There seem to be two schools of thought on this topic today within Christendom. On the one hand God is totally and completely responsible for our salvation, or lack thereof, and for our growth and for our endurance. On the other hand man is completely responsible to God to work his way into Heaven. And there is no question that the Bible teaches that all men will be judged for their works.
Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (KJV)
So there is a dilemma and even a seeming collision of some scriptures with others in this area of man’s vs God’s responsibility. So in looking at this question, we first need to know what does God promise? And then we need to know what does God expect?
In simple terms God promised a savior, and when Jesus came He came to die for and pay for our sins. But He put forth a requirement. One must believe that He did this for them — Meaning that they would believe who He is, why He came, what He did, and will do in the future for them as believers. But is this as far as belief was meant to take us? Is there really no other activity that a person should be doing who does believe? When Jesus said follow me; abide in me; I will send to you another counselor who will lead you into all truth; did He not have some expectation of us beyond our initial belief? And just what does our belief entail?
One thing is certain we were unable to save ourselves by paying the price for our sin, or by living good enough before God to balance out our sin, which carried with it a death sentence. I could not do for myself what only God in the person of Jesus did for me. He paid my death penalty which was required of me by God for my sin. I accepted that, but am I able to rest in that as many teach, assuming no further responsibility before God?
John 14:21 NASB He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
Some among us have completely severed this scripture from their teaching. Jesus’ promise to us was and is a new covenant promise. The new covenant was coming — it would carry with it a promise to write His law (commandments) upon the hearts of those who would believe in His deliverance of this covenant to humanity. This act of grace upon the hearts of men produces the power to become sons of God.
John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (KJV)
Paul refers to this grace action by God as a heart circumcision. What Jesus had said here is that he who “has” and “keeps” is the one who loves Him. His part is in the giving, and in a sense with this action His part is finished. He bought for whomever would accept His payment, a new heart. Our acceptance of His finished work wrought a change in the believer. A new heart on which He places His commandments (His Law), and in which He through the Holy Spirit dwells. A born again experience. And it is His law that His Spirit uses to tell us what we are to do in our obedience.
Our part is to do what we now know is correct, because we have accepted Him and the change He makes in us is now our possession; and by our keeping His instruction as we walk with Him, we do thereby show our love for Him. We have a responsibility to love God and to show Him that we love Him through our obedience to Him.
In other words we cannot provide for our own salvation, but we are responsible for working out our own salvation in fear and trembling. Our work of obedience in love cannot come first, Jesus in us must come first, but the work must come. Otherwise we do not show our love for the Lord and the Father knows this and rejects those who do not keep His commandments.
Scripture says something here that we don’t seem to want to believe. Again It states “he who loves Me will be loved by My Father…” Well that is not a difficult thing — is it? Certainly we emotionally love Jesus. He paid the price for our sins. Who believes that and does not actually love Him for it. But that is emotional love. Real love Agape love is an action love. He who keeps My commandments. What becomes difficult is what He points out as the identifier of our love. And without this identified action, the Father entertains no love for mankind beyond the resurrection.
So what is difficult is not “having” this law of commandments but obeying them. For unless one “keeps” what he has or possesses there is no love for Jesus and therefore no love from the Father.
There are times when we feel that the Lord is far from us, because He is. These are the times to examine ourselves — am I keeping what my heart is telling me to do. Or do I excuse my sin because it is paid for in full.
If we sin He is our advocate with the father. Jesus is always willing to cleanse us from all sin.
The difference between David’s heart and King Saul’s heart was not in the changed heart (both had one), but in the obedience to God through the keeping or failure to keep what was given them.
If you think this to be legalism you would be wrong. It is not legalistic to love, which is to do what one knows to be pleasing unto our Father. If we think that we love Jesus, but possess no desire to obey, then we know not what love is.