“Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Why? Why is salvation available only to those who respond by calling on the Lord Jesus for rescue?
It’s not that God doesn’t know how to give gifts to everyone. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that our Father in heaven “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45, NRSV). The gift of salvation is a different kind of gift.
It requires a request. When the people were cut to the heart at Peter’s statement that they were responsible for the death of the Messiah, they asked, “Brothers, what should we do” (Acts 2:37)? Peter replied, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven” (2:38).
The gift of salvation flowing from Jesus’ death and resurrection requires an individual response.
Why? If God is loving and merciful, why does the gift of eternal life not come automatically to every human whether they respond favourably or not?
Do you remember when the world-famous rock band U2 gave an unsolicited copy of their new album to millions of people with iTunes accounts? Some people got upset. iTunes had to give instructions for how to delete this free album from one of the world’s most popular singing groups.
Another story: in Luke 19, Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem saying, “If you… had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace…. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will…crush you to the ground…because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God” (Luke 19:42–44).
From the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16–17) until now, God is determined to honour human free will.
Our theme verse underlines the missionary call of Acts 1:8. Because God gives humans free will, salvation comes only to those who ask. In order to ask, they need to have enough information to ask (Romans 10:13–15).
Jesus died on the cross and rose again so that we can receive eternal life. How does the need for an individual response to this good news focus your energies?
—Marvin Dyck is pastor at Crossroads MB Church in Winnipeg. This article first appeared in “Waiting for the Resurrection,” a daily devotional for the season of Lent, published by Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary.