Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Exercises in Right Division (Acts 2:40)

STATEMENT ONE:  In reference to the work of man’s eternal salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ stated, “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)  

STATEMENT TWO:  Yet in his sermon on the day of Pentecost we find the apostle Peter telling men “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” (Acts 2:40)

PROBLEM:  If eternal salvation is “impossible” for man as Jesus states, then how is it that Peter is telling men that they need to “save themselves?” In other words, if both of these statements are made in reference to mans eternal salvation, then Peter is exhorting men to eternal salvation through their own actions, where Jesus taught that this was impossible, which would be a bald logical contradiction.  

RESOLUTION:  Reconciliation of these seemingly contradictory statements is achieved by having a proper view of the “salvation” that each statement has in mind. Jesus’s comments were made in regard to our eternal salvation, which the bible teaches is “not according to our works” (II Timothy 1:9). It follows that our eternal salvation is a monergistic work of God, and it is impossible for man to participate in such a work by definition. Peter’s comments, on the other hand, are made to a group of believers, who are already in possession of eternal life (John 6:47) as evidenced by their belief of Peter’s sermon (I Corinthians 2:14) and sincere conviction of spirit, both of which prompted their question “Men and brethren what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) Since believers already have eternal life and shall never perish (John 10:28) it follows that any exhortation to them cannot be made for an eternally saving purpose. Peter’s admonition has reference to their temporal salvation. Obedient discipleship is a synergistic work that delivers God’s people from the practice and consequences of the sin that is so liberally practiced in this untoward generation so that they may enter into the more abundant life that is found in submission to the teachings of Christ (John 14:15, John 15:4).

  • Not all “salvations” in the bible are in reference to eternal salvation. (Acts 2:40, I Timothy 2:15)
  • “Salvation” means deliverance, and a proper understanding of the “salvation” that any passage has in view must be accompanied by a correct answer to the question – “delivered from what?” ("this untoward generation"- Acts 2:40, the encroaching Egyptian army - Exodus 14:13, a dangerous storm - Matthew 8:25, etc.)
  • There is a difference between monergistic eternal salvation and synergistic temporal salvation.
    • Man cannot be exhorted to participate in a monergistic act of God.
    • Man is regularly exhorted to participate in the synergistic obedience of discipleship. (John 15:10) 
  • The exhortations to obedience in scripture are intended for our salvation from the consequences of sin in this life, not from eternal damnation, because the Lord Jesus Christ took care of that work by himself (Hebrews 1:3).
  • We will be saved from the temporal effects of sin in accordance with our obedience to the exhortations to righteous obedience (Romans 6:12).
  • The word of God must be rightly divided in order to be properly understood. (II Timothy 2:15)

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