What are the two arguments of the agency of salvation found in Paul’s letters?
The Divine Salvation Argument – that only God could give the gift of salvation to us. Justification is by faith and faith alone in Christ (Phil. 2:13).
The Human Action Argument – that human’s cannot receive salvation from God without first having faith that God can and does save humans. Without being justified by doing good works we have no salvation without good works. We must be doers of the law (Rom 2:13). Trying to be justified by works does not impress God.
Is there any tension between Paul’s statements on the agency of salvation? In other words, does he contradict himself when he writes about fulfilling the law and being justified by faith?
No, Paul does not contradict himself when it comes to talking about fulfilling the law and being justified by faith. When he is talking about fulfilling the law, it must be determined if he is speaking about fulfilling the law for your own glory or if you are fulfilling the law of God for His glory (Rom 3:20-28). If you are, as the Pharisees did, showing others how pious you are by letting them see how well you keep the law, then you have nothing but filthy rags (Isa. 64:6/Mat 23:24) to show for you piousness. But, if you are fulfilling the law by being obedient to God for His glory, then you are found to be humble in His eyes.
When Paul speaks about being justified by faith, is it your faith centered on good works alone to get you into Heaven? If you are, then don’t expect to meet with Jesus in the air during the Rapture. But, if you are doing good works in the Spirit because your faith in Jesus has already brought you salvation, then you will live with Him forever based on what He has done in your life to make you want to do good works for others in the Name of Christ. But most of all, is it Christ’s faith in the Father the springboard to your salvation? As Scripture says, through disobedience one man condemned all men, just as, through one man, all were saved (Rom 5:19). If it is, then your salvation was the work of Jesus Christ, and your justification is complete in Christ forever.
There is no tension or conflict in any of Paul’s writings when we understand what he is trying to tell us. Centuries removed from the source, we, today, have to keep a close eye and ear on what Paul is implying in his letters. Paul always wrote with the Holy Spirit at his right hand. The seemingly confusion in Paul’s letters speak clearly to us when we allow that same Spirit to speak to our minds the meanings in the words of Paul whenever we contemplate their meanings for our lives.
Comment: “It seems as though all of you do not believe that there is any tensions between the agency in salvation that Gombis purports are found in Paul's letters. I would agree with you all, but why do you guys think that so many people have spent so much time, energy, and paper and ink writing about it? Why does it matter if God is the agent or man is the agent in salvation?
Author Response: I think that it's the deal for some that "God couldn't have made salvation THAT easy to obtain, there has to be more to it. If it's simple, it's not from God." Why must man always complicate things like this? I believe that it goes back to the Pharisees adding more commands for the people to follow. They had to complicate things so that they could look more pious in front of others. As for your second question, the answer would be that, to some, God would never use sinful, despicable men to do His work. This from the same people that Jesus said better wash out the inside of the cup as well as the outside. God can use whoever He wants no matter what anyone says.
Comment: “Paul does not contradict himself when he writes about fulfilling the law and being justified by faith because Jesus came to fulfill the law…”
Author Response: Not once in his ministry did Paul give up his Jewishness or Jewish roots to be a Christian. Not once did he ever tell anyone else to either. Jews already believed in the one, true God; Jesus came to show us God in the flesh so we could get to know Him. Jesus was a Jew, so why would the Jews have to give up their Law to follow Christ, who came to fulfill the Law for all men, Jewish or Gentile. Paul never contradicted himself in any way. Whether it was word or deed, Paul did all by the Spirit’s leading, and all for the glory of God.
Comment: “If you are doing works for yourself then just as the scripture tells us Galatians 6:8 For he who sows to is flesh will of the flesh reap corruption but he who sows to the spirit reap everlasting life.”
Author Response: I look around me and see that we are all using the same Bible (all denominations, that is), but yet some of them don’t seem to understand this verse. How many times do Jesus and Paul both say that your works will not get you into Heaven before these churches get the message? How many people have died believing that they would get into everlasting life only to find out that all the money they donated to the church, and got their plaque on the wall of the church didn’t get them anything but everlasting death? And if you tell these people any different, they will call you a Bible thumper thinking that it will serve you right for telling them what to believe. I thank God that He allowed me to know and serve Jesus Christ, and for believing in His words of truth. I thank the Holy Spirit for helping me “get it” when it comes to understanding scripture. I simply thank God for the truth.