Pristine Grace

The Freeness of God's Grace
by Gery Schmidt

In reference to the text above, we ask the following questions Is the grace of God free or not? Does it depend on something in man for it to be effectual? Now most professed disciples of Christ, when asked whether they are saved by grace or works, will assert boldly that they are saved by grace alone. But if the point be considered further, namely, whether God's grace is absolutely free, it will be discovered that there is confusion among Christians concerning this point. Indeed, too many professed Christians undo their 'saved by grace alone" slogan by holding to an overt philosophy of salvation by works.

In Jonah 2:9 there appears the wondrous statement that *salvation is of the Lord." But what does this statement mean precisely? It can only mean that salvation, from its inception to its consummation, is of God and not of man. Whether one considers election, justification, sanctification, or glorification, from beginning to and salvation is of the Lord. And since salvation is of God it follows that there is nothing in any sinner which can contribute or detract from this great work of God. And thus the text of Jonah 2:9 demonstrates that the grace of God must be free. Let us briefly elaborate on this point.

The grace of God Is free in election. In Romans 9:16 Paul concludes that the electing mercies of God do "not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs but on God who has mercy." Indeed, it is not just any sinner who can be saved, but rather those whom God chooses to save. Election is of God and not man, and thus "he has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires" (Rom. 9:18). Any notion of an election based upon the foreseen good deeds of the unregenerate is a concept foreign to the Scriptures. The grace of God is also free in regeneration. The apostle John confirms this when he states that believers are "born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Regeneration, then, is of God and not man; hence, nothing in man can precede regeneration as its cause, whether belief, faith, repentance, or the sprinkling of water on an infant's head.

Grace is also free in justification. Paul declares in Romans 8:33 that "it is God who justifies.” It is also written in Romans 3:24  that sinners are "Justified freely by his grace..." Justification is of God and not man. No man can declare himself righteous in the sight of God; only the Almighty Judge himself can do such a work. Now someone might argue that believers are said to be justified by faith, and therefore man has a part in his justification. But it must be asked, where did his faith come from? Paul asserts that "not all have faith," and that "by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (2 These. 3:2; Eph. 2:8). Clearly, faith is not something latent in the unregenerate, but is a gift of grace. Further, faith itself cannot justify a sinner in the sight of God, for it is simply the means by which the elect apprehend their justification as they are enabled to look unto Christ in saving belief. Faith is no substitute for the Mosaic law, and neither is it a replacement for, nor a supplement to, the atoning work of Christ.

It matters not what constituent part of salvation one considers, the same conclusion will always be arrived at, namely, that one in saved by grace, and this grace is utterly free. God consults only with his own good pleasure in the matter of salvation, and not with man. It is God who elects, justifies, regenerates, sanctifies, and glorifies. It is God who saves his elect and keeps them from stumbling, and is able to make them stand in his presence blameless with great joy (Jude 24). No sinner has any part in. these things, cannot contribute to them in any sense, whether as a cause, means, or completion. It Is but Scripturally logical that the grace of God is free. The unregenerate have neither the desire for God's grace, nor the ability to procure it. Grace is unmerited favor, and as such can it be anything but free? Nevertheless, many professed disciples of Christ, while paying lip service to this truth, part with it in doctrine and practice.

The Arminian understands not the freeness of God's grace. He does hold to a certain concept of free grace, namely, that it is available for all, but such grace comes at a price. The Arminian contends that while grace is available and offered to all, such grace is of no effect unless the sinner performs certain acts in order to procure it. And these acts are repentance and faith. And thus, Arminians turn faith and repentance into works by which sinners merit salvation. Thus, the grace of God in no longer truly free, but is metamorphosed by the Arminian into a debt owed as a wage to the sinner who rightly uses his mythical free will.

But the Scriptures teach no such concept of God's grace. If grace is unmerited, how can a sinner merit, It by repentance and faith? And since the Scriptures declare that repentance, faith, and belief are gifts of God which accompany salvation, is it not obvious that no sinner possesses these things while unregenerate? There is indeed a price for grace, but no sinner can pay that price. Jesus Christ paid the price for grace and obtained eternal redemption for his elect. Consequently, faith and repentance cannot procure grace, but are the results of grace by which a sinner comes to the knowledge of his salvation. And such grace is given (not made available or offered) by God to none but his elect.

The Calvinistic infant sprinkler also fails to fully grasp the freeness of God's grace. These folks make many excellent statements in their confessions concerning God's grace, only to contradict themselves by their abominable practice of infant sprinkling. In section five of the third chapter of the Westminster Confession, God's predestination of his elect unto salvation is said to be done "out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto." Yet R.L. Dabney, on page 799 of his Systematic Theology,  states that "where the duties represented in the sacrament of baptism are properly followed up, the actual regeneration of children is the ordinary result-" W.G.T. Shedd, in the second volume of his Dogmatic Theology on page 578, declares, "The reason why there is not an infallible connection between infant baptism and regeneration... is the fact that the covenant is not observed on the human side with absolute perfection."

Now anyone who has eyes with which to see can easily discern in these words the dogma of salvation by works. In the Confession grace is declared to be free and is conditioned solely on God's good pleasure. Mr. - Dabney, however, insists that infants are ordinarily regenerated when certain duties are performed following their rantism. Shedd is convinced not all infants are regenerated after their rantism, not so much because it is not God's good pleasure to do so, but rather because humane are less than perfect in performing certain duties. This is not free grace, but grace at a price. If salvation is of the Lord and not of man, why would God hearken unto the efforts of the Infant sprinkler? Can his performance of manmade duties in connection with a man-made institution possibly cause the Lord to regenerate his child? If so, "grace is no longer grace" (Rom. 11:6).

In conclusion, there is a definite need for Christians to rethink their concepts concerning the grace of God, and to reexamine the Scriptures concerning the doctrine of salvation. Both the Arminian and the Calvinistic infant sprinkler clearly misunderstand the freeness of God's grace, and attach all sorts of conditions to it in order to make it effectual. In doing so, they rob grace of its unmeritorious nature. But were salvation truly conditioned upon something in man, who then could be saved? Grace must be free indeed, and so the Scriptures declare it to be.