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Question and Answer

The Mystery of God's Grace


Does your church theology hold a hard line to salvation by grace alone or do you have a somewhat guarded awareness that our involvement, although impossible without grace, is mysteriously intertwined in our walk with the Lord.


Your question seems to me to imply that you find the concept of "salvation by grace alone" to be unnecessary and probably unpleasant (since you characterize those who hold to this without compromise as taking "a hard line"). As one who at one time had great difficulty in accepting this teaching, I can certainly understand your question I myself did not like this teaching at all when I first heard it presented. And yet, in the end, I became quite convinced that while it was hard to take (like medicine that doesn't taste good), it was really exactly what I needed. In fact it was something I needed so badly that there was no possible way that I could have eternal life if it were not true.

You see, the Bible says we are (by nature) "children of wrath" meaning that we already merit eternal condemnation form the first moment of our existence. And that is not all. We not only deserve condemnation, we are also totally unable to admit it. The Bible says the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). We may be willing to admit that we are far from perfect, but we do not like to admit that we are unable to even begin to do what God requires us to do in order to be saved.

As the Apostle Paul put it "the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14). Or, to say the same thing in different words, when it comes to anything having to do with our salvation, we can do nothing by ourselves (John 15:5).

Now, of course, it is true that we must do something. And it is also true that every genuine Christian does do something: he repents of his sin and believes in the Savior. But if there is anything that is made clear in the Bible it is this: even though we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling we are able to do so only because it is God who has been working in us to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12). Even our faith, in other words, is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).

It is quite necessary to take what you've described as "a hard line" on this because, as the Apostle Paul rightly said, "at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work" (Romans 11:5, 6). Salvation by grace cannot be mixed with salvation by works any more than fire can be mixed with water. It is indeed a hard thing for the natural man to come to terms with. But the truth is that here is the sinner's only hope.

Thanks for your question!

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"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

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