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« Unclaimed Treasures | Main | Faith in the Parenthesis »

Grace: The Open Door to Obedience

3door.jpg“Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.”  Acts 26:19

The people who recite the “grace alone” mantra must feel a measure of discomfort whenever the subject of obedience comes up. That’s because the questions they must answer are impossible to answer. For example, if salvation comes by grace alone, are all Biblical commands that call for an obedient response from each person unnecessary? Did Christ absolutely do it all, including repentance? Baptism? Spiritual rebirth? Is grace an all-encompassing panacea that shifts every possible aspect of salvation to Christ and leaves nothing to man? Does God really require obedience? Does he condone disobedience?

“Grace alone” implies that man has nothing to do with the opportunity to be saved. What’s more, it intimates that man has no responsibility at all. It makes salvation absolutely unconditional. It is “grace alone.” Whether one believes or disbelieves, obeys or disobeys, is conscientious or lacks conscientiousness, continues in faith or falls away, it makes no difference. If man did nothing to obtain his salvation, he can do nothing to keep his salvation. Neither can he do anything to negate his salvation. In fact, any response on his part may invalidate the very salvation he desires. Ironically, perhaps one’s greatest worry should be whether or not he is guilty of human effort. If he is, his salvation is lost.

Exactly what does “grace alone” mean? Does it mean that we can separate Jesus from any other aspect of his ministry or work? Does it mean that we can dissect his essence from his word or doctrine like a ninth grade biology project? Do we have his person on the one hand, and the incidents of his life, on the other? Does anyone who attaches any other aspect of Christ besides his person alone as a requirement for salvation encumber the simplicity of salvation in Christ alone? The message seems to be grace alone—-without doctrine, without response, without obedience, without qualification—-defines salvation.

If we make a distinction between Jesus and his doctrine, what value do we assign to each? If we place the greater value upon his person, do we then place a lesser value upon his doctrine? Does this mean that it is possible to embrace Jesus but not his doctrine? Further, does this mean that one could accept Christ but deny his doctrine? And if one claims that he accepts Christ but denies his doctrine, what impact does this denial have upon his standing with Christ?

“Grace alone” implies that a man may basically disregard every spiritual principle, every scriptural command and every apostolic doctrine without effecting his justification with God to any degree. If it does not mean this, then there is no reason for a “grace alone” position. If spiritual principles, commands and doctrines are indeed essential, however, then someone, somewhere must define what they are. Someone, somewhere must say, “You can disregard some principles, some commands and some doctrines, but not all of them.” But, if the “grace alone” position is correct, who gives anyone the right to draw any line anywhere?

No, the Bible does not teach a “grace alone” position. This doctrine promulgates a subtle and insidious distortion of the Bible message of salvation. Specifically, it violates the unity between Christ and his work for us and in us, it endorses an attitude of non-compliance with clear, scriptural commands, it abrogates the spiritual progress that was expected and intended for Christians to enjoy, it forces God to accept the very behavior that he condemns in his word, and it represents faulty and incomplete Biblical exegesis. It is a beguiling, unbiblical notion that relieves man from the duty of obedience. It speaks of an indulgent, doting God who allows men to trample on his eternal precepts. It depicts a vacillating deity who cannot or will not enforce his word. That is not the kind of God who authored the Bible.

So if grace isn’t everything, what is it? Simply this: there was an access door to salvation that sin padlocked, bolted, sealed shut. The Mosaic Law could not open the door. The blood of bulls and goats could not open the door. Tradition could not open the door. The grace of God, however, opened that door. Through the precious blood that he shed at Calvary , Christ broke the lock, smashed the bolts and unsealed the way for our entrance. His grace was the strongest of all. By obedience, we then walk through the door that grace opened.

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Reader Comments (3)

And what if you are severely autistic, or blind, or very mentally challenged?
Grace is also the Holy Spirit taking you by the hand and guiding you through the door. It is God who does it, even if the above conditions do not apply to you.
Thanks be to God who gives us ALL the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

October 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

Yes, I believe God issues a special dispensation of grace to those who have no ability to respond to Him. I view this as the exception, not the rule. The dangerous thing about hypothetical situations, however, is that we can create a scenario that runs counter to almost any command of God. Instead of our scenario becoming a reason for non-compliance, it becomes a clever way to circumvent God's commands. Obedience, must be the default position of every believer. Otherwise, we necessarily condone disobedience. Someone, in formation of doctrinal beliefs, placed a stigma on obedience. Not true. Obedience is simply our response to God's gift of salvation.

January 11, 2010 | Registered CommenterJ. Mark Jordan

You have done it once more. Great article!


July 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteryou tube

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