fifty-fifty?30-10-2014 - Posted by Andre Piet
From a reader (in the USA), I received a question in connection with my blog about “the good fight of faith.” The content he could not but endorse, but it did cause him to have a question which I translate, here, in summary form:
Since it is God who gives man faith, why the encouragement to remain in it and to live accordingly? Surely, that would also be His work?
Oftentimes, this question comes to the fore in a variety of tonalities. The question of what God’s work is, on the one hand, and the share of man’s work, on the other hand. If our faith and our remaining in it, as well as living it, is for 100% God’s work (Eph.2:8), what is the meaning of man being reminded and encouraged to remain in it and to live his faith? Or are the relationships different and does man have a share of an x percentage? But, in that case, does man then not receive a reason to boast in his own performances? And is the latter not excluded, in advance (Rom.3:27; 1Cor.1:29-31), since Paul does not tire to emphasize this? In short, how is this to be understood? Let us in the first place emphasize that everything is out of, through and for God (Rom.11:36). This is the ABC of acknowledging that God is GOD (Rom.1:21). Since He is the Creator of all things, nothing can arise, but neither exist apart from Him. On the Areopagus, Paul declares the following about this GOD (Acts 17:25):
neither is He attended by human hands, as if requiring anything, since He Himself gives to all LIFE and BREATH and ALL.
You who read this blog, can only do that because you are breathing air, but also have eyes that can read and a brain that can understand its meaning. You hear, walk, talk, act, sleep, eat and drink, because God enables you to do so. Even the most (supposedly) trivial human activities are entirely a gift of God (Eccl.3:13). When you thank God for your daily food, then that is nothing more than proper. But does this mean that no human hand was involved before it came to be on the table, for you to eat? Of course not. To be able to pay for the food in the store, one had to work for it. And before the food came to be on the shelves in the store, much work had to be done, first by the farmer and later by the dealer and the retailer. And before a meal is placed on the table, there has been much activity in the kitchen. And before the food ends up in your stomach, it is served on a plate, you cut it, place it in your mouth and chew it, etc. But do all these considerations argue against your gratitude to God? Does God’s share become proportionately less, when we realize that man had no insignificant place in the whole process? No, on the contrary, because God not only causes the crops to grow, but He also enables, e.g., the farmer to plow, to sow and to harvest. These indeed are human activities, but only GOD makes all of these possible. When we read in a birth announcement that parents are thankful to God for the fact that they have received a child out of His hand, then that is no less true, because we know that the parents themselves have begotten the child. Or that the mother carried a heavy burden during the pregnancy and birth. All those things are also a gift from God. Whether we consider all of these things pleasant or not, is irrelevant. One last example: when we, in a gathering of believers, thank God that He safely brought us together, then that’s no less true, because we have planned and announced that meeting, as well as carefully made the trip, to get there. The essential point here, also, is that all these intermediary activities are fully dependent on God. These examples out of everyday life, make it clear that gifts of God, by definition, do not happen apart from man’s involvement. Well, the same applies to faith. Faith is by hearing and so there must be someone who speaks the Word. That is not a question of a fifty-fifty share, 50% of God who gives His Word and 50% of man who proclaims it. No, it is 100% of God, because even the preacher He enlists and He makes him competent to speak His word. That preacher is only an instrument, made and used by God. And this is also true of anyone who is convinced by the Word. That is God’s achievement, even though people are encouraged to accept the Word. Of the same order are also the promptings in the letters of Paul, to remain standing in the Word and to live accordingly. In this, God makes known to us His will and when we respond to Him, positively, then it was God Who operated in us the willing and the working (Phil.2:12,13). It is characteristic of faith that man recognizes that God deserves ALL the glory, even where man is involved.