Saturday, September 12, 2009

Conditional Grace Throughout the Bible

Grace


John Piper is probably a familiar name to many of you, since he is a well-known and respected reformed christian author. Recently, I was reading John Piper's book. "Future Grace," and I came across the idea of unmerited condition grace in the life of the christian. I would like to expound on that point in this blog.

"Free, Unmerited, Conditional Grace

However, free doesn't always mean unconditional. Many of God's acts of grace are conditional... When James says '[God] gives a greater grace... God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble' (James 4:6), he means that there is a grace that comes to those who are humble, but does not come to the proud."

"It should be plain from this, that fulfilling conditions does not imply earning anything or meriting anything. Grace is still free, even when it is conditional. There is such a thing as unmerited, conditional grace. Do not equate meeting conditions of grace with earning or meriting grace. 'Earning grace' would indeed be a contradiction in terms, like 'hot snow' or 'verdant desert.'"

"Grace cannot be earned. The very meaning of grace is that the one receiving the grace does not deserve it - has not earned it. If a philanthropist pays $80,000 for your college education on the condition that you graduate from high school, you have not earned the gift, but you have met a condition. It is possible to meet a condition for receiving grace and yet not earn the grace. Conditional grace does not mean earned grace. How can this be?

The part of the answer that needs to be said here is that when God's grace is promised based on a condition, that condition is also a work of God's grace. This guarantees the absolute freeness of grace. The philanthropist mentioned above may even become the personal tutor for a failing high school student to insure that he does get his diploma and so meets the condition for $80,000 grant."


Furthermore, Piper gives an example of a conditional promise from the Scriptures, and comments on it.

"The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him." Nahum 1:7


"We do not earn or merit anything by taking refuge in God. Hiding in something makes no contribution to the hiding place. All it does is show that we regard ourselves as helpless and the hiding place as a place of rescue. The condition we must meet to have this grace is not a meritorious one."


Piper goes on to say that, in the christian life, faith is often the condition of future grace. Does this condition nullify the grace of God? His response is this:

"As we ponder how to live the Christian life, the uppermost thought should be: How can I magnify rather than nullify the grace of God? Paul answers this question in

Galatians 2:20-21, 'I have been crucified Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now life in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God."

Why does his life not nullify the grace of God? Because he lives by faith in the Son of God. Faith calls all attention to grace and magnifies it, rather than nullifying it."

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All of these teachings, I would affirm. I have often said that an offer or action can be conditional, but not deserved. For instance, suppose that I only share my chocolate with those among my siblings who are girls. The offer of chocolate would be conditional, but has nothing to do with the fact that the girls deserve chocolate more than the guys do. Or for another example, if I walked into a school and shot every red-head, that action would be conditional. I would only shoot people who meet the condition of having red hair. Does that imply that they somehow the red-heads deserved to be shot more than the others? Of course not!

In the lives of christian, I believe that we are called to come boldly before the Throne of Grace to ask for help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). If God gives me grace, and I am not in sin as much as a fellow brother or sister in Christ, is that cause to look down on them or boast? Of course not! I am no better than they, and any grace that I have received, conditional or not, is unmerited! I am a poor beggar in need of God's grace, and may God let me never forget that fact!

Now, one objection calvinists often have against the idea that salvation is conditional is the idea that if the grace of salvation was conditional, we would have something to boast about. If salvation was truly conditional, then we could say that we are somehow better or more worthy than our unsaved neighbors, which would be obviously false. I maintain, however, that this is a false dilemma. It seems to be that just as post-salvation grace is clearly conditional, and yet clearly undeserved, pre-salvation grace could hypothetically operate under the same principles.

I believe that Biblically, salvation(the whole package) is conditional upon faith. I do not believe that this is a reason to boast. As Piper said, "The condition we must meet to have this grace is not a meritorious one." I do not believe that I am any more worthy than non-christians in receiving salvation, or anyone more worthy than christians in receiving any sort of grace. I am a miserable wretched sinner, always in desparate need of God's help and grace.
I do not believe that salvation being conditional on faith would nullify grace. As Piper said, "Faith calls all attention to grace and magnifies it, rather than nullifying it." If grace were conditional on works, then we could all boast. No grace is conditional on works. Not pre-salvation grace, not salvation grace, and not post-salvation grace. When grace is conditional on faith, our only boast in is Christ (Galatians 6:14).

In this way, I want to humbly put forward the idea that whether or not salvation is conditional, the argument against it needing to be unconditional on the basis that conditional would mean merited or deserved somehow is not a legitimate argument against conditional salvation. I put forward this idea on the grounds that we can see from the Bible that conditional grace does not in any way imply merit, and that faith as opposed to works does not nullify grace, but rather put it into the limelight.


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By means of clarification, some put forward the idea of "Unconditional Election." Others put forward the idea of "Conditional Election."One major argument against the idea of conditional election is that if we determined whether or not that condition(faith) was met, we would somehow be able to call the fulfilling of that condition "meritorious," say that we "earned" our salvation, or nullify the idea of grace.

I am trying to put forward the notion that if, by the grace of God, we were able to determine whether or not we fulfilled the condition on which salvific grace was given, that it would be similar in concept to our ability, through God's grace, to determine whether or not to fulfill the conditions for grace in our christian life(like humility) I am comparing the two and noticing that in both cases, the grace, although conditional, would be unmerited and something no one can boast about. Does that make sense?