Order Of Salvation

I sat there in the car, gazing out the window, watching as the cars around us inched forward ever so slowly. It was one of those mornings where we were late and, much to our dismay, stuck in heavy traffic. Seeing that there was a possibility that we would be there for quite a while, I decided to catch up on some sleep. I laid back in my seat, and my eyes fluttered to a close……

“Monergism. Synergism.” I heard my dad say. Like every other morning, he was listening to a sermon from the internet radio station, ‘RefNet’. 

My eyes shot open, as my face scrunched up in confusion. “Mon…. Syner- what?”

Alert! New words unlocked: “Monergism” and “Synergism”. 

Two words that most of us probably haven’t come across before. Even if you have, they’re not words you would normally use. Such theological terms are, in fact, linked to another set of words that you may have heard in church when listening to sermons – the double bond of salvation: justification and sanctification. 

You must be thinking, “What?” Honestly, I, too, was bewildered when my dad first introduced me to those terms. But what do these words mean, and what do they have to do with us? Let us first start with monergism.

Regeneration by God Alone

Picture a clay vessel. It has been beautifully sculpted by the ceramicist and boasts a magnificent, unique form, the evidence of hours and effort poured into this creation. 

But overnight, this ceramic, which is unfinished, gradually turns bone dry and can no longer be moulded. It, obviously, cannot save itself and has no power at all to turn back to the malleable state it was in before, because it is not alive – It is dead. 

The ceramicist has every right to throw it away and start a new one, having many bags of clay at his disposal. But graciously, he decides to save it by using a spray bottle to sprinkle the clay with drops of water, thus reviving it. Once again, it is the soft clay that is able to be moulded by the ceramicist.  

We are, in fact, that clay vessel while the ceramicist is God. Here explains the new beginning for those whose lives have been ruined by sin, and harbour a hardened heart. But, in our inanimate state, we take no part in this new birth – It is the ceramicist alone who acts to revive the hardened vessel; to regenerate us. 

You may know that regeneration is actually quite a controversial topic. Many religions believe that they can be saved by their good works; that the more good deeds they perform, the more eligible they are to be accepted by God and go to heaven. But as Christians, we believe otherwise. 

The word “monergism” refers to, as you may have figured out, justification. With the word deriving from the term “mono”, meaning “single”, it is a concept explaining that it is God alone who acts to regenerate us, without our cooperation. This is because we are incapable of bringing about our own justification. Just as the clay vessel could not turn itself back to its former state, we too cannot turn ourselves into a righteous being. 

Because the fact of the matter is, if God does not intervene, not even one will seek for Him (Romans 3:11). And our efforts can’t miraculously make us righteous either. The seriousness of sin is so great that we, in ourselves, can do nothing to make up for them. The only thing that could save us from our miserable state, to pay the price of our sins, was Christ’s death on the cross. 

We don’t do good works to be saved, but we are saved to do good works. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10, 

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

And in Ephesians 2:8 – 9 Paul reminds us that,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

So now we are justified, having gone through the double imputation – Christ’s righteousness is imputed onto us and our sins imputed onto Him. We are no longer seen as the filthy and sinful beings we once were but as blameless before the eyes of the Lord. The End–

Hold up! It’s not over yet. You may think that this should be where we wrap up the story, but we are far from finished – because this journey of salvation has only just begun. 

Play Your Part

Have you ever heard of the saying “It takes two to tango”? Well, it pretty much explains this next term we are about to learn, which is “synergism”. Once we have been regenerated, we don’t just dust our hands off, say, “That’s that!”, and go back to how we used to live. Surprise, surprise! There’s a second part to this story, and it certainly isn’t a brief one. 

“Synergism” – a word that comes from the Greek term “synergos”, meaning working together – refers to sanctification. It’s not something that happens just once, but is a lifelong journey. And in this lifelong journey, we are a part of a relationship with God, a partnership in our faith. Now, it is not only Party A (which in this instance is God) who does all the work – we, as Party B, must have a part in it too! 

Some may think accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour instantaneously changes our lives. But we do not transform just like that, as if it were a switch of a light. Maturity takes time, and so does growing in Christ. As we go through struggle after struggle, God, day by day, renews our minds to think more like Christ, growing us to become spiritually stronger; and synergism explains that these changes need our response. 

If there is no response from us, our faith is at a complete standstill. 

It is written in James 2:26 that “faith without deeds is dead.” We cannot expect to grow in our Christian life without making an effort to respond to God’s calling, because we need to work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12). It takes the cooperation of both partners to execute a dance, just like the saying,  “it takes two to tango”. Once we are saved, we do not just wait around till we die. This part of our salvation includes our efforts. This is what we call synergistic, because it includes both parties doing something. God’s part is to open the door for us, but we will not get anywhere if we do not step through the doorway ourselves. 

If this partnership is going to work, you are required to “play your part”. What is our part, our duty in this relationship? John 14:15 puts it plainly: 

“If you love me, keep my commands.

Our response, then, is our active obedience. In short: if you love God, do what He says. 

An example can be your daily devotions. God will leave it to you to make that commitment to wake up early and read your Bible, and God will carry out His role to open our minds to help us to understand the meaning of the Scriptures. 

Sanctification is a process that takes relatively longer than we would have expected, and sometimes, it may seem like it is rather fruitless. But when the ceramicist, after reviving the clay, continues to mould the vessel, though it does take a while, the creation eventually gets stronger and stronger. Our spiritual growth is a lot like this clay vessel. It is a slow but sure process.

Work in Progress

The ceramicist is currently still shaping us. We are a work in progress! We, as the vessel, will be brought to completion on the day Christ returns (Philippians 1:6). No matter where we are in this journey of salvation, we can rest assured because we are in His perfect hands. We can cling to the hope and be sure that whoever God calls, He will not fail to sanctify.

Samantha Winata (15) is one of the many teens that write in RE Generation-Z. She strives to share the light of the truth through her articles and bring more teens to Christ. If she isn’t reading or playing piano, you’ll find her filling the pages in her books with drawings.

An Ordained Ordeal

We’re nearing the end of February, but the year still feels quite new! We’ve turned to a fresh page in our books, a new chapter in our lives. We’ve written up new goals and plans for 2022 (my friends have even started to plan for the next summer holidays!). We’ve gotten rid of old habits and adopted new ones. 

Yet, even after going through all these, we’re still not as enthusiastic about the new year as we were before… But why?

Because right now, we are living through uncertain times. Wearing masks, sanitizing hands, social distancing, checking in, showing proof of vaccinations, and an extra one that most of us get asked, “Are you under sixteen?”

All of a sudden, they’ve all become the norms in today’s society. Covid hit us when we least expected it, and now we find ourselves staying at home more often, despite the fact that there’s no lockdown; We’re either too scared to meet up with friends or our plans are abruptly canceled, and as we flick on the TV on to watch the news, the screen is instantly filled with headlines flashing: “New Case Identified”.

Some of us may start to question, “Where is God in all of this? Why is He letting all this happen? Is God even still here?” 

A Play Gone Wrong…. Or Has It?

Imagine this. We are an audience watching a play. But this isn’t just any play. It’s a play representing our world – and God is the director. The play starts, and it’s smooth sailing for most of the performance. We’re lying back in our seats, enjoying the show. 

But out of nowhere, an accident occurs (and a rather unfortunate one at that). We’re on the edge of our seats as we watch the whole play seemingly fall apart. We’re unable to take our eyes off the stage, which seems to be full of chaos and confusion with actors going haywire. Suddenly from the audience there comes a cry, “Where’s the director? Why isn’t He stopping the performance?” There was no doubt that it was what we were all thinking. It seemed as if everything that could’ve gone wrong, was going wrong…. 

Or so we thought.

Disastrous events happen one after another, and the director is still a no-show…. or at least there aren’t any obvious actions to take control of the situation. A person sitting in one of the front row seats leans forward, squinting, as they try to get a better view. Their eyes go wide and they shout to the rest of the audience, “Hey, I don’t think it was an accident. Look closely!” At first, we couldn’t understand what they were talking about. But as we pay closer attention to what is happening, we experience an epiphany. “Ohhh,” We say. “I get it now; It was a part of the play!” 

Now put it like this: the “big accident” in this analogy is Covid. This pandemic has given us a big blow, and we were certainly not ready for it. We’ve faced many challenges; some have even lost their jobs and become unable to feed themselves, let alone feed their families. We are quick to think, “Why is this happening? Why is God not doing anything to stop all this suffering?”. We become oblivious to the fact that it might be a part of God’s plan, just like how the audience had no idea that there was a “big accident” included in the script and thought that the play had gone wrong. Then the audience started to wonder if the director was even there, when in fact, He was controlling the play the whole time. Why didn’t He stop the play? Because it was He Himself who wrote the script to have a “big accident” in it. 

In the midst of all the panicking due to Covid, we turn a blind eye to one simple fact: God ordains ALL things, including this pandemic

All the anxiousness gets to us, and we start to see things as if everything is going wrong. When our focus is directed towards our fears, we fail to remember God’s authority and that He is in total control. We may not understand at times why this is all happening – like how the audience was puzzled as to why the play turned out the way it did – but God (the director) knows far better than us. 

Especially during these times of doubt, we must learn to put our trust in Him. The future ahead of us may seem unpredictable and turbulent, but we can rest assured because we know that in God’s sovereignty, all things will be worked out to His will; His good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

A Backstage Pass

Romans 8:28 states, 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” 

All things, including good and bad circumstances, will work together for the good of those who love God. Even Covid. 

There are many instances in life where we doubt that anything good would come out of times of trouble. This is because, by default, our human nature causes us to be narrow-minded, and we become incapable of understanding God’s ways, for they are far too complex for us to grasp. 

We read in Isaiah 55:8-9

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

But sometimes, in His mercy, God opens our minds to understand a tiny part of why He lets certain things happen….

…. and we would feel like we had just made a huge discovery. 

This was exactly what happened to me just a few weeks ago. Personally, I have found that if this pandemic did not happen, I wouldn’t have learnt the importance of putting our faith in God during troubling times. Furthermore, I wouldn’t have realized how much of a blessing it is to be able to go to church and have fellowship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Have you ever stopped to think whether Covid could be a “blessing in disguise”? Have you been able to spend more time with your family? More time to focus on God’s word? I hope that we may all take the time to wonder, as unlikely as it seems, what blessings we have been given through Covid. 

It’s a lot like having a backstage pass. You get to see a little part of the director’s plan, the “behind-the-scenes.” And you realise that if the “big accident” hadn’t occurred, other beneficial things wouldn’t have happened either.

Our Play Continues

The play we are a part of, called “reality,” has not yet ended. We’re still going! Yes, we may be living through unwanted circumstances at the moment, but we can be at peace because God has written the script, and that script from eternity past to eternity future has always been and will be perfect. Let this be our reassurance as we continue to strive through these times of uncertainty. 

May it be so that, if it is God’s will, when this pandemic is all over, we will say, “‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’” (Isaiah 25:9).

Samantha Winata (15) is one of the many teens that write in RE Generation-Z. She strives to share the light of the truth through her articles and bring more teens to Christ. If she isn’t reading or playing piano, you’ll find her filling the pages in her books with drawings.

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