is cause for concern in some current ideas premised upon the grace of God.
What persons with such ideas are saying of grace per se is often fine, but
their projected applications are unjustified, especially when they suppose
that the fellowship of false teachers and errant brethren is necessitated
because such by grace still possess righteousness in Christ. As we examine
the subject of grace relative to these problems, we are not alluding to any
one person's conclusions, to our knowledge, but considering numerous ideas
drifting about in various quarters that do appear to our understanding to be
ultimately of one fabric.
The fact of
God's favor extended out of love and for his own glory to undeserving
sinners is exceedingly precious, and one can only thrill at its exposition
in Paul's treatise on justification by faith, the epistle to Rome. The Jew
gloried in the law, circumcision, and his Abrahamic parentage. To show that
none of these established righteousness, Paul argued that to sinners, which
all are, the law is an instrument of condemnation rather than justification.
He argued that God's real concern is the cutting away of sin from the heart
rather then flesh from the body, and that instead of lineal descendants he
wanted spiritual sons of Abraham who imitate his faith.
futilely glorying in a legalism that could never save because of man's
inability to perfectly keep law, Paul declares that we are justified by
A synonym for faith in this sense is trust. We place our trust in God and
rely upon his scheme in Christ. It is a scheme relying not merely on
conduct, but having the provision of perfect atonement for imperfect
conduct, if we qualify.
An atonement is
necessary because we have not merited salvation by perfectly keeping the
commandments of God's law. And we have not, nor can we, do enough good acts
to eliminate the guilt of our disobedience through which we are consequently
justification, if any at all, must be by grace
But God has
made the reception of this grace conditional upon our faith. We are saved by
grace through faith (Eph.
God of his own love has freely provided the basis upon which
he can justly pardon our iniquities, having satisfaction made for them in
the suffering of Jesus
(2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24).
But we must trust, or have faith in, the divine provisions and conditions in
order to appropriate that atonement. One's keeping the conditions by which
he is accounted righteous through Christ, rather than by which he actually
is righteous, is thus not being saved by his unblemished works, but by
faith, or trust in something apart from himself. He is trusting God's
arrangement to effect what he has not and cannot. One rejecting or
perverting these conditions, which both appropriate and retain God's grace,
rejects salvation thereby. And God's grace is something that must be
retained, else there is no such thing as falling therefrom.
implications of this last point, especially, are given inadequate attention
in the theology of brethren who continue to impute righteousness through
Christ to many who have come to prefer innovation and perversion to the
revealed pattern, or plan, of service. We are made just through what Christ
has done, not by what we do, we are reminded. This application is only a
restatement of the "man and not the plan" concept. Imputing righteousness to
the continuing disobedient ignores the fact that God has required certain
things of us if we are to be justified by what Christ has done.
being, not of our doing, but trust in God's, has often tempted man to
minimize, or even eliminate, human responsibility. Even in the apostolic age
it was necessary to guard against perverting grace, using it as an excuse to
It is today being misused to diminish the significance of error in those of
the disparate segments of the Restoration Movement. In the past, a similar
attitude taken to extreme has occasionally culminated in antinomianism. The
true antinomian holds that since we are under grace, submission to a
structured system of service and ethics is unnecessary. He is unable to make
the distinction between meriting salvation through legal impeccability, and
faithfulness to a Savior, which involves devotion to that Savior's desires.
And mark this, anyone mitigating the necessity of complying with those
desires, and the pattern constituted thereby, is unfaithful to that Savior!
But to the antinomian, studied faithfulness is only legalism. Once he is in
Christ, he is free from any strict requirement of conduct, and any sinful
action and indiscretion is tolerable. He is saved by Christ, not by merit,
he says. Some contemporary harangues in the name of grace, ridiculing
faithfulness as "commandment keeping," thus sound ominous.
It is in the
end a de-emphasis of human responsibility to suppose that in the Restoration
Movement the purveyors of doctrinal error such as institutionalism and
instrumental music remain justified by grace. Those errors are not merely
ideas of personal imprudence, but ideas corruptive of the collective service
and worship of God. The feeling of humanity experienced in tolerating the
practitioners of such is deluding, and occurs because it is rooted in
short-sighted humanism. One is ignoring God's arrangement in deference to
men. Actually, the possibly current controversy is not so much, grace versus
legalism, as it is, humanism versus the sovereignty of God; the former
concerned more with the cordial rapprochement of diverse human elements than
with unity in obedience to God.
humanistic tolerance implies that while God is quite particular as to what
conditions appropriate the benefit of grace (faith, repentance, baptism), he
is really not too particular about what he has said as to how his children
are to serve him, that is, how grace (favor) is retained, and that after
all, their right to their inclinations as free men and continuance to
embrace one another in fellowship, regardless, is more important than his
tragically, such permissiveness is often called love. And those being
tolerated can be especially sweet-spirited. But neither permissiveness nor
pragmatic sweet-spiritedness is evidential of the kind of love for the
brethren required by God: "Hereby we know that we love the children of God,
when we love God and do his commandments"
(I Jn. 5:2).
If we are the children of God those who do not obey God do not really love
us! They use us. One proves his love for the children of God, and for God,
in sharing obedience with them. When those with supposedly new enlightenment
glory rather in an expanded fellowship, beyond those who prove their love
for God by faithfulness to his order, while in tending to tell us something
about their gracious love for man, they tell us rather that they have more
regard and love for man than for God. Such expanded fellowship is not an
application of the doctrine of grace. It is grace perverted. It is humanism.
And, oh so very, very contemporary. Humanism pervades our society and our
young are inundated by it in secular education. That is one reason why some
of them are so susceptible to any premise for overlooking significant
differences among brethren.
In a nutshell,
while grace implies lack of human ability, it does not imply lack of
responsibility. The philosophy of permissiveness does. -
Truth Magazine, July 25, 1974
O To Be Like Thee
Vital Points in Worship
Present Day Church
Problems (Part 1)
The Book Momma Read
Its You're Life, You Know
How to Build a Good Character
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