TO WHOM BELONGS THE GLORY?
Q. How much glory for salvation belongs to God?
Doubtless there are few, if any, who lay claim to being Christian who would answer this question with any other word than ALL. God is deserving of all the glory for salvation. When it comes to the matter of how much glory, how much praise God is worthy of in the salvation of a human being, all who claim to be Christian should have no hesitation in saying that God deserves all the glory. He deserves all the praise for the salvation of a person because He has done everything necessary to save a man, AND keep him saved. Be they ‘Calvinist’, ‘Arminian’, true believers in God’s Gospel, or all who profess to believe, none would dare say that God is not deserving of all the glory for every bit of salvation.
Why does God alone deserve all the glory? Why should all the praise for salvation belong to God alone? Why is it not partly shared with man? The Arminian who asserts that man plays an active part in his own salvation by choosing to come to God out of his own free will claims to believe that God alone is worthy of all praise and glory for salvation. But how can he justify this when he also says that without man making a decision to come to God, God would be without any saved souls, and His Kingdom would be without a people. Many Arminians try and counter this by saying that they do give God all the glory, for they say that without His grace present none could choose Him. They fail to realise that any act on man’s behalf, anything motivated by his own so-called ‘free will’, constitutes a meritable act, something that deserves praise and to which God is obliged to respond. If you condition any part of salvation on man, then once he has complied with that condition he must surely be deserving of some of the glory for it. Compliance implies dependence. Compliance cannot be required unless salvation is somehow conditioned on the one whose compliance must take place before salvation can occur. If salvation is conditioned on obedience then it cannot come other than by a reward, and a reward is a recognition of effort, an honor awarded. The Arminian claims that man’s ‘decision’ is that which makes the difference between him and the one who chooses not to come to God. Such people place themselves in the same category as the Pharisee in Luke 18 who praised God for what he was like and what he did, whom Jesus referred to as one who exalted himself and not God—the Pharisee went home an unjustified man, still in his sins (see Lk. 18:9-14).
The true Christian knows who it is that makes him to differ from the lost man: "For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7). Everything a believer is, and everything a believer has is given to him. In other words the salvation of a man, the fact that he is now a new creature in Christ, is solely due to God having given to man that which man could not choose or come to of his own accord. Jesus said: “…no man can come unto Me, except it were given unto him of My Father” (Jn. 6:65).
Q. If God deserves all the glory for every detail in the salvation of a man, what does this make the man?
From start to finish God did everything necessary to save those whom He elected before the world began. God did all the work, so then to Him alone belongs all the glory. Every detail, right down to causing a man to come to Him, was prepared and fulfilled by God. "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee..." (Psa. 65:4). No man can come to God of his own volition, or his own power: "Thy people shall be willing in the day of THY power..." (Psa. 110:3). God chooses man. God is the cause, or catalyst, behind a man coming to Him, and only in the day of God’s power shall a man be willing to come to Him. The Lord Jesus said, "No man CAN come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him..." (Jn. 6:44). Man does not choose to come to God, man is drawn by God. A man does not find God, but is found of God. “For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search My sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day” (Ezek. 34:11,12). The following Scripture specifies in detail what exactly God has done in saving a man, simultaneously revealing man to be a mere recipient of that which is the result of the love of God found only in Christ His Son: "...whom HE did predestinate, them HE also called: and whom HE called, them HE also justified: and whom HE justified, them HE also glorified" (Rom. 8:30). There is no room for man here; no requirement, or condition he must meet; nothing he can do to get himself saved or keep himself saved, and, therefore, no reason for any glory to be attributed to man in his own salvation.
God gets all the glory because He has done all the work!! God elected, God predestined, God prepared the substitutionary sacrifice, and His Son became that sacrifice which would wash away every sin of those people God entrusted to Him, and which would satisfy the justice of God thus forever putting an end to the Wrath of God toward those particular people and their specific sins. It is by GOD’S WILL that any are saved: "...them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jn. 1:12,13); "So then it (salvation) is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but OF GOD that sheweth mercy" (Rom. 9:16). Salvation is something that is totally and completely conditioned on God, His grace and His mercy. It is something for Him to bestow, not for us to attain. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us..." (Titus 3:5). Salvation does not take the will, or work, of man, but the mercy of God! "Of HIS OWN WILL begat He us with the Word of truth..." (Jas. 1:18). The saved are “…born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:13). Man’s ‘will’ is always secondary to God’s will: “We love Him, because HE FIRST loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). If a man ‘wills’ to come to God and be saved, it is of a surety that God first willed the man to be saved, then made the man willing. A man is not saved because he believes, but he believes because he is saved. “…as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48 cf. Acts 2:47). God’s Son took the sins of His Father’s chosen upon Himself, and charged those people with His perfect Righteousness (see 2 Cor. 5:21). By His mercy God drew those people to Him. All who are saved love God, but only because He loved them first (see 1 Jn. 4:19). Salvation is “…not…of the will of man, but of God…that sheweth mercy” (Jn. 1:13; Rom. 9:16). First the Savior then salvation. Yes they received Him, but only after He had come to them, making them alive unto Him and granting them the gift of faith, the gift to believe that can only come from above and without which no man can savingly believe His Gospel, and reject all others. Man’s receiving is a gift from God. Man cannot receive God unless God has chosen the man to receive Him. God loved the ungodly, those who were His enemies, those who did not know Him, or seek Him (see Rom. 5:6,8).
God did it all. Salvation is all of God. Salvation is all of grace. It is a gift that none can merit, and, therefore, can only be conditioned on God. Consequently, the glory, all the glory, for salvation is due only to God. If salvation could be something earned it would not be a gift, and, therefore, would not be by grace. And, if salvation were not by grace, then it would at least be partly by works, and so God would then not be entitled to all the glory for salvation, but would have to share that glory with man. "...if it be of works, then is it no more grace..." (Rom. 11:6). The Scriptures tell us that salvation is "...of faith, that it might be by grace..." (Rom. 4:16), and not a work of man’s, not by anything he has done, or can do. Justification by faith rules out any possibility of any part of salvation being conditioned on man seeing that faith is a gift given by God (see Gal. 3:24 & Eph. 2:8,9). The faith that saves comes from God, and is granted at His discretion. Salvation is not by works, therefore, no part of it could be conditioned on man. Salvation is BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH, it is not of man, in other words, no part of it is conditioned on man. It is a gift from God, and no part of it is a result of the efforts of man. Why? SO THAT NO MAN CAN BOAST!! So that no man could ever rightly claim any glory for any part of salvation. “…by grace are ye saved through faith…not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9 cf. Rom. 3:27,28). And if no man can ever rightly lay claim to any of the glory for salvation, it would be an insane act to subscribe to the abominable lie that any part of salvation is conditioned, reliant, on man. Faith goes hand in hand with grace and is the antithesis of works. Salvation cannot be by grace and works for the one nullifies the other. Salvation is not by grace and works, but a matter of either grace or works. Salvation is either all of grace, or all of works (see Gal. 3:10; 5:3).
Paul the apostle states, "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if Righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain" (Gal. 2:21). Salvation through faith points to grace not works. Salvation by grace through faith points to what God has done, and not to what a man has to do. Grace points only to God which in turn shows that He alone is deserving of all the glory for salvation. "...a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ..." (Gal. 2:16). The faith spoken of here is the faith of Christ that justifies a man. That is, a man is justified by true faith in Christ which comes only from Christ. So then, if salvation is by grace, then it is ALL of grace, it is a work of God, and so it stands to reason salvation is ALL of God, and, therefore, ALL the glory for it belongs to Him. No supplementary act by man is required to either save him, or keep him saved, for it is ONLY "...by the OBEDIENCE OF ONE..." (Rom. 5:19) that a person is made Righteous and remains in a state of Righteousness before God. If no glory for salvation belongs to man, then it is logical and right to believe that man plays no part in his own salvation. It is a gift from God, and a gift is bestowed never earned. Now, this does not mean that a saved man does not need to be obedient etc., however, it does mean that his salvation does not depend on his obedience, but only upon that obedience of Christ. Christ got him saved, and it is Christ Who keeps him saved.
Q. So what is man; what is his role in salvation?
The answer is quite simple: man is a recipient! He is a vessel of God’s mercy. He plays no part in his salvation, for no part of salvation is conditioned on man. Humanly speaking he must believe, but this believing is an evidence of his salvation rather than the cause of it. It is an evidence of God having come to the man and revealing His Mighty Gospel to him, providing the necessary faith to believe it. “Who BY HIM do believe in God…” (1 Pet. 1:21 cf. Jn. 6:29). Nothing a man does can get himself saved, keep himself saved, or effect the loss of his salvation. All are dead in sin before God comes to a man, and what can a dead man do? NOTHING! According to natural man’s thinking, which is the sandy foundation of all false religion, there can be no salvation without man’s compliance, without his ‘decision’ to accept what is ‘put on offer’ to him. How, though, can a man comply, how can a man accept what is ‘on offer’ if every man in his natural fallen state is dead to God, does not seek Him, and, therefore, could never want Him? (see Rom. 3: 10-12). God must initiate, so if God must be the one to make the first move before a man can approach Him, if a man can only love God BECAUSE God loved the man first (see 1 Jn. 4:19), if God is the cause, the initiator, the Author of it all, then to God belongs all the glory, for without Him man would be forever dead, forever lost. Nothing man does, even his believing, can be attributed to him as worthy of praise and be counted as something he has done to complete God’s plan of salvation for him. Man is saved not because of anything he has done. Salvation is not because of man, it is because of God. It is not by man’s effort, but by God’s grace; it is not by man’s will, but solely by the will of God which is only conditioned upon His grace, mercy and purpose. You will also find God behind every good work a saved person does: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). A person is saved as a result of "...the purpose of God according to election, not of works, but of Him that calleth" (Rom. 9:11). "(God) hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Tim. 1:9).
Salvation was sorted and settled even before the world began (see Eph. 1:3-9), so how could any boast in what they have done, with or without the grace of God, to ‘get themselves’ saved. Man’s believing, just as with his repentance, is a gift from God. It is not something that comes from within, but is a gift given from without. Without God no man would ever believe, so it is easy to see, based on this biblical principle, that to God belongs all the glory. The Christian is not found in Christ because of any condition he has fulfilled, but the Scripture says: "...OF HIM are ye in Christ Jesus..." (1 Cor. 1:30). Salvation is by grace through the gift of faith because it is a work of God’s, and not man’s. “…not of yourselves…not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). No man can boast in his salvation, for his salvation is not of man, it is not by a work of man, but by the grace of God, therefore, ALL the glory for salvation belongs entirely to God. All of salvation is because of God. None of it is conditioned on man because no man could ever even begin to even partly fulfil any condition to become saved. How, for instance, would a man believe, or even want to believe, the true God when there is nothing in him that prompts him to even seek God! “…there is none that seeketh after God” (Rom. 3:11). What could a man do to keep himself saved? If his salvation demanded perfection, could his salvation be maintained by anything less? Of course not. All of salvation is because of God’s unmerited love for His chosen ones, and not the smallest degree of glory or praise is deserved by man, for he is a mere recipient, a receptacle of God’s love, grace and mercy—deserving of nothing, yet given everything. Man is saved because of the love of God, and he remains saved because of the love of God in Christ (see 1 Pet. 1:4,5).
Salvation is all about God not man. Salvation is all about the glory of God not the glory of man. Salvation is all about what God has done, and the true Christian boasts not in himself, his language is not ‘See what God has enabled me to do’, or ‘I chose God’, but rather "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what HE HATH DONE for my soul" (Psa. 66:16). A man God has chosen does not approach God saying "I choose you", but rather "...God be merciful to me a sinner" (Lk. 18:13). The Christian is not the one who chooses God, for it is God Who chose him before the very foundation of the world (see Eph. 1:4). THAT IS THE UNDERLYING PRINCIPAL OF GRACE!! Rather than ‘boasting’ in their ‘choice of God’, the Christian praises God for making him a part of His chosen generation. Christians are not a generation of choosers, but "...a chosen generation..." (1 Pet. 2:9). True believers do not rejoice in a newly converted person having ‘chosen God’, but because “…God hath from the beginning chosen (them) to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13). Salvation is all about the beauty of God, not the ‘goodness’ of man. Salvation is about the grace of God, in other words, it is about what God has done. Salvation is not about what man has to do, but what the Lord has done. Salvation, glory, praise, grace, mercy and faith are things which come from God, and so are designed to point people to Him, that we might look upon Him, and see the glory of His Nature and fill our hearts with praise for Him, the only one deserving of any glory or praise for salvation. No one looks to themselves in adoration after they have been given a gift, but are thankful and praise-filled towards the gift giver. They rave about the gift giver and what he has done and not about themselves, for they have nothing to boast about in themselves that they have acquired a gift. When contemplating the gift, one cannot but think about the one who has given the gift. We do not consider ourselves as having earned the gift, but rather our boasting and our thanks are towards the gift giver for his generosity and kindness. We are mere recipients who do not deserve praise, but are obliged to praise the gift giver, for without him we would have nothing.
By nature man is dead in sins, but God is alive. A saved man did not seek God, but it is God Who sought and found him (see Rom. 3:11 & Lk. 15:4,5 & Ezek. 34:11,12). Man is a sinner, God is the Savior. Man did not believe, God gave him the faith to believe. Before God made him alive man was dead, is enmity against God (see Rom. 8:7), spiritually stagnant and stuck in a miry pit of his own making. A nowhere man with nowhere to go and no way of getting there. Before God loved the man, the man did not love God (see 1 Jn. 4:19). Before a man was saved he was lost. Before man had hope he was hopeless. Before he was given the faith to believe God’s Gospel, man at best believed a false gospel. No man can come to God, no man has ever come to Him on his own accord. “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him…no man can come unto Me, except it were given unto him of My Father” (Jn. 6:44,65 cf. Jn. 14:6). Nothing within a man can prompt him to seek the true God. Unless God has drawn the man he remains in his lost, spiritually debauched state, a hopeless creature. Without God there is no hope (see Eph. 2:12). Man has nothing he can turn to, not within him or without him, that can get him saved, for without God man is hope-less. The Lord Jesus said that with man salvation was an utter impossibility (see Matt. 19:26). But with God all things are possible, yes, even the salvation of a man, but it takes God to make it happen. It is not a case of man coming to God and saying, ‘Save me for I cannot’. How dare any man, in his spiritually dead state, assume that he can approach God anyway! "...every man at his best state is altogether vanity" (Psa. 39:5). No man can come to God, or even wants the true God, before God comes to the man first. “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). Nothing man can do inspires God to save him (see Jn. 6:63; Heb. 11:6). Man cannot make the first move, or even come anywhere near making the first move toward the true God, before God comes to the man first. As long as salvation is all of grace all the glory for it will belong to God alone.
With God there is hope, a sure hope! Without God there is absolutely no hope. With God a man can be saved! So, if man on his own is without hope, how can he possibly attain to salvation? If man could do something to prompt God to save him then he would not be without hope. The roles would be reversed, and it would be God Who would have no hope unless man consented to receive Him, unless man came to God first. Scripture makes it perfectly clear: "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God" (Rom. 3:11). How could man ever be responsible for any part of salvation if he is a creature so plagued with sin, so devastated by his sinful nature, he cannot know God, and, therefore, does not even seek the true and only God? It is important to note that God is not to blame for man’s spiritually dead state, but it is man alone who must take the blame and reap the consequences if God is not merciful to him. How can any man choose that which he does not seek? And in light of this, how could any man seriously claim that he ever chose God? There is no salvation without God, therefore, all the glory for salvation must belong to God. Salvation is conditioned on the will of God not the will of man. God has done it all, and any gospel that conditions any part of salvation on what a man must do is a gospel that does not give all the glory for salvation to God, but is a perverted message designed to exalt man. It is a message which has not come from God, but from the imagination of man. Anyone believing they were saved when they adhered to a gospel that conditioned salvation, to any degree, upon themselves, regardless of what they now claim to believe, is as lost as they can be.
To God be the glory, great things HE has done. We praise God, not for that which He has enabled us to do, but for that which HE has done. The emphasis, the focus, is all on Him, for it is God Who makes the saved man to differ from the lost. He is the Savior, He is the Light, He is the Hope, He is the Provider and He is the Justifier. God justifies a man by imputing to him the very Righteousness of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ (see Rom. 4:6). A man is saved by Christ’s Righteousness, and a man can only remain saved by that Righteousness. So that which justifies us before God is of Him and not us, therefore, He rightly gets all the glory for all of salvation. We praise God for what His Son has done that we could never do; for what His Son has done on behalf of His people. All the glory for salvation from beginning to end belongs to God, and He shares this glory with no man. “…who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:35,36). “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in Heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God” (Rev. 19:1).
I doubt whether there is any man who would dare say, in so many words, that even some of the glory for salvation belongs to man. Even those who insist that the final decision for salvation belongs to man, without which he remains lost, would not directly claim any glory for themselves, but in making God’s plan of salvation ultimately hinge on a man’s free will decision, or a man obeying in order to remain saved, everyone who adheres to these deadly errors in reality exalts themselves and not God (see the article ‘The Pharisee and the Publican’). The moment you include the word ‘I’ when speaking about salvation you immediately shift the focus from God to yourself. Salvation is all about God and what He has done. HIS love, HIS Grace, HIS Mercy, HIS Forgiveness, HIS Son, HIS Sacrifice, HIS Blood, HIS Obedience, HIS Death, HIS Righteousness. Just as with the beneficiary of a last will and testament, the truly saved man is an eternal beneficiary of God’s Will for him, and he is forever grateful and thankful to God and what He has done knowing that he, the man, has never and could never do anything to get himself saved or keep himself saved.
Salvation is all of God, therefore, no part of it is conditioned on man, and, consequently, no part of the glory for salvation can rightly be assigned to man, for there is nothing he can do in order to get himself saved or keep himself in a saved state. Yes, he must believe, but this believing can only come when God, by grace alone, grants His gift of faith, by which a man exclusively believes and holds dear His one and only Gospel.
"But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will praise Thee for ever, because Thou hast done it: and I will wait on Thy name; for it is good before Thy saints" (Psa. 52:8,9).
"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garment of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of Righteousness..." (Isa. 61:10).
"But I have trusted in THY mercy; my heart shall rejoice in THY salvation" (Psa. 13:5).