Does salvation happen because of making a decision for Christ?

by Mike Ratliff

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:13-17 ESV)

Are people saved when they decide for Christ or make some sort of decision or when they receive saving faith? I contend that the majority of the preaching nowadays is of the former variety while the latter is very misunderstood and not preached much at all. In fact, there is much hatred to the latter by many who call themselves “Christians.” Let’s look at what the Bible says.

Look at the passage at the top of this post (Romans 10:13-17). I remember memorizing v13 several years ago when I was in Evangelism Explosion training. We pulled that verse out of Romans 10 and used in part of our gospel presentations. Does this passage show us the human side of the order of salvation? Start in v15. Preachers of the Gospel must be sent. Then from v14 we see that the preachers are to preach the Gospel. Then people hear the Gospel. As they hear the Gospel they believe. Then they call on the name of the Lord and are saved. It is very important that we see that belief comes before a person calls on the name of the Lord. Now let’s compare this with another passage.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30 ESV)

From this passage we know that all who are saved are called according to God’s purpose. Whom does God call? He calls those whom He foreknew and predestined. What happens to those whom God called? They are justified and glorified. If we extrapolate these steps to compare them with what we learned from Romans 10:13-17 what do we have? What comes first? God foreknew those whom He is going to save. Look at the passage below. What do we learn about God’s foreknowing us?

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)

God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. We also see that God predestined us for adoption. From Romans 8:29 we see that we are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. All of this happened before the foundation of the world. So let’s move forward to now. God has chosen those whom He foreknew then He predestined them. Now, where does the preacher preaching the gospel come in? It is now. This is why it is so important that preachers preach the entire Gospel comparing our depravity and violation of God’s Law with His Holiness and Righteousness. Then they must preach why Jesus came to earth and what He accomplished in His life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Those whom God has chosen and predestined will believe because God calls them. This is the effectual call which quickens spiritually dead people unto the New Birth. This is where God gives us the gift of belief. This belief is saving faith through which Grace is given by God and received by the new Christian. Because of this belief the new Christian repents and turns to Christ by calling on Him for salvation. Then God justifies him or her. They are now in Christ.

Did they decide for Christ or were they converted and saved by God?

Addendum: If you do not agree with the premise of this post please understand that my method of teaching is never to persuade by my words. Instead, what I attempt to do is to cause those who read what I write or hear what I teach or preach to THINK, to reason. However, that is not enough. This reasoning should always drive us to dig into God’s Word in the context of seeking the Truth, therefore, ask God to show you the truth. Don’t EVER presume that you understand everything about the subject, but rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal it to your heart. If your conscience is clear then you can trust it. If you have unresolved guilt then your conscience has become calloused. Seek the Lord, repent of what He is showing you. THEN, and only then, approach the throne of grace with your petition to know the truth. Humble yourself before Him and tell Him that you will embrace the truth He shows you. Then study the Bible. If you do this the Lord will answer and your conscience will lead you by imparting conviction as the Holy Spirit speaks to you. If you stray from the truth it will impart condemnation. If you find it it will impart commendation (joy?). You will know by these “convictions” if you know the truth.

Soli Deo Gloria!

6 thoughts on “Does salvation happen because of making a decision for Christ?

  1. Have you read J.I. Packer’s “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God”? I read it twice. I probably need to read it again. As an evangelist I find the extremes difficult to process. You mention EE. I love EE and I am an EE trainer. What I find in many evangelical churches is that they see evangelism as unnecessary. They will say, “God is going to save whom He is going to save no matter what we do”. A few weeks ago a pastor said, “if we are disobedient then God will send someone else”. I think it is much more complex than that. While Keith Green wasn’t a theologian, I think he was Spirit led. He made the point that God saves those whom we reach. If we do nothing then less people get saved. God does all the saving, but He uses us to bring the message. As my friend who went to Indonesia said, “seek out the Elect – those who are going to believe”.

  2. Sorry for the length of this, but I think an understanding of Faith is critical to this thought.

    Does the Bible give an exact definition of faith? Since it says there is one faith, does it, in fact, give one definition of that faith? Is there a place where the Bible says, “Faith is…” and a precise definition follows? If so, where is it, and what does it say?

    Hebrews 11 has often been called the “faith” chapter. It describes many of God’s greatest servants and how their faith enabled them to perform great acts and miracles, or to endure severe trials. This long chapter is very inspiring, and all who want to have real faith should periodically read it. It contains the word faith two dozen times. Verse 2 says, “For by it [faith] the elders [these Bible figures] obtained a good report.”

    How could they have obtained a “good report” unless they understood faith? Now for God’s definition in verse 1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Did you notice that faith involves “evidence” of things “not seen”? The marginal rendering of “substance” is “assurance.” Faith involves an assurance “of things hoped for.” But, if something is hoped for, that something has not yet been received. Therefore, where faith is involved, there is an assurance that it will be received!

    But how can evidence be related to something that is not seen? Do we not rather think of evidence as involving things that are seen?

    In a courtroom, evidence is what can be proven. It involves facts visible to a jury. In other words, evidence only involves things that can be seen or demonstrated. How then can faith involve evidence that is invisible—not seen?

    Faith involves evidence in the following way. Real faith, in any promise made by God, is actually the evidence. It is the belief that is the evidence. If God promises to do something, it is impossible for Him to lie (Heb. 6:18). Your evidence that He will perform it is the very unwavering faith that you hold. Do you understand this? Remember, Hebrews 11:1 said, “faith is…the evidence.” If you have true Christian faith, you do not need to search for the evidence—you already possess it!

    Any other reference to Faith in the Bible, and there are a lot of them, alude to the idea that “if Faith is, then you will do” sort of statement. There is only one definition of Faith in the ENTIRE Bible and the above piece describes that definition.

    My Belief is based on that definition with a bit of personal experience. Speaking from a Logic view, you can believe in something, grass will sprout green, water will be wet, that God Exists, and that is only a part of Faith. The larger part is believing what was Done and Said! If you Believe God meant what He said and that you Believe Him, you have assurance that His is the Ultimate Truth.

    So with that being said, I Believe in God but more importantly, I Believe His Word which is Believing Him!

    Heb 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

    I pose a question at this point. Since Faith (or in this passage translated from the Hebrew, “Trust”) is for things not seen and hoped for, do we not need to Believe what God has said? We need to be TOLD what to expect, AND we need to Trust the Words of God’s Mouth! That is the beginning of True Faith!

    Paul has, in part, established what was said above. If God did not give us His Word, then we have nothing to expect or look forward to. NOTHING! We are still in that condition if we Hear but do not accept by Faith/Trust, nothing has changed! We must hear and accept what God has Promised! THAT is the Beginning of True Faith!

    All of the Scripture verses from Genesis to Revelation that mentions Faith seem to presuppose that Faith already is and points to God as the Author of our Faith, but nobody wants to stick their neck out in the ‘modern’ church to actually define it. All of the dozens of references that mentions Faith (except for Hebrews 11) say things like, “If a man has Faith, he can do…”. As far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t do it for me. I need a clear definition as in Heb 11:1, to give me a way to recognize and measure my Faith.

    Basically, I agree with you, Mike. Salvation comes from Hearing and Faith quickly follows after. It is, after all, a Gift extended from the Grace of God and no other.

  3. I urge those who do not understand man’s spiritual state apart from Christ to read the scriptures as Mike said. Also, read a good missionary biography. Some of the older ones especially are very open about the lives and thinking of the unsaved. Here in the West (USA especially) we have lived for so long with the basic understanding and outworking of Christian thought and life that we have NO CLUE what it is like to live in a society where the gospel has never brought its life-giving truth. We have no clue what it is like to believe a false religion and how its beliefs impact daily life. Even when we come face to face with islam, we are too “nice” to tell the truth; it gets whitewashed, and folks are not allowed see it for what it really is. Therefore we don’t understand how it is that people cannot just hear the gospel and then “decide” for themselves to accept it or reject it. We just don’t understand the depth of the depravity of the human heart, the blindness of it. We don’t understand the unsaved person’s hatred toward God and how they suppress the truth. Although I think we are beginning to see what a society without truth that has rejected the gospel will look like. With the unbelievable immorality, confusion, the mass murders we’ve witnessed, body markings (tattoos), the love of violence and gore, etc. Anyway, I can suggest two missionary biographies to get you started: “Missionary Patriarch” The t rue story of John G. Paton. He went as a missionary to the cannibals of the New Hebrides; and Amy Carmichael’s bio by Elisabeth Elliott called “A Chance to Die.” Both of these will help you understand the heart and life of the unsaved. Read them and see God’s mercy in sending Christ to save men and His Spirit to bring new birth to those who are dead in their sins. If you already understand this, you will be blessed by reading them as well because you will find yourself thanking the Lord again for HIs grace. And we have had it in double measure here. We have lived from our births in the USA, a nation that has had the light, and everything that we consider blessings have been brought to us because of Christianity. Both of the books are available on Amazon if not your local bookshop.

  4. Thank you for a well written article. I did not find God. He found me. I did not choose him. He chose me. He converted me, i.e., he picked me up off the road to hell and put me on the road to heaven. I actually talk about that in an article I just posted on my blog. If you have a chance, check it out: http://364daysofthanksgiving.com/matter-degrees/
    After reading your article, I would be curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

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