It is often charged by Calvinists that Arminians believe that man must work with God to procure their salvation. Man must make a move toward God and then God will make a move toward them. It is often described as God meeting man half way. Is this what is taught by Arminians? Did Jacobus Arminius believe this way?
The answer is no. Arminians believe the work of salvation is started and completed by God. The Bible says in order for man to come to God, He must draw them to Himself (John 6:44). Arminians believe the initial work of salvation is done by God. God must do this, because due to the effects of sin, man’s will toward faith in Christ has been lost and destroyed. God must free the person’s will in order for them to make a conscious decision whether to accept His gift of grace or not.
God the Holy Spirit acts upon the heart of a man when that man is exposed to the grace of God. This is done through the hearing of the Gospel (Romans 10:17). God has declared as the great commission for His children to spread His gospel (Matthew 28:19) for this reason. Upon the hearing of the word, the Spirit of God calls the sinner to repent of his sins, draws the sinner to accept Christ, enables the sinner to accept Christ, and convicts the sinner of his or her sins and their need for Christ. After being enabled by the Spirit, the response of the sinner is passive. The sinner must stop resisting, repent of their sins, and place their faith in Christ. This gift, like any gift, is not irresistible. The sinner must accept the unmerited gift of God. Once this is done, following the plan of the Father, the Spirit joins the sinner to Jesus and thus begins the Savior’s relationship with the sinner.
This is the part of Arminianism one could call synergistic, the acceptance of the gift of salvation, and it is nothing to be scared of because it is Biblical. The process of salvation is monergistic. He enables, He convicts, He draws, and He calls. Once the sinner places their faith in God, He is the one who justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies the sinner; just as He had predestined to do (Romans 8:29-30) because the work of Christ on the cross was made for our atonement. Calvinists cannot seem to get past this synergistic aspect, but it is the Biblical view of salvation. (Acts 16:30-31, Ephesians 2:8-9, etc).
The gift of salvation is entirely God’s to give. Man accepting that gift no more means they have merited that gift than if someone offered you a monetary gift and you accept it. God commands us to believe in His Son for salvation. It is not that obeying the command earns the salvation that results. It is simply the means to receiving salvation.
God has determined that this gift be offered to all men (John 3:16) and has determined to draw all men to Himself (John 12:32). If you place your faith in Jesus Christ and turn from your sins you will be saved. Truly whosoever will may come.
In this [fallen] state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.
I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is the grace which . . . bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires.
This grace . . . goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world, and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory . . .
This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it. I confess that the mind of . . . a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins.
So as we can see, Arminius didn’t teach that man meets God half way either. He clearly thought that the work of salvation is of God, and man’s only and necessary choice is to accept the gift or to reject it. Arminian synergism gives all the glory to the One who deserves it, namely God, but does not deny the responsibility God has given man to accept the gift He offers.