In what ways are sinners both active and passive in their salvation?

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This question has to do with the condition of our hearts.

Ephesians 2:1–2 says that we are all naturally dead in our sins, following “the prince of the power of the air.” Humanity’s problem is not that we are morally neutral and, therefore, able to decide for ourselves whether to follow the gospel. Instead, our problem is that we do not want God—our hearts are in the wrong place. Our hearts must be turned away from the natural hostility, what John 3:19 describes as “love of the darkness,” so that we might love and trust Christ.

We need the active work of God in salvation that we may passively receive His grace—while we were still sinners, God was gracious to us. The change in our hearts must work itself out in the act of faith, which itself is a receiving of Christ and, at the same time, an activity. In other words, because my heart has been turned, I actively depend on Christ.

There are two things going on here. First, I need the grace of God to change my heart, without which I will never trust in God or turn to love Him. Second, when my heart is regenerated, I am born again, and there is something active that happens. I lean on God, trust Him actively, and desire to be like Him and live for Him.

This is a transcript of Michael Reeves’ answers given during our Blessed in Christ: Detroit 2021 Conference and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.