n 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. Eph 1:13
We have been cherishing the Spiritual blessings of Ephesians 1 which God, according to His own good pleasure, has by free grace bestowed upon us, in Christ. Having been enlightened to the purposes of God which our eternal destiny is involved in, we come now, to the earthly detail of our salvation – after having heard the Gospel, we then come to faith – that is, belief and trust in Christ. Though we cannot take credit or praise for it, it is through faith that we are saved. There needs to be an exercise of faith, without which none of the other blessings of salvation are genuine; yet although man is responsible for trusting Christ, all glory nevertheless goes to God. How we understand the detail of our coming to Christ must pass the test that promotes God’s glory alone, as salvation comes in spite of ourselves – it is all of God and all of grace. This has been Paul’s emphasis in the words, “according to the counsel of His own will.” We are not saved on the basis of our own will, but on God’s will. God never apologizes for free grace; yet, on the other hand, neither does He apologize for calling all men to faith through the preaching of the Gospel. Rather there is a tension that exists in Scripture between God’s sovereign choice and the manner in which our salvation works out in our life.
We see an example of this tension in Matthew 11:25-30 where Jesus prays, thanking His Father for revealing Himself to babes while hiding himself from the prudent of this world. In verse 27 Jesus says that only those whom He wills to reveal the Father to, will come to know Him; all this, yet in verse 28, He calls all men to come to Him and find rest. Some in the church believe that a general call for all men to come to repentance and faith is incongruous with a salvation which is the product of God’s good pleasure alone; so they fail to press upon the consciences and wills of men to make a decision to come to Christ. Failure to understand the role of man’s responsibility to obey the command to come to Christ, to believe, or to repent – have caused many preachers to refuse to compel men to come; but that is the very commission of the preacher (Lk 14:23). The means that God uses to place us in Christ is faith which comes by hearing the Word of God, which comes through the conduit of the preacher’s voice (Rom 10:9-17). No one can say they are a Christian apart from hearing and receiving the word of truth. This is why Paul told Timothy to “preach the word” … “do the work of an evangelist.” (2 Tim 4:2,5). In 1 Tim 2:4 Paul states that God would have all men to be saved, and then follows that up by stating how men are saved, as they come to a knowledge of the truth. This is Christianity. Many different religions and cults can produce testimonies of changed lives, moral or ethical lifestyles, and good people; but the vital question of Christianity is, “have you come to a knowledge of the truth?” We become Christians as that which has been previously unattractive, boring, and incomprehensible becomes the most wonderful news we have ever heard. Though it is the same truth heard from the same preacher, it is only when the Gospel is believed that it becomes alive, vibrant, and understood. The definition of a Christian is one who has rested the trust and hope in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation. It is the Gospel preached, heard, believed, and trusted that is the power of God unto salvation.
This week read Paul’s preaching of the Gospel to Agrippa in Acts chapter 26. Take note of the elements of his sermon, in particular how he brings it to a closing in verse 27. Ask God to help you to ‘close the deal’ so to speak in your Gospel witness to others.
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