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A pastor in my church once told me that "human effort does not oppose God's grace", I.E. to say, as long as you do your best (which is impossible to attain, but you try any way), God will indeed do the rest.

Are there any biblical references that support/reject this view?

closed as too broad by ThaddeusB, Nathaniel, Lee Woofenden, curiousdannii, Mr. Bultitude Jan 24 '16 at 17:35

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    I think you just described Mormonism – LCIII Aug 26 '14 at 14:48
  • oh man- hmm i didn't intend for that- I was looking for any references which could support that statement above-mentioned in the hebrew bible? – Nick Aug 26 '14 at 14:49
  • Can you clarify what you mean? Are you talking specifically about salvation? – Flimzy Aug 26 '14 at 15:13
  • @Nick: In the Hebrew bible? So only the old testament? There's a lot more Biblical language about grace in the New Testament... if you want something that directly answers your question, it probably will not be in the Hebrew bible... although it certainly has many of the same concepts--they just aren't quite brought to the surface as clearly. – Flimzy Aug 26 '14 at 15:14
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    Depends on your background. Reformed Christians tend to believe that human effort is a hindrance to God's grace. Non-reformed are more likely to agree with the "New Perspective on Paul," (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Perspective_on_Paul) which believes that human effort is a necessary element to our faith. – Ryan Aug 28 '14 at 4:11
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Human effort consistent with the will of God, does not oppose God's Grace. However, the words of Jesus to Peter (cf. Matthew 16:21-23),

"Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things" (NRSV)

are a proclamation from God himself that human effort can, indeed, oppose God's grace.

The assertion that one's best is impossible to attain is a logical paradox, and a fallacy. Everyone can do his or her best, so it is obviously possible to attain. The issue is the extent to which the "best" of any particular individual comes close to God's objective standards. But God exhorts in Genesis 4:7

"If you do well, will it not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." (NRSV)

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Hah, well, you've got a couple ambiguous statements to begin with:

  • "Human effort does not oppose God's grace."
  • "As long as you do your best , God will indeed do the rest."

What do you mean by human effort? Effort in what? Doing your best in what? And what is God gracing you with? What is the "rest" that he is doing?

If you're talking about salvation and about being a good person and saying that human effort can contribute towards that without opposing God's grace then scripture surely contradicts you.

Romans 3:20,28 ESV For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin ... For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Galatians 2:16 ESV yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

In regards to salvation, the only "human effort" a person can have that doesn't oppose God's grace is faith in Jesus--though most bible scholars wouldn't categorize that as human effort. In fact, they'd say it's the opposite. Having faith that Jesus makes you good and clean and justified before God implies that you believe you can't do it on your own.

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    I wouldn't say those verses are an indication of works opposing God's grace... just being non-effectual. – Flimzy Aug 26 '14 at 15:12
  • well, that certainly made me look foolish there. I get the points you raise, perhaps i should have made the question abit more explicit. Suppose to say one would suffer from alcoholism, well it is true that a person is not justified by the works of the law (as you've quoted in Galatians 2:16), but wouldn't it render God's grace invalid if that said person were to not do anything about it (always being in proximity of alcohol, hanging out at bars, in short, no lifestyle change or effort put in on his part) how does that work out then? – Nick Aug 26 '14 at 15:17
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The human effort does not oppose God's grace if this effort consist in obedience to God... Even more this kind of human effort will be the inevitable result of the God's grace. That is called the perseverance of the saints in reformed theology.

"Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of
turning.Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (KJV James 1:16-18).

In fact, the good works of humans (not necessarily saved humans) also is part of the God's Grace (the common grace).

There are two heresies related to the subject of you question: the pelagianism and the semipelagianism, both of them in oposse to the reformed theology.

Take a look at this documental video: Click here!

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"human effort does not oppose God's grace" = TRUE, when the effort is a result of faith in God's grace. For instance, Paul the apostle repeatedly wrote about how hard he worked as a result of God's grace, that is, knowing that God would undertake for him.

God graciously gives us gifts and empowers us to use them according to His will:

Romans 12:6

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;

1 Cor. 3:10

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.

1 Cor. 15:10

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

2 Cor. 9:8

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

So these verses show that grace (which is freely given apart from our meriting them) and human effort are not exclusive. Christians freely access this grace, this giving of God, when they believe God for it, that is, act in faith.

The problem comes in when we labor to be found worthy of the gifts and helps ("See what I've done, Lord? I'm such a good person!") For instance, the Israelites resisted receiving God's graciously given righteousness because they were going about establishing their own by meritorious works (Romans 9:30-32). So acting apart from faith resists God's grace.

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