1. The Clarity of Scripture
-Frankly, I cannot read texts like Dt 29:1-4; Je 31:31-34; Ez 37; Mt 11:20-30; Jn 1; Ac 2 & 4; Ro 9-11; Ep 1 & 2; He 12:1-3; Ja 1:18; 1 Pe 1:1-5, etc, and come to any other conclusion. Salvation is of the LORD, from beginning to end. A study of the lives of the saints of Scripture illustrates this teaching.
2. The Nature of Sin
-Scripture explains the depths of our depravity as so great that we cannot help ourselves in any way. Scripture goes so far as to say, in regard to our spiritual abilities, we are in fact dead (Ep 2:1-10, to name only one text). That is as bad as it could be. The Ephesians text repeatedly describes unbelievers as dead in sin, that is, dead to God (v1 & 5; cf Ge 2:15-17 and Chapter 3). This is what makes Ephesians 2:4 & 8-10 so startling. After laboring to show us as dead in sin and by nature children of wrath and living in the lusts of our flesh, (all Paul’s words), he pens this, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us. . .made us alive together with Christ (for by grace you have been saved).” Paul repeats this last thought in v8, and then explains how salvation happens.
-In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul likens God’s call of an unbeliever to faith to God’s calling light out of the darkness that covered the earth, as we read in Genesis 1. In other words, to be saved, it is not simply a nudge in the right direction that we need, or a persuasive argument, or anything less than to be reborn in the inner person (this is what Jesus means by being “born again” in John 3). In John 3, Jesus credits this work of rebirth to the Holy Spirit and tells us that He is like the wind, moving as He wills. Jesus clearly understood salvation to be wholly and only a Trinitarian work – the Father calls sinners (Jn 6:44; Ac 2:39); the Son pays their penalty (Jn 10:11; Mk 10:45); the Holy Spirit regenerates (Jn 3:5-8; Tit 3:5).
3. The Nature of Faith
-The nature of faith, or belief, is that we find ourselves believing. We do not cause or make ourselves believe. We believe according to evidence. We know this is true from experience. No one decides they want to believe something and then by their will are able to get themselves to believe it. That is not the nature of belief. So Scripture gives us the source of belief – the Word of God (Ro 10:17; 1 Pe 1:23-25). And Scripture gives us the cause of our belief – God the Holy Spirit (texts given in previous paragraph). Why is it that a hundred people can hear the gospel and only one of them believe? Why is it that you believe, but not your spouse, your sister, your children, etc? Do you see why prayer is so important to preaching, evangelism, and missions?
-The “problem”, if I may call it that, of unbelief is compounded by the gospel’s call to bank everything on an invisible reality, namely God Himself. God has certainly not left Himself without witness. He has given us creation (Ps 19; Ro 1), conscience (Ro 2), Christ (He 1), and Scripture (Ps 19:7-11; Jn 20:30-31, 21:24-25; 1 Pe 1:10-12; 2 Pe 1:19-21). And while the evidence is ample, it nevertheless calls us to a Being we have never seen. And it calls us to put all of our hope and confidence in Him alone for our salvation (He 11:1-6). Only the invisible God who calls unbelievers could produce such a faith, so that Peter may write to us, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pe 1:8).
4. The Nature of Glory
-Scripture teaches that God saves people in a way that secures for Him all glory. He does this by excluding all human boasting (Ro 3:21-4:8; 1 Co 1:18-31; Ga 6:14; Ep 2:8-9). Simply put, I cannot come up with any other understanding of Scripture, other than the Reformed understanding, that ensures the glory of God in salvation. People do not work their way into God’s favor, or reason themselves into faith, or persuade themselves into belief by some other means. In the Bible, faith is said to be a gift; and the Giver gets the glory. So, if I am able to contribute to the saving work, even if it is only by my right choice, then I have grounds for boasting. This cannot be.
-God is not in the business of holding a person down and forcing him/her to say yes to Him, as a bully might do on a school playground. God is in the business of making unbelieving people genuinely want Him. He does this by a deep work in the nature of the person (regeneration, as discussed earlier). He acts upon us to turn our natural hostility to His rule into a loving embrace of His presence. He gives us repentance and faith (Ep 2:8-9; 2 Ti 2:25). And again, the Giver gets the glory. And the Christian rejoices in this (Mt 11:20-26; Ro 11:33-36; 1 Pe 1:6-9). We really like when God is magnified. It makes us glad. It is only the sinfully proud that do not delight in the exaltation of God at the expense of their own exaltation.