Dietrich Bonhoeffer correctly taught that God’s grace is free but not cheap. Not only did it cost the Savior to provide it but it includes a cross also for each of us following Him [Matthew 16:24]. God saved us as a total act of mercy requiring no effort or task on our part [except to believe, allow Him to do so] but going forward grace requires that we “work out our own salvation” [Philippians 2:12] “with fear and trembling,” i.e. with a single focus as the most important thing we could do ever. But are we going on the strength of our own will? No! “For it is God who works in us” [Philippians 2:13] both “to will and do of His good pleasure,” [no better definition of grace than this!]. Ps 115:3 “Our God is in heaven and does whatever he pleases.” And what He “pleases” is to be reconciled to us and be in covenant relation with us. A relationship is a commitment to participate in a harmonious union with Him.
Grace is not above God’s Justice
Grace does not preclude judgment. “No final judgment is any longer possible if the beneficial consequences of sin … justify the sinner.” Francis Godet contended. In like manner, true mercy is not fooled. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” [Galatians 6:7]. The HeartKnower knows a true request for mercy and He always responds in love: “a broken and a contrite heart, God, will not disregard” [Psalm 51:17]. Never confuse mercy with forgiving everything and everyone even without a life-changing act of contrition or repentance. Mercy has a judgment to perform, something atheism will mistakenly label vengeance or brutality. No one is more capable of wielding a sword victoriously than the merciful. Said another way, believers should rightly see God’s mercy even in His judgment—especially in His judgment. God’s reaction is not vengeful as much as it is the expression of the highest love. Isaiah, using God’s word for judgment (vengeance) records the Lord’s mindset: “For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come” [Isaiah 63:4]. In order to understand the nuance of this term in relation to God, we need to ask what passion is driving Him. It is a desire to bring an end to sin, unfairness, and injustice—a desire to bring redemption [freedom] from sin and its bondage, not a desire to “get even.”
Grace does not react to sin
“Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” [Romans 6:1]. Sin does not have authority over grace; grace has authority over sin. But God has deemed we share in that victory by allowing God’s work in us to be perfected with our co-operation by yielding to His Spirit [Philippians 2:12-13]. “I am crucified with Christ, ” Paul explained, “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of [trusting in] the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God” [Galatians 2:20-21].
There is no sin God’s grace cannot conquer! Paul clarified, “…where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” [Romans 5:20]. In the war for the souls of men, God’s victory over sin is decisive [Colossians 2:15].
Grace is in reality not irresistible.
1 Corinthians 15:10 in the NLT reads “But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.” This translation debates some of our conclusions using the word favor, adding “not without results” which translated the word vain in the King James version. A better translation reads “But by the grace of God I have become what I am; and his grace to me was not in vain, but I worked harder than all of them; and not me, but the grace of God with me.” Let’s look closely at this verse:
Whatever I am now: a saved believer and an apostle to the Gentiles.
Not without results. God’s grace was not powerless in me
Working Laboring, praying, toiling, traveling about [all this] but not without grace. Grace makes our efforts fruitful [Romans 15:19].
Through me – with me, Paul indicating how God’s grace wants us to share in His great work.
It is this fellowship with the Spirit of God whether in prayer or laboring for the Kingdom that necessitates a willing participation in God’s call. That willingness makes it unreasonable to see God’s grace as irresistible. We are in covenant with God through Christ (Galatians 2:20) and regrettably our lack of a sense of devotion to the work of God, in us or through us [“with fear and trembling” – Philippians 2:12] grieves the Spirit of God [Ephesians 4:30]. This is not an argument against a genuine awareness of our security in Christ. But we are turning this piece to our picture of God’s grace to understand exactly how it fits in.