Return to BibleToday Homepage

Chapter Eight

When "Grace Is No More Grace"

"Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.
But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." Romans 11:5, 6

There is a "grace movement" today that ignores Paul's application here of "grace" to "election," wrests it from its context and applies "grace" to the entire Christian life. They allege that God accepts the sinner unconditionally in Jesus. They tell sinners that though their sins are as "scarlet" they shall be as "white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18). Then going further, they say if God can remove sin easily when the sinner accepts Christ, God can continue to do so. Hence, the sins of Christians after their acceptance of Christ are no problem for God.

One does not make an instantaneous change from a life of sin to a life of holiness. First, the sinner must repent of his sins and sinful condition. Second, he must be converted or turn from practicing or sympathizing with sin. Third, he must reform and remake his lifestyle from sin to seeking to feed upon the Lord's word. Fourth, this must lead to discipleship or consecration to do the will of God. These four steps may be made quickly or they may take weeks, months or years to bring about the condition of heart needed before God will grant justification by faith in the sacrifice of Christ.

God receives those who come to him through Jesus unconditionally only after the sinner has repented of sin, converted, reformed his heart and mind and finally consecrates to be a disciple of Christ. To assume that God accepts the sinner while still living a life of sin would be a mistake. The whole purpose in God's election and grace is not to sustain sinners. No one needs God's grace to sin. Sin comes naturally to sinners. Even after one receives God's grace, Paul exhorts, "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain" (2 Corinthians 6:1). Grace received from God that does not draw the Christian to God is "grace received in vain."

The "election of grace" is not of works. God did not choose or elect anyone to be drawn to his son because his or her works met God's approval. Paul is arguing that "grace would not be grace" if God chose only those individuals capable of works that pleased him. God selects by "grace" those whom he chooses to be "conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29). God chooses people like the potter selects clay that he wishes to make a vessel of honor. The clay has little value in itself. The potter's interest in the clay is that he knows what his skill and workmanship can make of that unseemly clay. By grace of the potter, the clay is molded, shaped, baked and finally glazed into a vessel of rare beauty.

God, the great potter, loves us not alone for what we are, but for what he sees he can make of us. If the clay becomes marred in his hands, the potter may remold it or even cast it away. God has the same privileges as any potter; hence his "grace" is most evident in the selection of the clay.

God sent Jeremiah down to the potter's house to learn the way God deals with his people (Jeremiah 18:1-10). Jeremiah saw a potter working with clay, but then the clay "was marred in the hand of the potter." This is not supposed to happen in man's view of a divine potter. It is supposed that when God lays hands on the clay, it must respond to his sovereign power. The clay cannot be "marred" in his hand. That is not the lesson Jeremiah learned.

God informed Jeremiah that, when he promised to "build and plant" a kingdom and those to whom he made such promises disobey, God would repent of the good he promised. He also taught Jeremiah that God's judgment to "pull down, and to destroy" a kingdom was not irrevocable, for if that nation repented and did what was right he would "repent" of his judgment against them. The lesson shows that God factors in the response of people and nations in both judgments and blessings.

Paul teaches that God does not select anyone because of good works. No one is worthy of the high calling. Everyone is chosen on the basis of God's grace-not personal merit. If we were chosen because we were better than others, more holy, more perfect, more virtuous or more anything, then our selection would be on the basis of works and not of God's grace. Grace would not be grace. This is the lesson of Romans 11:5,6-God's election of his people is on the basis of God's grace, not on the basis of our works.

The Psychologist's Remake of God

When modern psychology entered religion, strange things began to happen. No longer was the Christian supposed to be remade into God's image-to share his holiness. Modern psychology does not concern itself with holiness. The psychologist receives his client without being judgmental, without any moral judgment-this is defined as unconditional acceptance. Some Christian psychologists have created a similar image of God, claiming God receives the sinner unconditionally. While today's psychologist does not claim to love his clients, the modern concept of God is he loves his client. Hence, God endeavors to help his client love and accept himself so then he can love and accept others. This describes the god of psychology. God is supposed to receive unconditionally all sinners who reach out to him and save them to heaven.

The "free grace" reasoning is that once anyone is saved he or she cannot be unsaved. Hence, if the believer comes with sins as "scarlet" they are all made as white as snow forever. If grace can do that for the sinner when he accepts Christ, then it can do so throughout the believer's lifetime. This view alleges that sin is never a barrier between God and his client thereafter. Of course, God wishes the believer would make some progress toward righteousness, but he would not let a little unrighteousness lessen his acceptance of the believer. God's grace is supposed to be infinite and any works that a Christian may do would only serve to diminish God's grace. This view gives an appearance of reasonableness, but it cannot be harmonized with the Bible.

Two things are said to mark the depravity of man: (1) When man has no God. (2) When man has a god no higher than himself. The latter condition results when men make God into their image. Whether man makes a god of sticks and stones or whether he creates a god bearing his own image through philosophy, it is the same. It is idolatry either way. Unfortunately, abusing and twisting God's Word is often done to create God into our own image.

Does God Receive a Sinner Unconditionally?

When the language of psychology is used instead of biblical language, problems occur. While God does love the world and gave his son to provide salvation, it is quite apparent that only a few have committed themselves to becoming footstep followers of the Master. God has not yet undertaken the massive restitution program that will rehabilitate the sinful world.

The day is coming when God "will pour out his Spirit on all flesh" (Joel 2:28). That day has not yet come and awaits the point in Christ's Second Advent when he will establish his kingdom on earth in power and great glory. From this standpoint God has not received the sinful world at all, even though his Son has provided payment for sin. Let us look at some scriptures describing what it will be like when the work of sin removal is in progress. These are all future:

"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain...the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them" (Isaiah 11:6).

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing" (Isaiah 35:5, 6).

"And the ransomed of the Lord shall return [from the grave], and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:10).

"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; …It shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation" (Isaiah 25:8,9).

"He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth" (Psalm 46:9,10).

"The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day" (Isaiah 2:11).
"Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding places" (Isaiah 28:17).

"That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow" (Philippians 2:10).

These scriptures are just a few indicating that God's purpose of restoring mankind awaits a grand fulfillment. Not one of the foregoing verses will fail to be realized. Many think God's plan of salvation is limited to this present time. They think God is limited by the work of various organizations that currently profess to be endeavoring to save the world of mankind. This is a serious mistake. In the present time God is selecting a bride for his beloved Son. Just as a father used to choose a bride for his son, so God has carefully been choosing the "bride of Christ," the "little flock," which will live and reign with Christ. Who will they reign over? This necessitates another period of time in God's plan when the world of mankind will be dealt with, rehabilitated, washed, cleansed and returned to the Father's house. They will eventually be restored to being sons as Adam was a "son of God" (Luke 3:38). Thus, all these Bible verses can be harmonized by placing them in their proper time sequence.

Hidden in the allegation that God receives sinners unconditionally is the secret longing to escape judgment. Modern psychology avoids all judgment. Make no mistake: God is a God of judgment. It is because he could not receive sinners in the first place that he found a way to lift the judgment of death and condemnation. The sinner needed Christ's blood atonement for justification in the Gospel age. When the world of mankind will be brought back to life in the Millennium they will not be received unconditionally. They will need a Mediator, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified [to the same all] in due time" (1 Timothy 2:5,6). "If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward," it would be folly to believe God is so eager to reach sinners that he has laid aside judgment (Hebrews 2:2). "The LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed" (1 Samuel 2:3).

No one escapes God's righteous judgment. Not that God visits judgment for sin immediately upon men. "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after" (1 Timothy 5:24). For the sins that "follow after," God "hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). The world will find themselves on probation under the rule of Christ (Revelation 20:6,12,13). This does not describe unconditional acceptance.

Go to next chapter