Let’s run through a scenario: suppose you take a test and completely bomb every question. The teacher hands you your test back and to your surprise you passed with an A. Here are a couple simple questions: Did you actually earn the A? Did the standards for what constitutes an A change? If you were to take the same test tomorrow, would you also make an A?
A lot of Christians take grace for granted and almost act like they are owed grace. They pretend like grace is something the deserve if they say a prayer or have a spiritual moment. That kind of thinking not only misses the point of grace, but it also disrespects God by cheapening what exactly he did for us through his son and through the cross.
But God is so rich in mercy and loves us with such intense love that, even when we were dead because of our acts of disobedience, he brought us to life along with the Messiah — it is by grace that you have been delivered. That is, God raised us up with the Messiah Yeshua and seated us with him in heaven, in order to exhibit in the ages to come how infinitely rich is his grace, how great is his kindness toward us who are united with the Messiah Yeshua. For you have been delivered by grace through trusting, and even this is not your accomplishment but God’s gift. (Ephesians 2:4-8)
No Mistake About It, We Earned Death
In Romans 6:23, we read that the wages of sin is death. Furthermore, we all know that absent of God’s power we are helpless to cleanse ourselves of our own sin that we are all doomed to commit. For this reason, we have all absolutely ‘earned’ death both physically and spiritually.
But God is so rich in mercy and loves us with such intense love that, even when we were dead because of our acts of disobedience, he brought us to life along with the Messiah — it is by grace that you have been delivered. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
Well, what if we just stop being sinful and act perfect? Isn’t it that simple? Yes and no. Yes in that if that was actually possible, it would be sufficient. No in that none of us are capable of amounting up to the level of glory that God deserves.
Moreover, we know that whatever the Torah says, it says to those living within the framework of the Torah, in order that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world be shown to deserve God’s adverse judgment. For in his sight no one alive will be considered righteous on the ground of legalistic observance of Torah commands, because what Torah really does is show people how sinful they are.
since all have sinned and come short of earning God’s praise. (Romans 3:19-20,23)
The Gift of Grace
With all this said, God’s divine Will was never that we would die becoming eternally separated from his presence. That was never how God intended things to work. This is why God sent Christ to die for our sins to that the penalty of our sin might be atoned.
That is, God raised us up with the Messiah Yeshua and seated us with him in heaven, in order to exhibit in the ages to come how infinitely rich is his grace, how great is his kindness toward us who are united with the Messiah Yeshua. For you have been delivered by grace through trusting, and even this is not your accomplishment but God’s gift. (Ephesians 2:6-8)
The beauty of grace is that it doesn’t just act like a Band-Aid on our souls; it actually unites us with Christ.
Therefore, if anyone is united with the Messiah, he is a new creation — the old has passed; look, what has come is fresh and new! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
When we accept Christ, we actually unite our souls with His and are adopted into his family. This is one of the reasons why we become ‘acceptable’ to meet God’s standard for purity. Absent uniting with Christ, which effectively over-writes our old nature and old sins, we cannot achieve the level of ‘good enough’ necessary to meet God’s standard. That leaves us in a situation where we metaphorically have to ride Jesus’ coattails so that we can be accepted.
This makes it sound like God is a goalkeeper trying to keep us out of heaven, but with grace it is the exact opposite. God has established the standard of perfection necessary to spend eternity with Him and through Christ he freely gives us the ability to be considered ‘good enough’ to meet that standard. Eternal life in return for uniting with God? Not a bad trade.
God Glorified Through His Gift
All this talk of grace raises an important question: if God desires for us to unite with Him and grace was all we needed, why didn’t God simply create some blanket way to cover everyone on earth without any kind of ‘decisions’ to follow Him? Why was Jesus necessary and why do we have to follow the teachings of God in human form?
The simple answer is this: God is glorified when we choose to accept grace.
Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be possessed by force.
On the contrary, he emptied himself, in that he took the form of a slave by becoming like human beings are.
And when he appeared as a human being, he humbled himself still more by becoming obedient even to death — death on a stake as a criminal.
Therefore God raised him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name; that in honor of the name given Yeshua, every knee will bow — in heaven, on earth and under the earth — and every tongue will acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is Adonai — to the glory of God the Father.” -Phil 2:6-11)
In Philippians, Paul writes about the glory of God causing every knee to bow and tongue to confess that He is God. If the knee bows and the tongue confesses because it is forced to bow and confess, how strong of a relationship does that really show? If you complete a list of chores because you were told you had to do them, are your parents going to think you did it out of love and admiration? No suppose you do all those chores without anyone asking you or without any bribery. Now how do your parents feel? It shows a tremendous amount of love and devotion to choose to follow and honor someone else.
Through Christ, God gives us the option to follow Him and in that option we have the opportunity to glorify His name beyond all other names as that only thing which is sufficient to save our everlasting souls.