"...even the beginning of our faith, as con-
tinence, patience, righteousness, piety, and
the rest... all God's gift, so that he that glo-
ries may not glory in himself, but in the Lord
~ St. Augustine of Hippo
This idea is very appealing and prominent among many Christians today. However, I honestly believe God’s Word doesn’t support such view. The Bible gives no indication that God made us wholly capable of sanctifying ourselves when He freed us from Sin. Freedom from the power of Sin does NOT grant us total independence from any spiritual influence so that we may be left on our own. Instead, God freed us from the power of Sin so that we may be under the inspiration and sanctifying influence of His Spirit (Rom. 8:15). To be exact, the Bible equates freedom from Sin [or deadness to Sin] to our incapability of totally going back to our old sinful lifestyle (see Rom. 6:1-2), but never to moral capability. Observe Paul's statement in Philippians 2:12-13:
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Php. 2:13).
This is not to say, however, that we cease to have a will under the inspiration of God's grace, or that it is no longer we that act when we do that which pleases God, but that the actual execution of godly virtues is an evidence that God’s grace is at work in our lives. Moreover, when it is asserted that Christians are void of natural ability to reform themselves for the better, it doesn't mean we remain sinners or in bondage to Sin even after we are saved. Rather, it is simply acknowledging that we are in every way dependent on God's grace in our pursuit of holiness, and that whenever when we experience victory from our old sinful habits and lifestyle, it is by God's working and not by our own powers and capabilities that we overcome them (Php. 2:13). As St. Paul puts it:
"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God." (2 Cor. 3:5)Christ told His disciples, “without me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5); meaning, we are incapable of moral reformation by our own strength. It is God's gift that we have the ability and desire to change (cf. Gen. 20:6; Deut. 30:6; Eze. 36:26-27; Rom. 5:5; Php. 2:13).
In the next post we will discuss the role of God’s law in our journey to attaining moral Christ-likeness. Stay tuned and God bless!
To God be the glory!