By now, anyone who reads Fortner’s devotionals along with my devotional posts will know that I cannot accept some of what he says. I agree that salvation is by grace through faith and that everyone who believes is drawn to that faith by God. I believe we cannot save ourselves because we will not. Sin ruined our ability to say yes to Him and that is why He must save us.
I agree also that God is sovereign, and in sovereignty gave the first people the ability to choose. They did not yield to what He said, bringing sin into the world and with it, the loss of choice. All humanity is born sinful (resisting God) and without the ability to save ourselves or even call out to Him for mercy. Sin keeps us from God, so God reaches out to us. However, He will not force salvation on anyone who says no to His existence, or refuses to acknowledge their sinfulness.
I also believe that when God reveals truth to us, we must respond. He reveals that He exists. Saying yes brings more revelation from Him, gradually leading people to the Cross and to faith in Christ. I also believe that no one can take any step toward God without God’s grace enabling them. Without Him, people cannot save themselves. The good news from the Bible is that Jesus died for the sins of the world, and whosoever will may come to Him.
However, Fortner says Jesus died only for those who believe. He uses many verses to verify this, yet omits those verses that do not. This seems like attempts to align opposing ideas (God’s sovereignty vs. the will of man) by picking sides. We have no ability to save ourselves, but Fortner also says if Jesus died for all, then all would be saved and since that does not happen, then Jesus did not die for all, but only those who believe.
Today’s devotional adds another thought that surprises me. I’ve never heard this before . . .
“If Christ died only for a specific people, how can I know that he bore my sin and died for me? I know that Christ died for sinners and I know that I am a sinner. I know that he died for every sinner who believes on him and that all who believe on him will be saved, because God said so. Now as a guilty sinner I do with all my heart trust the Lord Jesus Christ as my only and all-sufficient Savior. Since I trust him, I know that he died for me. Will you trust him too? If you can, then he died for you.”
Is this reasoning backwards? ‘Since I trust him, I know that he died for me . . . . If I can trust Him, then He died for me.’ Isn’t it biblical to say that “Since He died for me, therefore I trust Him”?
Faith is not about itself, but its object. It is about trusting Jesus; who He is and what He has done. He died for my sin — my ability to believe it does not make it true for me and not for others. This illogical reasoning puts salvation in my court. It says that whether or not Jesus died for me a matter of my choice. But I don’t make Him Lord by my faith; He IS Lord, whether I believe it or not!
King David expresses well what God does — and how he and others respond to Him.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me. Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me! Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life; let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt! Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha, Aha!” But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God! (Psalm 40:1–17)
Jesus, You are my Lord and Savior who delivers me from sin. I know this is true, not because my faith makes it true, but because Your death on the Cross for the sin of the world is a fact. Your grace and mercy are available to me and to everyone. Our response is vital, yet without Your unconditional love there would be no revelation of Your grace, no great mercy made available, and nothing to respond to.