Grace Alone

And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name “Yahweh.” And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy (Exodus 33:19).

Yahweh passed before him and proclaimed, “Yahweh, Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Exodus 34:6).

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will (Matthew 11:25–26).

That God is characterized by grace is proved in that he has not distanced us from him, remanding us to a place where our sin meets with the punishment it deserves. He has purposed, out of his own character alone, to somehow restore what we have ruined by our rebellion against him.

It is his grace that impassions him to so strongly desire our reconciliation to him that he will accomplish this at an unimaginably severe cost only to himself. He reconciles us to himself by means of his Son’s death on the cross.

For in [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:19–20).

It simply pleased the Father to do this.

With astonishing criminal contempt, it does not seem to please very many sinners that God should seek their reconciliation to himself. And judging from the collective human response, the manner of such reconciliation is even more scandalous than the idea that God should desire it.

We do not suppose that our alienation from God is anywhere near the problem that God seems to think it is. So only God’s character can account for his reaching across the distance of our alienation to draw us out of the reality of condemnation and wrath into the reality that is founded upon Christ’s atonement. Only God’s character accounts for this.

Our character had been emptied of any redeeming virtue. Grace alone would not be grace at all if God needed to find some part of our humanity that wasn’t corrupted by sin before he could effectively reconcile us to himself. In the face of every good reason to leave us in our sin, and smelling the toxic smoldering of our own willful rebellion against God’s rightful authority over us, God’s power to forgive and make reconciliation was unleashed by his grace alone. There is no merit in us that can be searched out and found by God. We may find it in our own search of ourselves. But the merit we find is nothing other than polluted rags to God.

Most people find this a quite repulsive and unreasonable idea—that, for all our accomplishments, we should still be completely void of merit before God; that God could not locate in us even a spark of something good that would make it worth his while to reconcile us to himself.

It is by grace alone—God’s grace alone—that any human being can be reconciled to God. There is no meeting God somewhere around half the distance that separates us from him. For all of Hallmark’s effort to extol the virtues and kindnesses of men and women in their relationships with one another, our story will never have a happy ending apart from God’s grace alone. Our sin has cast us into such a depth of moral poverty that happy endings in the movies are never true in actual human life.

We never see where the budding romance actually ends. We never comprehend the truth that there is never sufficient merit in the human soul to supplant grace alone with something a little more flattering to human worthiness.

Grace might be compatible with our sensibilities. But grace alone is entirely offensive. And we might wonder about God’s sanity in offering anyone reconciliation to himself under such a tormenting assessment of our moral qualities. He would get more takers if he’d only lighten up about sin.

It is our sin that makes it necessary that we be reconciled to God by grace alone if we are to be reconciled to God at all. And until we can “come to ourselves” and discover just how deep our sin goes into the very fabric of our personhood, we are irreconcilable.

As truth goes, God will never reconcile anyone to himself by anything other than his grace alone. Nor will he ever be moved to forgive our sins on any other basis than that his Son, Jesus Christ the Lord, paid for our ransom with his own blood on the cross.

Nowadays there are clubs a plenty that purvey their religious wearables at great cost to their members. They can elicit such willingness to so liberally spend because human arrogance has them all believing that they’re worth it.

Gifts should be expensive. Gifts we give ourselves should be the most expensive of all.

Not every expense can be measured in actual dollars and cents. God’s gift of irrevocable reconciliation can be measured by his actual grace. Grace alone. Uncompromising grace. Grace that refuses to partner with the sinner in some sort of joint-venture.

No. The sinner has nothing but debt—inconceivable debt. God pays that debt in its entirety, and he pays for it at cost only to himself. He pays for it with that which is infinitely priceless: the blood (death) of his own Son.

If we are to be reconciled to God, if we desire to be reconciled to God, we must embrace God’s grace. He will not reconcile a single sinner to himself by any other means than his own grace.

For those so reconciled, God’s glory and beauty are seen to be so magnificent, so amazing, that thanksgiving pours out of the soul as one who has finally been made alive after a long and sleepless captivity to death. For those unwilling to take God at his word of grace, God will be the wrathful judge condemning the sinner to everything the sinner deserves.