Saturday, 5 October 2013
And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. Romans 11:6
Paul has just stated that a remnant of Jews had been reserved “according to the election of grace.” The conclusion, because this is written by Paul who is the apostle to the gentiles, is that this must be something that wasn’t unique to his time alone, but for the entire time to which his letters apply – meaning the church age. It would be contrary to the nature of his prescriptive writings for this to not be the case, just as it would be contrary to have any portion of his writings suddenly not apply during this dispensation.
The church age prescription for salvation is found in what Paul states in Romans and elsewhere and that is quite clear. For example, Ephesians 2:8, 9 gives it explicitly –
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
The doctrine is set and it is unchanging – for Jew or Gentile. God has breathed out His word through Paul for church age instruction. And so, speaking of these Jews who have been reserved, he makes his case. “And if by grace…,” meaning the means in which one is saved, then it cannot be based on something other than grace. Personal merit, of any kind, is excluded. This includes adherence to the precepts of the law. There is no merit before God in our salvation in abstaining from pork (1 Corinthians 10), and there is no merit in our salvation in observing the Passover feast or a Sabbath Day (Colossians 2), etc.
The observance of such rituals as a basis for our right-standing with God, all fulfilled by the Lord, is contrary to the nature of what grace is. Because we are saved by grace, “then it is no longer of works.” How clear Paul is, and yet we continuously muddy the waters, reinstituting precepts which Christ died to free us from! This must be true, “otherwise grace is no longer grace.” But the doctrine is written, the precepts are defined, and the expectancy of our belief in what Christ has done is requested.
The reason is obvious – grace is grace. “But if it is of works, it is no longer grace.” We are saved by grace through faith. Anything other than that means that some type of work is involved. If some type of work is involved, then it is no longer grace. Either one is saved or they aren’t saved. If they are saved, then what can they add to it? Nothing. And therefore, salvation – both in the immediate and the continuance of it, must be by grace and not the law. It is truly tragic how many people simply dismiss the obvious nature of Paul’s words.
But even if grace is grace – both for initial and continued salvation, what does that mean concerning choice? This is as important as understanding what “work” actually is because some will claim that “belief” then is a work. Is this correct? Is one first “regenerated in order to believe” so that belief is grace and not a work? This is a common sentiment and needs to be viewed according to the standard which Paul uses as our example for righteousness – Abraham.
Genesis 15:6 says, “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” Paul uses this to show us how salvation occurs. He does so because Abraham was declared righteous prior to the introduction of the law and even prior to the sign of his righteousness, circumcision (see Genesis 17).
This is our New Testament example as given by Paul in Galatians 3 (and confirmed throughout his writings). Because it is, then the process for Abraham must be the same for us. If Abraham was “regenerated in order to believe” then Scripture would clearly – either explicitly or implicitly – show us that this occurred. But it doesn’t. At no point in the 1189 chapters of the Bible is this tenet demonstrated. Therefore, it must be an unscriptural tenet which has been invented by man. Belief is not a “work” and therefore God’s grace is granted based on our belief.
If belief were a work, and we know that Abraham was declared righteous because of his belief (as Scripture explicitly demonstrates) then the grace bestowed upon Abraham wouldn’t have been grace. Instead it would be work. His salvation would have been of works and no longer grace; “otherwise work is no longer work.” Stated another way by using the word “belief’ in place of “work” the result of Romans 11:6 would be, “And if by grace, then it is no longer of belief; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of belief, it is no longer of grace; otherwise belief is no longer belief.” One must re-define the biblical meaning of “belief” in order to come to the conclusion that belief from man’s free-will is a work.
Life application: God has granted you free-will to believe. Don’t muddy the waters; simply believe that this is true.
Lord Jesus, you have asked us to have faith in You and to set aside ourselves, trusting that Your righteousness is sufficient to reconcile us to Your Father. And so I do… I trust that You were born without sin, lived without sin, and then gave Your life on the cross to pay my sin-debt. I can trust this is true because You were victorious over death! You have proved to me that Your work is all-sufficient. I trust You alone to reconcile me to Your Father! Amen.