Friday, September 18, 2015

Two lenses through which we understand biblical salvation

1 Peter 1:1-2 "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure."

2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."

Ezekiel 33:11 "Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I takeno pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?"
Ezekiel 32-33 and 1 Peter 1 are prime examples of two important truths presented in scripture concerning our salvation: God's Sovereignty to save and mankind's responsibility to believe in order to be saved. Whenever you read Ezekiel 32-33, the question to ask is: who is at fault for rejecting the Gospel? God or man? Answer: Man. 

God's judgment on the Egyptians and other nations in the land of Canaan, as well as His pronouncement of judgment on Jerusalem is due to her free and willing decision to reject Him. God plainly says in Ezekiel 33:11 that He does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but actually urges them to turn from their choice of rejecting Him. God does not send anyone to hell, that is man's choice. This insight matches with what we read in 2 Peter 3:9, namely that God is not desiring or willing that anyone would perish, but all come to repentance. 

Whenever you turn to 1 Peter 1, you are still looking at the same Biblical salvation, however through a second lens - the lens of Sovereignty. If we were to ask the question: "who is to be credited for anyone believing the Gospel freely and willingly?" Answer: God. Peter opens His epistle by noting how his readers were those who, being scattered throughout the Roman world, were "chosen according to the foreknowledge of God". (1 Peter 1:1-2) 1 Peter 1 views our salvation through the lens of Sovereignty by the appearance of such words as "foreknowledge", "chosen" and "caused". (1 Peter 1:2,3) However Peter also presents this same salvation through a second lens - the lens of human response to salvation by such words as "to obtain" (1:4) and "faith" (1:5, 7 and 9). 

Peter reminds us that our salvation from beginning to end is bounded by God's Sovereign purposes of grace (1:2, 20) and is received by the gifting of faith and lived out by believers who obey the truths of scripture. (1 Peter 1:10-17) The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 notes concerning Sovereignty and human responsibility in salvation - "Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility."

Only God could design a salvation wherein there is no conflict between God's Sovereign intention to save and whosoever believes as being saved. As the late pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Dr. W.A Criswell stated about these truths, one cannot look upon the mountain of truth and comprehend how God Sovereignly elects sinners and yet it is those sinners who truly believe and are saved. We cannot see all the sides all at once. However we do know that God's Word and the eye of faith affirms both truths, and thus we must go to all men with the Gospel with the confidence that salvation comes not from man, but from the Lord. (Jonah 2:9-10)

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