Grace and Love are the big buzzwords in the church today. Everywhere you go, you hear the leadership of congregations saying, “God is love” and “Grace covers all!”
Jesus was a bit of a radical. He challenged the prevailing religious minds by telling them God doesn’t care about your offering. If your heart isn’t right, or you have issues with your neighbor; addressing these have greater immediacy than your offering. The first shall be last and the last shall be first, on and on. Concepts that challenged the common thinking of the day.
This shouldn’t be a radical concept, but I’m afraid it is. There are two things that are a component of salvation that only Grace, and Love don’t cut it on their own. What we are going to consider are repentance and works.
Yes, I know works was what the Jewish law was all about. You did thus and so, a sacrifice here and there, and you were good with God. And this repentance thing, why is there a big deal with that, doesn’t Grace cover whatever mess we find ourselves in?
You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
James 2:22-24 (CSB)
What we do with our faith is the product of that faith.
In other words, you can say that you have faith in a fireproof suit. You believe that it will protect when walking through a burning building. You can cover specifications and statistical data that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you could and should believe this without a doubt, but faith dictates that you put that belief into action to establish that your “faith was made complete”.
The two are really inseparable, so much so that just a few verses before this, James spells it out point blank …
In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.
James 2:17 (CSB)
See what I mean by ‘inseparable’. This is not a set of rules that you have to follow in order to qualify your faith sufficiently to be awarded grace. No, this is the result of your grace and the transformation that takes place when the Holy Spirit takes residence inside you. That transformation that takes place within us when our faith is engaged and grace is applied, results in action. This is spiritual physics.
So, what’s this with repentance?
Jesus never excluded repentance as part of the grace formula. Just as with works, real faith involves trust in Jesus. If you trust in Jesus, then you trust what He tells us. So, what did He say to us?
From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Matthew 4:17 (CSB)
One thing we all learn about the Son of God is that He has a lot of attributes that pair up item by item with God the Father. The consistency factor is one of those. Jesus doesn’t change. He is the same today as He was yesterday, and will be tomorrow, just as God is.
What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Romans 6:1-2 (CSB)
The fallacy that we can keep on rebelling in sin and grace will continue to expand to cover, has no scriptural basis. Paul says, “Absolutely not!” After all, sin is a rebellion against God. A life that continues in sin after redemption would be counter to the concept that our lives are transformed by redemption.
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:2 (CSB)
This renewing of our minds takes place when we yield our will to the will of the Holy Spirit living in us. This yielding will result in repentance, not just once and done, but continued repentance as a result of the Holy Spirits revelation to us.
This is how we grow, and salvation is going to produce repentance and obedience to Christ Jesus.
If I was going to draw a picture of this, it would look something like the diagram shown here.
We are saved by faith through grace.
Paul fully clarifies this in his letter to the Ephesians
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (CSB)
“Saved by Grace through faith”, “created in Christ Jesus for good works”.
Faith, Grace, Repentance, and Works are a package deal.
In His Grace,