“Y” is for Yahweh

“Y” is for Yahweh.  This is the personal name of God Himself.  Maybe you are wondering, “If it is God’s personal name, then why don’t we see it in Scripture?”  It actually appears in Scripture more than 6,800 times!  Now you might be wondering if we are reading the same Bible.  In our English Bibles the name Yahweh appears most frequently as, LORD.  This is to distinguish it from the word, Lord.  You can see the word is the same in English but distinguished by the use of all capitals in the first example and a capital “L” with lower case “ord” in the second.  The reason for this is that they translate two different Hebrew words.

A Quick Grammatical Look

The Hebrew word for Yahweh consist of the Hebrew consonants yhwh (yod-he-waw-he), and is called the Tetragrammaton, because of it contains four letters, hence YHWH.  It has been regarded as the most sacred name of God, and in fact, the incommunicable name.  Jews feared speaking the name because Lev. 24:16 says, “Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”  So when the Jews read the Scriptures whenever they came upon those four consonants, YHWH, they would say ‘Adonai or ‘Elohim.  ‘Adonai is translated in English as “Lord” like we already looked at above and ’Elohim is translated as “God” most often.  ’Adonai or “Lord” is a title of God referring to His absolute sovereignty over creation.  It is an exalted title of God.  In the Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint or LXX) the translators substituted kurios which means “Lord,” with the divine name YHWH.  It is likely for these reasons why most English translations translate YHWH “LORD.”

Jehovah, a familiar name for God to English readers at least, is not actually a Hebrew word found in Scripture.  Ancient Hebrew when written did not use vowels but the appropriate vowel sounds were passed on orally.  The divine name YHWH (the four consonants) received the vowels from ‘Adonai with a couple consonant changes to get the name Jehovah.  It is highly unlikely that this is the correct pronunciation of the name of God.

Meaning of God’s Name

Let’s transition away from some of the grammatical and technical side of the name of God and focus on its meaning.  What does this name reveal about God and His character?  For this is the far greater questions.  Exodus 3:13-14 is crucial for understanding the meaning of the divine name, YHWH.  It is here in Exodus 3 that God appears to Moses in a burning bush as Moses cares for his father-in-law’s flock (vv. 1, 4).  The LORD (YHWH) tells Moses what He is about to do in delivering His people from the hand of the Egyptians and He is going to use Moses (vv. 7-8, 10).  Moses is uncertain, and will come up with a lot of excuses not to go (Ex. 4).  But here in Exodus 3:13-14 we read, “Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”  A number of things are revealed about the name YHWH from the explanation here in Ex. 3:14 where God says, “I am who I am.”  There is a variety of explanations of what this name means including: (1) that God is self-existent and therefore not dependent on anything else for His own existence; (2) that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists; (3) that God is immutable in His being and character and thus is not in the process of becoming something different from what He is; (4) that God is eternal in His existence (ESV Study Bible, 149).  Then we should look in the context where God speaks these words to Moses and it is in promising to be with him as God uses Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage.  YHWH is telling Moses that He will be for the people in Moses’ day what He was for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in that He is faithful to His covenant (see Ex. 3:6, 16).

While there are lots of passages we could look at since the name of God is used so frequently in the OT let’s stick to the book of Exodus.  In Exodus 20 we find the giving of the Ten Commandments.  But before God lays out each of those commandments there is a prologue you might say.  Exodus 20:2 says, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Within this verse we learn a number of things about Yahweh’s relation to the people of Israel.  First, Yahweh has a personal relationship with the people.  He is “the LORD your God” (emphasis mine).  Second, Yahweh is a God of grace for it was He who “brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Certainly much more is wrapped up in what the divine name Yahweh tells us about His character.  But it amazing to think that the Holy One, who is so high and exalted, is willing to be in relationship with those who put their faith in Jesus Christ.  That He lavished grace upon us who were His enemies from birth.  All praise and honor belong to Yahweh alone!

Advertisements

“V” is for Virgin Birth

“V” is for Virgin Birth.  You have heard of Christmas in July, well this is Christmas in August.  The biblical understanding of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ has been questioned by many for different reasons.  Some think that no one can be born of a virgin and that includes Jesus.  Others believe it would be a miracle but one that is not necessary to believe in order to be a Christian.  What about you?  Is it necessary to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus the Christ in order to be a Christian?  Scripture makes it clear to us that Jesus was born of a virgin.  It also provides clear reasons why it is necessary for our salvation.  This newsletter will jump right into a number of passages of Scripture that will show us the miracle of the virgin birth and also the necessity of the virgin birth.

God’s Intervention

Matthew and Luke each describe for us the birth of Jesus Christ.  Matthew focuses more from the perspective of Joseph whereas Luke focuses more from the perspective of Mary.  So in Luke when the angel Gabriel comes to Mary, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, he tells Mary she has found favor with God (Luke 1:30). “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus” (v. 31).  Mary asks the obvious question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34).  Or as the Greek literally says, “How will this be, since I do not know a man?”  However you want to say it Mary is making it clear that she has never had sex and thus cannot possibly have a child.  This is not rocket science.  Even today there is the necessity of a male’s sperm and female’s egg to come together to create new life.  While Mary and Joseph are betrothed to one another, they still have not consummated their marriage yet and thus Mary’s statement of still not knowing a man.

In answer to Mary’s question the angel Gabriel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).  And as Matthew correctly recognized, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matt. 1:23).  Matthew quoted from Isaiah 7:14 and states that this prophecy is fulfilled in the miraculous birth of Jesus the Christ who is born of the virgin Mary.

Not Merely Preference but Necessity

Have you ever wondered, why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin?  Or, as was stated earlier, is belief in the virgin birth of Christ a necessary belief of Christianity?  In other words, do I have to believe it in order to be a Christian?

Certainly the virgin birth is a miracle as is made clear by the Holy Spirit’s intervention in Mary’s life.  So when we realize that the Son of God, the glorious, infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, holy One became a human it is astounding!  For some it is humiliating or embarrassing that Christians believe such a thing.  But this is exactly what the Scriptures affirm and as we will see more than mere preference but something of necessity.

First, Jesus had to be born of a virgin since by this miraculous birth the uniting of full deity with full humanity was made possible.  This was necessary because only someone like us could redeem us, thus the Son of God became a man.  As Romans 5:18-19 says, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”  And His deity was necessary because only one who is infinite God could bear the full penalty for all the sins of those who would believe in Him.  In other words, one perfect man could substitute himself for one guilty person, though there are no perfect men.  But one perfect God-man could substitute Himself for all those who believe in Him (Heb. 7:23-25).

Second, the virgin birth was necessary since it reminds us that salvation is solely of the Lord (Ps. 3:8; Jon. 2:9).  For no human mind could come up with such a plan and even if they did they would not have the power to carry it out.

Lastly, the virgin birth was necessary because it makes possible for Jesus’ true humanity to be without original sin.  We all are born in sin.  David said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).  As we just saw in Romans 5 the sin or trespass of one man, Adam, brought condemnation for all men.  Adam was our representative and failed, so as a result all of his descendants come forth in sin and choose sin.  So how is it that Jesus was not born in sin?  After all, Jesus is said to be born in the line of Adam (see Luke 3:23-38).  What separates Adam and Jesus from everyone else is both were born of the Spirit (see Gen. 2:7).  Luke 1:35 again says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”  Jesus is thus the New Adam.  He is the New Adam in that He is the second one, the “younger brother” who has inherited the promises of the firstborn (i.e. blessing and life for obedience versus cursing and death for disobedience) and replaces the older (i.e. Isaac and Ishmael; Jacob and Esau; Joseph and his brothers; Perez and Zerah; David and his brothers).  Jesus born of the Spirit, was the Lamb of God, one that was without spot or blemish, without sin (John 1:29; Heb. 9:14; 1 Pt. 1:19).  By being born of the Spirit, like Adam, Jesus is the new federal head over the new creation born in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5 & 6).

In answer to our question, yes the virgin birth is necessary for Christians to believe.  First, because it is taught clearly in Scripture and second, because it was necessary for our salvation in His name.

“U” is for Unconditional Election

“U” is for Unconditional Election.   In order for us to understand this biblical concept we must understand the total depravity of man first (hence the letter “T”).  A quick recap of man’s condition will be given first.  Then we will define our phrase unconditional election and see how this is not some concept forced upon the text of Scripture, like some may suggest, but that it is found directly within its pages.  And while we look at Scripture we will see why conditional election is false.  Lastly, we will see what the proper response of Christians should look like given this truth.

Man’s Condition

Many people today like to think, “All people are basically good.”  Sure there are the dictators, communist leaders, serial killers, child abusers, and the like but they are an exception to the norm.  While not everyone is a murderer in the strictest sense, first degree murder, we have all been extremely angry with someone before and Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matt. 5:21-22; see Ex. 20:13).  When people speak of being basically good this is always based on our finite human understanding and our flawed human standard.  We are always looking on a horizontal level because we can always find someone worse than us, so we think.

Ephesians 2 makes it clear what the condition of man is really like.  We are dead in our trespasses and sins, sons of disobedience, and children of wrath (vv. 1-3).  In other words we are totally deprived.  This does not mean we are as bad as we could be but rather that every aspect of our existence has been negatively impacted by sin: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state.  Dead people cannot do anything and this is our spiritual state according to Paul in Ephesians 2.  Therefore, without the work of God in removing a heart of stone and giving a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26-28) there will be no positive action (i.e. belief in the Lord Jesus Christ) toward God on the part of man.  So we now take a look at unconditional election.

From the Text of Scripture

A proper definition of election is, “An act of God before creation in which He chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of His sovereign good pleasure” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1241).  God did not look through the corridors of time and see which individuals would respond positively to the gospel message and then choose them.  For this to be true we would have to deny the total depravity of man.  For in our fallen condition we said we are unable to make any positive action toward God.  It would also deny God’s sovereignty over all that He has made.  If it were true that God saw in us some positive action or response in advance than we would have reason for boasting for we would have contributed something to our salvation (cf. Eph. 2:8-10).  This then radically denies the doctrine of justification by faith alone (cf. Rom. 5:1-11; Gal. 2:16; 3:7-8).  Thus God’s election is not conditional, it cannot be.

Acts 13:48 says, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” This verse makes it clear that some were appointed (other translations “ordained”) for eternal life and therefore they believed.  The clearest of places we see that God’s election of people is unconditional, meaning it is not based on anything foreseen in them, is found in Romans 9.

“And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’” (vv. 10-13).

Paul speaks here about God choosing the younger son, Jacob, over the elder son, Esau.  When reading Genesis you might gather that this was simply common practice since God chooses Seth, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and Joseph all of whom were not the firstborn.  However, the practice in that day was for the firstborn son to receive a greater portion of the inheritance and blessing from his father.  So when Paul references back to Esau and Jacob he reminds his readers of Malachi 1:2-3, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”  Why did God choose Jacob and not Esau?  Was Jacob wiser, craftier, stronger, more handsome, a better son?  None of these things.  In fact Paul gives us the purpose for why Jacob was chosen over Esau “that God’s purpose of election might continue” (v. 11).  And this was not based on works because it was before either was born and before either had done anything good or evil.  The choosing of Jacob over Esau was based on Him who calls, that is, on God’s choosing.  And this is true for those whom are elect, saved by God, that it does not rest on anything foreseen in them but solely on the sovereign decision of our gracious God.

Paul expects the possible push back he might receive in v. 14 by saying, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!”  A few things should be understood here.  First, do you remember what our state was before the Holy Spirit regenerated our hearts?  We were dead in our trespasses and sins and fully deserving of the wrath of God to be poured out on us.  The fact is no one deserves salvation in the first place, not you, not me, no one.  Salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8; Jonah 2:9).  Second, let’s say in a group of six people three are saved and three are not.  The three that are saved received grace and mercy.  The three that perish receive justice for their sins.  No one receives injustice (analogy from RC Sproul).  Thus Paul says in vv. 15-16, “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

Some will interject here, “What about man’s free will?”  Certainly Scripture makes it clear that we make choices that have real effects and consequences.  Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and later concluded that he was dead because of their actions (Gen. 37:25-28; 42:13).  And yet Gen. 50:20 makes it clear that what Joseph’s brothers meant for evil, God meant it for good.  So while Scripture does say man makes choices that have real effects it does not maintain that man is free from God’s control since everything is sustained and directed by our sovereign God (cf. Prov. 16:2, 9; 21:2).  While we speak of man’s free will we ought to be concerned first and foremost with the free will of God.

Praises to the King

The biblical idea of the unconditional election of God highlights above all else the grace of God.  For it stands out for what it truly is, a marvelous, amazing, nothing-else-like-it gift.  The believer’s response must be a humble one that destroys any ounce of pride, and one of thanksgiving and praise to our King.  And we know have greater fervor in sharing the good news because God has sovereignly elected men and women all over the world to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“T” is for Total Depravity

“T” is for total depravity.  For some people immediate thoughts come to mind, oftentimes negative, when they hear these words.  However, this usually stems from a misunderstanding.  Because of the possible misunderstandings some prefer to change the phrase altogether.  While that is one way of doing it another way is to keep the word (or phrase) and help people properly understand its meaning.  We will begin by looking at what it is not to clear some initial and incorrect understandings.  Then we will see what the proper and correct understanding of total depravity.

What It Is Not

We won’t spend much time here but in order to help us better understand what total depravity is we should nevertheless clear one common misunderstanding about it.  Total depravity does not mean that we as humans are as bad as we could possibly be.  This is not hard to understand since even some of the most grotesque leaders, say in the 20th century alone, could have been even worse.  So total depravity does not mean we are as bad as we could be, but what does it mean?

What It Is

The church father St. Augustine wrote out a prayer that one British monk did not like.  Augustine said something along the lines of, “Oh God, command what thou wouldst, and grant what thou dost command.”  The British monk who did not like this was Pelagius and it was not the first part of Augustine’s prayer that he objected to so much as the second part, “grant what thou dost command.”  Pelagius did not like this because it assumes a creature is not morally able to do the will of God.  Pelagius believed that man was capable of pleasing God, obeying His commands, and choosing good and not evil without any divine intervention.

Original Sin

Pelagius, and those who adhere to Pelagianism have a false view of original sin.  Original sin is not the first sin ever committed by Adam and Eve but rather involves the consequences of that first sin.  The New England Primer was a text used to help colonial children learn their letters among other things.  For the alphabet beginning with the letter “A” it states, “In Adam’s fall we sinned all.”  In other words the entire human race is fallen, born into sin.  King David said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).  David isn’t talking about when his parents came together in a sexual union that this was sinful but rather that he from the moment of conception was born sinful.  The reason looking at original sin is important is because of the meaning of total depravity.  Total depravity points out the seriousness of the fall and points to the fact that the totality of man’s being is depraved.  All of our being whether physical (death and disease), mental (darkened minds), emotional, or spiritual has been negatively impacted.  And many Christians would agree that we are fallen, and that this is a serious thing, and it impacts every part of our being.  But there is still disagreement on the level of its impact.  When people say that, “We are basically good” is this true?  Or are we at the core of our being evil?

The Bible Tells Me So

Psalm 14:1-2 says, “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”

Proverbs 20:9 says, “Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”?  [Note – This is a rhetorical question and the answer is, no one].

Eccles. 7:20, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”

Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Titus 1:15, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.”

Many more verses we could look at but each of these shows how sinful we are and that we are not basically good people who need a few government reforms to be made right with God.  When people speak about being basically good they base that claim on a purely human understanding, on a horizontal plane.  This lessens the understanding of sin to something accidental and outside ourselves, rather than what it really is, rebellion and disobedience against a holy God that is found within our very hearts.  When fleshing out these verses to help us understand man’s condition and our word total depravity we see that we are enslaved to sin, we are spiritually dead, and we are living in rebellion against God.

We are not in need of a few tweaks here and a few adjustments there but a radical heart transplant is needed, and something only God can do.  For, “…no one can come to me [Jesus] unless it is granted him by my Father” (John 6:65).   Our condition is dead in our trespasses and sins and only by the grace of God through the work of the Holy Spirit in regenerating our hearts do we place our faith, a gift from God (see Eph. 2:8-9), in Jesus Christ.

Twenty-something

In less than a week I will be turning the big 3-0.  Personally I am quite excited about entering this new decade of life but I should state the reason is not because the twenty-somethings were terrible, in fact it has been the best decade yet.  As I take a look back on the last ten years the goodness of the Lord is there every step of the way.  Here is just a brief synopsis of my life during my twenties.

Summer of 2006, shortly after turning twenty, God opened my eyes to my sin and rebellion against Him and drew me to His Son Jesus Christ!  Even if nothing else happened in my twenties that alone would make it the greatest decade, but God was even more gracious.

Summer of 2008 I started courting (dating) my now bride Katie.  We were in a relationship for a little over a year, engaged for a year, and have celebrated five years of marriage all during my twenties.

After becoming a Christian the direction of my future plan shifted from managing a golf course to becoming a ministry intern on the campus of Oakland University.  There I served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship beginning in the summer of 2008 and through the 2008-2009 school year.  God impressed it upon my heart to be a faithful proclaimer of His truth in the local church.  Therefore God set my sights on the next step He had for me which involved going to seminary and pursuing the pastorate.

I spent four years in seminary (2009-2013) and grew tremendously not only in my theology but also in my service.  God used the time my wife and I spent at North Park Baptist Church in tremendous ways as we served Him.  God opened the door for us to move to Lake City when I received a call to pastor Calvary Baptist Church, so we packed up and headed there the start of 2014.

Backing up just a little to November 2013, we welcomed our first daughter into the world then a year-and-a-half later we welcomed our second daughter (June 2015).  So a quick recap of just some of the things that happened during my twenty-somethings looks like this: I became a Christian, husband, father, and pastor.  God has lavished His grace upon this servant of His (see Eph. 2:1-10).  You can probably see why the twenty-somethings have been the best decade yet and all the glory belongs to God alone.  Many passages come to mind but let me close with this one from 1 Thessalonians.  “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (vv. 16-18).

“M” is for Monergism

Here we are at the official halfway point of the alphabet.  Quick review: A is for Atonement; B is for Born Again; C is for Christology; D is for Doctrine; E is for Ecclesiology; F is for Foreknowledge; G is for Glory; H is for Hamartiology; I is for Inspiration; J is for Justification; K is for Kenosis Theory; L is for Lordship Salvation and now “M” is for Monergism.  On a brief side note, we (Katie and I) have read and continue to read numerous books on the alphabet to Emma and baby girl.  So it is fun to explore the alphabet in the manner of theology with you and I am excited to do so with my daughters too.

To understand our word we must set it up against its counterpart.  This as it turns out sets up two camps of Christian thinking namely, Calvinism and Arminianism.  Calvinist hold that God’s election, or choosing sinners, is solely a sovereign act of God while Arminians see it more as a joint effort.  Both agree about the importance of grace but disagree over how that grace is needed.  Here we see the two words up for debate, monergism and synergism.  There is not really a third option available unless one wants to affirm Pelagianism (which you don’t).  For Pelagianism affirms that all are born with the same purity and moral abilities as Adam.  Advocates of this view don’t believe in original sin, or total depravity, or the imputation of Adam’s sin, or substitutionary atonement.  Pelagianism was first condemned as heresy at the Council of Carthage in 418AD and again at the Council of Ephesus in 431AD.  With that set aside, though much more could be said, let’s take a look at the two other words and there meanings.

Monergism contains the prefix mon- meaning “one” and the word ergon means “work.”  Thus the idea behind monergism is “one working.”  Synergism on the other hand contains the prefix   syn- meaning “with” and again ergon meaning “work.”  Thus synergism has at least two working together, a cooperative effort.  The difference between monergism (Calvinist view) and synergism (Arminians view) is in regards to how each views their salvation being brought about.  Is regeneration the sole work of God or is it cooperative?

A look at a passage of Scripture will clear things up and answer this question for us as we seek to understand the work of God in the salvation of mankind.  We will take a look at Ephesians 2.  Verses 1-3 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”  Paul is telling the believers in Ephesus what they once were, specifically what they once were before Christ saved them.  Three things stand out: first, they were dead in their trespasses and sin; second, they were sons of disobedience; and third, they were by nature children of wrath.  What can a dead person do?  Nothing.  They certainly do not cooperate for left to themselves they do not choose the things of God and would not without the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration.

Paul continues in vv. 4-7, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  Did you catch the great distinction Paul pointed out?  “…even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (v. 5).  In spite of the fact that we were dead, not cooperating in anyway, God made us alive together with Christ AND raised us up with Him AND seated us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  Why did God go to such an extent for those who were His enemies, haters of the light, and dead in their sins?  So the immeasurable riches of God’s grace might be seen in the kindness He showed the believer in Christ Jesus.  Once the Holy Spirit regenerates the heart of a sinner we receive Christ by faith.  Thus faith does not produce regeneration rather regeneration precedes faith.  For the Holy Spirit doesn’t whisper in the ear of a sinner “Would you please cooperate with me and have faith so you can be born again.”  We are born again and then have the ability to receive Christ by faith (which is also a gift).

Then the beautiful verses of Eph. 2 reach a climax, “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 may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (vv. 8-10).  Here we see the marvelous wonder of the grace of God toward sinners in Christ Jesus.  After looking at this passage in Ephesians you are hopefully ready to answer the questions, does God alone change the heart of a sinner or does that change of heart rest on the willingness of the sinner to be changed?  It is God alone who changes the hearts of sinners.

RC Sproul points out, “Both sides in the dispute agree that grace is a necessary condition. They simply disagree over monergism and synergism, over whether the grace of regeneration is effectual or, to use more popular language, irresistible…We are simply unable to convert ourselves or even to cooperate with God in the matter.  Any cooperation presupposes that a change has already taken place, for until that change takes place, no one cooperates. Those who believe that man cooperates in regeneration hold to a form of works righteousness” (Everyone’s a Theologian, 229-230).  We have been saved by grace alone, a gift for the rebel sinner, not a result of works.