If the salvation of all is true and we are entirely helpless on our own, what then is the reason for belief?
Human will cannot save. This is a truth plainly spoke of in not only Paul’s letters but in the words of our Lord. Jesus said,
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him… (John 6:44 ESV)
Paul paints a clearer picture still,
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6 ESV)
If belief could not save then, belief cannot save now. Jesus died for us, the wretched and the ungodly, precisely because we could not save ourselves. If what Paul says is true, then the salvation of the ungodly is a truth that transcends them and comes from the hand of Jesus alone. Salvation is not a truth that depends on them. How woeful it is then to whittle down the cross to a mere tool that will allow us to save ourselves.
The cross is not a second chance. Humanity’s first and only chance failed because the law was a broken system from the start. This was, of course, by God’s perfect design (Romans 5:20). He knew from the beginning that man could not make himself righteous. The law was but a band aid to a broken bone, yet to display His power and grace this truth had to be realized by man. Man had to live in it, experience it, and wrestle in it before He could present His ultimate revelation to Paul, a revelation that followed from the sacrifice that saved all of humanity.
Here is the anticipated question: if Jesus will ultimately draw all men to be reconciled to Himself, what then is the point of belief? If human belief cannot save, what then is its purpose? I do not have the space here to answer that in depth just yet, but the wonderful answer is that belief-or faith-is the gift God imparts towards people in order to be acquainted with something He already did. And this belief does not come from ourselves, rather it is a gift granted to us for Christ’s purpose,
for to you it is graciously granted, for Christ’s sake, not only to be believing on Him, but to be suffering for His sake also, (Philippians 1:29 CLNT)
Who saves us and calls us with a holy calling, not in accord with our acts, but in accord with His own purpose and the grace which is given to us in Christ Jesus before times eonian, (2 Timothy 1:9 CLNT)
Our faith and our will originate from outside of ourselves. They have been granted to us as a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9) to be able to believe in what has already been done, not to save us, but to bring us into the practical joy, peace, and awe that that realization and subsequent relationship brings. Belief does not precede salvation but follows it. It is the truth that He has saved us because He is “the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10). He is the one who saves you and you and you.
I want to emphasize this a bit more and share a curious phrasing in Paul’s words I noticed a few days ago. It goes against everything Christianity has taught or perhaps will ever be taught within the walls of the church.
Yet to him who is not working, yet is believing on Him Who is justifying the irreverent (Romans 4:5 CLNT bold mine).
If I am reading Paul correctly, then Jesus is justifying the irreverent. He is not justifying believers alone but He is justifying the sinners, the ungodly, and the corrupted. If this is true then following the cross, every sin one has ever or will ever commit has been and is being justified.
Something having been justified means that that thing has been declared good. The Merriam Dictionary defines it as, “having or shown to have a just, right, or reasonable basis.”
Sin, in and of itself in our relative perception is not good, but in the eyes of the divine every sin has been justified and given a right purpose (see my article The Grand Plan Of Sin). If Paul is right, this alone decimates the doctrine of eternal torment. I am merely reciting the words of Paul and if this is unacceptable to you, you might want to take it up with him or the God who has allowed the writings of such a terrible person to be displayed within our holy text.
Let’s turn back to the question at hand. How does this bring practical joy and blessing? How does this realization bring peace and comfort? It takes every burden off of you and places it at the foot of Calvary. And yes, this burden means the obstacle of belief too. If you’re an atheist who simply cannot believe in the existence of God this is the good news. Belief is not your burden to carry. God’s love for you is not dependent on it and neither is your salvation for you are not your own saviour. I would love nothing more than for you to come into the joy that that realization brings, but your unbelief or rejection are just as much pieces of the divine plan that my belief is. For now, that is God’s purpose.
….having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11 ESV bold mine).
But what is our Lord’s ultimate will? Paul tells it to our beloved Timothy,
….that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4 CLNT)
And who can thwart God’s plans?