Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Does Receiving a Gift Mean You Earned the Gift?

Calvinist theologians like to say that Arminians “earn” our salvation because we teach that a person must, by the act of the freed will, receive salvation through Christ alone.  They say that such teaching denies the sovereignty of God and makes man the deciding factor in salvation.  In Calvinism, they say, God alone saves the sinner for His glory and honor.  In Calvinism, God chooses the sinner for Himself (even before time began) and sent His Son to redeem that sinner.  The rest are hardened and condemned to hell for the glory of God.

Now the question I want to address is simply this: does receiving a gift mean that you earned the gift?  If I offer you a million dollars and the only thing I ask you to do is to receive the million dollars, does that mean that since you reached out your hand and took the million dollars you have earned the million dollars?  The same holds true for salvation.  Simply because the sinner is enabled by the grace of God and the Spirit of God to receive salvation, does this mean that the sinner earned their salvation?

The Calvinist answer would be “yes” since we are saying that God does not force the person to believe.  God enables the person to believe through His grace but God does not force (or drag as R.C. Sproul twists John 6:44 to mean).  Each person believes by the act of their own will that has been freed by the grace of God.  Sinners, apart from grace, are incapable of turning to Christ.  Romans 1:18 says that wicked sinners suppress the truth in their unrighteousness.  Romans 3:11 says that there are none who seeks after God.  John 4:23 says that the Father is actually the One who is seeking.  We are not.  We are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).  Instead, we need the grace of God, the enabling grace of God, to believe the gospel and be saved but no where does the Bible teach that God believes for us.  The act of faith is our act.  Certainly I would agree that all of salvation is a work of grace (Romans 4:5; 11:6) and I would agree that even faith can be viewed as a gift from God but this does not mean that God believes for us.  He enables us to believe but we believe (John 1:12-13).  As the gospel is preached, sinners hear the gospel (Romans 10:17) and can be saved through faith (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

In Romans 4 faith is opposed to works in regard to salvation.  Faith then is not a work. Faith is the trusting of Christ to save us.  Faith looks not to ourselves to save us but to Christ to save us.  Faith then is not meritorious for salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Good works flow from true saving faith (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26).  Through faith in Christ, God imputes righteousness unto us (Romans 4:23-25).  Romans 5:1 then tells us that we are justified through faith.  Notice that we are not justified unto faith but justified through faith.  Romans 6:23 reminds us that the wages of sin is death (always) but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  This gift is received by faith.

The Arminian viewpoint then is that we are justified through faith apart from works.  This belief in the Lord Jesus Christ is our own belief that the Spirit of God enables us to believe.  By the prevenient grace of God (the word prevenient simply means “beforehand”), we are freed to believe the gospel and be saved (John 20:31; 1 John 5:13).

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