What is Monergism? Is it essential to salvation? Or to the gospel?

It wasn’t too long ago that I was introduced to the terms monergism and synergism. You don’t have to know the meaning of these terms to be saved, but the meaning behind these terms is very important to understanding the gospel and the new birth. I did some study on the two words wanting to have a full understanding of what they meant in regards to salvation. Let’s look at the definitions.

Monergism- the view within Christian theology which holds that God works through the Holy Spirit to bring about the salvation of an individual through spiritual regeneration, regardless of the individual’s cooperation.

Synergism- The doctrine within Christian theology that individual salvation is achieved through a combination of human will and divine grace.

I put a tweet yesterday that had people about ready to hang me and declare me a heretic. It said this- “If you are not a Monergist, you are not a Christian.” Of course, people came out of the woodwork to declare me wrong and also that I should repent and pray about my attitude. To which I will say this- When I see something so clearly taught in Scripture I cannot recant it. I will lay out my case with Scripture as to why Monergism is biblical and is part of the gospel according to Scripture.

The essential foundation of the gospel is realizing our own depravity. We are dead, totally depraved, in bondage to sin, under the wrath of God, our flesh completely unable to to please God and even our righteous acts are like “filthy rags.” We see in Scripture the reaction of those who are confronted with this reality such as the tax collector in Luke 18:13 who stood far off and wouldn’t dare lift his eyes to the heavens and face a holy God- “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

We see all throughout Scripture verses detailing our inability to do anything right with our flesh.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” John 6:63

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is (A)hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; (B)indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.“ Romans 8:7-8

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” Jeremiah 13:23

“For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh; for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Romans 7:18

Scripture paints this very clear picture of the flesh and nature of man being unable to do anything to please Christ before he is quickened to life by the Spirit. It cannot produce one right thought or action. So how does one get saved? What does the Scripture say?

Look at the verses describing regeneration and the new birth.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

“I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols.” Ezekiel 36:25

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,” Colossians 2:11

All of these speak of a divine action solely done by God. The individual has nothing to do with his natural birth and nothing to do with his spiritual birth. So where does faith come in? Aren’t we to have faith in Christ in order to be justified? Faith is the result of regeneration. Can any natural man be willing to accept the truth of the gospel?! The Scripture says the natural man cannot even understand, let alone embrace the truth of the gospel of Christ.

If you hold to a synergist view of salvation, you must accept that man in his free will has the natural ability to accept or reject God. So God’s grace takes you part of the way to salvation and then natural, fallen, rebelious man must make the final decision to accept or reject. Blasphemy! This is an absolute contradiction to the Word of God.

The Scripture teaches us that salvation has zero to do with the will of man. “So then, it does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” Romans 9:16

God’s will alone is what produces salvation. It is absolute arrogance of a carnal mind that attributes any part of our salvation to our wicked flesh. When we attribute our salvation to anything other than a work of God and His grace and mercy we are not accurately representing the gospel according to Scripture.

“who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13

Salvation is initiated and completed by God.

“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.” Philippians 1:6

If any person contributes any part of their salvation to their fleshly choice, they would have reason to boast and would also have merit. This is a works based, man centered gospel that cannot save. I sat under this type of gospel for salvation for over 20 years and walked the aisle and prayed a prayer and “accepted Jesus.” I wasn’t actually saved because false gospels, such as the synergist gospel, can’t save. I wasn’t actually saved until later in my 20’s when I began reading the Scripture on my own. The Lord just sovereignly gave me a new heart with new desires. Think about the operation of a heart surgeon. How much participation does the one receiving the heart transplant do? They lay there put to sleep, fully unable to do anything in getting that new heart. The surgeon makes the incision and places the new heart. And then the patient has new life. This is how our spiritual salvation works. God does it all. I didn’t have to agree for God to save me. I didn’t choose to be saved. The Scripture says He is the chooser (John 15:16) and the seeker. (Luke 19:10)

This is the gospel of Christ. That we are unable to save our ourselves or do anything to please Christ. He saves us by giving us the gift of faith and the ability to believe. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Belief is given to us through grace- “And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed,..” Acts 18:27

The Scripture teaches us that no man can understand or would seek after God on his own. “no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:11 Only after a person is quickened to life by the Spirit can he have faith and believe in Christ and is then justified. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” Romans 5:1

Regeneration and justification are two separate entities. Regeneration must occur in order for a man to have faith. 1 Corinthians 12:3 makes this clear. “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” In order to call Him Lord and place faith in Him you must have the Holy Spirit. Natural man cannot accept the things of God. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

The Lord must do a work in the heart before you can even understand. “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” Acts 16:14

Believing you played a part in your salvation is not in any way consistent with the Scripture and the gospel message taught. The synergist must put some kind of faith in his flesh if he wants to hold to that doctrine. This is a scary place to be. This would leave room for boasting and merit and is clearly a works based salvation that the Bible condemns. True salvation is monergistic and strips away any room whatsoever for fleshly merit or pride.

True salvation does not require our cooperation. The Scripture says all who are drawn will come. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;..” John 6:37

It is described as a “circumcision of the heart” that is done “without hands.” That phrase without hands means it’s a divine act that is done without human participation. “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,” Colossians 2:11

Why are we told we must affirm synergism as if it’s the same gospel taught in the Scripture? It’s antithetical to what the Scripture teaches and leaves room for boasting. “The message of the synergists is “God only helps those who help themselves” and is the opposite of the truth. Monergists say “He helps those who could NOT help themselves.” So I stand by my original statement because I see it clearly in the Word. “If you are not a Monergist, you are not a Christian.”

“ He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” Titus 3:5

Author: lauranlou

Teaching women to study Scripture, love theology and to glorify Christ!

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