Tag Archive: grace


Salvation: Grace or Works?

by inhonoredglory

All men desire salvation, but all men also interpret it differently. Essentially, the difference is this: Is salvation a free gift of grace, unattached to any human action? Or is it a reward for good works, deeds done upon earth by individuals? Historically, only Christianity lays claim of the former, while most other religions rely upon the latter. But is this the only difference? Do they differ in eternity? How can we tell? And can one actually lead to spiritual death?

"A Surrendered Heart" by Chip Coates

Ironically, both grace and works are rooted in works – whose is the question. Grace relies on God’s works, while works depends on man’s. As a result, salvation by grace focuses on God, in what He does, and for whom He does it, while salvation by works inevitably begins to magnify man, in what he performs and how perfectly he does it. While approving someone for performing good works for God’s glory is not wrong, the tendency of the works-based salvation is the undue emphasis on human deed over divine. The imbalance leans the works salvation toward a trust in the self over a trust in God. The tendency toward the boastful proclamation “I can save myself” replaces the gratifying prayer of “Only He can save.” A haughty attitude thus drifts in, robbing God of His glory.

But can the emphasis on man be justified? Can man, who is imperfect, truly save himself? Is his action complete, faultless? Can he stand up to God and say that he performed all good and perfect things in the way He would have – in every year of living? Can he really be secure in the knowledge of his salvation? No! Only a perfect, infallible God can enable complete, secure salvation. And this is the difference. Salvation by means of good works on earth is an imperfect, incomplete, insecure salvation; in fact, it is not a salvation at all, but a means to damnation, for what man can by his own works obtain heaven?

True religion centers on God, and true salvation is perfect. The self-focus and inability of a works salvation condemns it as a means to life in God’s heaven. Only in His grace can man hope for a blessed eternity. Because only He has the power to overcome that which reins us in sin.

For by grace are ye saved through faith;

and that not of yourselves:

it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast.1

God . . . Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling,

not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace,

which was given us in Christ Jesus

before the world began . . .2

1Ephesians 2:8-9

2II Timothy 1:8-9

Advertisements

The Purpose of Evil and Suffering

Almost nothing else pervades the world so deeply. Everywhere man travels, and everywhere he looks, he finds them. They wrestle inside his inner being and often reign victorious. From storm and sickness to lying and murder, they are the smear upon a glorious creation.

Why is there evil and suffering? And why would a loving, righteous, just God allow such terrible things? Men have long pondered over this paradox. Every religion has had to deal with the problem. It has caused some to assert that a loving God cannot exist at all. A few even deny the very existence of suffering and sin, claiming that reality is just a dream. But, when one reads the mayhem in the news, and sees the pain and wickedness in life, their existence is very real, and the soul longs for an answer.

The Bible is the place to look. Part of the explanation is right in the first book, Genesis. It records that after the Creation, mankind was tempted in the Garden of Eden by Satan, and they disobeyed God. As a consequence, God cursed mankind and all Creation. Death entered the world. Floods, storms, and droughts became natural occurrences. Thistles and weeds flourished in the once-perfect earth, and man had to toil in the ground for his bread.

This harsh world was actually necessary for sinful man. In Genesis 1:28, the Lord commanded Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” But now that man was fallen, how could he subdue the perfect earth? Thus the creation had to come under the Curse as well. Also, now that man was sinful, God made him toil and sweat just to get food so that man would not have so much free time to sin. The curse of work is actually beneficial to man, keeping him from slothful wickedness.

But, why did God permit the possibility of disobedience in the first place? If God knows all things and is all-powerful, why did He create man with the ability to rebel? And why was Satan allowed in the Garden? Why was Satan permitted to continue existing after he fell away, or why was he even created? Obviously, the Lord allowed the entrance of evil for a purpose.

Romans 9 gives an enlightening and piercing discourse pertaining to evil and God’s right to be God.

15) For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16) So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18) So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

So the purpose of Pharaoh’s life is to disobey God and try to prevent God’s people from leaving Egypt, so that the Lord may show His power through His miracles. God used Pharaoh’s sin for His glory, and He actually hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh, through his sin nature, would choose to disobey! This concept is at first quite unbelievable, even offensive for many. Paul, the author of Romans, senses his readers’ rejection right away, and so answers:

19) You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20) On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this?,” will it? 21) Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22) What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23) And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24) even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

Notice how Paul responds. He immediately rebukes accusing man for questioning God, for man is nothing. According to Romans, we are of the same clay lump, and God, the Potter, has mercy to shape a few of these clumps into glorious vessels for His enjoyment and the rest for dishonorable use. Do the clay have a right to tell the Potter what to make them into?

If the Lord wants “to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known,” why did He not just destroy evil when it sprung up? Why has the earth dragged on for thousands of years in sin? God has been so “slow” because He wants His chosen ones to know His great mercy and patience toward the wicked. Even though they deserve instant and eternal punishment, He yet waits until the appointed time of judgment, after all His elect have believed.

Pastor S. Lewis Johnson, in “The Goodness of God and the Existence of Evil,” states, “The Bible says simply, I think this, that God’s self-manifestation is the highest good.” He says that since the glory of God is the greatest good, then the ultimate, supreme purpose of all things is to glorify Him in all His attributes. For what other reason where all things created for? Johnson continues:

His mercy cannot be known if there are not some people who are miserable. And His grace cannot be known if there are not some people who are in sin. And His justice cannot be known if there are not men who are under condemnation. And so He has permitted sin in order that He might be perfectly glorified in all of His attributes, inclusive of His mercy and His grace.

The knowledge of God is eternal life. It is for men the highest good and so, consequentially, He must give us the knowledge of Himself. And that demanded sin, condemnation, and judgment. But He is good, and even this works for His good.

It is necessary that the Lord show all His attributes, and not just some. God is not one dimension. Yes, He is love, but He is also holy, just, righteous, almighty, all-knowing, wise, etc. He displays His love to His chosen ones, but His righteousness demands that justice be carried out. He is so, so holy, set apart, and incorruptible that He cannot tolerate sin, at all.

What better purpose can life have, but to glorify the Creator? Even the angels are watching us, seeing the display of the attributes of God that they never would have known without the entrance of evil.

This concept is so difficult for human minds to grasp. But we must remember, that we are just the little ants who try to understand Einstein’s mind. Is it possible that we, as mere dust, will understand the almighty, all-knowing God?

But for the mind repulsed by the thought that God would allow people to suffer for His glory, think of this: when Christ died on the cross, He bore the punishment for the sins of man. Each of our eternal punishments was laid upon God. He had to bear the greatest suffering of all. No pain of any man can compare to His pain on the cross. And so when people demand to know why God allows evil and suffering to happen to man, they are asking the wrong question. They should ask, “Why did God allow His Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer for wicked men?” For we were His enemies, and yet He died for us. He suffered more than anyone and everyone; God allowed Himself to suffer the greatest humiliation. Why? Because He loved us before the beginning of time. He chose us to be saved before the foundation of the world, so that we may see His glory, and worship the only One worthy to be worshiped. And is it not worth all the evil and suffering of the world to show such love and glory? As Paul declared, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18.

Note: Information from the New American Standard Bible and from pastor S. Lewis Johnson’s Systematic Theology, Part 1: Theology Proper, “The Goodness of God and the Existence of Evil.”