Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What does "grace alone" mean?

Grace is not simply a vehicle which we must avail of, or a means by which we must save ourselves – this is the Romish doctrine. Grace is the might and power that saves us. The Gospel is not merely the means or vehicle of salvation, it is the power. Christ's work on the cross is not merely a means but it is the power alone which saves us. Faith in response to hearing the Gospel is a means, but the means and power of it all cross of our Lord alone. This is what I mean when I say grace alone.

The Arminian turns the cross into simply a means, whereby our decision or faith is the power, when they deny that their decision or faith comes from the power of the cross alone. When they say grace alone, they mean grace is a necessary means or vehicle, but they deny that it is also the power by which we avail of the means. Grace alone is both the only power and means, because it produces the vehicle of faith in us.

Rome teaches that we receive grace by doing all kinds of things (works, prayers, communion, confession, baptism), Arminians teach that we receive grace by a decision (by our own mighty, sovereign and unconditional “free will”), but the Gospel teaches us that we respond in faith to the hearing of the Gospel because we have received grace (election and regeneration bought by the cross, so that the Justifier is just), and that we do good works because we have received grace and that we are built up in faith by the preaching of the word and communion and baptism because we have received grace.

Rome teaches that we are justified by faith and works, Arminians teach that we are justified by faith which we receive (at least in part) from our own “free will”. The Gospel tells us that we are justified by faith alone without works. What is meant by this? That our justification is by grace alone. Yet, Rome and the Arminian both agree – justification is indeed by grace alone, they cry! But from where does this grace proceed? Initially, both Rome and the Arminian will say from Christ's sacrifice on the cross alone! But when questioned further about how this grace is received, finally Rome says from our own faith and works.

The Arminians are more subtle and say from faith alone! But as to where this faith is from, they may even say faith is a gift but concede that they receive it (at least in part) because of their own “free will”. And when asked where the outcome of the decision of their “free will” came from, they go no further and quietly and subtly admit that it is of themselves. When asked about those who are not saved, they will say it is because they chose to reject God's free offer of salvation and the gift of faith which they could have received if they had only been a little less hard-hearted.

In short, that despite God's eternal and ardent love for them, He could not convince them to accept His love and the free offer of salvation which the Arminian hastens to add is by grace alone and by faith alone and in Christ alone. And they imagine God to be weeping in heaven for all the people which He will be throwing into hell after having done everything He could for them. Or they say that God is not weeping and that at a certain point (perhaps the time of their death – which incidentally is determined by the Sovereign God), God decides to stop loving them and starts hating them instead and so does not weep to throw them into hell.

But what do I mean when I say grace alone and faith alone and Christ alone. I mean this:

“God forbid, that I should boast except in the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ!” Galatians 6:14.

According to the Gospel where does justification proceed from, and where does faith proceed from? Indeed justification is receiving grace – the grace of justification. And this justification is received by faith alone without works. And that's the key – without works. True faith is that which has no confidence in the flesh and declares that absolutely nothing but Christ's death and resurrection accomplished the entirety of our salvation. Here's the problem with the Romish and Arminian doctrine – they add something which somehow proceeded only from themselves to the means by which they are saved. With Rome it can be indulgences, prayers, works, all kinds of things, with the Arminian it is more subtle – a tiny little decision only. But the problem is that the Arminian says the decision is (at least in some tiny small part) of their own “free will”. This is mostly clearly protrayed when they will not answer the question the Apostle Paul asks:

“What maketh thee to differ?” 1 Corinthians 4:7.

The Gospel tells us that only the grace of God makes us different to those who are not saved. And that it is Christ alone who has saved us by His death and resurrection. If there are those who are not saved it is because Christ did not die for them. If we are saved because Christ alone has saved us, they are not saved because Christ has not saved them.

“What do you have that you did not receive, and if you received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” - 1 Corinthians 4:7.

In the Arminian denial that the decision of their “free willl” was not of themselves but received, they therefore boast. Therefore their confidence is in the flesh. They believe they are saved because of something they did not receive (the decision of their “free will”). What is something they did not receive? It is not grace, it is not a gift. But what does Scripture tell us? That faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Only those who hear the preaching of the Gospel will believe. And why do some who hear the Gospel not believe? Why do some love the truth and some do not? The Arminian says “Because of my choice to accept the free offer of blood poured out for me, and because of their rejection of the blood poured out for them.” The problem is that it isn't whether Christ's sacrifice was acceptable to them but whether it is acceptable to God – the very same who made the sacrifice – it is the only sacrifice He is pleased with! And therefore the Gospel says, “Only because of infinite power of the precious blood of the Saviour poured out to redeem His people. The only way there could be some not saved is because the blood was not poured out for them.” And Scripture testifies abundantly:

“... because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. Whereunto he called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 2.

“But though He had done many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him. That the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” John 12.

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which are disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” - 1 Peter 2.

So there is no difference between the Arminian doctrine and the Romish doctrine except that one is more subtle than the other. What does “without works” mean? It means without anything that we did not receive. Grace is something received. Works are the opposite: something not received. Grace is a gift of God, works are anything not from God, anything from ourselves. As the Scripture also says:

“And if by grace, then it is 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 11:6

Test yourself to see whether you have true faith that is has no confidence in the flesh. Test yourself to see whether you believe in salvation by grace alone without works, or whether you believe in salvation by works. Rome believes that something in how salvation is received is of man (of works). The Arminian also believes that something in how salvation is received is of man (of works). For the Arminian it is a decision from a “free will” of themselves. If it is not of God then it is of man, and if it is not a gift, then it is a work.

Grace is something received. Grace alone is when even the receiving is by grace alone. If we receive something by ourselves (our own “free will”) then we have not received it by grace alone but by ourselves – work. But salvation is either of works or of grace – it is either of God or of man. It cannot be both as the verse above tells us incontrovertibly.

For further study about the necessity of the "receiving" of grace being by grace alone: Acts 18:27, Romans 1:5, Phil 1:29, John 1:12-13, 1 Corinthians 15:10, Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:4-11, James 1:16-17, John 3:27, John 15:1-6, etc.

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