Does God Reach Down to Us or Do We Reach Up to Him?

Does God Reach Down to Us or Do We Reach Up to Him?

In church history there are, generally speaking, two broad categories into which various answers to these questions fall. Synergism is the belief that, in varying degrees depending upon who is advocating this position, God and man work together in the process of justification. Conversely, monergism is the belief that God alone works for our justification, and we play no part whatsoever in our salvation.

Isaiah writes about salvation and asks in 53:1, “To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Building on this analogy of God’s arm reaching down to save us, I call the synergist position “two-handed,” in which the imagery is of God reaching down to a sinner and a sinner reaching up to take God’s hand and be saved. I refer to the monergistic position as “one-handed,” in which the imagery is of God reaching down to pluck a sinner from death without that person simultaneously reaching back to join God in His saving efforts.

It is important to note that both teams, generally speaking, believe that God is the one who initiates with sinners. In fact, this is the biblical pattern from the garden of Eden forward, when our first parents hid from God after their first sin, and God took the initiative to pursue them. This same concept of God’s initiation is echoed throughout Scripture in places such as 1 John 4:19, which says, “We love because he first loved us,” and Philippians 1:6, which says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Why is it encouraging to know that God extends a hand to us instead of expecting us to make our way to Him by our own efforts?

This is an excerpt from Pastor Mark’s Romans 8-9 commentary Duck Duck Doom. You can get a free e-book copy by clicking here or get a physical copy for a gift of any amount during the month of March here.

To find the new, free Romans 6-11 digital study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit or download the Real Faith app.

Mark Driscoll
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