There is a prominent statue right smack-dab in the middle of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. It is a statue of Walt holding Mickey Mouse’s hand and the inscription on the base of the statue says “Partners.” Of his company’s success, Walt Disney was very fond of saying, “never forget that this all started with a mouse.”
This is a nice sentiment but it is not true. Mickey Mouse, lovable though he may be, is not a pre-existent or even co-existent entity. Mickey Mouse was the creation of Walter Elias Disney. Given, Mickey was a great “invention” that helped the Disney Company to achieve its success in the movie, cartoon, theme park, etc. industry. But, Mickey was just that–an invention.
As a master animator, Walt Disney was “sovereign” over all that Micky did–his actions, his speech, the plot-lines of his movies, etc. The nice, but wrong, sentiment of Walt and Mickey’s “Partnership” suggests Mickey did these things on his own, he didn’t. Mickey was totally dependent on Walt for all he said, all he did, and even his very existance.
The relationship between God and man is no different. Many people like to think of God and man in a “partnership” in all matters related to salvation. While this is a nice sentiment it is wrong, dead-wrong, and the stakes are much higher than a man and his adorable mouse.
The truth of our relationship to God is that it is in no way, shape, or form a partnership. We are not co-eternal, co-existent, co-sovereign, co-omnipresent, or co-redeemers. Like, Mickey Mouse, we are totally and utterly dependent on God (our Creator and the true Sovereign) for everything. As Acts 17:24-25 says:
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
Anything and everything we have is from God. We do not “partner” with Him. He is the Benefactor, we are the beneficiary; He is the One who gives, we are the ones who receive.
Much of the glory of the Gospel is lost in bad theology that seeks to make us partners with God in our own salvation. This is deadly. Apart from His regenerating, We do not and cannot seek after God. God is the Initiator, we, because of the grace and faith He gives, become the responder. In this way, we respond, but we are not partners for we accomplish nothing related to our own salvation.
The Gospel does not start with our being on middle ground, it starts with our being dead and lifeless. The Gospel starts with God’s opposition to us. We are totally and, apart from God’s grace, irrevocably damaged in every aspect of our humanity. The Gospel is about God and his opposition to sin (and, therefore, the sinner–us!). The Gospel is about Jesus bearing God’s righteous opposition and wrath to us on Himself–He became the very Curse of God, a cursing we deserved. The Gospel is that by Jesus bearing the curse we deserved, He is both just (in that sins are paid for and not glossed over) and justifier (in that He is the one, through His work on the cross, that Justifies us). By dying on the Cross, Christ paid the sins of His people, thereby removing the God’s curse on us, bearing God’s curse in His own body.
So, like Micky and Walt, there is no real partnership. There is only a Sovereign God who acted to redeem a people for Himself. We, the beneficiaries of God’s actions, can only respond to Him in repentance and faith after He initiates the relationship.
Can you Imagine Micky Mouse holding a press conference in which he declares his work in inventing himself? That would be as ridiculous as us trying to take any credit for what God has done and provided us in His saving work.
This is the true nature of the Gospel–God works to make us (dead, lifeless sinners) into trophies of His work and His grace, all to the eternal praise and glory of Christ. God takes us from being “dead in our trespasses and sins” to being called sons (and daughters) of the Lord of the Universe!
This is a glorious Gospel indeed! And it is a Gospel that “Demands [our] soul, [our] life, [our] all.”