It is a fact of pride that people like to accomplish things on their own. Pride sees as weakness relying upon another. And it is perhaps the greatest insult to pride that God beckons us to come unto Him for salvation. If we would only realize that we have nothing which we could offer Him, that even our best characteristics are as filthy rags, if we would only come to him with a broken and contrite heart, sorrowful for our condition, He will not turn us away. He wants our pride, our self-love.
In making salvation this way, He made it as easy as it possibly could be. But at the same time, for many it is a mockery. Salvation for doing nothing? Ha! Perhaps we’ve been trained to believe that nothing worthwhile is free–that some kind of cost or sacrifice is required of every good thing. But no, God says “by grace through faith” we can have eternal life.
But what about those who refuse to believe that salvation can be attained freely? Is there hope?
I want to quote a few verses from Job. They’re the only verses of their kind I have run across:
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: “Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me: Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? Have you an arm like God? Or can you thunder with a voice like His? Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor, and array yourself with glory and beauty. Disperse the rage of your wrath; look on everyone who is proud, and humble him. Look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low; tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together, bind their faces in hidden darkness. Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you.” Job 40:6–14, NKJV
There it is. The only place in the Bible that I am aware of where God Almighty testifies that a man might be able to save himself. And how can the hard-working earn their way to salvation? It apparently isn’t as simple as living a good life, being baptized by the right church, obeying a few sacraments, or denying yourself of material pleasures.
God says that to save ourselves, we must be able to raise ourselves over God, to break His word and to condemn Him. And He doesn’t just call us to confess that; He says that if we think we can do those things, then we should, in essence, crown ourselves ruler, adorning ourselves in majesty. Then, we humble all the proud of the world and tread out the wicked.
We do those things, and God will testify to us that our right hand can save us. Those things don’t save us, but they show that we can save ourselves, by our own might and ability (the right arm being a sign of strength).
How could our own strength save us? If we are able to do those things at the beginning of the passage, then we would be able to with our might prohibit ourselves from being cast into Hell. We would be able to withstand the judgment of God, annulling it as the passage says.
Perhaps it is this passage that has motivated so many would-be world leaders. Job is one of the oldest written pieces in the world; it would have been known to some extent throughout most of human history. And it says that if we think we are mightier than God, we should prove it by essentially conquering the world, humbling the proud and treading out the wicked. Men have amassed great kingdoms, but it has always been by using an army, not by using their own right hand.
So there you have it. If you don’t want to accept salvation by grace through faith, God provides an alternative. But you must be able to exalt yourself even above Him.
Perhaps it is notable that the king of Babylon said he would “ascend into heaven … exalt [his] throne above the stars of God … sit on the mount of the congregation … ascend above the heights of the clouds … be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13,14, NKJV). If he were to have succeeded in that, he would have saved himself. But even that mighty king was “brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit” (v.15, NKJV).