The Many Theologies Of Grace
As you can see there's a great deal of misunderstanding
about God's Grace as it applies to humanity. I think this
misunderstanding comes about because a group of believers will
adopt a particular central theological belief, then build all other
doctrines around this theme. Calvinism does this with Efficacious
Grace, Arminianism with Universal Grace, and Legalism with Conditional
Grace. In this study I pray we can forget our central themes
long enough to get a clear Scriptural presentation of
A General Summary Of Grace
God is always the Bestower of Grace and we are always the recipients of this bounty. We can do nothing to earn His Grace for it is unmerited favor automatically bestowed from His nature. To say that we can earn Grace by our works is to say that we can change God's character through our works. God cannot be changed by man! The idea is ludicrous.
The different facets of God's Grace to humanity can be
categorized as follows:
Universal Or Common Grace
1 Timothy 2:3-4 "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. "
In order for all men to have an equal chance at salvation they must first survive. They must have food, water, clothing, shelter, and governmental law to survive in this life. God extends the physical life of man day by day through this policy of Universal Grace. This gives man the ability to freely reject or accept Christ as Saviour when he is under the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 14:15-17 "And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach (EUAGGELIZO, Evangelize, proclaim the Good News of the Gospel) unto you that ye should turn (EPISTREPHO, To turn to, convert. By extension, be converted from false religions and the world to Christ) from these vanities unto the living (ZAO, Present active tense, Always Living, eternal) God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered (allowed) all nations to walk in their own ways (HODOS, a road which one travels, a manner of life, act or custom). Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good (AGATHOPOIEO, Present Participle, Kept on doing good of intrinsic value), and gave (DIDOMI, Present participle, Kept on giving) us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons (KAIROS, periods of time, dispensations), filling our hearts with food and gladness. "
When Paul and Barnabas went to Lystra Paul, through the Divine gift of healing, healed a man who was "cripple from his mother's womb". The people of Lystra, who worshipped the Greek pantheon of gods (Jupiter, Apollo, Mercury, etc.), saw this miracle of healing. They immediately proclaimed Barnabas to be "Jupiter", and Paul "Mercury" because of this miraculous manifestation. These Apostles wouldn't have anything to do with this false proclamation. Paul immediately began to evangelize these idolaters.
But how do you evangelize idolaters? There wasn't a complete canon of Scripture at this point in history. The Apostles had no easy to carry Bible like we have today. These idolaters had been taught by their parents to believe in the Greek pantheon of gods, and these people did have their own "Bible" (though false) on hand. Paul had two things that aided him in evangelizing these people. First, he had the witness of the miraculous healing. Even the idolaters knew that healing of this type must come from a Divine Source, so the very fact that Paul healed the cripple gave a "Divine Signature" to his testimony. Second, Paul had God's witness through nature, the manifestation of His Universal Grace.
The evangelistic message might have been better received if the antagonistic Jews from Antioch and Iconium hadn't have perverted the message. Nevertheless we can see several things about God's Universal Grace in Paul's message. We can see that Universal Grace is bestowed on all equally, regardless of their spiritual status. Paul said that God gave us rain, food, and fruitful seasons. He didn't make any distinctions in the crowd he addressed. All mankind, regardless of their relationship to God, are blessed under God's policy of Universal Grace.
We can also see that God's policy of Universal Grace is a continuing policy, not one that is stopped because man rejects Christ. This can be seen in and gave (DIDOMI, Present participle, Kept on giving) us rain from heaven. God keeps on giving us (believer or unbeliever) food, rain, and fruitful seasons. If the unbeliever rejects the Gospel under the convicting ministry of the Spirit, God keeps on giving Universal Grace to him, for he might someday accept Christ.
We can also see that God's Universal Grace is a witness to mankind that there is a true God in Heaven. God left not himself without witness on the earth, for His witness is the provision of our basic needs.
Romans 1:20 "For the invisible things of him from the creation (KTISIS, Foundation) of the world (KOSMOS, earth) are clearly seen, being understood (NOEO, to be consciously understood in the mind) by the things that are made, even his eternal (AIDIOS, without beginning or end, uncreated) power and Godhead (THEIOTES, Divinity, Deity, Divine Nature) ; so that they are without excuse"
All scientists can explain the causes of the universe, but they can never explain the first cause. Though man may grow in wisdom, though he may know how nature works, man can never explain how nature began. When you look at nature you must always come to the question: "But what started it all?". When you get to this question the only real solution you can reach is "God did it all!". God left man with an absolute witness that He is, that He has always existed. God cannot be seen, but His orderly nature can be seen in creation. Evolutionists teach that nature just "came into being" with either a bang or a squish. But evolutionists cannot explain why all oak trees have the same type of leaf structure, why all poplar trees have their distinctive structure, why all of creation has an undeniable order to it. In nature even the unorderly is orderly. For instance, no two people on the face of the earth are exactly alike. Even identical twins have different fingerprints one from another. This lack of similarity between people is universal, and because it's universal it must be arranged. Though same species in creation have the same design, man stands apart as being absolutely different from his brother. Such an arrangement in creation leads all of mankind to eventually reach the conclusion that there is a Master Designer far above us, and this Master Designer is God. God's Universal Grace not only provides for all of mankind (so that they might have a chance at salvation), it also tells the human race that there is a God who loves us.
Romans 13:1-4 "Let every
soul (PSUCHE, soul, the immaterial
part of man that gives him personality)
be subject (HUPOTASSO, Present
Imperative tense, always be under the authority of, be subordinated
to) unto the higher powers (EXOUSIA,
powers. By extension, governmental authorities)
. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained
(TASSO, appointed, set in place)
of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance
(DIATAGE, appointment, order established)
of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation
(KRIMA, a judgment. Those who rebel
against God's ordained governments will be punished under their laws)
. For rulers are not a terror to good (AGATHOS,
good of intrinsic value) works, but
to the evil (KAKOS, evil or nonproductive,
destructive) . Wilt thou then not be
afraid (PHOBEO, afraid, respectful)
of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the
same: For he is the minister (DIAKONOS,
servant, minister, deacon) of God to
thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid (PHOBEO,
Present Imperative tense, keep on being afraid)
; for he beareth not the sword (An
idiom that expresses the governments God given authority to punish,
even to the point of death, those who do evil)
in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger (EKDIKOS,
an avenger, one who renders just recompense to those who break the law)
to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. "
Galatians 5:16-26 "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. "
This old sin nature causes man to automatically move toward evil rather than toward good. The Christian can overcome the power of the sin nature by growing in the Spirit:
Romans 6:14-18 "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. "
And through studying the Scriptures:
Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. "
But the unbeliever only has two restraints that keep him from rampant sinning: (1) the operation of his conscience:
Romans 2:14-15 "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) "
And, (2) the operation of the "collective conscience"
of humanity, governmental law. By establishing the conscience in man,
and by arranging it into a group conscience called "government", God
protects the human race from itself. If left to his own
devices man will eventually murder, kidnap, rape, steal, and in every
possible way tear down the fabric of his survival. The Los Angeles riots
of just a few years ago were a good example of this. Ethnic minorities
ran rampant through the city, destroying their own homes, stealing from
their neighbors, because governmental authority was absent. By establishing
the conscience God placed in all men some unwritten but absolute
codes of right and wrong. While a man can negate his conscience
by repeatedly ignoring it's warnings, it is nearly impossible
for the corporeal conscience of the law to be unseated. One man
may run rampant, killing innocents, but the group conscience exists
to catch and punish him by separating him from society. Punishments
(up to, and including, death) are sometimes necessary for the protection
of civilization so that unbelievers can be evangelized and possibly
saved from eternal damnation.
Proverbs 8:14-16 "Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength. By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth. "
But God never dictates the system by which these laws are administered, for the system itself is created by people. Let me give you an example: a few hundred years before Christ came to earth Rome began to build it's empire. One man didn't just build this empire, but a group of people created it. The mass conscience of the people united under the allowance of God into a nation. This nation expanded into an empire. Over this empire God appointed a governer that the people called Caesar. This much was established by God: (1) The mass conscience called "Rome", and (2) The one who was appointed to govern Rome, Caesar. The mass conscience of Rome decreed that murder, rape, adultery, robbery, and many other areas of overt sin against the state were "crimes", punishable under governmental law. By recognizing harmful overt sin as crime and punishing it the Roman government protected it's citizens. Now let's look at Christ's earthly ministry. The Roman leader was still called Caesar, and the Roman Government still protected it's people. Yet the Caesar in power at this time taught the people that he was god. Since the Roman people believed in the many gods of the pantheon, they allowed Caesar to call himself god. Our God never told Caesar to call himself god: the Father never sanctioned this. But as long as the government protected it's people the basic reason for Universal Grace was served, so the Father allowed the government to stand. Under Universal Grace the government doesn't exist to proclaim the True God, but exists to protect the people of the earth so they might be evangelized. If the government fails to protect it's people then God causes that government to fall. Until that time the people under it must obey it's statutes.
Matthew 22:21 "They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. "
Mark 12:17 "And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him. "
Luke 20:25 "And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's. "
Now lets look at the communist or tyrannical governments. Russia was, at one time, a monarchical form of government. At one point in history the mass conscience of the people rebelled against this government because it failed to protect it's people. Once the mass conscience rebelled it formed a system of Marxism called Communism. God didn't establish that system, but He did arrange the mass conscience of the people into a government. God placed over this government a head of state. The government established certain overt sins as punishable as "crimes", and made a series of laws that protected the people. Communism in Russia oppressed it's people for 75 years until God allowed that government to fall once more, establishing a new Head of State. As long as that present government protects the people so they can be evangelized it will stand.
In summary, Universal Grace is all that God does for
humanity to keep it alive for evangelization. Under
this Grace God provides food, water, law, and the other basic needs
of man. Whether the person is a believer or an unbeliever isn't the
issue in Universal Grace: God continues to provide for the unbeliever
even if he rejects the Gospel, so that he might have every opportunity
to be saved. The dead are past saving, so God daily postpones
death so that the spiritually dead might become spiritually alive through
A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates. St. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in."
"I taught Sunday School for 10 years!" boasted the newcomer to heaven. "Terrific!" says St. Peter, "that's certainly worth a point."
"One point? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans." "Fantastic, that's good for two more points," he says.
Okay," the man says, "I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart." "That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "that's worth three points!"
"Only three points?" he says. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service." "There you are, two more points." exclaims St. Peter.
"Two measly points!!" the man cries, "At this rate the only way I could ever get into heaven is by the grace of God!"
"That's it!" yelled St. Peter, "Come on in!"
Saving Grace is that action of God whereby a person, upon accepting Christ as Savior, is granted salvation. The person who is saved doesn't earn or deserve his salvation, but salvation is given him because he believed in Christ. Saving Grace can best be illustrated by a taxi cab. The person wants to move from his present location to another better location. In order to get from the one location to the other this person must get on the Grace taxi. When boarding the taxi he discovers that there's no fare to be paid, nor will any fare be accepted. All payment was previously supplied by the Driver of the cab, Jesus Christ. By just getting on the taxi a person is automatically moved from a lost condition to salvation. The taxi is a one way mode of transportation controlled entirely by God. Because the vehicle is controlled by God, not by our actions, we cannot do anything to earn or deserve the ride. On the other hand we can not do anything to revoke the ride once we're in our new state of salvation. Once you are saved, you are saved, and there's nothing you can do to remove yourself from this state.
Ephesians 2:8-10 "For by grace (CHARIS, unmerited favor, the free gift) are ye saved (Perfect tense of SOZO, you have been saved in the past with the result that you keep on being saved) through faith (PISTIS, belief, the action of belief); and that not of yourselves: it is the gift (DORON, an honorary gift not earned) of God: Not of works (ERGON, energy, production from man's ability), lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. "
This is probably the most disputed doctrine in Christianity today, though I don't really know why. Half of Christianity contends that you can lose your salvation through repeated acts of sin. The other half of Christianity says that "Once you're saved, you're always saved". All arguments and contention are easily resolved if only we would read the clear teachings of the Scripture on Grace. Our Ephesians passage is very clear on Saving Grace. Paul specifically states that Grace is the vehicle of Salvation. We get on that vehicle through unmeritorious faith. The Perfect Tense of SOZO clearly specifies that once we arrive at the destination of salvation by this vehicle, at that point Salvation becomes a permanent possession of the believer. Finally, this text teaches that we don't arrive at our present saved state by our own energy or human works. The fact that we arrive at all is attributed solely to the Grace of God. If we don't arrive at our destination by works then we can't leave our present position by works.
Saving Grace requires one thing from the individual to be effective, the desire or will to "get on the taxi". Many people, even the best and brightest people of the world, refuse to be saved because they think it's too easy. Basic human pride and the old sin nature drives man to want to "pay God" for the fare. Remember, though, any fare is waived for our salvation, and any attempt to pay the fare just isn't good enough.
Luke 14:16-24 "Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. "
The rich friends who rejected the feast were left outside the gates, no longer welcome at the feast. In Jesus' parable the certain man is an illustration of God the Son, the servant an illustration of the Holy Spirit, and those in the highways and hedges an illustration of the saved. Christ provided for the feast of salvation with His very life, suffering and dying on the Cross. He sent the Holy Spirit into the world to convict all to come to the great supper of salvation.
John 16:7-11 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. "
Many of the best of humanity: the scholars, the rich, the super intelligent, the super-rich, rejected the invitation to salvation under the convicting ministry of the Spirit. They chose earthly riches over heavenly riches. They felt that salvation was worthless unless they added to it in some way. In either case they rejected the offer of salvation and the Holy Spirit left them, seeking out the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind, the least gifted of humanity. Under the convicting ministry of the Spirit these people chose to accept the invitation to salvation. Like it or not, none of us who are saved were much of anything before we were saved. Though it is not impossible for a rich man to enter Heaven (Simon Peter was a well to do fisherman before salvation, Paul a well known and respected man in the Roman government, Bartholomew Nathaniel was the son of the King of Geshur), most people with riches and fame reject the salvation Gospel for their riches. This is what Jesus was talking about when he said:
Matthew 19:24-26 "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."
This is also what Paul was talking about when he said:
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise (SOPHOS, knowledgeable or scholarly) men after the flesh (SARX, flesh. their knowledge was not in the spiritual but in the physical world), not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen (EKLEGOMAI, Aorist Middle Indicative, has called out of the world) the foolish (MOROS, silly, stupid, foolish) things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things (AGENES, not of noble or aristocratic birth) of the world, and things which are despised (EZOUTHENEO, Perfect Passive Participle, things continually rejected by society) , hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought (HINA KATARGEO, for the purpose of rendering neutral or useless) things that are (TOU EIMI, Present Participle, Things that keep on being): That no flesh should glory (KAUCHAOMAI ME, should not boast) in his presence. "
Paul isn't teaching that God never invited the rich , powerful, and wise to accept Christ as Savior. As Jesus taught in the Luke text, these people were also invited but rejected the vehicle of grace by their own free will. When they rejected the Gospel, God called the rest of humanity, who accepted the Gospel of their own free will. God blesses those who accept the message while rejecting those who rejected it. No one will be able to boast in Heaven that God saved them because they were "good", for alongside of the few rich and powerful who accepted Christ will be the least of humanity. You must accept salvation under the terms God has established.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning (Refers to the moment in which the believer is saved, i.e., from the beginning of your salvation) chosen (HAIREOMAI, Aorist, lifted up, raised up to) you to salvation through sanctification (HAGIASMOS, sanctification, separation unto God. Refers to the Holy Spirit's convicting ministry whereby we are separated from the overwhelming power of the old sin nature. This allowed us to freely choose or reject Christ as Savior) of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. "
All people start out with an equal chance of getting on that vehicle of Grace. All people have an equal chance to be saved through grace.
Man is a spiritually dead creature. In the Garden of Eden man was spiritually alive. Man was created body (the fleshly container of the soul), soul (the personality or essence of man. What makes us human), and spirit (that part of man that gives us relationship to God). When Adam sinned in the Garden he died spiritually:
Genesis 2:17 "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. "
Genesis 3:7 "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. "
This spiritual death placed a barrier between God and man that we couldn't breach. A corpse can't save itself, man couldn't save himself. When the human spirit died something else came into man to take it's place: the Old Sin Nature. This old sin nature resides in our bodies (as we saw before in Galatians 5.16-26), controlling man so that he wants to follow the world rather than God, evil rather than good.
Ephesians 2:1-3 "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. "
The Father, in eternity past, decreed that the Son come to the earth and pay the penalty for man's sin. God provided a vehicle called Grace that would allow man to accept Christ's payment and be saved. Man's old sin nature makes him want to reject all that God has to offer. The problem was how to get man to a point where he can freely (without the power of the old sin nature's influence) choose or reject the vehicle of Grace. God solved the problem by giving the Holy Spirit a dispensation in which He could call each unbeliever on earth at least once in their lives, temporarily separating each one from the overwhelming power of the old sin nature. While under this "convicting ministry" the unbeliever would be able to freely accept or reject the Gospel message. If the person accepts the Gospel message by faith, then this new believer is now redeemed under Saving Grace. Under Saving Grace all that Christ did for the believer on the Cross is applied to him. He is justified, declared righteous before God. The Holy Spirit marks the believer as one permanently separated from the devil's world, and permanently indwells him. None of these things can occur if the person either rejects the Gospel message, or tries to be saved by his own works. The only thing that gets you on the vehicle of Grace is a free-will choice of faith in Christ.
Calvinism, under it's system of personal election, recognizes Saving Grace in a different way. Calvinists believe that since only the elect will be saved, then whoever is called to salvation is called "efficaciously". In other words, if you're called to salvation you are called because you were first elected by God. And if you're elect you will definitely respond to the call. I believe that the Bible teaches that Saving Grace can be rejected, and is rejected every day on the basis of free-will.
John 6:35-40 "And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh (ERCHOMAI, Present Participle, keeps on coming) to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth (PISTEUO, Present Participle, keeps on believing) on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh (ERCHOMAI, Present Participle, keeps on coming) to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will (THELEMA, will, heart's desire, free-will. Christ surrendered His free-will when He was incarnated) , but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth (Present Participle THEOREO, continually discerns, considers, perceives. Again an action of the free will) the Son, and believeth (PISTEUO, Present Participle, keeps on believing) on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. "
Calvinism focuses on eleven words in the above text to teach efficacious Grace: All that the Father giveth me shall come to me. Do these eleven words teach that God calls a select few with a call that can't be denied? Let's look at the context around these eleven words. Notice the repeated use of present participles (PISTEUO, ERCHOMAI). The Present Participles denote repeated actions of the will. The Present Participles show that those who come to Christ exercise their will to do so. They persistently responded to the Gospel message. This is why they were saved, by a non meritorious act of their free-will, accepting Christ as Savior.
In the rest of the context we see the free-will of man in acquiring Saving Grace through the use of the Present Participle. In the entire context of John 6 we see that in order for man to be saved he must:
(vvs 35) Keep on coming to Christ: an action of man's
Five times in the Greek context we see Present Participles used to express what man must do to be saved. Five times these Present Participles declare man's free-will is an essential part of salvation. Man of his own free-will cannot come to Christ in His natural state of spiritual death. But when man is under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, at this point his free-will is truly freed by God so that he can make a choice .Those who exercise their free-will in a positive manner while under conviction become one of those that "The Father has given the Son". They are those who entered the vehicle of saving grace, becoming a part of a innumerable multitude of believers who are the Body of Christ. They are those who contribute to the completion of the Bride of Christ, which will one day rule and reign with Him. Those who exercise their free-will in a negative manner, while under conviction, stay in their spiritually dead state. If the Holy Spirit doesn't return to them in their lifetime to try and convince them again they will, upon death, enter a state of eternal damnation. Their free-will placed them in this state, just as surely as those who are saved placed themselves in Plan of Grace and therefore in the Body of Christ.
John 6:44 "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: (HELKUO, to draw without the notion of force, persuade by God the Holy Spirit) and I will raise him up at the last day. "
Another text that Calvinism uses to introduce Efficacious Grace is John 6.44. They teach that no one can come to Christ except God the Father draw or drag him to this acceptance. But HELKUO doesn't mean to drag someone forcibly into something against their, but is better translated as "to persuade". Man in his natural state cannot freely accept Christ as Saviour, for man is spiritually dead. The HELKUO ministry of the Father refers to the convicting ministry of the Spirit. In order to be saved each person must first be under this convicting ministry. Conviction doesn't mandate salvation, it only makes it possible.
Acts 16:14-15 "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped (SEBOMAI, Present Participle, continually worshipping) God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought (PARAKALEO, to call alongside, to invite) us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. "
It may seem like I'm picking on Calvinistic doctrines in this section but I assure you, I'm not. I have only the greatest respect for John Calvin. Many of Calvin's doctrines are true, but I cannot agree with them all, no more than I can agree with many of the Arminian and Pelagian doctrines. They taught that man is able to accept Christ as Savior anytime he wants, and that man is able to work his way to heaven. These doctrines, though prevalent in many Churches today, are equally wrong. Saving Grace is only effective when it's freely accepted by man. Man in his natural state is spiritually dead and controlled by an old sin nature. Man cannot freely accept Saving Grace unless God first intervenes, preparing him through the convicting ministry of the Spirit. Salvation cannot be accepted "at any time" in a man's life because of this sinful limitation. Where Calvin was wrong in teaching Efficacious Grace, Arminius and Pelagius were wrong in over emphasizing the power of man's free-will over his old sin nature. Man is powerless while in sin's power, and being powerless he cannot freely accept Christ as Saviour. Like the woman Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened through the convicting ministry of the Spirit. The idea that man may accept or reject Christ at any point in his life is a dangerous doctrine that has misled many. It is dangerous because it misleads many unbelievers into thinking that they can put off salvation today and accept it tomorrow. But if the Spirit doesn't return to convict you "tomorrow" these procrastinators may die in a state of damnation.
Unless the Holy Spirit places a person under conviction there's no use in trying to witness to that person. An illustration of this principle is found in the ministry of Paul. Early in his ministry Paul began collecting money from other Churches for the struggling Church at Jerusalem.
Acts 24:17 "Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings."
Romans 15:25-27 "But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things."
1 Corinthians 16:1-4 "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me. "
Paul dearly wanted to evangelize Jerusalem, for he himself was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin. He wanted To witness to his Jewish brethren so they might come to Christ as he had.
Romans 9:1-5 "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. "
Paul was so engrossed in his own desires for his people that he forgot his own teachings about the spiritual death of man (Ephesians 2.1-4), forgot that, unless the Holy Spirit convicts man then he is unable to accept Christ as Saviour. Evangelists and witnesses need to learn the lesson that Paul learned: "Unless the Spirit directs you to witness, unless the Spirit has preceded you to convict the unbeliever, then any witnessing you do is doomed to failure. Man's free-will is only free to accept or reject the message when he is under conviction. Outside of conviction man will automatically reject the message as foolish fairy tales (1 Corinthians 2.14).
After Paul collected the money for the evangelization of Jerusalem he started to head there. Paul decided in his heart that he was going to evangelize Jerusalem no matter what (Acts 19.21; 20.22-24). On his way to Jerusalem Paul stopped at the commercial seaport of Tyre. He spent a week there with some other disciples. While at Tyre he was warned by the Holy Spirit.
Acts 21:4 "And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. "
Paul was warned by the Holy Spirit to not go to Jerusalem. In fact, the Imperfect tense of LEGO (said) denotes that the warning was very severe; literally, "they kept on saying to Paul through the spirit". The Holy Spirit wasn't going to proceed Paul to Jerusalem. The Spirit wasn't commissioned to exercise His convicting ministry in Jerusalem at this time. But Paul had set his mind to evangelize Jerusalem. Because of his stubbornness he left Tyre and went on to Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit gave Paul one more chance to turn back when he stopped off at Caesarea. Paul stayed at the home of his friend, Philip the evangelist. While at Philip's home the Holy Spirit sent the prophet Agabus to speak to Paul.
Acts 21:11-14 "And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought (PARAKALEO, Imperfect, kept on begging, kept on trying to persuade) him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. "
Paul's response may seem noble or even sincere, but remember
that he was rejecting the direct commands of God the Holy Spirit.
He was out of line in continuing to go to Jerusalem when he was directed
away from it. But Paul had become so wrought in worrying about Jerusalem's
salvation that he disobeyed God's leading and went anyway. When
Paul got to Jerusalem he not only didn't evangelize the city, he so
provoked it that he was imprisoned (Acts 21.27-40). Because of Paul's
disobedience it was some time before Jerusalem was properly evangelized.
The lesson is this. The convicting ministry of the Spirit is vitally
necessary for man to reach salvation. Man can only come to Saving
Grace while under the power of the Spirit. Conviction doesn't
guarantee salvation, but it does make it possible. Once under conviction
a person is able to, of his own freewill, either accept or reject the
proposition of the Gospel. Paul went to Jerusalem outside of the Holy
Spirit's will with dire consequences.