Part 3 Faith Accords With Grace

His Achievement Are We

IN THIS ERA of great withdrawal from the faith, it is nearly always claimed that salvation in Christ is conditional. Those who express interest in meeting God’s supposed requirements are considered “candidates” for salvation. Of course in such an environment words like “free” and “grace” will almost surely be present as well. Many will acknowledge that men cannot come to Christ apart from God’s call and that salvation is of the Lord. But in the presence of a basic representation of salvation as a thing of reward, all claims about “free grace” necessarily become nominal, mere “empty words” through which many are seduced (Eph. 5:6). It is dishonest to attempt to deny this, or to cloud the issues. Yet it is the work of the Adversary to do this very thing, and he does it well (cf 2 Cor.11:3,4; 11:13-15).

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ANNOUNCING THE EVANGEL

Rather than presenting the unbeliever with an offer, the announcement to him should be that Jesus the Nazarene is indeed the Christ of God and that He died for the sins of the unbeliever as well as those of the believer, in the grace of God having tasted death for the sake of everyone. If he genuinely believes, having done so apart from all threatenings and inducements merely to profess that which is not his own, he should in due time be taught the counsels of God. It is especially important for the believer to learn of those things with which he is personally concerned as a member of the body of Christ. Apart from either a frantic hurry or undue delay, he should be taught basic truths such as our election in Christ before the disruption of the world, and God’s great goal, to become All in all at the consummation.

At no time should the salvation which we have in Christ be presented as a reward, and certainly not as a mere refusable offer that depends upon man as the key to its success.

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SUFFERING EVIL WITH THE EVANGEL

If it must be that some cannot agree, let us all, above all else, seek to be walking worthily of the calling with which we were called, with all humility and meekness, with patience, “bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit with the tie of peace” (Eph.4:1-3). Let us rejoice that the infirm one in the faith, whoever he may be, will be made to stand, “for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Rom.14:4).

To those who are able to perceive the true graciousness of the evangel (cf Col.1:6), we would say, Be prepared to “suffer evil with the evangel” (2 Tim.1:8). For men love the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19). They may follow error out of ignorance, but this is no indication that they will turn from it when it is exposed in its true character. To the contrary, it is at such times that they will contend for it all the more zealously. We once did the same, and are by no means superior to others.

If we should find that God has graciously enlightened us concerning the faith, and yet would avoid being puffed up, let us always seek to think and act in ways that accord with this glorious evangel. “Now may the God of expectation be filling you with all joy and peace in believing, for you to be superabounding in expectation, in the power of holy spirit” (Rom.15:13).

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RECEIVING AND ACCEPTING CHRIST

When we believe the evangel, we believe Christ. Upon believing, having heard the word of truth, the evangel of our salvation, we are sealed with the holy spirit of promise (Eph.1:13). Thus we first “accept” (or “take along,” paralambano) Christ, as well as the evangel that He died for our sins according to the scriptures (Col.2:6; 1 Cor.15:3). One should never put a contractual connotation upon the word “accept” when speaking of our initial acceptance of Christ. There is nothing contractual in the evangel of grace, nor can there be.

The Greek term for “accept” is a compound expression, para, and lambano. The first part means “beside;” and the second part means “come into possession of” (KEYWORD CONCORDANCE, entry “get,” p.121). When lambano is used actively it is translated in the CV by “take;” when it is used passively, it is rendered “obtain” (in many cases, the AV gives the sense well by the rendering “receive”). Often it is translated in the CV simply as “get.” The compound, BESIDE-GET, in addition to being rendered “accept,” is often translated as “take along” (e.g., Matt.2:13,14). These English variants are required because of the differences between Greek and English idiom. In all cases, the reference is to that which one somehow comes to have, or possess.

However, popular misuse of these words has caused much confusion. This is true both of the word “receive” (as in the emotional appeals made to the unbeliever to “receive” Christ) and with the term “accept” as well (as in, “If you would avoid eternal burnings, ‘accept’ Him today”). That is, the connotations and inflections foisted upon these words by preachers, are strictly their own. They find no support whatever in the Scriptures.

The apostle Paul makes it plain that all that we have—whether riches, health, success, understanding, self-discipline, willingness, or faith—is that which we have received from God. Everything we possess is given to us by God, even those things which we “take” to ourselves through much time and effort. “He Himself gives to all life and breath and all” (Acts 17:25).

When noting the difference between ourselves and others, do we ever stop to think, and then face the fact that all these things have their own cause? They are all caused to be as they are. Do we realize that it is therefore altogether foolish to be “puffed up” about our own virtues while looking down upon others in their weaknesses? To the proud Corinthians, the apostle Paul says, “For what is making you discriminate [that is, “differ”]? Now what have you which you did not obtain [or, “receive”]? Now if you obtained it also [even as others], why are you boasting as though not obtaining?” (1 Cor.4:7). May God grace us all, as those who have received and accepted Christ, to stop thanking ourselves for this, and recognize that this was “neither of the will of the flesh, neither of the will of a man, but of God” (cf John 1:12,13).

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JUSTIFIED BY FAITH

When we believe, our faith is reckoned, or accounted, for (“into,” eis) righteousness (Rom.4:5). God considers our faith in His declarations to be a righteous faith; for it is always right to believe what He says. However, salvation from sin is only to be found in the work of Christ, not in one’s faith in the work of Christ.

Paul does not say that to him who is not working, yet is believing (Rom.4:5), his faith qualifies him for salvation! He does not say that we are justified because we believe or in return for believing. This is not the case. Our Lord “was roused,” not merely to make it possible for us to be justified, but “because of our justifying” (Rom.4:25). “Being, then, justified by faith, we may be having peace toward God, through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom.5:1). We are justified out of Christ’s own personal faith (Rom.3:22,26). It is not through our faulty faith, but through the matchless faith of our Lord Jesus Christ that we have peace toward God. His work of faith affords this to us. Our faith only makes this known to us.

With regard to God’s declarations and promises concerning ourselves, as with Abraham, God has made them matters “of faith” that they may accord with grace (Rom.4:16). The very purpose in their being matters which are of faith, is that they should already be true prior to the time in which we first believe them.

God “is justifying the irreverent” (Rom.4:5), doing so gratuitously, in His grace (Rom.3:24). In the very nature of things, when acting in grace, God must act purposefully, according to His choice and apart from any obligation to requite His creatures for their actions (cf Rom.9:11; 11:6).

It is fitting that those chosen ones who are called in this current era of the display of God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:26) should have faith. Their faith points to Christ, in Whom, through His sacrificial death, God’s righteousness is manifested. It is manifested, not through our faith, but “through Jesus Christ’s faith” (Rom.3:22). God unveils (cf Rom.1:17) His righteousness to men by justifying them gratuitously in His grace, through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus (Rom.3:24). This glorious gratuity is “for all”, “for all sinned and are wanting of the glory of God” (Rom.3:24). It has been bestowed upon God’s chosen ones at present (it is “on all who are believing;” Rom.3:24). God has done this in order that we might constitute a special display, or example, of this great blessing which He has purposed for all. Through the obedience of Christ, this and related glorious benefits will actually be given to all mankind (cf Rom.5:15,16,18,19).

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NOT WORKING, YET BELIEVING

Many eagerly seek to point out to us that faith is not work. However, they only do this in the interest of making faith—though technically not work—a “condition of salvation” nonetheless. If they cannot qualify by their good deeds, they hope to at least be able to do so by their faith. They would not have God save them solely because of His love and grace, according to His own will, power, and purpose. Besides, “if that were true” all the glory would be His!

What they fail to realize is that while faith, in itself, is not an act, one’s possession of it is nonetheless the product of mental activity. Indeed, when one is actively engaged in believing, he is involved in much mental work.

Many are more persuaded by a single inference of their own—no matter how poor—than by all the plain declarations of Scripture to the contrary. For example, many attempt to validate the idea of conditional salvation by citing Paul’s statement in Romans 4:5 concerning one who is “not working, yet is believing.” The usual assertion concerning these words is to the effect that one may believe and yet still avoid all work. From this, it is inferred that while one cannot qualify for salvation by “working,” he must qualify for it by believing. It is supposed that if one should be found believing, doubtlessly his believing constitutes the fulfillment of a requirement! Thus conditional salvation is “proved” to be true, and all else in the Word of God is twisted in order to conform to this false idea.

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THE EVANGEL DEBARS BOASTING

Since we are justified gratuitously—without any warrant, insofar as anything we may have done is concerned—we cannot boast in ourselves that we are justified (Rom.3:27).

The truth of the evangel—the grace of God in truth—debars all boasting in man (Rom.3:27). It is not merely that we should not boast, but that we cannot boast! “Now may it not be mine to be boasting, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal.6:14).

Since we are believers, we are to recognize that God has called and justified us at this time. But we are not to imagine that inasmuch as most men persist in unbelief, He, therefore, intends to damn them for all eternity.

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GOD’S GOODNESS TOWARD ALL

Our faith is evidence of our calling (1 Cor.1:23,24), of our having been chosen (1 Cor.1:26-29) for membership in the body of Christ and for life eonian. If others do not believe, they will not enjoy the life of the coming eons. But this is only because, according to God’s wise counsels and purpose, they have not been chosen for this particular allotment.

We ourselves have not been chosen to have a part among those who will be vivified at the consummation, which will doubtlessly be an inexpressibly glorious experience for all concerned. We will never know the experience of being brought from under the rod of God’s indignation in severe chastening judging, only to be embraced in the arms of His love at the consummation. Let us not underestimate the preciousness of this gift for those for whom it is intended.

It is true that we will have been vivified already, long before this time. Unlike the unbeliever, we are saved from indignation and will enjoy life in the eons of the eons. But let us never glory in our own blessings in ways that lead us to doubt the goodness of God’s counsels concerning the rest of men.

Since God is so exceedingly good, all will receive whatever is best for Him and best for them. This is true even if this should include the experience of a temporary enlistment as a vessel of indignation in order that man’s injustice might commend God’s righteousness (cf Rom.3:5; 9:22).

When we believe God in these matters, our faith accords with His operations in grace and is centered in His gracious promises. Thus we are enabled to believe and to rejoice in our happy expectation. Let us be invigorated by the grace which is in Christ Jesus (cf 2 Tim.2:1)!

James Coram

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