Beckett: Pastor’s Thoughts – Monergism: God Alone Does the Saving (Genesis 7:16)

As the proto evangelium (first Gospel promise), Genesis 3:15 is the first indication of God’s monergism, but perhaps Genesis 7:16 is as well, “And those that entered [the ark], male and female of all flesh, went in as God commanded him. And the LORD shut him in.”

Monergism is the orthodox belief that God’s will alone (mono, one) does the work (ergon) to save, whereas synergism is the heterodox belief that man’s will participates with God’s will (sun, together) in the work (ergon) of conversion/salvation. To speak on it succinctly, the failure of synergism is that it fails to take into account original sin and, therefore, man’s concupiscence to choose sin rather than God. It assumes man has some good left in him whereas the doctrine of original sin, inherent in Genesis, says man’s natural will before conversion/regeneration is evil. All throughout the Scriptures, down to the saving work of Christ, God alone does the work of salvation.

While Genesis 3:15 is the origin of God’s monergistic work, Genesis 7:16 is perhaps the earliest clear indication of God’s monergism in action. For Noah could have just as easily shut the ark closed when he entered, yet Moses the author of Genesis saw it important enough to write, “the LORD shut him in.”

This monergistic work of God is of utmost importance because of the assurance one can have of their salvation. If synergism is true, can you have assurance that you’re saved? You cannot, since ultimately your assurance of salvation comes down to you—you who keeps on sinning even though you believe in Christ. Because monergism is true, your assurance of salvation never comes down to you and your meagre efforts to impress God. Rather, it depends on God and His work alone. God is completely unfamiliar with the concept of failure. We call this efficacy—that God, in His Word, always does what He says He does without fail.

God promised Noah that He would save him and all creation, and He did. Not Noah, but God. God is the one who shut the ark. God is the one who made the waters subside. God is the one who brought the promised seed of the woman in the virgin Mary (Genesis 3:15). Jesus, who is God, is the one who let Himself be put on the cross (for He could have called down His army of angels to save Himself, but He did not). Jesus, who is God, is the one who rose Himself from the dead. Jesus is the one who creates faith. Jesus is the one who shall raise you from the dead.

Thank God, literally, that salvation and its assurance rests not on you or me! For if it relied on me who gets easily angered with slow WiFi, how could I ever be sure? It does not, thanks be to God! My assurance—the inheritance of my salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14)—rests solely on Christ alone. Thus, I sing the hymn:

In Christ alone—who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied—
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground, His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine—
bought with the precious blood of Christ.

("In Christ Alone" by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend)

Theology Terms Used

  • Proto Evangelium: first Gospel promise (Genesis 3:15).
  • Monergism: God alone does the work of conversion/salvation.
  • Synergism: man participates with God in the work of conversion/salvation.
  • Orthodox: literally, “right teaching/doctrine.”
  • Heterodox: non-conforming/unorthodox doctrine.
  • Concupiscence: original sin, in other words, man’s natural inclination toward living in sin rather than original righteousness.
  • Efficacy: the ability to produce the desired result without fail.

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