs exclusively to
    the Son of the Living God.
    ….Faith saves, because it owns the complete salvation of another, and not because it contributes anything to that salvation.”

  47. Jonathan Wheeler May 3, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Am I the only person that feels that the majority of outspoken Christians on the net are more like pharisees than philosophers? I feel that Jesus (and the apostles) preached for specific reasons. I feel that so many Christians on TV, the web, etc., like to hear their own voice and want others to give validation by agreeing or arguing with them on some website. Am I the only person that feels the knowledge we have of the Bible (OT & NT) is becoming our undoing? We feel we have so much knowledge that we can create our own denominations, post uber-theological comments on some website, video ourselves with all-important things to say about some guy writing a book that GOD FORBID doesn’t agree with our learned doctrine.

    Maybe my thoughts aren’t that well thought out (ha) and maybe it’s the influx of exhaustion and the need for sleep, but I don’t really give a damn about proving my belief system on some website. Strangely enough, I’m typing this right now. But only in the hopes that someone out there reading this will drop their idea for a snide comment and say “hey! maybe it doesn’t matter if everyone else isn’t as doctrinally firm as I am. Maybe that’s the type of thinking that can lead me to think I’m better than they are! Maybe that will cause me to crucify some person that comes along and completely disagrees with my knowledge of the law!”

    Isn’t that what those Jews did to Jesus? I’m not trying to be all super knowledgeable about anything, thought I have had some biblical training. But it seems pretty stupid and unimportant to me to focus one’s time so much on disagreeing with someone whose beliefs aren’t the same as ours. Seems so simple, yet almost every Christian who speaks out in a public forum seems to be the type that wants to preach how wrong someone else is in their beliefs. And don’t call me a relativist, because I’m not going that far, I’m just speaking in terms of how far one should go in thinking that their interpretation of biblical passages is the exact right one and that Rob Bell or Joel Osteen or Garry Shandling or Tom Green has the wrong one. Don’t know about the last two, I just threw them in for good measure.

    Sometimes I think that those who type so much (pointing at me, too) are the same ones who don’t do sh*t most of the time. They would rather just talk about it and feel all-important. Kinda like those pharisee cats. IDK.


    • Jonathan Wheeler May 3, 2011 at 1:02 am

      Dang. Just read over my post for spelling errors and realized it may be the way I read things. Maybe I should add smilies or something. I sounded just like one of those all-important peeps. Should have added some of these :).

      I just think we put to much emphasis on ‘getting it right’ than ‘doing it right’. I have too many Christian friends who are quick to argue with me about homosexuality in the Bible, or how Jesus was (or wasn’t) a capitalist, or how we should dress up at church etc. Eff that stuff. I’m tired of arguing, I don’t feel it does anyone any good. Especially not the people that matter. The ones that Jesus always chased after…

  48. Really great thoughts worth mulling over. I think another way of putting it would be to say we’re saved by Christ’s faith. Galations 2:16 says “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (KJV) Its the faith OF Christ, not IN Christ. Other translations seem to lose this “little” detail.

  49. 2:8). The average church is about 120.

  50. Theodore A Jones December 13, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13

  51. I don’t care Matt what you believe or Calvin or anyone else for that matter when I’m looking for confirmation, I believe what God tells me. Now working on the assumption that you do really believe you are saved by Faith then I will affirm that we know Faith without works is dead but we also know as far as Salvation is concerned we already had it before we were born, Jesus died for everybody because God so Loved the world, so what does it mean to believe in Jesus, I once believed in Santa, God tells us John 3:18 He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God.

    ( Romans 8:1) So when is there no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…it is when we walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

    I will now leave you Matt with another Scripture to ponder on till after Christmas but keep in mind the Greek translation for the word not or cannot means… absolutely never …So Matt are you Born Again… of God’s seed ?

    1 John 3:9 Whosoever is Born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

    Christian Love Anne …See you after Christmas …maybe 😀

  52. How did you like my opening line Matt…..I don’t care Matt what you believe or Calvin or anyone else for that matter when I’m looking for confirmation, I believe what God tells me.

    I do indeed appreciate when people share from their heart and their thoughts and feelings but I have learnt by experience if I want confirmation in regards to God’s Truth I go to Him…I Look forward to sharing more with you this year Matt… I hope you had a great holiday – Christian Love Anne.

  53. Lad, I stumbled onto your blog site and after reading the writings of so many persons so very spiritually blind I’m left feeling so very sad. It’s just as Jesus said, “If a blind man leads a blind man they will both fall into the pit”. I don’t believe this is the forum to help anyone spiritually. My exhortation for one and all is to read God’s word the Bible daily. If anyone wants to know the TRUTH it’s in there.
    “Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth.” ~John 17:17 (Amplified Bible)
    Agape, An Old Man

  54. Aloha friends,

    One is not saved by faith, but by God. Salvation comes from grace, and grace from God, but you haven’t been saved yet, because God is not present with you.

    You haven’t been saved yet, because you haven’t met the Saviour face to face.

    You haven’t been saved yet, because God is light, and darkness cannot persist in the presence of light. You are still blind, cannot see, because if you could see, you would not drink sand (external happiness) but water (internal happiness through relationship with God).

    You have mistaken a mile marker for the destination. Please don’t set up camp here. One is saved by God not by works.

    Your mistake is selfishness, let me explain.

    You would not obey God because of His wrath, so He sent His son to tell you that He loves you and forgives you. Yet still you do not obey.

    Jesus said repent, and sin no more. Yet you sin again, and repent not.
    Jesus said forgive, yet you forgive not and still think you are saved.

    But you say, “salvation is by grace not works”


    For you shun the works of God (His commandments), yet you think that because you believe, and you brought Jesus/God into your heart and life, that you are saved.

    Who are you, God? How can the weak bring the Strong anywhere? How can the imperfect be more cunning than the Perfect?

    These are your works. And they are due to your selfishness. Your selfishness is that you wish to be saved from wrath, even though Jesus taught that God forgives. You don’t believe him and you use his teaching for your own purpose; to mask your selfishness and disobedience as righteousness, that you are following and are saved.

    So friends, Christians, you are not saved, but do not despair. Pick yourselves up where you have fallen and continue on the road. How?

    One is saved by God alone. He is a person and when He decides that in your heart you are a true believer, He will come, and it will be self evident.

    So, try to please Him. Follow the instructions that His son gave. Repent, Forgive, Love.

    When He is pleased, He will save you. This is what Jesus taught. Try to please our Father.

    You wish to be saved from wrath when Jesus showed you that God forgives your sin, yet still you are selfish and do not wish to know Him.

    Your selfishness is what you need to be saved from, not His wrath. Your selfishness is sand and unselfishness (trying to please Him) is water. So drink, and by gradual rehydration, your dehydration will be cured.

    Follow in the footsteps of Paul, who was a great servant of Jesus Christ. Always be looking at your faults, so that you can remember the Faultless One. Always remember your weakness, so that you can remember the Strong One. Always remember your imperfection, so that you can remember the Perfect One.

    Your fault is that you are trying to be the master of God’s property and your brothers, when in fact God created and is the master, owner and controller of everything, and you are a wayward servant. Your fault is that you are trying to be the enjoyer of His property and servants.

    Repent. See your fault, be sorry, and turn to Him, He is all forgiving.

    You sin constantly, so repent constantly, and you will receive Grace constantly. This is how to be close to God, and Jesus, and with each step that you try to please Him, He will come closer to you.

    So it is not by your work (obedience out of selfishness) but by His works (unselfishness), for Repent is His instruction, therefore when you do it, it is not your own work, it is His. Should the servant claim the result of the Master’s instruction?

    In Jesus Christ,
    Jason Lundy, your servant. Aloha.

  55. “Is faith a mark of those people who are saved, or just people who know they are saved?”

    Interesting! Francis Schaeffer wrote a 38 page thesis Called, “The Mark of a Christian”.

    That mark is love. God is love. God so loved. We love Him because he first loved us.
    Its all the Gospel. Its all Jesus. Its all God’s love that we did not deserve.
    I choose to expose theology that emphasizes certain doctrines more than the inspired word emphasizes them.
    God’s love is supreme and the Cross of Christ shows the full measure of God’s love for all.
    We know from Matthew 7 that all will not choose to receive God’s free gift.
    Romans10:9-10 says ,”With the heart men believe and are saved,”
    After that the honeymoon continues till Christ comes.
    God’s love must be present in all our theology or all we have is a bunch of rules without a genuine relationship to God. That only breeds resentment.
    And causes others to run from the only hope for them just because man is a lousy reflection of who and what God is. LOVE! (1 John 4:8)

  56. I don’t think I saw 1 solitary scripture in your article. I’m not trying to offend anyone, but if you are a Christian and believe in the authority of scripture (as if I needed to clarify, but one can never tell), then maybe it would be beneficial to discuss what the Bible says about salvation rather than what John Calvin, a neighbor, or your own feelings tell you about salvation. By in large you have misrepresented the reformed understanding of salvation because you have categorized saving faith as a work, which it is not according to scripture. Saving faith which is exercised by a creature who has imaginary “free will” would be a work because it would be incumbent upon each one to exercise the work of belief. This is called Arminianism. Catholics would also take this road but include sacraments. John 6:44 has Jesus stating the following, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

    Also, I think that the discussion of salvation must be framed within what the scriptures teach about our conditions before we are regenerated. We are dead in our trespasses. The scriptures teach that we are born God-haters who are enemies with Him. We are born in a condition of loving our sin, hiding in darkness, hating the light because of evil deeds, and darkened in our understanding. (References easily found). If the Bible is true in its assessment of the human condition, and we really are born into this sin sickened, God hating state, in light of John 6:44, how would we then come to the conclusion that the Bible somehow teaches a morally neutral state of “choice” needs to occur on our part in order catalyze salvation? Exercising choice would be a work. But if God chooses us…. hmm… no work on our part is done. It’s all on His part.

    Furthermore, the Biblical understanding of faith is that it is a free gift from God and it is imparted to us, not generated within us. The scriptures do not teach that faith is something that we generate. God provides and imparts the faith as a work and action on His part. Believing and turning to God are the results of a heart which has been regenerated and quickened by the Spirit, and are evidences of faith, not prerequisites.

    I am sorry for the long post but I just felt the need to interject because of the absent Biblical teaching about salvation and faith in this post. My contention is that if people are going to bash Calvinism, they should take the time accurately represent it. But more importantly, if you feel the need to discuss a Biblical concept, especially one as important as salvation, you should at least try to use the Bible as a starting point. Just a thought.

    • Kev, I appreciated your feedback here, though your other comment was completely and totally rude and out of line.

      First of all, it is just not my writing style to litter a blog post with scripture quotes. I prefer to summarize broad themes that I find in the scriptures. This is a blog post, not a sermon. If you want a sermon, go listen to one. It sounds like you are adept enough with the scriptures that I do not have to quote them for you.

      Second, and this makes me question whether you grasp the irony of your comments, but you basically AGREE with my entire post! I am saying that we ARE completely depraved, lost in sin SO HOW COULD WE COME UP WITH FAITH TO SAVE OURSELVES? My conclusion is that FAITH is a free gift, a mystery, given by God.

      I don’t know what led you to believe that my thoughts were anything but biblical, when your comment is in total agreement with me. But again, your second comment leads me to question your judgment. Tell me, has God called you to this special ministry of finding strangers’ blogs, making completely erroneous accusations about them (I’m just in it for the money?) and calling them clowns and mockeries of Christianity?

  57. “If that’s true for you, then good luck. I don’t think I trust my faith to save me. My faith has faltered constantly. It’s weak. I stumble. I doubt, and I don’t want a Jesus that’s only as reliable as I am. I need him to be faithful even when I’m not, which is a lot.”

    Here is my sincere suggestion: go spend some time staring at a bloody Jesus Christ hanging on a cross. Contemplate what he did and WHY.

    For it is a statement of God’s profound love for his creation. That he would rather sacrifice of Himself, to take a beating to His own flesh than to have you suffer His justified wrath you have earned. That one man given from God would suffer and die out of an act of His LOVE for you— you the stranger and an unrighteous sinner— rather than see you an unrighteous stranger suffer by the justified wrath of God.

    What man of this world would put himself out even a fraction of this for his friends or love ones, let alone enemies or strangers? Understand the depth of what He did and why. Know this depth of LOVE to which we have only begun to understand in a measure equal to the width of mere sprinkles.

    When you absorb this act of grace such that it brings you to weep, then tell me that the Son of God is someone you cannot trust. Tell me then that you cannot and were not moved by even an ounce of faith to His word or to His works. Then, I will agree that you have no faith and no salvation.

    But, if you come to know in your heart this profound grace and LOVE that was poured out to you in Lord Jesus the Christ, then I shall call you brother and rejoice for you then know the Kingdom of God which has come.

    • I agree with everything you said. I need the God-man on the cross. But it is HIS act that stirs faith in hearts. It doesn’t well up out of nowhere. That’s all I’m saying. Like God told Paul that in his weakness, God is strong, God has to be faithful, even when I am lacking faith. For it to depend on my faithfulness is just another brand of works righteousness.

      • Matthew 21:21 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.

        Luke 17:6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

        “For it to depend on my faithfulness is just another brand of works righteousness.” I understand your point that faith and faithfulness is not the same thing. Perhaps there is confusion about having faith and equating it with having to be 100% faith/faithful; and, that without 100% faith you are loss.

        Let me point out that whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ and is the Son of God and that he went to the cross, he has faith, has the Christ and has salvation. For salvation is the gift from God for believing, though I wouldn’t cast it exactly as a single momentary event such to view as “there I checked the box and now saved.”

        Faith is the seed planted by God in us (as I believe you were noting via the comment above). Faith is what works through us such to bring us closer to God and thereby become representative of him and be embodied by Him.

        Unfortunately, man is fixated on salvation (don’t want to be left behind, lose my salvation, to be cast into hell) when he should be fixated on Jesus. It is about growing in love with Jesus and God’s righteous law. You are a better you all around when you live God’s way. But, this is such a hard lesson for us to learn and live by because we keep wanting to be in control/do it our way.

        Further, the devil seeks to destroy our sense of faith, to tempt us with guilt in our failures, to tempt us with a lack of confidence and assurance, to “plant seeds of doubt” of not being good enough or faithful enough.

        Faith is what you have such to deepen your relationship to God yet we keep thinking it is a tool to keep stamping the mark of God on our foreheads for salvation.

        Seek to be at peace with God, for through Christ God has come to peace with you.

        I close with Matthew 6:33: But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

        • Theodore A. Jones June 8, 2012 at 9:02 pm

          “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13
          Some who have the credit to do so don’t concurr with your assumption.

          • Credit to do what? Which assumption are you referring to?

            Yes, Jesus seems to give conflicting messaged about how we are saved. The best I can think to do is throw myself on his mercy and say that my righteous acts are like dirty rags.

          • Not sure of your point but in this passage you reference, Paul is making the case that everyone is under the Righteous requirement as defined by God. Whether you are Jew with the Law or Gentile without the Law, for the Jew has been given the Law written on stone as Commandments from God and the Gentile has the Law written on his heart for being a creation of God. So nobody has an excuse before God.

            But, as Paul develops the case further in Romans, we who are in Christ are not under the Law but under Grace. Further, it is by this Grace that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us for our righteousness.

            For Christ came not for the righteous but the unrighteous. Maybe you believe you can plea your righteousness before the law, and I say good luck with that. But, I an unrighteous man will plea on the righteousness of Christ.

        • And Jesus also illustrates the kingdom with the sheep and the goats. The sheep don’t even recognize Jesus, yet they are righteous. No word is said about their belief or faith. They are so humble that Jesus commends them and they dont even know what they’ve done in righteousness.

          I just don’t see what is wrong with giving Jesus all the credit with salvation.

  58. Theodore A. Jones June 8, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Wasn’t Paul an apostle? Your salvation actually depends upon your faith to obey a law which has been added to the law. If not then you would have been a direct beneficary of the sin of murder caused by bloodshed.

    • Again, not quite sure I follow your point. Let me take a stab at it. Are you saying that faith is not just a trust and belief in Christ but a requirement that we stop sinning? That unless we stop sinning we are not and will not be saved?

  59. Theodore A. Jones June 9, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    A law was added to the law after Jesus’crucifixion. It is that law which Paul is referencing in Rom. 2:13. No person will be declared righteous by observing the OT written code. He can only be declared righteous by God by the faith to obey this law in regard to Jesus’ crucifixion as a sin. The gate into God’s kingdom was only perfected by Jesus’ crucifixion, but he does say “Make every effort to enter by the gate. Which actually means make every effort on your part to have the fath to use the gate he has perfected. However for those who refuse it is a violation of a law for which you cannot be forgiven. For the crucifixion of Jesus is only an accountable sin caused by bloodshed. It is not the direct benefit of a man dying in your place. And, no, the gate is not stop sinning even tho. that is not a bad idea.

    • Hopefully this follows your point.

      Luke 13:24 “Make every effort/strive to enter through the narrow door/gate, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”

      John 10:9 “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

      John 10:1-4 Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

      Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

      My points are these:

      1) Jesus is the gate.
      2) By the Gospel, the Word of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit we are called to him; to enter through the gate.
      3) Seek to enter (be moved by him and his message; a heart felt movement for righteousness which is foreign to us in our “earthly state” for we are slaves to sin). Now, I know others say we are selected and brought through the gate, that’s another discussion which has gone on for all the ages.
      4) When we enter, we have Christ and we have peace (salvation).
      5) We are then called to put on the yoke of Christ for a good work, by which God does a work in us and through us. But, this work is not for obtaining salvation.

      Others argue that we must work/obey such to keep salvation or to finish the work of the cross such to have it. I disagree. It is a gift. An unmerited gift.

  60. Theodore A. Jones June 10, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    There are only a few, very few who find out what the gate actually is. And that’s said by the man who has perfected it. You ain’t gonna make it based on the assumption you think is true.

    • So in your understanding, Jesus is not a sacrifice for the deliverance of salvation. But instead, a sacrifice as an example of what is necessary for salvation. Thereby, our salvation is on each of us to do as He did?

  61. Theodore A. Jones June 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    The crucifixion of Jesus has only perfected the Way you must have the faith to use to save yourself from the wrath of God. “Make every effort to (use) enter by the narrow gate” for if you won’t you will disobey a law that has been added to the law which does not have any possibility of forgiveness. For a person can only be forgiven of his past sins, Rom. 3:25, which leaves at least one sin that is outstanding.
    “And for Your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from evey animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.” No man is outside of the box of “each man, too. Jesus in order to perfect his father’s will for each man. Endured the cross which caused the loss of his life by bloodshed and became an accountable sin for us so that whosoever by faith gives to God the account he demands by Jesus’ crucifixion might become the righteousness of God. There is no other gate.

    • Item I: “The crucifixion of Jesus has only perfected the Way you must have the faith…” I agree and yet disagree with that. I suspect that for you “the Way” is more akin to saying Christ was offered as an example and is not physically “the Way,” meaning finished at the Cross. But instead I suspect you see it as something to be finished by us.

      For you then add “to save yourself.” I see it as so to be saved. Meaning its possibility is now if I have faith, not future if I add to His work at the Cross. I’m not doing the saving. God does.

      I don’t “use Him” meaning to do the directing or employ Him. Jesus purchased me with His blood. I don’t employ Him for my purposes. I seek Him. I seek his guidance. I take refuge in Him (per David in Psalms 34:22, 11:1). I’m empowered by faith in Christ to do a good work (but this is only possible if born again and have received the Holy Spirit). Understand Christ is the master, I’m the student.

      The one TRANSGRESSED does the forgiving not the one who does the transgressing. God is the One transgressed so He does the forgiving. I’m the transgressor and so I’m the one who receives His forgiveness; a forgiveness that is UNMERITED/not earned least anyone should boast. I don’t push forgiveness up the ladder. The forgiveness comes down the ladder to me.

      Item 2: “…you will disobey a law that has been added to the law which does not have any possibility of forgiveness.”

      I have no idea what you are referencing here with such general terms. What law is it that is added to what other law?

      Item 3: “For a person can only be forgiven of his past sins, Rom. 3:25, which leaves at least one sin that is outstanding.”

      That is not what that passage is saying. Paul is talking about those who died before Jesus died on the cross. God’s wrath was not reconciled yet for their sins. So, they remained in the paradise of Hades, such until the time Jesus died. Jesus then went to Hades and released them because God’s wrath was reconciled. The forbearance was necessary until such time a proper payment in full could be made. Otherwise, everyone prior to Christ could not be saved. God placed his wrath for their sins in forbearance. This would be like the bank suspending a loan payment until you find work again such that you won’t go into default and lose everything.

      Item 4: “I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.”

      I agree. But, he who is in Christ is not in sin. His sins are removed/no longer exist. Since they don’t exist then there is no accounting for them at judgment. They are already accounted for via the blood of Christ! This is why Jesus said we can approach judgment day with boldness. If this isn’t true, then every man is still in sin and remains in sin forever; and, thereby can never be forgiven and Christ died in vain.

      Item 5: “Endured the cross which caused the loss of his life by bloodshed and became an accountable sin for us so that whosoever by faith gives to God the account he demands by Jesus’ crucifixion might become the righteousness of God. There is no other gate.”

      I couldn’t agree more. Our testimony of our faith in Christ for our righteousness is exactly that. Like I said Christ is the gate, there is no other. I don’t see where we have a disagreement here but I suspect you read this differently somehow.

    • After a few days of reflection with the Holy Spirit on this issue, let offer a final thought or two that perhaps will help make clear what I’m saying and hopefully it captures your point as well.

      We are not saved by doctrine. A “trust” or “believe” that I have the rightful understanding of Christ, the Cross, and salvation from a mental exercise will not bring me to salvation. Hopefully you were not understanding that as what I was saying.

      Doctrine is important for teaching and for us to communicate our understanding of Christ on the cross and the necessity of a savior. But it is not a substitute for developing a loving and committed relationship with Lord Jesus the Christ.

      I believe your point is that faith extends beyond mere coming to Jesus in our minds or our hearts even. It is the establishment in us that Jesus defines who we are and further how we are seen by others. Our heart, mind, body and soul in Christ.

      Our faith is not to be a shallow, external finger-pointing to a man hanging on a cross followed by a faint offer of gratitude. But, rather a rebirth in Him that constitutes our entirety of being: our values, beliefs, walk, testimony, obedience, love, and joy.

      Thank you for your replies and thank you reading my comments. God Bless.

  62. Hey – I like your down-to-earth writing style. :-)

    I’m of the Acts 2:38 people (not that there is a church called that – at least I hope not). After Jesus was resurrected and the Israelites were cut to heart and asked what shall they do (to be saved), the answer was to repent and be baptized (immersed). There’s a whole lot there – where confession comes in, where faith comes in, and all that. But the Bible speaks to me so clearly on this point I wonder why everyone doesn’t get it.

    Not my job to make them though, I know. And I agree that faith – boy does it ever ride up and down! So glad God’s mercy is not such a roller-coaster ride.

    • Thanks Lady Jennie – I often can not wonder why Peter responded to the most important question, “What must I do to be saved?” with “Repent and be baptized” not “pray the sinners prayer” or “Don’t do anything you believe therefore you are saved.” Yes, the bible is clear on this point. Baptism is a work – a work of God.

    • Theodore A. Jones July 21, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      The sin that was repented of to obey the Acts 2:38 command is the sin they corporately committed about 50 days previously. Jesus murder.

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