Weekend Talk: All by His grace
Those who have followed our discourse so far on the subject of “faith versus works” would have noted that we believe “salvation is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Human beings always want something to boast about; hence many people are unable to accept the truth that a Divine provision as huge as salvation is free.
But it is free and no one can brag about it. That is why the scriptures state that Abraham, whose faith was credited to him as righteousness, had nothing to boast about (Romans 4:2).
A man went to Jesus one day and boasted of all his good deeds and obedience to the law. Jesus acknowledged that the man had indeed done well and that he was “not far from the kingdom of God,” (Mark 12:24).
When Jesus then invited him to total commitment to follow him and not rely on his wealth and good deeds, the man went away sad, unwilling to follow Christ.
He had not been far from the kingdom of God, Jesus said, but when he turned his back to Jesus, he got rather far from it.
From the days of Adam and Eve to the flood in Noah’s time up to today, the human being has proved to be unreliable as far as doing what is right is concerned.
Every imagination of the thought of the human being is evil continuously and Jeremiah says the heart of man is desperately wicked above all things.
The first person who was born, Cain, committed murder and that has been the trend in human history — murderous, wicked, vile, immoral, and disobedient. But for the grace of God, humanity would have been long extinct due to our iniquity.
Study the public and private life of biblical characters and you will find cobwebs. For God to choose Noah in the midst of a sinful generation to preserve the human race is described as “grace.”
Although Noah is said to be “a just man and perfect in his generations who walked with God” (Genesis 6:9), the Scriptures state that “Noah found grace (or favour) in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).
Grace, not works, is what found Noah and the same grace found Abraham, Moses, Rahab, David and all people.In other words, we cannot be trusted to be so righteous that we do not require grace to be saved.
Since human beings cannot earn salvation through good deeds, God had to reconcile us to himself by extending to us undiluted grace.
Thinking about it, it sounds annoying, even a mark of ungratefulness for any of us to think that we can work for our salvation.
As we emphasised in our previous discourse, we advocate that work or good deeds are desirable — no doubt about it.Hebrews chapter eleven lists people whose faith led them into action and they are highly commended for their deeds for out of the abundance of their faith, works followed.
It is the stress some people put on self-righteousness that made Jesus tell the parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to the temple to pray.
The Pharisee’s self-righteous inclination made him feel that God owed him a favour.Proudly, he counted his acts of righteousness and looked down on the tax collector who only said, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”
For his humility and confession, the tax collector received favour, while the self-righteous Pharisee went away empty.
The quest for something to boast about is worsened by prescribing denominational membership and modes of worship to qualify for salvation.
The absurdity is heightened by the notion that if the name of one’s denomination does not include “Jesus” or “Christ” in it, then one is lost!
Again, if you don’t worship on some days, then you are lost! If you fail to enter the chapel barefooted, you are out! And if you don’t belong to their sect, you are out of God’s kingdom!
If so, where is the place of the sacrificial atoning work of Christ on the cross for humanity? To rely on works of righteousness for salvation instead of grace through faith in the Lord Jesus is an attempt to render the sacrifice of Christ null and void.
Because our righteousness is like filthy rags, the proper righteousness required for salvation is not from us but from Christ “who is our righteousness and holiness” (1 Corinthians 1:30). For Christ has fulfilled all the requirement of the law on our behalf!
One of the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus received grace when he exercised faith in Jesus by acknowledging his sinfulness and appealing for mercy.
The criminal went to Paradise that day with Jesus not on the basis of works of righteousness, for he had none but by the grace of God.