Is there any room for obedience in salvation? I am trying to answer this question but I find many confusing answers in the protestant world. Some don’t seem to think obedience is important.
Some argue that we cannot obey God. Phil Johnson, himself a Calvinist, in arguing against an extreme form of Calvinism says this, “…the sinner’s inability to obey God does not nullify his duty to do so.” Notice the assumption that the sinner is unable to obey.
Boyce and Rykin in The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel (page 70) echo the thought:
“Here we are dealing with the nature and extent of sin, and the point is that we are radically sinful, so much so that we cannot take even the smallest of steps toward God unless he first intervenes.”
The Southern Baptist Convention says this in their Baptist Faith and Message:
“Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God.”
Note that “only the grace of God” is needed to bring man into renewed fellowship. Later, the document says,
“Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.”
That’s not too clear and it doesn’t answer the question. Is there room for obedience? Is there anything I must do to be saved?
The Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) says salvation is simply based,
“The teaching of Luther and the reformers can be summarized in three short phrases: Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone.”
Again, I struggle to find what I must do to be saved. Is there something I must obey? I would add that I don’t understand how to have grace alone if I also need faith and scripture. That doesn’t seem to be alone to me.
Noted Baptist preacher John Piper puts it this way,
“We do not think that faith precedes and causes new birth. Faith is the evidence that God has begotten us anew.”
It seems that for Piper we sit and wait for some direct intervention or movement on the part of God. If it comes we are saved, if not we remain lost. He as much as says so:
“Man is dead in trespasses and sins. He cannot make himself new, or create new life in himself. He must be born of God. Then, with the new nature of God, he immediately receives Christ. The two acts (regeneration and faith) are so closely connected that in experience we cannot distinguish them. God begets us anew and the first glimmer of life in the new-born child is faith. Thus new birth is the effect of irresistible grace, because it is an act of sovereign creation—”not of the will of man but of God.”
That’s actually pretty good if we are defining words and terms the same way but I don’t think we are. Certainly man alone does not have the power to correct his spiritual condition. That requires God. But Piper is suggesting a direct and individual work of God on a sinner apart from any desire, intention or action that sinner might have.
What I Need From the Readers
I will soon post a Biblical discussion of obedience. I won’t be referencing anything other than Scripture. But until then, would you share your thoughts here? This is the simple question: “What must I do to be saved?” Please focus on the doing part. You can post your comments here. There is no need to register but you may if you wish.
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