There is a common mistake made by theologically minded Christians to think that salvation is primarily about choice and it’s order. They make the options only 2: 1) salvation is for us who choose it, or, 2) salvation is God’s choice for us. The problem is, that is not the Bible’s perspective; so whose choice it is, is an interesting question but not the one to order our lives around.This type of thinking is exampled well by people who believe regeneration precedes faith. But this is a false truth because it’s looking for a fact that isn’t there.
Your regeneration doesn’t preceed your faith or vica versa. Period. Like almost all changes in life (maybe all!) when they’re are good reasons, independent of you, how can you not be changed by them? Even to deny those reasons, despite the fact, is a change. It’s not about the choice but the reasons for the way things are that give choices meaning and value to living.
Let’s get deep for a bit…
Christ as a revelation of knowledge about the Father fundamentally creates a fact into the world ex nihilo, out of nothing. The Father, through Jesus, by the Spirit changed everything. And this change has graced us with beautiful reasons to also change and trust God, those changes act in the world like a new creation, a very good one.
Reasons to order life in God through Christ by the Spirit
For more on what I mean read the contextual sandwich Paul does in Titus 3:1 and 3:8. The point there is we should be good citizens through goodness because the world has changed, because of the beauty, goodness and mercy God has shown through Christ; but do it like Christ and his teachings! That’s Paul’s point. And should be ours too.
“Jesus is not telling us to submit to evil, but to refuse to oppose it on its own terms.” -Walter Pink
Back to salvation and choice. In a sense, focusing on credit while ignoring the reasons to do things (or not) is to submit to evil on its own terms. Faith, hope, and love my friends. He has risen!
I think the reason this issue is so hard is because we want to be people with a quality as great as salvation implies. But our salvation is the size of God! How could we ever measure up? If we want any hope of having a way of understanding our place and role in life in such a way that makes sense, in light of the Gospel, we must have good reasons for doing what we do. And the greatest fact about the good news of the Gospel is that it is a fact. We order our lives around that and everything will make sense. But if we get obsessed with theologically parcing it up so that what we think measures up to those reasons then the reasons will never be good enough to do what we do.
Regeneration does not precede faith nor our faith precede regeneration. They happen exactly when they happen, no sooner, no later. But if the Bible is about anything primarily it’s not about that. It’s about the power of Christ’s life, death and resurrection in the world and all that means for us. But if you must focus on order to see it’s power please consider this order:
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” -Paul
The fact the Spirit of God is in the world through things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is worth our utmost consideration and action.
Choice seems puny to these great things.