|Chapter 1: The Gift, and the Giver|
|Chapter 2: The Receipt of the Gift by Faith|
|Chapter 3: The Relationship of Honor and Grace|
|Chapter 4: Honor The Son By Honoring His Grace|
|Chapter 5: Common Approaches to Salvation by Works|
|Chapter 6: Common Approaches to Salvation by Works|
|Chapter 7: The Purpose of the Law.|
|Chapter 8: The Enemies of Grace|
|Chapter 9: Grace - The Eve of the Battle|
|Chapter 10: Grace--The Battle Begins|
|Chapter 11: Grace - The Debate Goes Public|
|Chapter 12: The Jerusalem Counsel|
|Chapter 13: Guerrilla Tactics in the War On Grace|
|Chapter 14: The Four Perversions of Grace-- 1 & 2|
The Doctrine of Grace
Ronald R. Shea, Th.M., J.D.
SALVATION IS THE GIFT OF GOD
The Word "Grace" comes from the Greek word "charis." It simply means "a gift." For grace to exist, five seperate elements are necessary: A giver, gift in the lawful possession and control of the giver, the free-will disposition of the giver to freely release possession or control of the gift to another, a recipient, and the free will disposition of the recipient to receive possession, control or some other benefit of the gift.
In legal terminology, the gift or object being given is called a "res" (pronounced "race), which is Latin for the "thing." The gift or "res" may take wide variety of forms, including, but not limited to, a physical object such as a new car or a wrist watch, a service such as tuning a piano or cleaning a swimming pool, or the conferring of a legal status such as being forgiven a debt. The common feature to any gift or res is that it is to the benefit of the recipient.
The greatest gift in the history of the universe is the salvation of mankind from the penalty and consequences of sin. Although the elements of this salvation have been enumerated in great detial, probably the two most distinguishing features of this salvation are the bestowal upon a man of a right legal standing before his Creator ("justification") and the impartation of eternal life. And that salvation is by the grace of God. Which is to say, it is a gift.
For by grace are you saved through Faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works that anyone should boast.
The eternal salvation of mankind is the ultimate gift of God. It is a gift because it cost sinful man nothing. It was not free to God, however, but cost God His only begotten Son.
(See Footnote 1)
GRACE: THE DISPOSITION OF THE GIVER
Although the world "grace" can refer to an object or "res" which is freely given, such as the gift of salvation, an object alone cannot qualify as Grace, even if that object is free. Imagine finding an expensive Vacheron Constantine wrist watch on the beach. It is unquestionably an object, and if it were found on a desolate area of beach, it would certainly appear free. By themselves, however, these two features are not sufficient to identify the wrist watch as a gift. To qualify as Grace, the wristwatch must be provided by a giver who is possessed of a personality trait known as free-will, and who is further possessed of the motivation or disposition to bestow the wrist watch freely, without cost or obligation.
If one finds something of value, it may be free, but it is not a gift.
Grace cannot exist simply by virtue of an object or res, even if that object is free. Grace cannot exist unless there is a giver motivated by free will to bestow a benefit without cost or obligation. Finding a valuable wrist watch on the beach may be "free," but it is not a gift.
The word "Grace" does not occur in the Old Testament. However, scholars generally agree that the closest Hebrew equivalent to the word "Grace" is a Hebrew word "hesed," or "loyal love." Love is the disposition of a person to conduct himself in a certain manner with respect to the object of his love. It is a disposition, a motivation, a drive. Love may exist without an object or res. For example, a father may love his son or daughter. By this, he stands ready to bestow upon them any benefit within his power. Many years may elapse, however, in which his children have no need for any provision from him. His love however does not cease to exist simply because it is not active in bestowing some benefit. Love, however, cannot exist independent of personality.
Grace may be thought of as love in action. It is more than the disposition of a person. It is the disposition of that person to bestow some particular benefit (the gift) upon another. The cornerstone of grace, however, is not the gift itself, but the disposition (the love) of the giver. Grace is, first and foremost, the disposition of God, the loving kindness of God by which he stands ready to bestow upon his subjects every good gift. Grace is not an impersonal force or substance. It is, at its very core, personal. It is the loyal love, the inner goodness and gracious character of our God.
(See Footnote 2)
1. (Within Ephesians 2:8-9 quoted above, the demonstrative pronoun "that" (Greek--"touto") is specifically said to be "not of yourselves," and "the gift of God." Therefore, the "gift of God" is identified by the demonstrative pronoun "touto." Certain sects within Christendom insist that the demonstrative pronoun "touto" refers back to the word "faith." The motivation behind this dubious interpretation is not a faithfulness to the teaching of Scripture, but a somewhat dishonest attempt to shore up the belief that man lacks a fundamental attribute of personality known as free will. To support this doctrine from the text of Ephesians 2:8-9, however, great violence must be done to the plain teaching of this passage. If man's "faith" is the ultimate gift of God, then eternal salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ is not the ultimate gift of God. Apart from being intuitively repugnant, there are multiple reasons for which this position cannot be sustained by Ephesians 2-9, or by any in other verse of Scripture. First, Greek grammar typically requires that a demonstrative pronoun agree with its antecedent in number in gender. In Ephesians 2:8-9 however, the word "faith" is feminine, whereas the demonstrative pronoun "touto" is neuter. This does not bode well for "faith" being "the gift of God." On the other hand, the abstract concept behind the verb "saved" is the concept of "salvation." If one were, in the Greek language, to refer to the idea contained in the verb , one would use a neuter pronoun. This is what we find here, the neuter pronoun "touto." This would strongly suggest that the antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun "that" is "salvation," not "faith. " Salvation, not faith, is the great gift of God. Moreover, there are numerous other passages of Scripture which plainly teach that the eternal life offered in our Lord Jesus Christ is the gift of God (John 4:10, John 10:27, Rev. 22:17). It is tragic indeed, that certain sects should be willing to violate plain rules of Greek grammar, contravene a common thread woven him throughout Scripture, and deny that God's ultimate gift to mankind is the salvation he offers to our Lord Jesus Christ, simply to shore-up the belief that man lacks free will. If this were, indeed, taught throughout Scripture, as claimed, one wonders why they would need to do such violence to the plain meaning of this passage.
The disupte over this passage, however, is more than simply a dispute over the question of predestination and free will. When Ephesians 2:2-9 is tortured to reduce the gift of God to "faith," and therefore, reduces the concept of "grace" to the Aristotelian substance which, when infused in a man, invokes faith. (See the subsequent chapter on "Sovereign Grace".) This, however, has two derivative errors which are far more serious than a friendly controversy over predestination and free-will. Firstly, it creates "another gospel." The Gospel is no longer "Christ Died for your Sins." The requirement of God in the salvation of man is no longer "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." The cross fades into the background. Man's saving response to the gospel message is not to believe that Jesus died for His sins, and to accept His offer of eternal life as a gift, believing it is Christ alone, apart from the works of the law. NO, the fundamental meaning of belief ceases to be reliance on Christ alone, apart from man's works. Rather, the gospel of such ilk becomes "Believe that faith comes from God. And unless you believe that you can't believe, you cannot be saved." The object of man's faith is no longer Jesus Christ, but man's faith (or lack of faith.). To be saved, man must sit in the lotus position examining the lint in his naval until he reaches the belief that he cannot believe. Even if this were a true teaching of the Bible (and I personally believe it is one of the most illogical utterances in the history of theology), it would not be the gospel. And so, it becomes another gospel. Secondly, by making the operation of "grace" a "faith giving empowerment," grace ceases to retain its essential meaning . . . a gift which is offered freely, and whcih therefore must be received freely. It is for this reason that many of the "hyper-Calvinists" are so comfortable tacking works on the equation of salvation. (See the Chapters on "Bilateral-Contract (Lordship) Salvation" and the "Perseverance of the Saints." When grace is redefined as a substance that imparts faith, it ceases to be an offer of eternal life as a free gift, and the demand that man accept God's offer of eternal life as a free gift, or not at all.
2. (Although the observation that "grace" must include the freewill disposition of a giver may seem so obvious as to border on trivial, in a subsequent discussion of "sovereign grace" we shall see that this most fundamental aspect of God's grace as a disposition within the heart of a personal, living God has been abandoned by major segments within Roman Catholic and Protestant theology, which have reduced "grace" to an impersonal Aristotelian substance that can be "infused" into man.)
By the two heresies described above, modern reformed theology reduces Christianity to a mechanistic Aristotelian construct, where neither God nor man possess the attibutes of personality. Grace, God's loving offer of eternal life, is reduced to an impersonal Aristotelian substance that can be infused into men. Man's free will decision to accept that gift is reduced to an impersonal mechanism that needs adjusting.
Chapter 1: The Gift, and the Giver