bits from bob....

How Narrow Minded!

by Robert J. Young
©, 2002, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

An area church recently contacted me to ask if I would help make it known that they had an opening for a minister. If I know of men who might be interested, I am to encourage them to apply. Coincidentally, the same week I visited with an elder from a rather large church looking for a preacher. That church had solicited resumes and information from individuals they would like to consider. They have undoubtedly received numerous unsolicited applications. As I inquired how the search was progressing, he said, "We're not considering anyone who doesn't apply." My response, intended in humor, was, "How narrow minded!"

Consider a spiritual parallel. My friends, God isn't considering anyone who doesn't apply! Call it narrow minded, exclusive, or selective if you will, but do not call it unloving, unmerciful, or unkind. God has solicited responses from those he would like to consider--the entire world. "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to eternal life." Christ died for all. God's grace is freely extended, but God isn't considering anyone who doesn't apply!

As the Greeks studied causality (cause and effect), they understood that many effects have multiple causes. To describe those situations, they identified the categories of principal efficient cause and instrumental efficient cause. Several familiar illustrations come to mind. A person writing on a blackboard with a piece of chalk is the principal efficient and the chalk is an instrumental efficient. The chalk cannot write of itself, it is only an instrument. It needs a principal efficient to perform its function. A Firm Foundation article from several years ago used the idea of sunlight entering a room to illustrate this truth (Arlie Hoover, Firm Foundation, 1976). The sun (principal efficient) cannot enter the room without a window or other opening (instrumental efficient).

Is this not what Paul was teaching when he described salvation as "by grace...through faith"? Salvation is the gift of God. God, rich in mercy and love, graciously making us alive in Christ, is the principal cause. No salvation is possible without God's action in Christ. No sinful human can save self. No human work is principally efficient. We are not potters, we are clay. And God is not considering those who do not apply!

God's grace remains inoperative without an instrumental efficient cause. Such is faith. Otherwise one ends with universalism--the salvation of everyone. Jesus' teaching concerning the broad way and the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13-14) shows the obvious error of that position.

"Grace only" is unbiblical. "Faith only" cannot stand before Scripture. Salvation is not by singular cause. The Bible is still right. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). God is also the principal efficient in Christian living. We are his masterpiece (Eph. 2:10). He is forming us, transforming us. He works in us even as we work (Phil. 2:12-13). Praise God!

God isn't considering anyone who doesn't apply! Have you applied? Are you encouraging others to apply?

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Last updated January 7, 2002.