BY GRACE ALONE (PART 21)
The insurmountable problem which faces man is not merely his sins, but the fact he is a sinner. Even if every man on the planet could stop sinning from this very moment, what would he do, what could he do about the sins he has already committed? Moreover, what could man do about the fact he is a sinner dead in sins. Physical acts do not a Christian make. Nothing a sinner can do can make him spiritually alive. A reformed life is no answer to the problem of man’s being a sinner. A reformed life is tantamount to changing deck chairs on the Titanic. Mans’ problem is not about how good he is, or how bad he is, but that he is a lost sinner dead in sins. It is not what kind of person he is, but the fact he is a person dead in trespasses and sins. The inescapable fact of the matter is that every man, by nature, is a sinner dead in sins. There is no answer to man’s impossible dilemma, but the forgiveness of God based upon His grace and mercy. What man does is not his immediate problem, but that which he is. It is not what appears on the outside, so much as what lies within the very heart of man that reveals his eternal dilemma, a dilemma which he not only has no solution for, but one which he fails to even acknowledge. The more a man does, the more he sins. The more a man does to get saved, the more he tries to dig his own way out of his dilemma, the deeper the hole becomes. The more a man fills his life with effort and works and all kinds of religious endeavour, the fatter he becomes for the day of slaughter. Man is a sinner in need of salvation, not reformation, not a revival of a societally acceptable collection of values, but salvation. Man cannot do that which can only be given. Man does not require re-invention, but is in need of re-creation. Man needs to be begun again. He needs to be born again. He needs to be made a new creature by God in Christ. How inadequate are a sinful man’s works to get saved? They are sinful acts, in light of what actually is required to save him. Man does not need a mess of New Year’s Eve-type resolutions to repair his life and begin to walk with God. The problem is that man does not need recycling, he needs to be reborn! Man does not need to do better, he needs to be born again.
Physical birth and physical existence do not contain within them that which a man needs to become spiritually alive. You cannot become incorruptible from that which is corrupt. Even if a man could re-enter his mother’s womb “He would still be possessed by the same natural, sinful, propensities and passions...” (that which is of the flesh). Man does not need to be physically born again, but needs, rather, to be made spiritually alive. Man “partakes of the nature of the parent. As the parents are corrupt and sinful, so will be their descendants. And as the parents are wholly corrupt by nature, so their children will be the same. The word ‘flesh’ here is used to denote ‘corrupt, defiled, sinful’.” On the other hand, that which is born of the Spirit of God, or by the agency of the Holy Spirit through the means of the Gospel of God, is spirit as well. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn. 3:6). Only the born again man will see the Kingdom of Heaven: “…Except a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven” (Jn. 3:3 cf. 1 Cor. 15:50). “Here we learn that all men are by nature sinful. That none are renewed but by the Spirit of God. If man did the work himself (or contributed in any way to any degree), it would still be flesh, and impure.” Jesus said: “…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). “It is the Spirit that quickeneth (makes alive); the flesh profiteth NOTHING...” (Jn. 6:63). The second birth, a spiritual re-birth is what a man needs, and this miracle can only occur according to the saving grace of the only One Who can give it: Almighty God. Life belongs to God, and He gives it to whomsoever He pleases. Man needs to be made alive. He needs to be made a new creature in Christ Jesus the Lord (see Jn. 3:3; Eph. 2:5; 2 Cor. 5:17). Man’s condition is sin, he is a sinner and there is no way any man can do anything to escape what he is, just as a leopard cannot change its spots nor an Ethiopian his skin. So too, man can do nothing to become what he needs to be.
Man sins because he is a sinner. This is man’s natural hopeless state, and there is not a single thing he can do to escape this perpetual prison of peccancy. Man can do nothing to save himself which is why he requires grace to save him. No human agency can produce salvation. No human can produce, or even help to produce, a spiritually born again man. No force in the entire universe and beyond can do this apart from Almighty God. Salvation must be by the free favour of God “…according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace…” (Eph. 1:5,6), or there is no salvation at all. Man can do nothing to make up, or compensate, for not only his innumerous sins, but even more foreboding a task: the fact he is a sinner by nature. No matter what a man may do he can never change his nature. Moreover, man can do nothing to savingly see and know the true God. Man needs God, for only God can save a man. How could Paul the apostle have ever seen the Light, if God had not revealed it to him? Man needs grace, not works. Man needs mercy, not effort. Salvation is about revelation. Man can do nothing to merit any forgiveness, which is why he is in dire need of mercy. A completely new life, not the renovation of the old life, is what a man requires. Man needs not renovation, but revelation. Man needs not renovation, but spiritual revival. Man’s need is not to become better, but to be made a new creature in Christ. Man cannot solve his sin dilemma by anything he does. God alone is the Saviour, for salvation comes only by what God does. Becoming ‘better’ still leaves a man a hopeless sinner encased in sin, and cocooned by death which damns him no matter how well he can reform his life. “…he that believeth not is condemned already…” (Jn. 3:18). So many are so busy trying to rectify a problem so grave, they fail to realise it can only be solved by God. The problem of being dead in sins is so serious, that no man has ever solved it by anything he has done, thought, or imagined. No religion has even come close to solving man’s sin problem. They all stagger around clumsily in the muddy waters of sin, attempting to cleanse themselves with muddied hands. Far from being a matter which man can resolve by a few good deeds, something must be done about the fact a man is a sinner and spiritually dead.
Sin is not man’s worst problem, it is what lies behind his sins, why he sins, that is the crux of his dilemma: it is the fact he is a sinner dead in sins. What can a man do about his sinful nature? NOTHING! Attempting to cease sinning still leaves a man a hopeless, cursed sinner in bondage to sin. NOTHING A MAN DOES CAN CHANGE THE ESSENCE OF WHAT HE IS. This is the reason why the grace of God is so essential to salvation. Salvation, being born again, being made alive, can, therefore, only ever happen by grace, and never by works. WORKS CHANGE NOTHING – GRACE CHANGES EVERYTHING! Whatever a man does always leaves him a sinner deserving of nothing but punishment for his sins. The saved man will forever be a sinner saved by grace. This does not mean that he will always be a sinner, but that he will always be someone who needed to be saved by grace from his sins.The lost are nothing but sinners. This reveals that there is nothing a man can do. Man’s sinful state is something which he cannot do anything to escape, or change in any way. All a man’s efforts at reaching out to God, at attempting to be a better person, are nothing but a blasphemy, an even bigger sin than all the rest, for it is a denial of man’s need for grace and mercy and a Saviour Who has ALREADY DONE what no man can ever do: establish a perfect Righteousness. Only the grace and mercy of God, only what God alone can do, will rescue a man permanently from a sinful state to one in which he is made spiritually alive: dead to sin and alive to God. So hopelessly hopeless is his situation that man needs to be re-created. “…Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). Obviously this is not a reference to his being re-created physically, or being born again physically, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3:4-6, but it is a spiritual re-creation, a spiritual revivification. This is why a man requires grace and mercy, for he can change nothing by works.
Man requires God’s forgiveness, as well as a Saviour to do that which man cannot do. A Saviour is the unmistakable sign that no man can do anything to get saved or remain saved, for all this is what the Saviour was sent to do. God did not tell men how to reform their lives, or make themselves born again and what to do to get saved, He sent a Saviour to do what had to be done, for no man could ever have done it. He sent His Son the Saviour to save His people from their sins (see Matt. 1:21). Those who look to what they do, trust in themselves, they exalt themselves, and not God. The saved are saved by the Saviour, by what He has done, not by anything they have done. A drowning man cannot save himself, much less the man who is drowned. The Saviour, Jesus Christ, is at the head of God’s salvation plan, for no individual man can do anything to save himself. Believe it or not, it is only the Saviour Who saves! God had to come to earth as a man to do that which no man could. God saves by grace alone. God says He alone is the Saviour, therefore, no other means to salvation but grace can save: “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside Me there is no Saviour” (Isa. 43:11). “…by grace are ye saved…” (Eph. 2:8). God’s forgiveness is based upon His mercy, what He has provided for all His chosen in order to save them, remain just and be the rightful, legal justifier of all those He has entrusted to His Son (see Rom. 3:26). Only with God does a man have redemption. Only with God is there remission of sins. Only what God has done for a man will save him. Salvation is a gift given by grace, and if a gift then it must be given. It cannot be earned by anything a man can, has, or claims he has the potential to, do, therefore, salvation must be exclusively in accord with what God alone has done. Salvation comes only because of what God the Saviour has done. Grace, mercy, faith and salvation are all gifts given by God to His people according to Him, and not them. Election, God choosing His people unto salvation before the world began, is clearly not because of anything they have done, but is according to the will, work, purpose and pleasure of God. “…all things work together for good to them that love God…” (Rom. 8:28), and who is it that loves God? “…them who are the called according to His purpose”. Grace is always first. God’s love for His people always precedes, and is the catalyst for, their love for Him (see 1 Jn. 4:19). “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son…” (Rom. 8:29). God has predestinated the people He has elected according to His grace, and not according to their persons, their character or their conduct. Such people would not require a Saviour to save them by grace, if they were elected and predestinated based, and dependent, upon what they did. If salvation is all based and dependent on a man and what he does, then what need would there be for grace and mercy? Indeed, what need would there be for a Saviour if a man could, himself, do what needs to be done to get saved and remain saved?
Mercy is not God overlooking a man’s sins, choosing to look the other way, for payment must be made and punishment must be meted out for every sin before mercy can be shown. God’s Justice, His Holiness, cannot allow sin to go unpunished, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die…” (Ezek. 18:20). God did not even spare His own Son to whom was charged the sins of His people, but delivered Him up for them all, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all…” (Rom. 8:32 cf. Isa. 53:8-11). Almighty God is a God Who keeps “…mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty…” (Ex. 34:7). Full payment of every sin must be made for Justice to be served. Once justice is satisfied, then mercy can begin to have its way with God’s chosen: the ones who have had all their sins punished in Christ. No sin ever goes unpunished. A man’s sins have either been punished in Christ, or the individual must undergo eternal punishment himself. The sins of God’s chosen have been punished in Christ, and the sins of the lost will be punished throughout eternity “…into the fire that never shall be quenched” (Mk. 9:43). What makes mercy possible is not that God has decided to waive all punishment due, but that the punishment rightly due to the sins of His chosen has been meted out upon the Saviour. “God does not deliver to the Christian the natural consequence of his sin which is damnation”. The punishment which was due unto them has been poured out on the Sacrificial, vicarious and all-sufficient Saviour: Jesus Christ. “…He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all…for the transgression of My people was He stricken…Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand…He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall My Righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:5,6,8,10,11).
Once punishment for the elects’ sins was fully received and endured by Christ, mercy was then available and given to all God’s people, all those for whom Christ Jesus took the punishment which they were deserving of. Christ did not take some of the punishment, but all of their due punishment. Nor did Jesus establish a mere portion of saving Righteousness, but He provided all the Righteousness His people would ever need. No other name under Heaven but Jesus, no other righteousness but His Righteousness will save. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved…That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth” (Acts 4:12 & Phil. 2:10 cf. Psa. 138:2; Isa. 45:21-24; Jn. 20:31). Likewise, salvation is not partially by grace and partially by what a man does, but is totally by grace as it is totally by the mercy of God. God is the Complete Saviour. A man is not saved by his righteousness, nor by his righteousness coupled with Christ’s Righteousness, but by Christ’s Righteousness alone. Salvation required the blotting out of all a man’s sins, and all of the Righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to them that would be saved. Any man who thinks that he can contribute anything to his own salvation is a man who is deeply deceived, and who will die in his sins without the grace of God. A saved man does not take part in the atonement of his sin, for the sole Atoner of sin is Christ Jesus the Saviour. The imperfect righteousness of man can never be joined with the perfect Righteousness of Jesus. The only one who could ever have atoned for sin was the only One Who was completely innocent of sin: the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Salvation is found only in the Innocent Saviour, not in any guilty sinner. Salvation is the Saviour’s work, a work which the sinner can in no way enter into. Sin, and the many eternal consequences of it, never sleeps. Sin cannot eradicate itself, nor can a sinner change what he is by what he does. Such is the hopeless condition of the lost. A saved sinner is merely a recipient of salvation, and not a co-worker, or contributor in salvation. He is a chosen vessel unto God, made alive by God’s grace (see Acts 9:15). A Christian contributes nothing to his being saved, he plays no part in designating himself as an inheritor of eternal life, for he is a beneficiary of the Inheritance God has predestined him to. Man does not take part in his salvation, for his salvation is not at all based upon his righteousness, but only on the Righteousness of Jesus Christ the Lord. It had to be the Saviour Who was punished for the sins of His chosen if they were to ever have life, and it had to be the sinless, spotless Saviour Who would establish the perfect Righteousness, His Righteousness, so that God’s people would be saved eternally. If God is to receive all the glory for salvation, then it must be God Who has done all in the salvation of His people. Salvation by God’s grace alone is the only doctrine which leaves no room for a man to boast in anything he has done.
Grace and Mercy are the means that cover the whole of salvation. Everything that salvation involves comes from that which is undeserved, unmerited, unearned. Everything required for the salvation of God’s elect comes from grace and mercy. In other words, it all comes from, and is given by, God the Saviour. God is the Instigator, the Originator, the Inaugurator and Perfector of His people’s salvation. “God gets all the glory because He does all the saving.” Seeing that all the glory for salvation rightfully and fully belongs to God, all of salvation, ALL that it took to charge a man with perfect Righteousness, and ALL that it took to satisfy God’s Justice—the taking away of, the blotting out of, sin—had to be, and could only have been, done by God. If man had to play any part in his getting saved, or ‘remaining’ saved, then some of the glory for salvation would belong to man. Many would reply, ‘No, none of the glory belongs to man because what man must do is that which only God can enable him to do by grace’. Therefore, the claim is that God still gets all the glory for salvation even though salvation is ultimately dependent upon what a man does! This is nothing short of a monstrous fusing of man’s way and God’s Way of salvation. It is found nowhere in the Scriptures, for it is utter blasphemy. Such people try to hide their blasphemy by insisting that all a man does to get saved is by the grace of God. What they do not tell you is how they have twisted the meaning, and, therefore, perverted the role grace plays in salvation. Gifts do not require work. Wages require work, but nothing needs to be done and nothing can be done to merit the unmeritable. Those who have not been saved by grace alone have reduced grace to the point where a man’s works are an equally essential ingredient to salvation. What God has done by grace, according to these folk, is simply not enough. Grace does not delegate the work of salvation to a man, but grace is wholly responsible for the work of salvation. Those who twist the Scriptures to suit their own needs, drawing comfort not from the truth, but from their misinterpretations of it, are playing a deadly game, one which they have already lost. “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jn. 3:18). To believe in the name of the Saviour, is to believe in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ: Who He is, what He has done and for whom He has done it. Believe in lies about the Saviour and you are condemned already! The Scriptures make it abundantly clear: “…by grace are ye saved…the grace of God bringeth salvation…” (Eph. 2:8 & Titus 2:11). “When it came to the Good News, Paul did not budge an inch. He understood that as soon as we add to grace, it is no longer grace.” “A little leaven leaventh the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9 cf. Matt. 16:6,12). The anti-Scriptural idea that salvation is by grace enabling a man to do what needs to be done for him to be saved, is the conclusion which the enemies of the cross have reached based on their belief that even though a man must do, he can only do because of God’s grace enabling him to do. The authors of this satanic lie have tried to soften the overt lie of works by merging it with the doctrine of grace, to present the kernel of works within the shell of grace. Woe be unto them and all who follow them. The problem with salvation by grace and works, is perfectly explained in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican. This parable is a warning to everyone who is under the impression that what a man must do is as essential to salvation as what God has done is. Man says ‘If it is by grace then it must also be by works’, The Holy Spirit of God declares “…if by grace, then is it no more works…But if it be of works, then is it no more grace…” (Rom. 11:6). The former teaching in inclusive, the latter exclusive. Salvation is exclusively by grace alone.
“And He (Jesus) spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I THANK THEE, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I FAST twice in the week, I GIVE tithes of all that I possess.’ And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful unto me a sinner’. I tell you THIS man went down to His house justified rather than the other: for everyone that EXALTETH HIMSELF shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Lk. 18:9-14 cf. Job 9:20; Lk. 16:15; 2 Cor. 10:17,18). Notice here that the Pharisee, just as the man who believes he is saved because of what ‘God’ has, by grace, allegedly enabled him to do, thanked God that he was not like other men. He then proceeded to boast,—just as the free willer boasts in his ‘decision for Christ’—of what he did, obviously believing, in light of his attitude towards the publican, that his acts of obedience in some way contributed to his gaining God’s favor, even though he believed he was attributing all the good he did, not to himself, but to God. Yes, a man who thanks God for what he, the man, has done, is a man who exalts HIMSELF! He is not a justified man, but an accursed creature. Trusting in, and thanking God for, what you have done is not trusting in God. “Every word in the Pharisee’s prayer is reeking with self-complacency. Even the expression ‘prayed thus with himself’ is significant, for it suggests that the prayer was less addressed to God than to himself, and also that his words could scarcely be spoken in the hearing of others, both because of their arrogant self-praise and of their insolent calumnies of ‘as other men are.’ It was not prayer to God, but soliloquy in his own praise, and it was in equal parts adulation of himself and slander of other men. So it never went higher than the inner roof of the temple court, and was, in a very fatal sense, ‘to himself’. ‘There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness’ (Prov. 30:12); ‘Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in My nose, a fire that burneth all the day’ (Isa. 65:5). This is the sort of ‘faith’ which the Son of Man shall find on the earth—men’s faith in themselves” (see Lk. 18:8)." Those who draw reference to what they have done draw reference to themselves. Their boast is of themselves, and not God. Not God or His grace, but themselves and their works. There is nothing laudable in the Pharisee’s words, and all who are like him. Their faith is in their own righteousness, and not that of the Lord Jesus Christ. A man can be deceived by his own words into thinking he walks humbly before God, and yet be in the very act of rebelliously exalting himself.
The Pharisee believed he was better than others, based on his works, but it was the publican who was justified, not by his works, but by God’s mercy. “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:16). Salvation is not due to a man’s decision, or a man’s efforts, but solely and exclusively because of God’s mercy. The publican did not mention even one ‘good’ deed he had done. He brought none of his righteousnesses with him, which is the case with every truly saved person (see Phil. 3:9). He boasted in nothing at all that he had done, for he knew he was a sinner, and so, humbly asked for God’s mercy, providing evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work upon him. It was not his asking for mercy that saved him, but the work of God that had been done in him which truly humbled him. He was not seeking or expecting to be justified by any of his own works, whether he attributed them to God’s enabling him by grace to perform them, or not. So many people still believe the religious myth that all one needs do to be saved is by simply looking up to the sky and saying, ‘God have mercy on me a sinner’. The problem is, which God/god are they addressing? Whom does the person believe God is? Salvation is not about man reaching up to God, but of God reaching down to his chosen people. Grace does not respond to what a man does, but only to the will of God. Grace does not respond to a man asking for mercy. Grace does not do anything in exchange for something else done first. Grace always comes first. How could grace—that which is undeserved—come after something else was done first, when a man’s love for God only comes because God loved the man first. How could something free be given after a man did something to earn it? A man who humbles himself in the Presence of God, a man who does not mention any deeds of his own, in other words, his righteousnesses, is a man blessed by grace. Self-righteousness and personal effort do not save anyone. God is the Saviour and He saves by His grace through faith not works. The publican, along with every truly saved man, shared the same mindset as the apostle Paul: "...God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ..." (Gal. 6:14). The apostle wanted only to “…be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the Righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9 cf. Rom. 9:30). Paul, along with every true Christian, did not want to be found with his own righteousness, his own deeds, but only with the Righteousness of God. This is the Righteousness which cannot be worked for, but only given. Any time one looks to their own deeds one is trusting only in themselves, and not in God. The Christian trusts in God’s grace, and not in his own works either prior to, or during, his salvation. TRUSTING IN GOD IS TO FULLY ABANDON ONESELF. To truly trust in God and His Righteousness is to look only to what He has done, to embrace only His Righteousness alone, and not one’s own righteousness at all. This clearly shows: Paul’s abandonment of everything he had ever been, and everything he had ever done prior to his salvation—believing that his works, his person, and his righteousnesses, had even partly contributed, and was, therefore, a necessary element to his salvation—and trusting only in the Righteousness of Christ alone, is what happens to a person when they are truly saved by grace alone. They speak of nothing which they have done, for they have done nothing. Their boast is only in God, for He is their Saviour, He is their Righteousness, He is the One Who has saved them by grace alone. They are given the gift of repentance from dead works, and the gift of faith which trusts only in the Righteousness of God, and not their own. They worship the true God, and praise Him for what HE has done, and look not to anything which they have done.
A man doing something in collaboration with God—works and grace—must be entitled to some of the glory for salvation. Paul saw that as anathema, for he knew and believed there was nothing he contributed to his salvation. Paul was what he was because of the grace of God and nothing else (see 1 Cor. 15:10). All that Paul was and did was because of grace. “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). It was the God of grace by the grace of God that was the “only decisive cause” of Paul’s working, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Nothing Paul had done or ever would do, would or could contribute to his being saved by the grace of God. Saving grace does not need your works. Paul the apostle did not want to be found with his own righteousness, but only that Righteousness which is by the grace of God through the gift of faith (see Phil. 3:9). Paul knew he could never be deserving of that which is undeserved. A saved man’s righteousness does not need to be added to the Righteousness of Christ in order to save him. A saved man’s works does not induce grace, they are the evidence of God by grace working in him and through him. Only imputed Righteousness saves, not earned righteousness. The apostle only wanted imputed Righteousness, Christ’s Righteousness, and not his own. Only Christ’s obedience, only Christ’s Righteousness saves. Along with the publican, Paul the apostle did not expect his works to make the difference between Heaven and Hell, nor did he look to anything he ever did, or would do, nor to anything he was or would become, but only to God, His Grace, His Mercy and His Righteousness. The reason why Paul mentioned his prior status along with all that he did was to show that saving Righteousness can never come by anything a man is, or by anything a man has done, but only when it is freely charged to a man whom God has elected to save by His grace alone. If Paul’s credentials amounted to nothing but a hill of beans, what makes any man think that salvation could ever be by his will and efforts. It is God’s imputed Righteousness upon which salvation is based, and not a man’s personal righteousness. It is the Righteousness that is of faith, not by works, which saves. Righteousness comes only through the means of grace by the gift of faith, not by works. Righteousness comes by God, not by man. Grace and mercy teaches salvation conditioned only on what God has done, and nothing at all that a man must do. To humble oneself and attribute all of salvation to God, is not a condition a man must meet in order to come to God, but is an evidence of God having come to the man. The fact that it is the Righteousness of Christ that saves, that only by the obedience of Jesus Christ shall many be made Righteous, proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that no part of salvation is conditioned on man.
The publican’s humble attitude toward God was not what saved him, but was the evidence he was saved. No man can do what is right before God can save him, for “…all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). It is not man’s free will choice for God that makes the difference between Heaven and Hell, but God’s free will choice of man. “…He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world…ye are a chosen generation…” (Eph. 1:4 & 1 Pet. 2:9). There are those who believe we choose God, or that God chooses us, but we also choose Him. This is a fallacy. The Word of God makes it abundantly clear that it is God alone Who does the choosing, and not man. The chosen will follow, but as far as the choosing goes it has already been done. The saved man follows because he is loved and chosen. The choice is God’s not ours. That is grace. Scripture says God’s people are a chosen generation, not a generation of choosers. Salvation is about God choosing man, it has never been a case of a man's choosing God. The words choose, choosest, chooseth, choosing and chose appear only a total of 7 times in the whole of the New Testament, and in NO instance are any of these words used in reference to a man choosing God. This is a highly significant and quite astonishing fact, which doubtless will come as no small surprise to those who have been taught and believe in man’s free-will decision for Christ. If the doctrine of free will were true, it would not be unreasonable to expect that at least one of these words in at least one of the almost 8,000 verses of the New Testament would make reference to a man's choosing God. BUT THERE ARE NONE! The Lord Jesus Christ never once told anyone to choose Him, for He did the choosing, and the chosen followed Him. The chosen follow not because they choose, but because they have been chosen. The will to follow comes in the wake of the will of God to choose. Only the chosen follow. They do not choose, for they are the chosen ones. Chosen of God by grace alone. Even those who witnessed Jesus after He was resurrected were chosen by God, “Him God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God…” (Acts 10:40,41). Throughout history, God’s people have never been known collectively as the choosers, but always as the chosen. The chosen follow because they are chosen, predestinated, to do so. Their following is an outworking of the grace used in choosing them. Now it must be pointed out that these 5 words, choose, choosest, chooseth, choosing and chose, do appear a total of 87 times in the Old Testament, however, as with the New Testament, there is not one single instance where any of them speak of a man choosing God. Not one verse, in over 23,000 verses of the Old Testament which speaks of a man choosing God! Equally significant is the indisputable fact that in contrast to the limited number of the words choose, choosest, etc., in the New Testament, the single word chosen is used a total of 29 times in the New Testament. Again, not once is this word chosen used in reference to any man having chosen God.
The only passage from the Old Testament to which a free willer can possibly turn, as ‘proof’ to support his belief that man does choose God, is the old favorite found in Joshua 24:14-22. In this passage we see Joshua speaking to the chosen people of God, Israel, saying, "Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the Flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the Flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:14,15). Joshua is commanding all the tribes of Israel (see v. 1) to fear the Lord and serve Him, and to put away false gods. But if they thought it was evil to serve the Lord, Joshua told them to make choice among the false gods, (either those of their fathers or of the Amorites), as to which they would serve. The people answered, "...God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods...we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:16, 21), to which Joshua replied, "...Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve Him..." (Josh. 24:22). It is vital that we not lose sight of the fact that the people whom Joshua was speaking to were ALREADY the people of God. They were not choosing to become the children of God for God had already chosen them and brought them out of Egypt. They had said "God forbid that we should forsake the Lord", the word forsake in this verse meaning to relinquish or leave. These people were the children of Jacob who are referred to in Scripture, not as those who have chosen God, but as those who have been chosen of God: "...ye children of Jacob, His chosen ones" (1 Chron. 16:13 cf. Psa. 105:6). God’s people, both in the Old and New Testaments, are always referred to as His chosen, His chosen ones, My chosen or the Lord thy God hath chosen, etc. (see Deut. 14:2; Isa. 43:20, 44:1; Mk. 13:20; Jn. 15:19; Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 2:9). The tribes of Israel had sinned and strayed and been disobedient to God, and all Joshua was saying to them was either serve the false gods or the true God. What all these people had done, and all these verses are showing, is that they repented before their God. This whole passage is about repentance by a people who were already God’s people, and not at all about them choosing to become God’s people. All God’s people stray and disobey at times, however all invariably repent and return to the Lord, not based on their free will choice of Him, but on their being HIS CHOSEN ONES by grace (see Psa. 80:3,7,19). God will never leave or forsake His people, therefore, they will always remain with Him: "For the Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you His people" (1 Sam. 12:22). "...I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee...I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me" (Heb. 13:5 & Jer. 32:40). The Scriptures say that God makes covenant with His chosen, not with those who ‘choose’ Him (see Psa. 89:3).
Returning now to the Pharisee and the Publican of Luke 18, Christ said this man, the chosen man, the publican, rather than the Pharisee, was justified. The word justified in this passage means ‘to render (i.e. show or regard as) just or innocent, free, be righteous’. True saving Righteousness is that which is imputed by God through grace, and not that righteousness which a man works for and is deserving of. “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works” (Rom. 4:4-6 cf. Gal. 3:5-14). The gift of faith given to the elect of God by grace to believe that Christ’s Righteousness alone is the Righteousness upon which salvation is grounded, is counted for Righteousness to everyone that believes. Righteousness that comes by works and effort is NOT that Righteousness which comes by grace alone. Faith is not a work of man’s but a gift given by the grace of God. Works had nothing to do with it. A man’s effort has nothing to do with believing, getting saved, or staying saved. It is all done by the grace of the Almighty Sovereign God. The Righteousness that is without works (see Rom. 4:6), “…cannot be the righteousness of the law, or man's obedience to it; for that is a righteousness with works, is a man's own, and not imputed; and indeed is not a righteousness in the sight of God” (but is as filthy rags, see Isa. 64:6): “nor does man's blessedness lie in, or come by it; no man is, or can be instilled by it, nor saved by it, or attain to Heaven and eternal happiness by the means of it; but the righteousness here spoken of is the Righteousness of Christ, called the Righteousness of God (see Rom. 9:31,32; 10:1-4); and is better than that of angels or men; is complete and perfect; by which the law is honoured, and justice is satisfied. This is freely bestowed, and graciously imputed by God to His elect. Just in the same way His Righteousness becomes ours, as Adam's sin did, which is by imputation; or in the same way that our sins became Christ's, His Righteousness becomes ours; and as we have no righteousness of our own when God justifies us, this must be done by the Righteousness of Another; and that can be done no other way by the Righteousness of another, than by imputing it to us: and which is done ‘without works’”. The Righteousness that saves is given by grace, it comes without works, and only by Imputation. “…not without the works of Christ, of which this Righteousness consists; but without the works of the creature, or any consideration of them, which are utterly excluded from justification; for if these came into account, it would not be of grace, and boasting would not be removed. Now such who have this Righteousness thus imputed to them, are happy persons; they are justified from all sin, and freed from all condemnation.” THEY ARE SAVED BY CHRIST’S WORK, AND NOT THEIR OWN. To be saved by Jesus Christ, is to be saved only by what He has done.
Righteousness comes from God through the agency of grace, and so all the glory for salvation can only rightly belong to God. It is Christ’s Righteousness that a saved man is imputed with because a saved man’s own righteousness could never save him, or keep him saved. THE SAVED MAN IS GIVEN, OR CHARGED WITH, A RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH IS WITHOUT HIS WORKS. A man cannot be saved, but by a Righteousness which is not his own. This saving Righteousness was not produced by the saved man, but was given to Him by grace. Here we see evidence that salvation does not produce any works by which a man is saved, for his salvation is based solely on the Righteousness of the Lord Jesus Who died for him, and which by grace is charged to the man’s account. The Righteousness which saves can only be by grace or reward. If it is by reward then it is not by grace, but if it be by grace then it cannot be that which a man has earned by what he has done. “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for Righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). “RIGHTEOUSNESS WITHOUT WORKS” (Rom. 4:6), IS WHAT THE WORD OF GOD DECLARES, NOT RIGHTEOUSNESS BY WORKS. Man needs a Righteousness which is not of himself, not his own righteousness, not something that he worked for, but Christ’s Own Righteousness. Salvation is not what a saved man works for, but what the Lord Jesus Christ worked for and earned for the people whom the Father gave to Him. A man’s righteousness is sin-laden and imperfect, and so, could never be acceptable to a Holy and Perfect God. The man who has been charged with the Righteousness of God would never even think to look to his own righteousness for salvation, for he has been given the gift of faith which only believes in the Righteousness of God. The apostle Paul did not want to be found with his own righteousness, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the Righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9). Clearly, Paul did not want his own righteousness, but only that Righteousness which is through the gift of faith in the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Paul did not want his own righteousness, but only that Righteousness which is of God. Saving Righteousness is without the works of any it has been imputed to. The Righteousness which saves comes only by grace through the gift of faith not works. Christ’s Righteousness is the ONLY Righteousness the apostle wanted, because it is the ONLY Righteousness which saves. The man who has been clothed with the Robe of Righteousness would never exchange it for his filthy rags. The lost are in such a depraved condition that they will not let go of their filthy rags no matter what. How could God’s perfect Righteousness ever require the assistance of a sinful man’s righteousness in order to save anyone! How can filthy rags improve upon the pure white robe of perfect Righteousness! And yet this is what the lost want and appeal to when they insist upon their works playing a part in salvation. That God’s white Robe of Righteousness is somehow incomplete, without the addition of their filthy rag righteousness. Incredible!
A man who truly believes in salvation by grace looks only to, and trusts only in, God Almighty and His Righteousness. A man who truly believes in salvation by grace wants only to be clothed with the Robe of the Righteousness of Christ, and happily discards his own garment consisting of filthy rags. Notice also in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican that Christ referred to the Pharisee in Luke 18 who attributed his good deeds to God, as one who did not merely have things wrong, who simply required some minor correction to his thinking, but as one who exalted himself, who trusted in himself that he was Righteous. Believing that God had enabled him to do what he did led the Pharisee to trust in himself, to exalt himself based on his good works, and not God. The same is true of those in Matthew 7 who claimed to love the Lord, and yet made reference only to what they had done in His name (see Matt. 7:21-23). The truly saved man, the man who believes salvation necessitated God imputing His own Righteousness to him, trusts only in God, and not in himself, in Christ’s works not in his own. He exalts God by boasting in what God alone has done, and not at all in what he has done. The true Christian says: “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul” (Psa. 66:16), not, ‘I will declare what I have done in His name’. The Pharisee—as with the entire nation of Israel, indeed every man by nature—believed that it was necessary for him to do in order to establish a saving Righteousness. Man by nature trusts only in himself. He may project that trust in false gods, however, false gods are merely an extension of man and his spiritual madness. Such is the state of the lost. As one man wisely wrote, “There are only two kinds of men: The righteous who know they are sinners, and the sinners who think they are righteous”.
Grace makes the elect man come to God. His coming to God is nothing but the result, or direct consequence of God coming to him first. This ‘coming to God’ is not a condition met, but the unchallengeable, irresistible result of God’s grace. Jesus said: “…no man can come unto Me, except it were given unto him of My Father” (Jn. 6:65). Coming to God is a gift from Him, not a work of ours. Seeing as no man can come to God by his own will, that no man even seeks Him by his own will, it is God that must come to a man if any are to be saved. God calls the dead whom He has chosen, makes them alive by His grace, and they all come to Him because of what God has done. No man can resist grace, for prior to grace every man is dead in sins. No man can choose grace, for prior to grace every man is dead in sins. So the primary issue here is not whether grace is irresistible or not, but that every man by nature is dead in trespasses and sins. Man is in bondage to sin, he is willingly enslaved to sin, and the only way a man dead in sins seeks to remove himself from this bondage only leads to more sin. Man coming to God is God’s grace at work. This is a gift given by grace, without which no man could, or would, ever come to God. Grace makes them come, for there is nothing in natural man that could make him come to the only true God. What else could Lazarus do after he was called by Christ, but come forth? Could Lazarus have come alive without the call of Christ? What else can a sinner called by God do, but come to Him. The saved sinner is a new creation in Christ, one who is created free of any desire to not seek Him. The Creator never sought permission to create. The new creature created in Jesus is the opposite of the old nature. Where once he could not seek Him, He is now made a seeker of God, a devoted follower by grace. Anyone who is not made alive by God, cannot come, will not come and refuses to come to Him. Man’s coming to God is not by his will or effort, but solely because of God’s choice by grace. A man’s coming to God is something which must be given a man, for no man can come to God without the gift of grace. Only a man born again will come unto the only true God. GRACE makes the man come. God’s grace in loving the elect draws all His chosen to Him. Grace makes the man do what he could never do by nature. A man’s coming to God is made possible only by the grace of God, just as Lazarus coming forth was only possible by the command of the Lord Jesus. It was the command, it is the grace of God wherein lies the power to make the physically dead rise, and the spiritually dead to be born again. Lazarus could never have come forth on his own recognisance, for he was physically dead. Likewise, no man by nature could ever come to God by his own will or ability, for man is spiritually dead.
The man who believes salvation is the direct result of his free will decision to love God, is no different to the Pharisee who thanked God for what he, the Pharisee, had done. ‘Thank you Lord that I’, is simply not Biblical, but should always be, ‘Thank you God that YOU’. The Pharisee insists he has to do something, and after having done that something, which he believes makes the difference between himself and the publican, thanks God for what he has done. This sounds quite feasible to the carnal mind of man, but is precisely what Christ Jesus the Lord calls exalting oneself, trusting in oneself (see Lk. 18:9,14). Such thinking does not give glory to God, but is a boasting in oneself, a trusting in oneself and establishing a righteousness of one’s own. The Christian does not thank God for what he, himself, has done, but always and only thanks God for what He, the God of the universe has done in him. Job stated, “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me…” (Job. 9:20). The apostle Paul declares: “…he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (2 Cor. 10:17,18). If a man seeks “…for justification by his own righteousness, trusts in himself that he is righteous, say that he was so, and pronounce himself a righteous man, what would it signify?” It would show that he is not a righteous man at all, but one who boasts and trusts in himself. It would show that he is ignorant of the Righteousness of God (see Rom. 10:1-4). Notice how the Lord Jesus does not say the Pharisee, who praised God for what he, the Pharisee, did, trusted in himself and in God, but only in himself. Moreover, Christ does not say the Pharisee exalted himself and God, but only himself. “…if it be of works, then is it no more grace…” (Rom. 11:6). If you look to anything you have done, if you are thanking God for what you have done, you can only be trusting in yourself, you can only be exalting yourself, and not God. If it is not grace alone it is not grace at all. If it is not grace alone, then it is you alone. If a man is not saved through the Righteousness of Christ alone imputed by the grace of God alone, then that man is worshipping a false god.