God’s Grace and Man’s Responsibility (Engage The Word V)

One of the core beliefs about the Christian view of human beings is that God is our Creator. Because of this truth, Christianity teaches that the human person “does not exist autonomously or independently, but as a creature of God” (Hoekema). We are dependent on our Creator for our very existence (Gen. 1:1,27).

In his message to the Athenians, the Apostle Paul affirms our dependence on God for our continued existence. In Acts 17:25,28, we read these words of his: “(God) gives all men life and breath and everything else“, and that “in him we live and move and have our being“. In other words, we owe our very breath to God and we are sustained by him in our day-to-day existence.

We Are Created Persons

But that is not the whole story of who we are as human beings created in God’s image. We are also persons. And to be a human person, “means to have a kind of independence-not absolute but relative” (Hoekema).  As persons, we are called to make decisions and to make goals and then to act in a way which fulfills these goals. The Lord gives us a certain freedom to make choices. Choices in which we are accountable to God, but nonetheless, they are real choices we are called to make.

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The Lord has not made us as robots where everything is predetermined in our lives. This would be highly dehumanizing. How could we grow in responsibility and maturity if this was the case? We are both creature and person. As created person, we are both dependent on God and have a relative independence, in which we are called to make real decisions that really matter. These 2 truths need to be kept in careful balance if we want to hold a biblical view of human beings.

New Birth By Grace Through Faith

The Church of the Nazarene has tried to keep these kind of truths in a dynamic tension, following the example of John Wesley. This balanced view of the nature of human persons has implications in many areas of Christian belief. For example, let us look at the relation of the Christian’s new birth or regeneration by the Holy Spirit to the Christian’s need for faith.

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In Ephesians 2:1. the Apostle Paul says that a human being is spiritually dead in their sins before their conversion in Christ. God has to decisively act and intervene in our lives to make us spiritually alive to him. “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4,5).

So God takes the initiative and we are dependent on him to become new creatures in Christ. We are saved by grace, and it is not of ourselves, so that no one will boast for their salvation (Eph. 2:8b,9). But on the other hand, God will not save us apart from our faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8a). In other words, we have a responsibility before God to make a decision to trust Christ and learn to walk by faith with him. Both God’s gracious initiative and a human person’s response of faith are needed.

Our Wesleyan heritage has helped us to hold these kinds of truths in balance, which has produced a powerful spiritual dynamism. God’s sovereign grace and man’s responsibility are both taught in Scripture. These truths complement each other. They set forth a theological coherence which does justice to our reality as both creature and person.

QOTD: What are some other implications of human beings being created persons?