What Role Do We Play in Our Own Salvation? – Colossians 1:22-23

I think Paul sums up the partnership we have with God very nicely in Colossians 1:22-23,

“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the Gospel.”

Who does the saving? God. By grace? Yes, by grace. Regardless of anything on our behalf? No. We must continue in our faith and not move from the firm foundation that the Gospel provides if we are to enjoy the free gift of reconciliation accomplished through Christ. We often confuse Ephesians 2:8-9 to mean we have absolutely nothing to do with our faith or that nothing we do can impact or influence it. Those verses read, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.” But Paul is entirely consistent in saying we don’t earn our salvation but we do have something to do with it. The two can happen at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive. Grace is still grace but we must be willing participants in God’s process of reconciliation.

14 Responses to What Role Do We Play in Our Own Salvation? – Colossians 1:22-23

  1. Hank says:

    Well said.

  2. b says:

    in our rush to avoid legalism, we have thrown sanctification out the window.

    just because we can’t do anything to earn/merit salvation, does not mean that we have nothing to do at all.

  3. K. Rex Butts says:

    As far as our fellowship goes, the hard part is that for years there was this false idea that we somehow had a part in our entering into salvation…”God’s part/Man’s part”…when in fact the scripture present a consistent witness that God has done the work of redemption. This is true regarding Israel in the OT and true regarding the Christian in the NT. We mistakenly thought that baptism was our work/part which is a misunderstaning of scripture, since we are the passive agents in baptism and God is the active agent doing the work in us (cf. Rom 6).

    No place does scripture claim that redemption is ever the result of anyone but God. However, in both the OT and NT, obedience is a requirement to remain in the covenant. This is what I understand Paul to have in mind in Colossians and elsewhere.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

    • Hank says:

      Rex, you wrote:

      “As far as our fellowship goes, the hard part is that for years there was this false idea that we somehow had a part in our entering into salvation…”God’s part/Man’s part”…when in fact the scripture present a consistent witness that God has done the work of redemption.”

      By that, do you mean to say that man has no part (role, responsibility, obligation, etc.)? If the salvation of man is entirely up to God (and God wants all men to be saved), then why are so many men not saved?

      For example, Tit. 2:11 states that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared unto all men. Why then are all men not saved? If salvation is not up to man in any way?

      Also, how would you explain the words of Peter when he charged lost men to “save yourselves from this corrupt generation”? Does that command not imply that man has to “do” something in order for God to save him?

      • mattdabbs says:

        I can’t speak for Rex but it sounds like he is saying we don’t actually accomplish the saving ourselves. In other words we don’t pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps so well that God is forces to save us. God does all the saving, cleansing, etc. God paid the whole price. We have to be willing participants in the process but we don’t actually do things to merit our salvation in the sense that we are paying the debt down smaller by our actions.

        It is one thing to qualify for financially assistance by meeting the right criteria but no one would say in that situation that person earned the money. I think Rex is saying the same is true of our salvation.

      • K. Rex Butts says:

        Hank,

        Thanks for the question…

        I do believe that we have a choice to either respond in faith (which I believe includes obedience) or not to, just as Israel had the choice to either enter into covenant with God or not to. But that free-will choice does not mean that salvation is a result of our initiative. Scripture, both OT & NT, present an overwhelming witness to the fact that it is God who has redeemed through his effort and not because humanity has deserved or earned such redemption but because of God’s loving grace and mercy.

        The answer to your question in Titus 2.11 is simple…some people reject the gift of grace. But that reality does not imply that those who so choose to accept God’s grace through faith have some how become responsible participants in their salvation. And that fact is evident that Paul, more so perhaps than any other NT writer, goes to great lengths to speak of God as the one who saves and not ourselves.

        The passage you refer to in Acts 2.40 must be read in its context. Peter is addressing Jews who already have been part of God’s covenant with Abraham but failed to see how that covenant found its fulfillment in Jesus and thus Peter’s final plea is not so much “salvation is up to you own effort now” since Peter has already gone to great lengths in his sermon to show the saving work God has accomplished in Jesus but instead this plea is more along the lines of “return to the covenant” since their rejection of Jesus (and role in his crucifixion) became a rejection of their Abrahamic covenant with God.

        So again, in the OT when it speaks of salvation it speaks of what God has done, not what Israel does. The same is true in the NT…it speaks of what God has done in Christ and not what we have done. This, as I believe, does not negate our obligation to accept God’s offer of salvation in faith but it does mean that we are not somehow “coagents” in the work of our salvation.

        As far as this concerns the CoC…it used to be common to hear sermons and find bible tracts that began with the premise “Salvation: God’s Part and Man’s Part”. Man’s part was the so-called five steps of salvation. The problem is that this is incongruent with scripture. Scripture is able to speak of the importance of things like repentance and baptism without speaking of salvation as being both the part of God and man and for good reasons whcih would take too much more space to get into at this point. But it is suffic to say, when we forget that we are saved by God’s grace alone that the gospel slowly becomes distorted and without correction, it becomes distorted to the point where it is no longer the gospel of Jesus Christ but the gospel of ourselves.

        And just to be clear…for a movement that wanted to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where scripture is silent…there are plenty of passages on salvation where God is spoken of in the first person and active agent. That is, God is the one doing the work of salvation. Too my knowledge, there is no passage where Israel or anyone esle is spoken of as the first-person active agent when it comes to salvation.

        Any ways, I hope that clarifies myself a little more.

        Grace and peace,

        Rex

  4. Ben Chilcote says:

    I always find the exploration, then of James 2 fascinating in light of this idea. In James 2:14 the writer asks, “Can faith save you?”. We see that works play a part – not in our salvation – but in the demonstration, or proof that our faith is real (living). I think so often we thing it’s enough to believe the right things and we’re good to go.

    Not that we are to judge others, but as a pastor I am sometimes concerned about the truth of one’s salvation. Are we really saved if our life, by our actions, doesn’t give evidence to a living faith?

    What is also interesting is that the Colossians verse gives an argument against eternal security. It says “…IF you continue in your faith…” which implies one could lose their faith and consequently lose their salvation. But, of course, that’s a whole other discussion. 🙂

  5. Hank says:

    Thanks K. Rex, good points.

  6. Joe says:

    Rex did great…all I can say is that it is not our faith that saves us but the object of our faith. The lord said that without Him we can do absolutely nothing. Also that the work of God, on our part, is but to believe. Our obligation is to be the stewards of His Grace…. and that it is Grace which teaches us to deny ungodliness. We must always maintain the priority of a Finished Work perspective in terms of God having done all the work, and so that I can abide and enter into His faith rest whereby I am motivated by the love of God….it is a mystery, and yet the nature of God in us motivating us as we obey.

  7. K. B. Marcel says:

    All I can say is the word of God remains the same. Faith, through its works, matters a lot in our salvation. For no one can please God without faith. Also we have to be holly for us to see God and holliness is human effort through the Grace of God, and the grace is only available for those that ask God in faith for it. So we can see that our effort is needed in our salvation. By K. B. Marcel

  8. Richie says:

    The salvation is of The Lord. Not ours. He did it all on the cross and He calls us from darkness to receive His light. How can a dead man believe? Or better yet, how can a dead man go to God? We are completely incapable. You see, it is Christ who brings us to Himself. He gives us faith–He makes us believe in Him by the power of the Holy Spirt. I.e., He selects whom He wants to select. That’s why ALL glory and praise goes to Jesus Christ.

  9. Wally says:

    If it’s all God and nothing on our part, why does God still test us? He can’t be testing Himself. We have free will all the way to the end. We overcome by the blood of the lamb, obeying Jesus and living Holy. Those who endure to the end will be saved. God bless you all. Amen

  10. Kara says:

    The bible says that we are saved by grace through faith-but it includes that it is all a gift of God. Grace and faith are both gifts. Even our faith is not our own. God saved us when Jesus died on the cross. This occurred thousands of years before we were born. If we had anything to do with our salvation then mentally handicapped people couldn’t be saved, not to mention aborted babies and those who die before they could understand what must be done. God’s got this. He sent his son because he didn’t want us involved. We are human. We can mess up. If it were up to us, even in the slightest, we would all be in very big trouble.

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