Paul ran from Christ; Christ pursued Paul. Paul resisted Christ; Christ disarmed Paul. Paul persecuted Christ; Christ converted him. Paul was an alien; Christ made him a member of the family.”
– Lewis B. Smedes, All Things Made New, p. 119
While it is true that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13), it is equally true that those who call on God do so because “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (Jn. 6:44).
In John Newton’s personal diary he wrote that he was in school only two years, from ages 8 to 10. He was self-taught his entire life and never had any formal theological education. After his conversion and upon beginning his pastoral career, he devoted himself to a rigorous program of learning Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac. In addition, he read many theological works in Latin and French, which he taught himself while at sea. Yet, despite all his learning, he never ceased to be amazed that, as he says at age 72, “such a wretch should not only be spared and pardoned, but reserved to the honour of preaching thy Gospel, which he had blasphemed and renounced . . . this is wonderful indeed! The more thou has exalted me, the more I ought to abase myself.”
– John Piper, The Roots of Endurance, p. 51
Since the Good News that saves us is a gospel of grace, a few mindsets/attitudes that we must avoid are:
- “God helps those who helps themselves” suggesting that all of humanity is left spiritually equalized and capable of becoming born-again. This attitude says, in effect, “I came to Christ by myself” and it rests in a faulty anthropology that maintains a higher view of humankind than Scripture allows.
- “God brought me to Christ and I did not resist.” This carries with it some other baggage that is equally suspect, such as the only determining factor as to whether persons heed the Gospel call is free will. The human will is free to resist but did not. However, this seriously misses the biblical data that points to a common grace or general call to all that can be resisted (Matt. 22:14; Lk. 16:24), yet the special grace that saves cannot be resisted (Rom. 8:29-30).
- “God started the process and I cooperated.” This is a seriously under-informed theology because God does not begin something and not finish it (Philip.1:6). God’s purposes are never made contingent upon humans (Pr. 16:4; Acts 17:25).
The mindset or attitude that most faithfully coheres with Scripture is “God brought me to Christ.” Consider the following:
- If there are conditions to be met, God ultimately meets them (cf., Jn. 6:44; 2 Tim. 1:9).
- Though many were invited to the banquet and sinfully rejected(Matt.22:1-6), those who were brought in to feast were done so at the king’s discretion. It is, therefore, God’s prerogative as King to save those whom He chooses.
- Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost constitutes a general call to everyone present; yet only some were specially called by God (v. 39) and were baptized into the faith (Acts 2:14-39).
- Saul’s conversion clearly sets forth God’s special call (Acts 9).
Indeed “The more thou has exalted me, the more I ought to abase myself.”