God’s Sovereignty and Man’s responsibility in holiness

In my previous post, I wrote about God’s Sovereignty and Man’s responsibility in salvation, demonstrating that God saves us based on grace and not merit, but, this does not negate man’s responsibility in salvation. God offers and man has to accept. The transaction of a gift is not complete until the recipient takes the gift from the giver. In the case of our salvation, we looked at God with Abraham, Jesus with His disciples, and Paul with his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. That article came as a result of a discussion with a Calvinist brother in Christ. This article is the direct result of a continuation of that discussion and this time focusing on man’s responsibility in holiness, or the other Biblical term that is used is “sanctification“. The word holy and sanctified have the same Greek root word and the meaning is to be “set a part”, to be “different” from those around you. God saves people with a purpose, and that purpose is more than just taking them to heaven when they die. The word salvation literally means “rescue”. God rescues us from more than just the fires of hell. He rescues us from our sin nature and as we walk the path of life with the Lord, He sets us a part from the rest of the people in the world by making us more like Him and less like people controlled by their sin nature. That is what holiness means. It does not mean that you dress differently from everyone else, retract from the world, and become weird. It means that you begin to win the battle with your sin nature. The closer you walk with God, the more and more victories you will have over your number 1 enemy, yourself. The further away you get from God, the more you will begin living like the rest of the world, enslaved to the desires of your sin nature. I would like to examine this from Paul’s epistle to Titus.

Paul left Titus in Crete to continue the ministry that he had begun. Paul had spent time in Crete making disciples and as a result, churches had formed. Paul was called by God to move on to new territory and make new disciples to form new churches in unchurched areas of the known world. By the time he had left, there were sufficient leaders in these churches in Crete. Paul instructed Titus to find spiritually mature men to form a team to govern these churches and keep them well established so that he (Titus) could join Paul in reaching new people in new areas. Within this epistle, we discover some great truths about salvation and holiness. I would like to examine a few of them here in this article.

I. Sound Doctrine and Salvation

Titus 2:11 – 12 teach us about salvation and what it does to us. First of all, salvation comes from God. He is the Initiator of salvation. He is the Giver of salvation. We are the recipients and benefactors of it. As I wrote earlier, salvation means being rescued from something in order to do something else. Pre-salvation, we are slaves to our sin natures. Even when we want to do the right thing, we cannot because we are not the masters, our sin natures are. We were simply obedient slaves, doing the things that our sin natures prompted us to do. When we are rescued from sin nature, we are able to do what verse 12 teaches. The two things are codependent upon each other. One cannot be done without first doing the other. Upon salvation, we are to be taught to deny ungodliness and worldly desires. The teaching is an ongoing process and the teaching tool is Sound Doctrine or, the Word of God. II Timothy 3:16 explains this process. When we submit ourselves to the Word of God, God uses His Word to teach us. He does it by showing us where we are wrong, correcting us, and training us to stay on the correct path. This must be an ongoing process. As this happens, we are able to deny ungodliness and worldly desires with the Lord’s help. After that takes place, the next step is also seen in Titus 2:12, we choose to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the midst of people who are controlled by their worldly desires (sin nature). God has and does His part in salvation and assistance in denying sin. I have my part in subjecting myself to Sound Doctrine and choosing to live sensibly, righteously, and godly, as Sound Doctrine teaches me to do. Salvation gives me the ability to obey God. I still have to choose obedience.

II. Salvation and Sanctification

Obedience is an ongoing process. I do not choose to be obedient once and for all. I have to choose obedience every moment of every day. This is seen in Titus 3:4-8. Sound doctrine is first presented in verse 4-7. God offers us salvation based on His kindness (usefulness to us) in the person of Jesus Christ. Our part is seen in verse 8, we believe (accept God’s offer). Once salvation has taken place and we are able to obey God from the heart, we have to be careful to engage in obedience. The act of obedience does not come natural to us. We have to put forth effort. It is a choice that we constantly make and our ability to make that choice is based on God’s gift of salvation. Without salvation, I could not choose obedience. Because of God’s gift of salvation, I am able to be careful to choose obedience. When I choose obedience, Paul calls this engaging in good deeds to meet pressing needs so that the message of the Gospel can be shared with others, giving them a chance to respond. Engaging in good deeds is something that we must constantly choose but, we are only able to choose it with God’s help. We depend on God for salvation and we depend on Him for sanctification, yet we also have our responsibility.

In conclusion, we are saved by God’s grace and we are sanctified by God’s grace. He makes it possible for us to be different from the rest of the world. He leaves room for our responsibility in sanctification, while still remaining sovereign over the entire process. The burden is not fully placed on God nor is it fully placed on man. There is a combination of both, but, we must keep in mind that God will always do His part so, if there is a breakdown along the way, the error is with man. God does not force us to be sanctified but He does save us for the purpose of sanctification. There are consequences for holding up the sanctification process and that is a topic for another lesson. In fact, I have written about the consequences in an article on the purpose of communion.

May the Lord help us to understand our part in the process of sanctification and apply what Sound Doctrine teaches us in this area. God bless!

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