Why Midian, Isaiah? or Salvation is Synergistic and that Doesn’t Diminish God’s Glory
Isaiah 9:4 makes a direct comparison between the coming Christ’s salvation and the freedom of Israel from Midian:
4For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
Gideon faced an impossible task. As if there were any doubt, God imposed restrictions on Gideon to ensure that Israel knew the work was God’s. Judges 7:2:
2And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
Gideon’s force, which already faced an extremely difficult task, was reduced to 300. Gideon couldn’t possibly reason, outside of God’s word, that this would work. Without God, he would have been at least relentlessly mocked. Eventually, he would have been slaughtered. Gideon and his 300 people still had to obey God by shouting, blowing horns, marching, and breaking some pottery.
There are those who would say that synergism diminishes God’s glory in the work of salvation. To which I can only respond, “Does the fact that God required Gideon and his people to do things reduce His glory?” Not even a little. They couldn’t boast in such a victory: it was God’s. The task was impossible for them to win without God. But God, in order to search the heart of men by their actions (as He does, Jeremiah 17:10, Ezekiel 18:30), and in His true sovereignty and justice, still imposed this rule upon them. God also provided a means, a means that is all to His glory, for them to do it. That’s the view of synergism.
What if God didn’t require Gideon to do such a thing? Wouldn’t that make God a respecter of persons? He’s not (Romans 2:11).
There are some people who will say that verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9 or Romans 9:16 make it clear that faith is monergistic:
8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
Those verses say grace comes from God as a gift that you do not deserve. I concur. Even after faith and repentance, you do not deserve to be forgiven. It is only because God, in His love and sovereignty, proclaims that through faith which produces repentance that you receive grace that you are able to receive it. Just as it was with Midian: victory was God’s gift. Gideon’s will couldn’t win the battle, only God could.
At this point, some monergists will claim that if faith is our own decision, then it’s a work. Since we are saved by God’s work and not our own, God must monergistically grant faith. Where I think there’s a big logical leap (with anti-Biblical logical implications) is the seeming equation of a cognitive decision (as I contend faith is) and works, or rather that cognitive decisions are included in the set of things that are works.
For one, never, not once, ever, is a cognitive decision referred to in the Bible as a “work” in and of itself. That doesn’t make it necessarily untrue, in and of itself. There are lots of things that are true that are not in the Bible, but it is dangerous. The Bible simply doesn’t say that.
Another is if persons are saved monergistically, we either have to believe in Universalism or in a pathetic god, because the true God desires that all come to repentance and has no pleasure in the death of him who dies (Ezekiel 18:32):
32For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
Therefore, to attribute salvation to grace through monergistic faith means that either everyone is saved, or that God is incapable, either through His desire to save (which would make Him a liar) or power to save (which would make Him weaker), to provide faith to all people. Neither is true. He’s capable, but in His justice and sovereignty requires you to seek the promise by faith (Romans 9:31-33):
31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
32Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
Gideon sought God’s promise by faith. And just like Gideon, He’s provided the means. That’s the Christ’s salvation that Isaiah said was coming.
That’s why Midian matters, and that’s why the Holy Spirit through Isaiah pointed to Midian. We are saved the way Israel was saved in the days of Gideon, through grace that is both synergistic and doesn’t diminish God’s glory.