In Acts, we see the doctrines of grace in action. And this gives us confidence for our salvation and for God to save those to whom we proclaim Christ. God is a God who opens hearts (Acts 16:14) and grants salvation, at the proper time, to all those whom he has appointed (Acts 13:48).
…I am sending you, to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me (Acts 26:17–18).
When it comes to the doctrine of salvation (soteriology), monergism is doctrine that says God alone accomplishes salvation. Etymologically, the word means one (mono) energy (energos), and suggests that all the power for salvation comes from the triune God. Monergism stands against any form of cooperation in salvation whereby God’s work is joined with or completed by man.
Historically, monergism stands upon the writings of Augustine, Calvin, and others in the Reformed tradition. But more importantly, those writings stand upon the words of Scripture. Recently, as I read through the book of Acts, this doctrine stood out, in thinking about the way Luke often spoke of salvation and attributed the faith of believers to the antecedent work of God. In other words, Luke makes it apparent, salvation comes by faith and repentance, but faith and repentance come from the grace of God. (I also spent time laboring this point in my last two sermons on Romans 3 and Colossians 1–2).
In Acts, we find at least seven instances where Luke stresses God’s singular work in salvation. And for the sake of understanding this doctrine and our experience of salvation, not to mention its impact on evangelism and missions, we should see how the pattern of God’s monergism runs through the book of Acts.
Seven Monergistic Texts in the Book of Acts
Forced to give an answer for the hope they have, Peter and the apostles testify before the Jerusalem leaders, that salvation comes in no other way, but by faith in Christ. And importantly, such faith comes because Christ raises people to life.
5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
If the Christ-centeredness of Acts 4:12 is not sufficiently monergistic, Acts 5:31 begins to fill in the details: the exalted Lord gives repentance.
31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
God’s salvation comes to the Gentiles, just like it came to the Jews—God granted repentance that leads to life.
18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
After Luke records Paul’s sermon in Acts, he reports how the Gentiles heard the Gospel and believed. But instead of leaving it there, he also declares that those who believed were the one’s God appointed to believe (cf. Eph. 1:4–6; Rom. 9:1–23; 1 Thess. 1:5).
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