Effectual Salvation

By Dr. Ken Matto

Acts 13:48 (KJV) And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

In constructing a building, does the builder begin on the first floor or do they begin to start building the building from the second floor up? Of course, that is a ridiculous question. There is no way you can have a foundation, then empty space where the first floor should be and then the actual building begins on the second floor. What would happen is that the building would come tumbling down.

Yet, this is exactly the same formula that many Christians use when attempting to understand salvation. Instead of them starting where they should, they take a leap and completely ignore one of the most basic yet important Scriptural truths and that is the starting point in Scripture. What many believers do is tell people to become saved all they have to do is believe. Romans 10:10 (KJV) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. They will take a verse like Romans 10:10 and then tell their hearers that all they need to do is believe and once they do that, they can become saved. This is a great error because they are actually jumping over the Bible’s starting point and we will look at these points in order to understand how salvation becomes effectual in a person’s life.

1.) You are spiritually Dead
Ephesians 2:1-5 (KJV) And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; {2} Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: {3} Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. {4} But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, {5} Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

The starting point that free will proponents completely ignore is the fact that before salvation a person is spiritually dead. In Ephesians 2:1 & 5, the word for “dead” is the Greek word “nekrous” which means “lifeless, useless, or dead.” A person who is spiritually dead is one who cannot do anything toward their salvation. Just as a physically dead person cannot do anything to make themselves alive, the spiritually dead person is incapable of anything except being dead. Now is this borne out in other places in the Scriptures? The answer is a resounding yes.

Nekrous - Lifeless, Useless, or Dead
Ephesians 5:14-15 (KJV) Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. {15} See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

Matthew 8:22 (KJV) But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

Luke 15:32 (KJV) It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

John 5:21 (KJV) For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

Colossians 2:13 (KJV) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

Thnesko - Be Dead or Die
1 Timothy 5:6 (KJV) But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.

Thanatos - Death
1 John 3:14 (KJV) We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

Here we have just looked at seven verses where God uses three different words to describe the condition of those who are not saved. The Bible teaches us here that the only condition that the unbeliever is in is a state of spiritual death. This applies to every person who has ever lived and goes back as far as the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 2:16-17 (KJV) And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: {17} But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

The Hebrew word for “die” is "mooth" which means “to die.” So we see that when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they entered into a state of spiritual death. It was not physical death at that moment because they had lived quite a number of years after their sin but because of their disobedience to God, they instantly went into a state of spiritual death. This spiritual death has been passed on to every human being down to the present.  Physical death came at a later date.

Since the Bible covers this subject thoroughly, we cannot understand these verses to mean anything else but that the whole human race was plunged into spiritual death and remains there until a person becomes saved. Now that we know that people are spiritually dead, and reading the words for dead and death in the text, how can we come to any other conclusion than the fact that unsaved man is spiritually dead.

Now that we know that unsaved man is spiritually dead, then the question remains how could one believe by themselves or generate faith when they are dead? When Lazarus was in the tomb, did he have the ability to actually raise himself from the dead? The answer is a resounding no because he was physically dead plus his sister Martha stated that by now, a time of four days, he would stink because of decomposition. John 11:39 (KJV) Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.  The reality is that when dealing with the subject of salvation, to reject the starting point of spiritual death is to literally bypass a cardinal truth of the Scriptures. Free willers do not like to think of themselves as spiritually dead. They think that because you can put on a blue tie or buy a steak for lunch that is somehow exercising free will and they erroneously equate that type of choice with the ability to “accept Christ.” Nothing could be farther from the truth and more heretical because we have plainly seen from the Bible that a person, before salvation, is spiritually dead or lifeless which means at that point they are incapable of making any spiritual decisions from the state of being spiritually dead. You cannot even will the common cold from your body and you think you can will yourself into Heaven?

2) Spiritual Resurrection
When one is physically dead, the only way to make them alive again is through resurrection. The same principle applies to the spiritually dead. The soul must be resurrected from the dead but since the dead person does not have the ability to resurrect themselves, it must be done from the outside inward.

Revelation 20:6 (KJV) Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

In Revelation 20:6, we read about a resurrection on which the second death has no power over. The second death is to be sentenced to an eternity in Hell but because a person is resurrected from a state of spiritual death, the second death has no effect on that person. Why? Because they have now become saved eternally and the threat of Hell is now removed forever. This is not speaking of a future physical resurrection because of the language in the rest of the verse. It states that those who are partakers in the first resurrection will be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Christ a thousand years. The thousand years is symbolic of the time period between the first and second coming which means during that time period as millions of Christians are called by God, they shall all reign with Christ.

Romans 6:4 (KJV) Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

One of the most open verses about a person becoming born again from the dead is Romans 6:4 where it speaks about Christ being raised from the dead by God the Father, it goes on to state that we, being raised, like Christ should walk in newness of life. The words “even so” in the Greek text carries with it the meaning of “in this way or after this manner.” Now that we have been resurrected from the dead, we now take on a new life and new purpose and in Christ we are to walk in that manner.

3) Holy Spirit Indwelling
John 14:17 (KJV) Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

Now that a person has been resurrected from spiritual death, where there was once a void in their soul is now filled with the Holy Spirit. He is called the Spirit of truth in John 14:17 and He now indwells the believer. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that allows the Christian to function in the spiritual realm. It is through His power that the Christian will be able to perform the duties of Christianity and to perform their assigned ministry, which every Christian has. Let us now attend to what the Holy Spirit brings the Christian in the way of primary abilities. He doesn’t indwell us in dormancy but gives the Christian their spiritual abilities.

4) Faith
Before a person is saved, they are spiritually dead and that makes it impossible for them to generate believing faith. The free willers always talk about exercising faith to believe in Christ yet not one of them has ever stated where the faith comes from. It cannot come from one who is spiritually dead just as physical life cannot be generated out of one who is physically dead such as Lazarus or the son of the widow of Nain. Luke 7:12 (KJV) Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.

So then the question remains, if the faith a person needs to believe is not generated from the person, where does it come from? The answer is simple and found in Scripture.

Galatians 5:22 (KJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Faith is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and one can only have faith if they are already indwelled with the Holy Spirit, which means one can only have faith after they have become saved and not before. The spiritually dead person does not have the Holy Spirit indwelling them which means that only the one that the Holy Spirit indwells will have the fruits of the Spirit. Now that a Christian has faith as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, he or she is able to do something else which the spiritually dead person cannot do.

5) Believe
Now that one has a bedrock of faith given to them by the Holy Spirit, they may now believe the things of God. The word “believe” in the Greek text is “pisteuo” which is a verb denoting a work. If a person could believe in Christ without having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, it would mean they have performed a work and that would mean they have worked for their salvation which is totally against what the Bible teaches in many places. Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: {9} Not of works, lest any man should boast.

So then the question might be raised, if after the moment of salvation, we do a work, does that count against us as if we are trying to work for salvation? A group of people had asked Jesus what they could do to work the works of God and His response was very simple.

John 6:28-29 (KJV) Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? {29} Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

So we see in this verse that the work of God is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Now this is not the same as one who tries to believe without being regenerated. A person can believe because they now have the faith which can be exercised to believe. Why is this? Simply because they now believe by building on the faith they have been given from the Holy Spirit who indwells them when their souls were resurrected to newness of life from being spiritually dead. In other words, the Bible is teaching us that we cannot believe the things of God unless we have already become saved.

1 Corinthians 2:14 (KJV) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us plainly that the natural or unsaved man cannot receive or understand the things of God because they are spiritually dead and this means that a person cannot believe from a state of spiritual death. They must be indwelled by the Holy Spirit as a result of salvation.

Romans 10:9 (KJV) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Romans 10:9 is a verse which teaches us that we must believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead and that we must confess it with our mouths. The word for “confess” in the Greek text is the word “homologeo” which literally means “to say the same thing.” In other words our testimony must be in line with the Word of God. That principle is found back in Amos. Amos 3:3 (KJV) Can two walk together, except they be agreed? To be agreed is to agree with the Word of God. Before salvation, the Bible was a book we were unable to understand and our lives were in opposition to the Bible but once we became saved, we are in agreement with the Scriptures.

Then we are to believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead but with the old heart we were at enmity with God. However, when God saves us and resurrects our souls, He also gives us a new heart which would be able to ingest the things of God. Ezekiel 36:26 (KJV) A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. Now Romans 10:9 tells us to confess and believe. If we did these things from a state of spiritual death, it would be an attempted work for salvation but because God has already saved us and then given us spiritual abilities, they would be considered exercising the faith that we have and it would not be a work for salvation but a work in salvation which is what the believer is to be engaged in.

Ephesians 2:10 (KJV) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

We have plainly seen, without any verse manipulation, that before a person is saved they are spiritually dead and dead means dead. They do not have the ability to generate faith, to believe, or will themselves into salvation. We have also seen that a person must be saved prior, and it could be just a few seconds, to believing by means of faith which is given as a fruit of the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer and then gives them the ability to believe the things of God, simply because regeneration has already taken place. So let me just list the order of effectual salvation it is from Spiritual death to Spiritual resurrection to receiving the Holy Spirit to be given faith as a fruit to be able to believe the things of God. No unsaved person can will themselves into spiritual resurrection. It must be performed by God or the person stays spiritually dead. It is that simple.