The Path To Salvation
The Common Grace of God to Man
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."
Since God wills that all men be saved He has taken certain steps to give all men a chance for salvation. The first step He took was in the Plan of Salvation. When Jesus was sent to pay for man's sins, God could have sent Him to die for just a select few or, to die for all mankind. Since God willed that all men be saved, He chose the latter method for Christ's atonement.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 "For the love of Christ constraineth (Literally, "Keeps on pressing us from all sides") us; because we thus judge, (Literally, "conclude") that if (EAN, First Class Condition = If, and it's true) one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."
1 Timothy 2:5-6 "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."
1 Timothy 4:10 "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe."
Titus 2:11 "For the
grace of God (HE CHARIS TOU THEOU = The Grace of the
God) that bringeth
salvation (Adjectival Use of SOTERIOS = Imparting
Salvation) hath appeared (Aorist
Passive Indicative EPIPHAINO = has been clearly manifested in a point
Hebrews 2:9 "But we see (BLEPO = Have been caused to glance at) Jesus, who was made a little lower (ELATTOO, Perfect Passive Participle + BRACHOUS = Having been made inferior for a brief time) than the angels for the suffering (DIA + Accusative PATHAMA = Because of the suffering) of death, (THANATOS = Death. A reference to Christ's death on the Cross for us all) crowned (Perfect Passive Participle STEPHANOO = Having been crowned) with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God (HOPAS + Instrumental Singular CHARIS + Ablative of Source THEOS = That He by means of the Grace from God) should taste (Aorist Active Subjunctive GEUOMAI = Should taste once for all) death for every man. (HUPER + Accusative PAS = For Everyone) "
1 John 2:1-2 "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate (PARAKLATOS = lawyer, council for defense) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation (ILASMOS = means of appeasing God) for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
There are numerous verses that teach Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (as you can see above). Theologically this reflects the Biblical Doctrine called Unlimited Atonement. Unlimited Atonement teaches that Christ paid for the sins of the whole world. In other words, the account that mankind owed God for disobedience have been paid. All man has to do is to accept what has been done. It is like having a signed check with your name on it. The money is in the bank, the check is available, but you have to take it to the bank to get any benefit from it.. Holding on to the check is useless, for the check is nothing but a slip of paper. But if you cash it, it becomes money that you can use. The Atonement is the same way. Jesus has paid for the sins of everyone with the result that from the moment of physical birth your name is placed in the Book of Life. The cash is in the bank. If you die without cashing the check, without accepting Christ as Savior, then your name is blotted out of the Book. The check will be passed its due date, and will no longer be valid. This is what Unlimited Atonement teaches.
The account has been paid, and all man needs to do is accept it. But man is spiritually dead, having no human spirit nor ability to truly interact with God. Men are carnal, controlled by their Old Sin Natures. The Old Sin Nature controls mankind; yet our sins are paid for: this seems like a stacked deck. We have no way of accepting what has been done for us on our own. It is because of this seemingly insurmountable problem, Christ's payment and man's inability to accept it, that caused Calvin to over emphasize the Doctrine of Election. To Calvin it seemed that the only way to reconcile the controlling Old Sin Nature of man in the Unlimited Atonement was to make God the main controller in man's acceptance of Christ. If God elected some to predestination in eternity past, and guaranteed their coming to this salvation with an undeniable call, then Calvin felt that Christ's death was not in vain. If God did not do this, then man would be unable to accept Christ as Savior, making the death of the Cross a wasted sacrifice.
Though Calvin was a great Theologian and a great Reformer, he did not go quite far enough into the Scripture to find the answer. The answer is found in the Doctrine of God's Common Grace to man. After God did all the background work (Unlimited Atonement), He knew that it would be necessary to free man (at least temporarily) so he could freely choose. Two things were necessary to allow man to freely choose between Christ or the world. Man would have to physically live long enough to make a free choice, and man would have to be freed from the overwhelming influence of the Old Sin Nature. These two facets of God's Grace would have to be distributed equally among all mankind so that all would have equal chance for salvation. He did this through His provision of Common (for everyone) Grace.
In the first stage of Common Grace, God had to keep man alive long enough to make a choice for or against Christ.
Acts 14:17 "Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."
In order to keep man alive God had to give him food, clothing, and shelter. Without these basic necessities man would quickly die before he could hear the message of the Gospel. The wicked and unbelieving prosper because God gives them nourishment, just as He nourishes His believers. God cares for unbelievers, not because they are moral or good, but to sustain their lives for one more day so they might accept His Son. If the unbeliever continues to reject Christ, God often removes this provision of Common Grace. With suffering man often turns to God, whereas in prosperity he rejects Him. By controlling the flow of prosperity to the unbeliever God gives man ample opportunity to accept or reject the Savior.
In the second stage of Common Grace God had to protect man from the overwhelming power of the Old Sin Nature.
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;)"
The Old Sin Nature in mankind is directly opposed to anything that God decrees. This Sin Nature is corrupt, the source of all depravity:
Galatians 5:15-21 "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 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."
Had God not put some control on this Sin Nature, men would have quickly destroyed one another. In order to counteract their unnatural tendencies God placed a conscience in man. The conscience gives all men a moral code of right and wrong. When that code is broken the offender feels guilt. If society discovers an offender, then the offender is condemned socially. The conscience can be hardened by repeated acts of violation, but an operating conscience is the norm among mankind. In all societies it is wrong to murder, lie, steal, an so on. By putting a conscience in mankind God protects man from himself so that he can be evangelized.
The third stage of Common Grace is a branch from the second stage: the installation of governmental law and the authority to prosecute offenders of the social conscience:
Romans 13:1-7 "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour."
As noted before, the individual conscience can be hardened by repeated acts of sin. The first murder is always the hardest, then if the evil act is repeated it gets progressively easier. In order to avoid this problem God established national and local governments, with bureaucrats running these governments according to the group conscience. Police officers and judges restrained the power of the Old Sin Nature in man by fear of punishment. To break the law (group conscience) is to bring a fine, imprisonment, or death to the offender. The group conscience even establishes rules of war, so that no one national entity can take unfair retribution over another on the battleground. Prisoners of war cannot be tortured without fear of national retaliation, for those who do such things are considered a war criminals.
Governmental law under Common Grace also protects the person's right to worship God as he sees fit, and allows for freedom of choice either for or against God. No one religious group has the right under the law to persecute another group because they worship differently. God alone will judge as to who is right and who is wrong in the after life. All men must be free to make a choice for or against Christ, otherwise salvation is not effectively a free choice. You cannot force a man to the Cross and expect him to be saved. The Church tried this in the Dark Ages, causing unsaved pagans to flood into the Church with their own polytheistic beliefs. This is why the Church still has remnants of false doctrine existing in it today, such as the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, worship of the saints, Mary as the mother of God, and Easter egg hunts on Church grounds.
The fourth stage of Common Grace directly effects the salvation of the unbeliever. The unbeliever is, as we saw before, spiritually dead. Being spiritually dead he is under the control of the Old Sin Nature. While under Sin's control the unbeliever is not free to accept or reject Christ as Savior. The only option open to this spiritual corpse is to reject Christ. God established the fourth stage of Common Grace to temporarily remove this barrier.
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 (PARAKLATOS = Lawyer, Advocate) will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove (ELEGCHO = Convict, convince) 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."
In the fourth stage of Common Grace God sends the Holy Spirit to convict (ELEGCHO) the world of their own Sin Nature. The Spirit will not force an unbeliever into accepting Christ, but He will provide a balance between the Old Sin Nature and the call of God so that man can be free to accept or reject Christ. Calvinism teaches that this ministry of the Spirit is to the elect only, and that this call is indisputable or efficacious. If this is true, then the whole world will eventually be saved, for the Spirit's convicting ministry is, according to Jesus, to the whole world. Since we know that there is a Hell and unbelievers will go there, we know that many will reject the calling of the Spirit.
At least once in every unbeliever's life the Spirit will come to him, break the hold of the Old Sin Nature, and allow enough balance in his or her life for a free choice. If the Spirit eliminated the Old Sin Nature completely there would be no real choice, for man would naturally accept Christ as Savior. If the Spirit allowed the Old Sin Nature to reign then there would be no free choice, for man would naturally choose the world. But the Spirit comes to the unbeliever and provides a balance between the call of the world and the call of God. The unbeliever is then free to accept or reject Christ, as free as Adam was in the Garden. If he accepts Christ then he does so of his own free will. If he rejects Christ he does this of his own freewill. In either case the choice lies with the unbeliever.
The Spirit's ministry has nothing to do with the conscience. God has already provided conscience in the second and third stages of Common Grace. The Spirit's ministry is all about giving the unbeliever an even break. When the Spirit comes and convicts the sinner of his utterly lost state, He makes it plain to the unbeliever that all he does before God is unacceptable. He convicts the unbeliever of his unrighteousness, and explains to the unbeliever that he can enter Heaven only on the basis of Christ's righteousness if he only accept what has been done for him on the Cross. If the unbeliever ignores the conviction of the Spirit, the Spirit warns him of impending judgment. He makes it plain to the unbeliever that if Christ is rejected he will be judged.
The Spirit's ministry goes much further. Again,
the unbeliever is spiritually dead and cut off from God. But if
the unbeliever accepts Christ as Savior, the Spirit immediately
regenerates him. In fact, God, through His Spirit, immediately
performs the following ministries for each new believer:
The fifth stage of Common Grace deals with the preaching of the Gospel. The fourth and fifth stages work together: God sends a minister (led by the Spirit) to an area to evangelize. The minister preaches the clear Gospel as the Spirit provides a balance for choice in the unbeliever.
Romans 10:14-15 "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! "
The fifth stage of Common Grace is actually another ministry
of the Spirit. In this ministry the Spirit uses the preacher and
other lay members as tools to evangelize selected groups of unbelievers.
There are many lessons in this for believers to learn. First,
you must be a mature believer to effectively witness your
faith. The immature believer goes to witness regardless as to
the leading of the Spirit. If the Spirit does not lead us to witness
to a group of unbelievers, then nothing will come of our efforts.
The mature believer yields his will to the leading of
the Spirit. In doing so the Spirit leads him to unbelievers who
are susceptible to the preaching of the Gospel. The Spirit provides
balance in the unbeliever's soul so that he can freely choose or reject
Christ. Maturity as a believer brings the ability to yield to
and listen to the Spirit. Immaturity knows nothing of this ability.
As we have emphasized before Divine Good production (such as witnessing)
always comes by mature growth brought on by faithful study of the Word
1. The unbeliever is spiritually dead. Being spiritually dead he is cut off from God, unable to do anything acceptable or pleasing to God. Human Good works will be the basis of the unbeliever's damnation at the last Judgment (the Great White Throne).
2. Though spiritually dead, the unbeliever's sins have been paid for by Christ's work on the Cross. At physical birth the unbeliever's name is placed in the Book of Life. If he accepts what Christ has done for him before he meets physical death his name is left in this Book. With his name in the Book, he is welcomed into Heaven in the afterlife. If the unbeliever continues to reject Christ until he meets physical death, then at his death his name is blotted out of the Book of Life. If his name is not in this Book he will be cast away unto eternal damnation.
3. God has provided five stages of Common Grace, each designed to lead the unbeliever to Christ. The first three stages extend the unbeliever's life so that he will have sufficient time to freely choose or reject Christ. These three stages are (1) The provision of food and shelter, (2) The individual conscience, and (3) The establishment of the Group Conscience or Governmental Law. The last two stages of Common Grace are directly related to the unbeliever's call to salvation from God. These are (4) The balancing (convicting) ministry of the Spirit, and (5) The preaching of the Gospel. None of these stages guarantee the unbeliever will accept Christ as Savior. The Spirit's Call is not undeniable or efficacious, but a Divine invitation. The ministry of the Spirit only provides temporary balance in the unbeliever's soul. The power of the Old Sin Nature is dethroned so the unbeliever may freely answer or deny the call of God. The Spirit provides this Convicting ministry to everyone on earth at least once in his or her lifetime.
4. If the unbeliever accepts the work of Christ, thereby
becoming a believer, God then gives many blessings to his life. Among
these blessings are (1) Spiritual new Birth, (2) Adoption as a Child
of God, (3) The imputation of righteousness to his spiritual account,
and (4) Union with the Godhead. The new believer is equipped so he can
grow to maturity and produce Divine Good for his Master. This Divine
Good production will be rewarded in Heaven when we all stand before
the throne of our Lord Jesus. Any Human Good that the believer produces
in this life will be burned or destroyed at this same throne, yet he
himself shall be saved, so as by fire. God Bless you all!