The Initiative of God

Intro: I am convinced that there are at least two primary questions in religion. The answers to these questions are fundamental to relationship to God, and the practice of our faith.

1) Authority – What is the source of authority? What is truth, and how can we know what is right?

2) Salvation – What is the way of salvation. How can I be acceptable to God? Is God accessible to me?

To put it simply, I must know what to believe and how I can become acceptable to God.

Of course, there are more than two questions to be answered, but these are basic. How can I arrive at the answers? The core of my lesson today is to proclaim that the answer to these questions are found in the initiative of God. God has acted in our behalf first, and done for me what I could not do for myself.

  • How can I know what to believe?God has spoken – this is Revelation
  • How can I be saved?God has acted – This is Redemption

I. Grace: The world is full of religions. What differentiates Christianity from the others? Again there is more than one answer, but my unreserved answer to that would be GRACE. Christianity is based on the fact that God has provided for us, and that provision is THE reason we can be acceptable to Him, or be saved. This is the initiative of God. It is GRACE, gifts given that we could not earn or achieve. This inherent inability on our part is intrinsic to the biblical idea of grace.

Consider two elements of this grace in considering our previous questions:

A. ONCE – God’s grace in the past tense. What we know from the words of the Bible is that God’s work in our behalf began in eternity, and was progressively unfolded in the history of Abraham’s family, the nation of Israel, and culminated in the person of Jesus Christ. Our study of the promises of God has illuminated God’s plan or intentions. Isn’t it thrilling and comforting to know that my salvation and eternal destiny is His plan and not mine? The truth regarding God’s initiative is conveyed in the use of one word in the Greek N.T.

1. Hapax – (adverb) – It is usually translated as “once”, meaning not just once upon a time, but once for all. Thayer says the word means “what is so done as to be of perpetual validity and never need repetition.” This word is applied in the N.T. to both revelation & redemption.

a. Revelation: Jude vs.3 – Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. There is no need for a furthering revelation from God. He has spoken “once for all” through the Spirit-delivered scriptures.

              • John 16:13-14However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. Jesus promised his apostles that the Holy Spirit would come after His ascension back to heaven and guide them into all truth. His statement makes clear that the revelation was to be completed through their teaching. The source of the Holy Spirit’s message was Jesus, and thus apostolic writing manifests the authority of God. It is through His initiative that we know the truth.
              • We cannot add to this completed revelation without being derogatory to it. (creeds, confessionals, traditions, etc)

b. Redemption: The one time initiative of God is also displayed in His redemptive activity. Paul declared in Rom. 6:10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

              • Peter wroteFor Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,( 1 Pet. 3:18)
              • Hebrews 9:24-28For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another — He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
              • Just as nothing can be added to God’s complete revelation, so nothing can be added to Christ’s work of redeeming us. We do not add to the efficacy of God’s work through our obedience. (repentance, baptism, other acts of obedience). In Him it is complete. When we attempt to add to it we take away from it – no human merit or sacrament is at work in my salvation.

IL OBEDIENCE OF FAITH God’s grace in the present tense. Read Rom. 1:1-6 – vs. 5 “Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith”. (NIV) The past redemptive initiative of God is appropriated for me in the present tense when I obey God through faith. This required obedience does not make me my own savior, or cause me to merit my salvation, but just the opposite, it declares my trust in Christ alone.

A. Notice how Paul advances this point in Rom. 6:1-14. Salvation by grace is not a license to keep sinning. We have died to sin, so signified by our willingness to be buried with Christ in baptism.

1. In the obedience of baptism we are united with the past sacrificial death of Christ, and are also united in His resurrection (another past, “once for all” event).

2. Our connection with Jesus in this past “once for all event” makes us dead to sin and alive to God – Rom 6:8-12Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. Being under grace is the reason for not sinning anymore.

B. My obedience (if it is as the NT teaches) is the only valid response to the once for all action of God to reveal His will and redeem me from my sins. Paul speaks of their baptism as the uniting act between the Christian and Jesus because this is the time when the sinner receives the blessing of God grace. (rises to walk in new life) But the act of baptism itself has not efficacy except as it is connected with the death of Christ (His initiative). True obedience does not contradict or argue against salvation by faith. My obedience confirms that I am putting my confidence in what God through Christ has already accomplished in my behalf.

1. In obeying God we place our trust in His ability and willingness to give us what we cannot obtain ourselves. We place our confidence in His initiative at the cross. Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. – Notice that the call is to repent & be baptized in order to receive God’s gifts – forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit.

2. In Acts 8 the Ethiopian treasurer was interested in understanding what God had revealed through the prophets. Philip spoke to him about Jesus. What was he told? He was told about God’s grace. The redemptive initiative of God is revealing His will and sending His Son to die on the cross & resurrect ONCE for all.

a. After hearing about Jesus, he asked what hinders me from being baptized. Why did he ask that? (Because Philip told him about baptism – yes, but that’s not all that is implied) Because the means of appropriating that once for all initiative to his life was through obedient faith. He knew he had to trust in what Jesus had done, and he displayed that trust through obedience in baptism. It was a matter of appropriating Past Grace to the present Sinner.

Paul preached the gospel from the perspective of God’s Past initiative and the sinner’s obedient faith.

              • 2 Cor 5:20-6:2 – Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
              • Notice here that Paul plead with them to be reconciled to God on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice – he was made to be sin for us – and then calls on them to not receive the grace in vain. It is possible for a Christian (one who has received grace at one time) to be lost, and it all be in vain.
              • Now is the acceptable time – He quotes from Isa 49, as the prophet was declaring that the time of the Messiah would be the time when God would provide mercy 0 day of salvation. Paul says today is that day! Grace is here through the past work of God… Do not miss out on this!
              • Later he pleads with them… 2 Cor 7:1 – Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Conclusion: The vital questions of life are answered in the initiative of God. They are answered in His grace.

  • Who will I believe? Where can I find truth? God has revealed it once for all – You must believe Him
  • How can I be saved? Jesus died for you once for all. You must obey Him.
  • You must die with Him in baptism, and be raised to a new life.