By Leslie Diestelkamp
Yes, I believe in unconditional grace. But hear me out! Please do not jump conclusions. I do not believe in unconditional salvation – not at all. The Bible clearly teaches that the believing sinner must “repent and be baptized” to receive remission of sins (Acts 2:38) and that the child of God must “walk in the light” to be continually cleansed (1 Jn. 1:7).
God has already extended His grace, thus providing the absolute and never-failing means by which every sinner can be saved if he will come to God by Jesus Christ (Heb. 7:25). This process of grace cannot, has not and will not fail. In this scheme of redemption, we can put our trust, for the cleansing power is not in us but in Christ and the pardon does not take place in the councils of men but at the throne of God’s grace in heaven (Heb. 4:16).
This grace that God has provided in giving His Son as a ransom for our sins was and is indeed unconditional grace. God did not wait until the human race was good enough to deserve a Savior. He did not say, “They are good enough, now I can send a Redeemer.” He did not even list a number of conditions to be met before the Christ would come, but rather He chose a time when Jesus would be rejected, not accepted, so that the Father’s purposes for us would be accomplished in the death of the Son.
Do We Deserve It?
Let us never get the idea that we deserved a Savior. Oh, we needed one; indeed we had to have one. There was no other way!
We give at least lip service to the idea that grace is unmerited favor. But do we really believe it? Do we actually teach it? Of course, we must teach that one is saved by obedience to the gospel, but we must not fail to make it clear that such obedience does not constitute us deserving. The pardon we then receive is still of grace and the Savior who provided the salvation was given even though we would never have the ability to pay for His sacrifice.
God may have looked down through the stream of time, and he may have seen Leslie Diestelkamp living in this 20th century. But he did not see anyone good enough to deserve the high price that was necessary for Leslie’s redemption. But God paid the price anyway! He paid it unconditionally – because He could not see anyone else who was good enough either! Because He loved sinful men, He gave His grace (Jn. 3:16). Jesus loved us too, and while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). Indeed, He “came, not to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners” (Mk. 2:17).
The benefit of God’s grace is received by us altogether conditionally (Heb. 5:9; Rom. 6:17, 18). But the means to that grace is entirely the free gift of God; Amazing Grace!
Exceeding Riches of Grace
God’s grace is not merely great; it is exceedingly great. It is not merely rich, it is exceedingly rich (Eph. 2:7). And this rich grace deserves much more attention than most of us usually give to it.
The heavenly Father did not bestow grace upon the human race thoughtlessly or carelessly. Rather, He did so with real deliberation and forethought. He began His plans before the world was created (Eph. 3:10-11 – “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord”). He warned Satan of His plan even in the garden (Gen. 3:15). The prophets prophesied of God’s redeeming purpose that was coming, John the Baptist predicted its consummation, and Jesus, during His ministry, verified it and explained it (see Isa. 53:1-12; Dan. 2:44; Mt. 3:2; Mt. 4:17; 16:18; Lk. 24:47; etc.). The greatness of grace is manifest as follows:
1. The gift of God’s love was a maximum gift. He did not give “second best.” The Father gave as we would decline to give – He gave, not Himself, but His Son, His only Son, His sinless Son, His sacrificed Son. If someone would demand a life today, we would rather give ourselves than our son, but God gave more than we would do.
2. God did not give Jesus to live a long life of service to mankind and then die of old age and of natural causes, but He have Him to die the cruel death on Calvary’s hill. In shame and pain Jesus suffered, saying, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Mt. 27:46); in agonizing triumph, He cried, “It is finished” and “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Jn. 19:30; Lk. 23:46).
3. God’s gift was given for His enemies. Many parents have given a son to die for a worthy cause, but not to save the enemy. Yet every sinner is an enemy of God, and Christ was given to die for such sinners. Paul wrote, “. . . in due time Christ died for the ungodly . . . . peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8).
My son, Al, wrote the following little poem which expresses worthwhile thoughts:
We look with wonder and appreciation,
At the universe, our God’s creation.
But the greatest wonder, it takes first place,
Is man the sinner – redeemed by grace (Al D.)
4. God’s grace provided a redeemer (Eph. 1:7). By that grace, He supplied the Holy Spirit to reveal the Word (Jn. 16:13). By that same grace, the gospel was given to save us (Rom. 1:16, 17). By grace, we have the hope of heaven to be the anchor of our souls (Heb. 6:18, 19). By God’s grace we are even warned of the eternal punishment in hell for all whose names are not written in the book of life (Rev. 20:13-15). For Paul, God’s grace was “sufficient” (2 Cor. 12:9). For the whole human race, sinful though we be, grace is exceedingly great and altogether sufficient that we can be a redeemed people and secure in Christ. Next: Grave Is Not License.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 14, pp. 230-231
April 3, 1980