Several authors have described salvation with a vivid word picture that warrants scrutiny. I’ve added a bit to it as I reflected on several things recently.
Let’s begin with a baseline on a couple of issues with scripture. These aren’t the only verses that address these issues, maybe not even the best ones – but they are His words on the topic.
- Galatians 3:24 tells us “…the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The purpose of the law is not save us, but to show us that we cannot save ourselves.
- In John 6:65 Christ tells us “that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” In our natural, sinful condition we are unable to seek after God – He pursues us.
- Acts 3:19 says “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” The call to salvation requires a change of heart, as no heart of flesh can inherit the Kingdom of Christ.
- Ephesians 2:8&9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Nothing we can do can cause God to love us more or love us less.
- In Acts 4:12, Peter – speaking of Christ – tells us “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” No cheap substitute can pay the price to gain you and me admittance to heaven.
- Finally, consider John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” A guarantee that we are sealed by God unto life eternal.
Keep these truths in mind as I paint this picture, as told to me by others.
You are in your 6th floor apartment, where you live a comfortable, carefree life. Everything is fine, your problems are minimal; you have no need of a savior – no need at all which you cannot meet.
Suddenly, you hear a fire alarm and, as you open your door, you discover your entire floor in engulfed in a raging fire! You cannot make it to the stairs; so back into your apartment, you rush. Not so safe and carefree any more. Frightened, anxious, unsure of how – or if – you will survive.
The fire shows us our need for a way out of our circumstances.
The “Crises of Belief”
In the midst of your fear, you hear a voice calling you to the window. As you peer through the opening, you see the firemen on the street below, urging you to jump!
You know that jumping from the window of a sixth floor window is normally suicide. Before the fire, your apartment was luxurious, comfortable, safe – you had no sane reason to jump. You would never have considered it! But now your apartment is a dangerous place where you will surely die if you don’t get out. Jumping may be worth the risk. Moreover, the firemen are telling you that you must jump if you want to save your life.
As you look out the window, you see that the firemen are holding a safety net for you to jump into. The firemen look professional, the net looks strong. But it’s a long way down from your window. Can the firemen and the net be trusted? If you jump and the net turns out be made of brown paper rather than canvas, you chose wrong and are dead. If you jump and the firemen are sadistic or untrustworthy and yank the net away or let go of it, you chose wrong and are dead. Only if the fireman who’s calling you to jump is trustworthy and his net strong can you be assured of survival.
Yet no matter how strong the net, how reliable the firemen – you’re dead unless you jump. No amount of knowledge about the net or the fire brigade will keep the fire from consuming you. The fire demands you to choose. The fireman calls you to jump.
You consider the situation. It’s not fair! You didn’t cause the fire, yet your life is wrecked. The fire has caused all the vermin that inhabited the apartment with you – unseen, unnoticed – to come out into the open seeking escape. You had no idea so many nasty bugs were in your walls! The fire didn’t cause the bugs to live with you; the fire simply forced them into the open. The fire revealed the filth of your environment, the squalor of your life and forces you to look elsewhere for life itself.
The “Irrational” Answer
You can’t escape on your own – you have to trust someone telling you to jump 80 feet into a net! Your own reasoning tells you to lay low until the danger passes; that the fire isn’t all that dangerous and will soon be put out. But hotter and louder it roars and you know it will consume you. If not for the fire, you might not have ever known you were living in filth.
So you jump – knowing that jumping won’t save you. Jumping is worthless unless those firemen and that net are there and do their job. Will they? You won’t know that unless you jump. So you jump.
And the firemen are all they claimed to be and the net was strong and sure. You were in danger of losing your life to the fire, but were saved by the firemen and their net after you heard them calling you and jumped from your “safe” apartment, falling securely into their grip.
No Turning Back
One more thing about jumping out of the window – once you jump, you can’t go back. Having trusted the firemen and the net enough to jump out of the window from 80 feet up, there’s no way for you to un-jump and get back into the fire even if you wanted to.
So our lives are here in the flesh. Often comfortable to the extent that we fail to recognize the dangers of evil. Living with all sorts of hidden evil, trying to manage our sin in the same way that we manage ants and roaches – with a superficial treatment to eliminate the evidence.
Then comes the law, exposing what was in darkness and driving us to the knowledge that we are dead and in desperate need of a savior. Faithful to His promises, almighty God calls you to accept what makes no sense – another died that you might live. All you need do is answer His call and fall – jump out the window – into His safety net of saving grace, held tightly by Christ Jesus – the One who will never let go.
What Saves You?
As with the fire, the law doesn’t save you – it convicts you that are sinful and need Christ. As with your jump, your faith isn’t what saves you – it’s the One in whom you place that faith that saves. Christ saves to the utmost, beyond what man can imagine, beyond what man or Satan can affect or undo.
The Call to Action
A fire is sweeping across our country and the world. Filth is being exposed. People are looking for answers, seeking security. Tell them about Jesus! He saves! Tell your neighbors – Jesus saves! No other name in heaven – there’s no name on earth or in hell that saves – only Jesus. And Jesus saves completely, beyond all your sin, beyond all the enemy’s accusations, beyond your wildest dreams. You can trust Him – we must trust Him completely or be consumed in the fire of His judgment.
Brother, this is such a great analogy. Thank you for sharing. Much appreciated words to read today. Time is of the essence and we must share the truth with others.
Thank you! To God be the glory and not to any man!
My understanding of the scripture you use in point 4. Is that we cannot earn our salvation by good works. We are saved by God’s grace through our faith in Him. Point being Christ died for our sins, but it is our faith in His work not ours.
Lou Ann – Yes, it is the faith of the elect that communicates the grace which saves. Yet the Scripture says that the faith itself is a gift from God, not something we initiate. We are, by nature, children of wrath; unable and unwilling to love God much less place our faith in Him. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith!
Lou Ann, your faith to believe on Christ is a God-gifted and -enabled faith.
Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.
Lou Ann is correct in that we are commanded to believe and others here are right to say that faith is a gift from God. Again, we are commanded to believe in Christ, we are commanded to turn to him just as those who were bitten by serpents in the wilderness were commanded to turn to the staff Moses lifted up and live. Paul has no problem attributing belief to the saint as long as it is taught in the shadow of the greater truth of Gods unmerited grace (as he does in the beginning of Ephesians). We should have no problem with it either.
Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring. -Spurgeon
I would not say that the two lines of divine sovereignty and human responsibility are parallel, and the twain shall never meet until they cross over into eternity. I think the lines are intertwined (perhaps like a cable).
This familiar argument that great men have been arguing both positions for hundreds of years and have never resolved this doctrine (vital to the understanding of salvation, but not vital for a sinner to know to get saved), is a stock answer which is not true at all. This doctrine had been known and understood for centuries prior to the Synod of Dort, with Pelagius coming along to muddy the understanding of it, then the semi-Pelagians, and the Arminians.
Sir Winston Churchill made a great statement to which this so-called controversy may be applied, ” The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” It will be very helpful to those who are still thinking through the doctrines of grace in salvation to read history as well as the Scriptures, if only to understand how our forefathers in the faith grappled with doctrinal issues. Why did people believe what they did? What were the issues that in conflict? How did they resolve it? Are their conclusions biblical? Remember, the Holy Spirit does not just indwell and teach us in this generation; it would be a very tragic conclusion to think that a doctrine as vital as salvation is still up in the air all these hundreds of years, apparently inconclusive in some parts of it. Historic theology has valuable lessons to teach us.
This is so well communicated! Thank you.
Thank you, Jennifer. To God alone be glory and honor and power and dominion, forever and ever.
“This familiar argument that great men have been arguing both positions for hundreds of years ”
Jeremy- Jesus Christ and the apostles never asked us to choose either position. The systematic theologies of men beg us to though. Take apostolic doctrine and codify the thoughts of men upon it and you end up with things such as calvinism and arminianism. This has been a stumbling block to many saints through the ages as you have written (even to some extent the one I previously quoted).
When christians are forced to answer questions that the Holy Spirit never even asked (like do you believe in the 5 points of calvinism) it results in many needless quarrels, parties, and factions. Mans responsibility and Gods sovereignty are not enemies to be turned at war with each other in a theological battle. They are quite good friends as plainly read in the word of God. When we have to explain away one half of Gods word to make our systematic theologies work there is a problem.
When you try to explain any doctrine in the Bible, you have in a sense systematized it. Personally I am not into factionalism in the body of Christ, but these are labels that people gravitate toward, and with these labels, come the caricatures and straw-men arguments that cause divisions. As one who has always encountered the response, “So, you are a Calvinist” (and a five-pointer, at that!), with all the connotations that labels imply, I have given up trying to defend the use of labels. I do not go out announcing myself as such, but if I am identified a Calvinist, so be it. It is a losing battle to avoid being caricatured.
My entire premise is that we must understand doctrines as revealed in the Scriptures, hence my view that divine sovereignty and human responsibility in salvation are intertwined: you cannot disconnect and disentangle the two strands.
With due respect to the so-called Arminian position (which is not a contrived label as the followers of Arminius do indeed identify themselves with the name), this is salvation as seen from the perspective of men, hence the emphasis on human free-will. You would agree that there is an over-emphasis on human action, wouldn’t you? For the Calvinist position (no qualms in using this label either) is the view of salvation from the divine perspective: God the Father chose whom He wills to be saved, God the Son died for the chosen, and the Holy Spirit performs regeneration in the chosen. Hence, faith is God-given and God-enabled (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Yes, “Jesus Christ and the apostles never asked us to choose either position.” But when are doctrines in the Bible about personal choice? Surely that’s not how we come to a right understanding of doctrines. In any case, all of us who love God’s Word and have a high view of Scripture, must continue to grow in our knowledge and understanding of the Bible. None of us can say that we monopolize the truth, or that we have nothing more to learn, even from one another. It is with this healthy spirit that we are having this discussion, and may God bless us as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17) through this forum.
God bless you Jeremy, I agree with the overwhelming majority of what you have written. My concern is with the many self professed calvinists I have met who, if I were to quote Paul and say…
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.””
…would respond with a smug dissertation on how man does not have the ability to repent as it is a gift from God. I have met these people both in fellowship, while street preaching, and on the internet. These are usually those who become “hyper” in their views even becoming at war with the word of God. I fear so many of them are puffed up in the flesh and fit the second group that Jonathon Edwards wrote about here:
“There are two sorts of hypocrites: one that are deceived with their outward morality and external religion; many of whom are professed Arminians, in the doctrine of justification: and the other, are those that are deceived with false discoveries and elevations; who often cry down works, and men’s own righteousness, and talk much of free grace; but at the same time make a righteousness of their discoveries and of their humiliation, and exalt themselves to heaven with them.”
I appreciate the conversation and apologize if I started to clump you in with that group of people. Gods best to you in Christ Jesus friend.
Thank you, Jim. No offence taken. I trust that I am fleeing Babylon just as you are. Perhaps I can share a perspective with you: doctrines are dear to the heart for many of us, even when our understanding of those doctrines are misinformed or in the process of refinement. Hence the default position toward another view which is at first foreign to us is suspicion, doctrinal xenophobia. We become like the proverbial dog with its tail raised in the air. It is common to think of a Calvinist as a hyper, and that often sets people off on a collision course. Never assume…
God bless you, my friend.