Reception of Christ – consequence or condition of salvation?

From time to time I post pithy quotes on The City – a social media network that our church uses.  Recently I posted:

Reception of Christ is a consequence, not a condition, of salvation.

This is from an article by grammarian Daniel Wallace which questioned if “Behold! I stand at the door and knock.” from Rev. 3:20 is to be understood as an invitation from Christ for salvation.  You can read the article linked above, but the short answer is no, it is not an invitation to salvation.  Wallace in a footnote contends that no such invitation to “receive Christ into one’s heart” exists in Scripture.

The problem with pithy quotes is that much of the context is lost.  So let me define what is being said by defining what is not being said. What is not being said by the above quote is that somehow faith is unnecessary – quite the opposite!  Faith in Christ is the necessary consequence of salvation.  If you are saved, you will believe in Christ.  Some will read that “will” as “must” and then assume that such a faith is our work.  Nothing of the sort.  Rather, personal faith in Christ will always come about as a result of Christ’s salvation of that person.  Always.

It is totally accurate to say both, “I chose God” and, “God chose me”.  The question this quote is asking is: which one comes first?  I believe that the Biblical answer is, “God chose me”.

(As it’s late and I need to get up early tomorrow for my bi-annual workout, I’m going to assert a bunch of things without necessarily proving them fully.)

Phil asked for some proof, specifically any verses that might support this.  These are a few that popped into my mind.

  1. Rom. 4:4-5 – “God justifies the ungodly”.  This is the scandal of the gospel of grace.  God justifies (declares righteous and holy) those who are in fact ungodly.  He can do this because of substitutionary death of Jesus (Rom. 3:21-26, God is both the “just” and “justifier”).
  2. Rom. 5:8 – “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.  God’s action in salvation proceeds any action of ours in cleaning up our own act.

Furthermore, there are some verses that, in my opinion, absolutely necessitate this view:

  1. Eph. 2:1-3 – “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…” Dead men don’t dance.  Dead men can’t exercise faith.  Dead men don’t have a will, much less a free one.  Before being born again (“regenerated”) spiritually we had all the properties of a corpse.
  2. John 6:44 – “No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Some understand this as an only an influence or suggestion from the Father – that this drawing might work in converting someone and it might not.  The context of John 6 makes it clear that the Father is not frustrated in the salvation of sinners.  Not only is it true that all who come to Jesus are saved but also that all who the Father draws come to Jesus (see John 6:37-40).

In fancy terms this is the Reformed ordo salutis – that is, the order of salvation.  Reformed folk will tell you that regeneration proceeds faith.  That is, you were born again before you exercised any hearty trust in Christ.  That means that your reception of Christ is a consequence, not a condition, of salvation.

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