Human nature easily buys into the notion that we can follow the example of Christ and be rewarded eternally for our efforts. We hasten to believe that the wages of our efforts will allow us to purchase a tiny piece of heaven. This makes sense because it seems fair.
The concept of God’s grace runs contrary to our human nature and violates our understanding of what is fair, right and applicable to our own world.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
In a post written for Truth in Love Ministry, I focused on the question, “Is God’s grace sufficient?” Man-centered religions make sense when trying to incorporate grace into their teachings. Mormonism is a great example. In a article entitled, “His Grace is Sufficient” written by a BYU professor, grace is referred to as a gift from God, but can only be given after a person has done all they can do to perfect themselves. Grace is sufficient, according to Mormonism, to allow a soul to appear before God and be judged for their obedience. In the meantime, a Mormon can “practice” their obedience and hope it is sufficient to receive God’s grace.
That concept registers with our human nature. It holds up the self-improvement mantra, “If it is to be, then it’s up to me.”
The biblical concept of God’s grace is not a self-improvement program. It answers the questions, “How comfortable to you want to be when you appear before God on judgment day?”
For those who believe they must continue to work hard to feel comfortable about their righteousness, the Bible talks about receiving comfort right now in their eternal status.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Grace is a gift extended by God as an act of favor to an undeserving people. The object of our faith is on God’s gift rather than our own actions.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
The only way to receive grace is to believe in it. By believing in his promise of grace, we receive eternal life. No other conditions are applied.
The miracle of grace is that by believing in God’s promises, a person receives the status of being fully forgiven right now. Faith receives the full benefits of what Christ completed for us on the cross.
His perfect obedience becomes our perfect obedience.
He became our substitute on the cross and took upon himself the punishment for all of our sins.
A believer is declared justified by faith alone.
This was all done on our behalf so we can confidently answer the question,
“Is God’s grace sufficient?”
Since God is perfect, He provides perfect gifts. One of the greatest gifts he gives to us is a ticket to heaven that was purchased for us by Jesus Christ. This ticket is sufficient for a believer to be declared worthy, perfect and fully righteous. God places this gift into our hand. Our faith clutches the ticket and keeps it as a valued possession. On judgment day, God takes the ticket He gave us and opens wide the gate into His eternal presence.
That is the grace I fully trust it is sufficient.
Faith and Works
Reflections on James 2:14-26
In the following post, Mark Cares of Truth in Love Ministry interprets these verses within the context of how we can share God’s Word with Mormons.
“[These verses talk] about how we show, or make apparent, our faith to other people.
It’s in that context that works are important because, unlike God, we can’t see faith. Faith resides in the heart and thus is invisible to humans. All we can see are evidences of faith. That’s the point of James’ illustration in verse 26: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James compares faith to our spirits because both are invisible. Just like we know the spirit is still in a body if the body shows signs of life, so it is with faith. Faith makes itself visible through signs of life, through works.
But what is crucial to remember is that, although faith always produces works and thus faith and works go together, they are two separate things. It is a matter of cause and effect. Spirit-worked faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for us is the cause of our salvation, while works are the result of our being saved. To put it another way, faith is the root and works are the fruit. And it’s devastating to mix the two.
Paul brings this out in Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works: if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”
Mixing works with grace as a cause of salvation does nothing less than destroy salvation. (Read more of Mark’s post)