We Are Beggars and Drowning Men

A few days ago, The Berean Call posted the following quote from James Arminius on their website, hoping to describe how salvation works.

79447-mp900427740“To explain the matter I will employ a simile…A rich man bestows, on a poor and famishing beggar, alms by which he may be able to maintain himself and his family. Does it cease to be a pure gift, because the beggar extends his hand to receive it? Can it be said with propriety, that ‘the alms depended partly on THE LIBERALITY of the Donor, and partly on THE LIBERTY of the Receiver,’ though the latter would not have possessed the alms unless he had received it by stretching out his hand? Can it be correctly said, BECAUSE THE BEGGAR IS ALWAYS PREPARED TO RECEIVE, that ‘he can have the alms, or not have it, just as he pleases?’ If these assertions cannot be truly made about a beggar who receives alms, how much less can they be made about the gift of faith, for the receiving of which far more acts of Divine Grace are required!”

-James Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, Vol. 2

I have used a similar illustration for years. If a lifeguard swims out to a drowning man, putting himself in peril to do so, and offers him a hand as he is about to slip under the waves for the final time, has the drowning man anything to boast of the rescue simply because he reached out and clung to the rescuer? Of course not.

The Bible says that salvation is offered by Grace, and received by Faith.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We are reminded that, though we must accept God’s offered mercy by faith, salvation is from first to last a work of God. To boast about our role in salvation is as foolish as the beggar boasting in his alms or the drowning man boasting in his rescue. God has done all of the work, and paid all the cost, that He may freely offer salvation; the most we can do is feebly stretch out our hands and take hold of what He has offered.