Monday, September 10, 2007

The Grace of God

I was recently thinking about a conversation I had with Beth's old youth pastor when he found out that Beth had become Catholic. He was very concerned because, as he said, the Catholic Church's teachings on salvation contradicts what Saint Paul had to say on the matter. Of course I set about trying to assuage his mind of those thoughts.

At the end of the conversation he made a statement that is pretty typical of a Reformed Protestant when comparing the Catholic Church's teachings and his own beliefs about salvation, "In the latter salvation is all of God, in the former, man cooperates with God for salvation. Thus the difference between one man and another regarding his eternal state is not because of God’s sovereign work, it is that one man cooperated with God and the other did not. I believe this makes man’s eternal destiny rest (in the final analysis) upon man and not upon God." My reply at the time was, "The reason we do cooperate, is because God does give us the grace to do so! Is that so hard a concept to accept intellectually? God created us, chose us, graced us, and we, because of his very life in us, can love him in return. Being sons of God, all we do that is good, is only because it is God working in us. God does not force us to accept his gift. God allows us to receive and accept his gift - which we can not even do apart from his grace! If we do not accept his gift - we sin. The wages of which is death. Our cooperation is not something that is (or can be) done apart from God's grace. We have been adopted as sons, through Christ. We are now God's very own children. God is raising us up to receive an inheritance, not a wage. He is now our Father and just as a son cannot earn an inheritance, we cannot earn our salvation. It is something freely given, but it is something that you can refuse. Not because we have some innate power of ourselves, but because God in his sovereignty has chosen to offer us this gift, instead of forcing us to take it. Just because you perceive this to be a weakness does not make it so. Some would say it is a weakness for God to take on human flesh, and yet out of his superabundant love he did just such a thing.".

As I thought about this I recalled that most Reformed Protestants also seem to be almost spooked when I mention my idea that God is always reaching out to all of us with his grace, always calling us, always desiring our repentance. I do not know if this is in fact the way that God works, but it does seem consistent with Christ's death on the cross.

Personally, I do not understand why people put limits on the grace of God. All Christians readily admit that God took on human flesh, suffered, and was crucified to undo what Adam had done at the Fall. To reestablish the human race with its Creator so that we could be his children. What makes man think that the God that would go to such lengths to make our salvation possible, would abandon us after we had been redeemed. Would not God pursue us with his grace constantly and consistently since he had purchased us at such a great price. Would the God who would lower himself down from his throne to die for us not pursue us, literally, to our grave?

Bringing this back to Beth's old youth pastor's statement, would not each of the hypothetical men who had been redeemed by Christ also be given the grace needed to resist sin and turn to God in each and every moment of his life? Would not the man that went to heaven at the end of his days only be able to say about why he was there, "It is only by God's grace." Would the difference then be not that the man who went to heaven did something in and of himself, but the man who went to hell?

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