By Femi Aribisala
Jesus says to the Sadducees: “You are completely wrong! You don’t know what the Scriptures teach. And you don’t know anything about the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29). For a true understanding of spiritual matters, we have to know both the scriptures and the power of God. Knowing one without the other is inadequate.
Isaiah asks: “Who has believed our report? And to whom is the arm of Jehovah revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1). The arm of the Lord is revealed to those who receive the grace of God, ensuring that they experience God’s power first-hand. It then becomes imperative for them to contextualize this in the scriptures. Therefore, they: “Study earnestly to present (themselves) approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Work of God
This has been my testimony. My initial experience of the Lord’s deliverance from armed-robbers and healing from bullet wounds, led to the intensive study of the scriptures. As a result, I have gained a first-hand understanding of the role of God in salvation. This has led me to the conclusion that salvation is 101% the exclusive work of God: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
My case confirms God’s assertion that: “I was sought by those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me.” (Isaiah 65:1). I found God when I did not look for him. It was God himself who sought me out. Jesus says to the redeemed: “Seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7) because natural man would never seek the one true God. Instead, he will seek idols, wealth and even make a covenant with death.
God himself has ensured that the hearts of men are closed to him. He says to Isaiah: “Go, and tell this people, you hear indeed, but do not understand; and seeing you see, but do not know. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back, and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10).
Thus, Jesus insists on speaking to the crowds in parables: “He did not speak to them without a parable. And when they were alone, he explained all things to his disciples.” (Mark 4:34). When his disciples asked him why he only spoke to the crowd in parables, Jesus told them it was because he did not want them to understand what he was saying: “It is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them.” (Matthew 13:11)
Salvation is by God’s appointment: “He chose us in him before the creation of the world.” (Ephesians 1:4). God closes the hearts of those he does not want to save in this dispensation and he opens the heart of those he wants. Listen to the plaint of the psalmist: “O LORD, why have you made us stray from your ways, and hardened our heart from your fear?” (Isaiah 63:17). He knows Israel’s hardness of heart is a conspiracy of God.
Before I met the Lord, I was a so-called Christian, born in a Christian family; but I could not understand the scriptures. Little did I know that God himself had shut the scriptures from me, ensuring that I could not be a true believer: “Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again, he has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they should not see with their eyes nor understand with their heart, and be converted.” (John 12:39-40).
Thus, the disciples did not understand most of what Jesus said to them before Calvary. However, on his resurrection: “He opened their mind to understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45). This was also the case with Lydia: “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” (Acts 16:14). Without God, we cannot lead anyone to Christ.
Indeed, when Christians say: “I gave my life to Christ,” it is because we don’t know the scriptures or the power of God. Nobody gives his life to Christ. No one can do so. It is better to say: “The Lord took my life.” With men, salvation is impossible. But with God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26).
Left to us, no one would love God. We love God because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19). Similarly, God’s salvation does not permit man’s initiative. The initiative belongs entirely to God. Left to us, we would never choose God. Jesus says: “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” (John 15:16). We only choose God because he first chooses us and then gives us the will to respond to the gospel.
Listen carefully: “It is God who works in (us) both to will and to do for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13). Indeed, God determines every choice we make. This is hard to swallow but true nonetheless: “Every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33). God determines even the most random step we take. But he does this without violating our free will. That is the power of God.
Answering the call
Jesus leaves us in no doubt about this. He says: “No one can come to me unless the Father who has sent me draw him.” (John 6:44). “No one can come to me unless it was given to him from my Father.” (John 6:65). In effect, those saved are those God appoints for salvation: “And hearing, the nations rejoiced and glorified the Word of the Lord. And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48).
So, let me make this confession. I never gave my life to Christ. On the contrary, the Lord took my life. The Lord is a fisher of men. Like fishes, the men he catches don’t want to be caught. If the Lord does not keep those he catches, we would go back into the sea of life.
An old friend invited me to a special service at his church. The preacher was the late Bishop Harford Iloputaife, and he preached about Adam and Eve. I could not even understand what he was talking about. But at the end of his message, he asked those who wanted to “give their life to Jesus Christ” to come forward.
I honestly don’t remember exactly what happened. I just know something came over me and took control of me. Some supernatural force literally carried me to the altar. It was all the more remarkable because my leg was in plaster and I walked with crutches. But I found myself hobbling speedily down the aisle of the church as if my life depended on it.
I now know that, indeed, my life depended on it. I went to the front of the church and asked Jesus to be my Lord and Saviour. Thereby, the scripture was fulfilled in me: “Your people shall be willing in the day of your power.” (Psalm 110:3).