Are There Conditions to Salvation: Part Two?

John ArmstrongSpirituality

I have been considering the thought of the late A. W. Tozer for several days. I have personally been reading Tozer for well over thirty-five years. I even had the privilege of knowing the man who best knew Tozer and his work, for several years, prior to his death. He lived only a mile from my home in a retirement village. I once called this dear brother and said, “I have a Tozer quote in a book of mine and no data for where it came from. The publisher insists I document this two sentence quotation. Can you help me?” In three days he called me back and knew precisely where it came from. Quite amazing! We had more than one conversation about A. W. Tozer.

Anyway, we have seen that Tozer spoke of seven “conditions” for coming to the saving knowledge of a holy God. I have listed three. I will now list the other four.

Step Four: As we must turn from sin, we must also turn from the fallen world that used to be our comfort. We must live lives dedicated to God that are absent of idolatry for what the world has to offer. Our lives should reflect a new commitment—a new focus. By this statement Tozer meant to underscore the fact that we must break from idolatry if we would be real Christians. In the light of all the Bible says, in both the commandments and the precepts, I do not see how anyone could disagree. How can you be a consistently idolatrous person, one who lives for your idolatry, and also be a real Christian?

Step Five: We must spend time in prayer and the worship of God. God can be known in greater detail through communion with him, through study of his Word, and through reflection on his creation. Our personal relationship with God requires us to want to seek to know him more and more in order to continue to grow in him. The more we know him by such experience the more likely it is that we will seek to live for his will in our lives. Here Tozer’s mysticism is more obvious. He believes in contemplation, meditation and lectio divina (sacred spiritual reading). He learned this, generally speaking, from non-Protestant sources, or at least non-modern, non-evangelical sources.

Step Six: As we grow in our knowledge of God, we should have a greater desire to serve others as Christ taught us to do. A natural response to God revealing himself to us includes demonstrating that knowledge in the way we live. Through greater knowledge of his abundant love and mercy, believers will automatically share that which has been given freely to them and others through kindness and love to our fellowmen. Tozer writes: “The God who gave all to us will continue to give all through us as we come to know Him better.” Here Tozer is clearly linking the love of God with love for our neighbor. The first and second great commandments cannot be separated as we so often do in our generation.

Step Seven: The final step breaks away from the pattern of the previous six. Each of the previous six dealt with our personal relationship with God and then how this reaches out in love to others, step six. But in the last step Tozer says we will purposefully share all that we have received in this wonderful gift of grace through active involvement in the church. Our light must shine before the world, but it must first shine actively before our fellow believers and we must have rich, real fellowship with them in the church. Tozer, in other words, had a fairly high view of the church, at least much higher than most modern evangelicals. (The outline of these seven steps is given in 2,002 Surprising Things About God and the Bible, Jerry MacGregor and Marie Prys, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002, pages 225-26).

What I find remarkable in this outline of Tozer’s thinking from his classic book on knowing God is that Tozer so obviously moved beyond the popular thought of his own time. The reason he did, as a man formally uneducated, was that he had deeply anchored his soul in the entire Christian tradition, East and West. He was an evangelical ecumenist long before there was such an idea, before Vatican II, before the famous "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" debate, etc.

I read Tozer, as I have noted, when I was a young man. I just didn’t get him at all. Now, after all these years, I find him more interesting than ever. His works will endure beyond our time and thus be appreciated when the popular books of modern evangelicals are forgotten. There is a reason. He was deeply rooted in the Bible and the tradition. Both are needed and this is why I believe in advancing the Christian tradition in the third millennium. I do not pretend to think that I have made a serious contribution but I am giving what I do have toward this end.