“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. (NLT)
We sometimes hear it said that salvation is “all of God”. It is not. Jesus makes it clear, as do other Scriptural writers, that a human response is needed. God has not preprogrammed us to accept or reject his offer of friendship: we are invited to freely respond. A gift offered to us will do us no good unless it is accepted. We do play a part in our own salvation.
But that does not mean salvation is “all of us”. Jesus tells us of the need for personal belief and at the same time reminds us that God has sent him to be the means of salvation. So unless God took the initiative in offering us salvation, we could not save ourselves. God has taken the initiative to which we are called to respond.
We can neither act like helpless puppets who are objects of some random choosing by God, or act like those who can earn salvation by being extra good or ticking all the boxes of orthodox belief. God’s act of sending Jesus is primary. Our response to Jesus is secondary but necessary.
If we are drowning in deep water, we can be saved by taking hold of a thrown lifebelt. When we get to the safety of shore we can’t boast about our being rescued: we thankfully took hold of the means of rescue offered to us. Then again, if we hadn’t taken hold of it, we would have drowned.