Grace and Guilt
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, October 29, 2010
Jack Kinsella - Omega Letter Editor
Grace is one of those Divine topics that is so deep and wide and endless that there can never been enough said about it. It is so complex in its simplicity that a full understanding of it probably cannot be had this side of heaven.
Grace is easier to define by what it is not than by what it is. Grace is not mercy or love. In Ephesians 2:4-6 three doctrines are outlined in their individual and specific understandings; grace, mercy and love.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:”
God is rich in mercy. He loves us with great love. But we are not saved by mercy or love. One can extend mercy without extending grace.
We are not saved by His love. If we know anything from Scripture about man’s relationship with God, it is this: God loves all sinners. Not all sinners are or will be saved.
Addressing mercy first, one could define Divine mercy as God’s compassion, which moved Him to provide a Savior in the first place. If God could save a single soul on the basis of His mercy alone, then every soul could be saved on that basis. In that case, Christ’s death was unnecessary.
As for God’s love, it is reflective of God’s infinite character. It is the motivating purpose behind all that God does on man’s behalf. The Bible says that there is joy in heaven at the salvation of one sinner.
But God’s infinite character is that of holy and righteous love and since sin is an offense before Him, God cannot save a soul without first making a way to satisfy the claims that Divine righteousness makes against the sinner.
One of the dumber arguments often used by atheists to question the existence of God is the question of God’s omnipotence. “If God can do anything, can He make a rock so big He can’t lift it?” It is a stupid question but you’d be surprised how many people actually try to answer it.
The atheist is trying to get the believer to admit that there are some things that even God can’t do.
But the fact is, there are things that even God can’t do. God cannot sin. God cannot compromise justice. God cannot abandon His holy nature. And so, until Divine justice is satisfied, God’s infinite love cannot realize its desire.
Mercy and love are what grace are not. Grace is what God is free to do on behalf of the lost after Christ satisfied the judicial requirements by paying the penalty for sin.
Although the holy demands of justice were satisfied by the sacrificial execution of Christ, the love of God can never be satisfied until He has done all that He can for the one that accepts Christ’s judgment on their behalf.
What is the greatest thing that God could do for you, a sinner? How about elevating you to be conformed to the image of the Son of God?
Love and mercy represent the whys of salvation, but not the how.
Since grace only represents what God can and will do for those who trust in His Savior, it must function independently of all human effort or cooperation. Grace demands nothing beyond confidence in God’s ability to save.
Grace provides the only mechanism whereby men can be saved God’s mercy and love are not enough. God’s mercy and love were every bit as much in operation before I was saved as after.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
This is the second most difficult part of the salvation process. If I’ve been pardoned, why do I still feel guilty? You can tell me I’m no longer guilty all day long, but I was with me. I know better. And I'm not much at self-deception.
I was guilty of sin before I was saved. Some of those sins haunt me still. And if I remain on this earth, I will be guilty of sin again.
The guilt is real. I know it. So does the enemy – it is one of his most effective weapons against believers.
“Maybe you’re saved by grace, but you’re guilty. You don’t deserve salvation.”
What makes it so effective is that it is true. Sin is rebellion against God and His authority. Jesus may have paid for my sins at Calvary, but He wasn’t guilty of them. I was.
The Divine disposition of guilt is one of the greatest triumphs of grace. Note that there are two aspects to the concept of 'guilt'.
The first aspect is personal guilt. Personal guilt is nothing more than the historical record of your sins. You committed them alone. That fact will never change. Not here and now. Not in the hereafter.
You are personally guilty. God didn’t make you do it. Satan didn’t make you do it. You alone are guilty. Personal guilt is non-transferable. That’s why you still feel guilty even though you know that you are saved.
The second aspect is that of judicial guilt. This is guilt as an obligation to justice. Judicial guilt is transferable – one can be personally guilty but if someone else pays the penalty due, then the law has no further claim.
The Lord Jesus offered Himself as a substitute to bear the obligation demanded of the world by Divine justice. We need only acknowledge and stand before God under the terms of His provision of grace.
It is by faith that I recognize my judicial guilt and by faith accept that my salvation is by grace, a gift of God and not of works, lest any should boast.
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:5)
That is what our faith is in – not our ability to stay saved, but His ability to keep us -- by His grace.
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
The Father He spake, and His will it was done;
Great price of my pardon, His own precious Son;
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
Your sins ARE all pardoned. Your guilt IS all gone. It cannot work any other way.
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