A gracEmail subscriber complains that I am “cluttering up” his email with my “grace-only teaching.”
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I do not use the term “grace only,” but I am glad that you did, because it states an important truth. That truth is that we sinners cannot, through any amount of effort, obedience, good intentions or good works, ingratiate ourselves to God, place him in our debt, or create a situation which requires God to treat us well because of something we did first (Rom. 11:33-36). In this most elementary sense, we are set right with God on the basis of “grace only” — both now and in the Day of Judgment (Gal. 2:21; Rom. 9:30–10:4; Phil. 3:7-9). If that is what you mean by “grace only,” I affirm it with all my heart, plan to teach it as long as I live, and pray, if it came to such, that I would happily die for it as well. It is the message of Scripture, the heart of the gospel, and the only hope for sinners anywhere.
It is possible, however, that you mean something else by the expression “grace only.” You might mean that a person viewing the landscape of God’s saving work from a distance sees not only grace, but also spots the faith which receives it, and observes the transformed lives, obedience and good works which grace produces. You might mean that we cannot simply affirm divine grace, yet refuse to trust God for it, or that we cannot profess to trust God for his grace, but never bear its fruit as mentioned above. If that is what you are saying, I totally agree. To say otherwise would be to ignore Jesus’ warning (Matthew 7:21-27), James’ teaching (James 2:14-26), and Paul’s clear affirmation (Eph. 2:10).
The tone of your comment makes me fear that you have in mind the first definition above rather than the second. If that is the case, I must ask you this candid question. If you believe we are not saved by grace only, but that we merit some of God’s favor, exactly what percentage of your salvation do you believe that God owes you because you deserve it? Put that way, I think that you will answer “None.” If you do, I will agree with your answer and suggest that you are on the right track. You are simply not thinking clearly and consistently about what you really know in your deepest heart.