Paul’s Priorities (one clarification)

Pastor Todd let me finish off our TESTIFY series this last Sunday in Acts 20:17-32, which includes what I would consider to be  one of my main life-verses, verse 24. I was really challenged preparing for this the week before, and it really gives a lot of insight into priorities that Paul had as a minister of the Gospel. Particularly, that Paul was willing to suffer because of the degree to which Paul’s eyes were set on Christ. With eyes set only on Christ, on abiding in Him, and on testifying to the Gospel of Christ, he was willing to walk straight into “imprisonment and afflictions” in order to fulfill the ministry of testifying to the Gospel.

One clarification from something I said in the message: when talking about “repentance toward God” and “faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”, I try and make clear that this is what it takes to be born again. We must repent and place our faith in Christ. Repentance must always be linked with faith, as we see all throughout the New Testament (Mark 1:15, Luke 24:47, Acts 17:30, Acts 20:21, and 2 Peter 3:9 to name a few). I think I was pretty clear on this point, but I think I should have added a pretty important caveat:

Ultimately, even faith and repentance are gifts from God. In other words, God does all of the work for our salvation. Yes, repentance and faith are real decisions on our part that have real effects. And yet, God is the one who calls us to Himself, and gives us saving faith and repentance. A few verses:

  • John 6:44- “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
  • Ephesians 2:8-9- “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:25- “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

These are just a few, as this is not an exhaustive explanation of God’s role in salvation, just a clarification in my message on Sunday. How is it that God can be ultimately sovereign over all things (even our own salvation), and yet man be responsible for his own sin? Frankly, I’m not sure. Perhaps the answer is in his nature as a timeless being, which is beyond me to fathom. All I know is that Scripture clearly presents these two truths: that God is sovereign over all, and that man is responsible for his own sin. So I believe it.

We should always be challenging ourselves to dig deeper into God’s Word, and never assume that any truth or question is not answered in Scripture, BUT, when you have come to a particular place where it seems like Scripture does not answer a specific question, it might be good to be reminded of Deuteronomy 29:29- “The secret things belong to the Lord, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”

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