Newton’s third law of physics states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. There is no similar spiritual law at work in God’s plan, since we can never equal his actions. But there is a divine principle that applies about action and reaction: Every action of God deserves a positive and receptive reaction on man’s part.
In the plan of salvation, people have sometimes ridiculed the emphasis on God’s part and man’s part. The two are decidedly unequal. God’s part deals with the procuring or accomplishment of salvation. Man’s part is described by receiving or accepting salvation.
For all that God has done for us, then, something must be done on our part. Salvation is not automatic, nor universal. There are conditions to be met. Something must be done by an individual in order to receive it.
This is a divine determination. God decided to structure the plan of salvation in this way. What God has done, no other power can undo, Numbers 23.23. What God has joined, let no one separate, Matthew 19.6. If God decided to require a certain response to the gospel message, then we must make exactly that response in order to be saved.
Some have theorized that, in the end, God just might change up the plan of salvation and allow everyone into heaven. But Jesus said that his word, spoken during his life and preserved in the New Testament, would judge in the last day, John 12.48. Since Jesus came, the final plan has been revealed and by this same gospel we will be judged, Hebrews 1.1-4; Romans 2.16. This does not signal a lack of compassion on God’s part. On the contrary, compassion is seen in his consistency and faithfulness, Galatians 2.20.
The gift of God can be refused, just as we can refuse a gift that another person might give us. But he wants us to receive it, because he loves us.
Several times in the book of Acts, people ask, “What must I do?” (See Acts 2.37; 16.30; 22.10.) This is a good question. Those who ask it are never chided for asking. They always receive an answer. For it shows that God has set something that must be done in order to receive salvation. For his action, we must have a specific reaction.
“But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children” John 1.12.
God took the initiative in salvation. “We love because he loved us first” 1 John 4.19. He sent his Son “while we were yet sinners” Romans 5.8. As sovereign Lord, he decides if, how, and when he will forgive. If we want to be reconciled to him and live in his presence, for which we were created, we must submit to his determination.
God has predestined that this is how his plan of salvation would work. He provides forgiveness of sin and eternal life through his Son Jesus Christ. He determined that he would freely offer us all this and more when we meet his conditions, when we accept his terms, when we submit to him in faith and obedience.