(BNC Editorial) — As a poster of Bible verses, comments, and quick Bible truths, your editor came across a verse recently that stood out in a way that he’d not seen before. Second Thessalonians 2.13 proclaims both God’s part and man’s in salvation.

“… God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (NET).

On this verse, denominational author Peter Pett wrote that salvation “was then to be accomplished by two means, sanctification in the Spirit, which is God’s side, and belief of the truth, which is the resulting response of man.”

It is widely understood by most that God has a part in salvation, as does man. But some, wanting to change the truth of Scripture, vent their ire against this emphasis in the churches. They want to excise a good part of biblical obedience. So they claim that we have made the two parts equal. How easy to destroy such a straw man!

Years ago, Batsell Barrett Baxter anticipated charges of God’s and man’s parts being equal. In a tract often reproduced work of Baxter’s on the Internet, under the question, “How does one become a member of the church of Christ?,”
he makes it clear:

In the salvation of man’s soul there are 2 necessary parts: God’s part and man’s part. God’s part is the big part, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift if God; not of works, that no man should glory” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The love which God felt for man led him to send Christ into the world to redeem man. The life and teaching of Jesus, the sacrifice on the cross, and the proclaiming of the gospel to men constitute God’s part in salvation. Though God’s part is the big part, man’s part is also necessary if man is to reach heaven. Man must comply with the conditions of pardon which the Lord has announced.

Brethren have been careful not  to leave the impression that obedience is a work of merit. Baxter, again, this time in Star Bible’s popular book, Introducing the Church of Christ.

Do not misunderstand this emphasis upon obedience. We do not earn salvation, but we must comply with the conditions laid down by the Lord in order to receive the free gift of eternal salvation. Christ said, “Even so ye also when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10). Man cannot earn salvation through works of merit, but he must comply with the conditions that the Lord laid down in order to receive the gift of salvation.

Later, in that same chapter, he writes, “We are saved by grace — on God’s side; we are saved by faith — on man’s side.”

What bothers those who loose on earth what has not been loosed in heaven is the obedience of faith, as Paul calls it at the beginning and at the end of Romans, Rm 1.5; 16.26. So they move obedience into the category of meritorious works. They make grace a cover for the stubborn will and arrogant disobedience. They think they’ve found a new teaching in the thin gruel of faith-only, stripped of its deeper meaning of faithfulness.

People who are “five-steppers” teaching a “checklist salvation” are the worst of the legalists, say the loosers. Yes, we teach there are steps or actions to be taken in order to enter the salvation that God so graciously offers. Because the Bible teaches them. Insists on them. Makes them essential.

Elsewhere, I wrote that I had an old friend who posed a question that had been put in his mouth. He asked me to list all the points of obedience we’re required to do. “What is the pattern?” he asked. The old gotcha attempt. I turned the question around, asked him to list the bare minimum required for salvation. Although I insisted several times, he consistently refused to answer. I told him he was then being dishonest if he couldn’t answer such an “easy” question. He knew that once he made his short list, I’d cite something from the New Testament that declared it was necessary for salvation.

In every way, a systematic dismemberment of the gospel is occurring. Systematic, because it is a planned and purposeful attempt. Dismemberment, because the loosers are pulling apart every teaching about man’s part in salvation, so they can have fellowship at large and gain status among denominations.

It seems incredible that some in the family of God have yet to wake up to this covert (and sometimes open), malicious attack. That it is having a measure of success among us testifies to the unwillingness of some to deal with the sin that crouches at the door and desires to dominate the people of God. We must do right and subdue it, Gn 4.7.

Randal and his wife Vicki have lived and worked in Brazil since Nov. 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. He likes to read novels in his back-porch hammock. http://randal.us

2 thoughts on “Man’s part in salvation: ‘Loosers’ attempt systematic dismemberment of Bible teaching

  1. Randal, good article. I like your insistence that even we “patternists” don’t believe obedience earns or merits our salvation. I have tried to help people see the difference between meritorious and conditional when teaching them. God provides the merit in His Son and we comply with the conditions He sets forth. I believe that God has always insisted that we participate in our salvation through conditions that demonstrate out trust in Him. That is why He gives us covenants. It is sad that so many in our brotherhood have lost this understanding.

    1. Thanks, Bob, your point about the covenants is especially appropriate, which I didn’t deal with in the editorial. There are always two sides to the covenants, unequal in the case of God’s covenants, but still exist, as per Gen 17: “As for me” v 4; “As for you” v 9.

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