CONDITIONAL OR UNCONDITIONAL?
The Grace and Mercy of God is one of the most beautiful and critical themes in the Bible. We cannot sincerely claim to know God's will through His revealed Word and still deny man's need for God's Grace. The doctrine of Grace has become a great controversy among many in the religious world. There are many conflicting views of Grace, leading to a lot of confusion even in the church. Take for example, those who claim that God's Grace will save everyone no matter what they do. Others teach that God’s Grace is extended unconditionally to a limited and predestined few whom God has already chosen before the world began, despite their character, conduct, will, or heart. And of course, their famous claim is that once God saves the elect, they can never fall from Grace and be lost eternally. Protestant denominations commonly teach salvation by "Grace alone" and "faith only." So God's Grace is granted only to those who have a good attitude, a good conscience, and are sincere toward God. Their biggest problem is that obedience is not essential to salvation. Others among us, claim that all that matters is the sincerity of our heart and our well-intentioned will to remain in Grace despite whatever sinful practices. That is, no matter how long we continue to live in sin, refusing to repent, we still cannot fall from Grace. Hence they declare that we must not be “judgmental” and rebuke those who are rebellious, walking in sin but instead must have fellowship with them despite their errors and sinful practices.
When one teaches those who practice sin that they must repent and obey God's terms to be saved, some accuse us saying that we are "playing God," "putting ourselves in God's place," or that "we are limiting the Grace of God." They imply in an accusatory manner that we are in God's place, for we are deciding who will be saved through God's Grace. Yet, they often say, "I just believe the Grace of God will cover those people." Now the only real question at stake is, What does the Bible say? You see, they ignore that the only way to know the Grace of God is to learn what God's Word says! So if God's Word declares that all people who sin must repent to obey and please God, then how on earth can we be playing God when we preach and teach them the Gospel?! We are just God's messengers who love their souls enough to teach them the Word of God's Grace. We are just declaring what God says they must do to receive and benefit from His Grace! Moreover, those who claim that God will save them even when they continue practicing sin, but for some reason, cannot find a Scripture that teaches or proves it according to them, aren't they the ones who are putting themselves in God's place? What do you think? Aren't they placing themselves in God's place when they decide who will be saved without God having spoken anything about it? According to John 1:17, Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ, and thus, there is no conflict at all between Grace and Truth, for they go hand in hand, are inseparable, and must work together! God's Word is Truth. Thus Grace works according to God's Word! (John 17:17). I must stress that Grace is not some kind of vague or elastic concept that we can stretch out and twist as we please just to cover whatever sins people want. Indeed, that is God's place to say what His Grace will cover. So, the only way to know that is by examining thoroughly what God has said in His inspired Word. We must not "play God" even when we want to extend God's Grace, where His Word has not spoken or given authority. We must not limit His Grace, where His Word has not limited it either. We must not speculate about God's Grace, but rather do what God has said to do!
So is Grace conditional or unconditional? Our religious friends disagree about whether Grace is received conditionally or unconditionally. According to God's Word, to receive forgiveness and continue receiving the blessings that result from conditional Grace, there are certain things that we must do. Surely, to receive Grace is dependent on our individual choice, how we act, think, speak, walk, etc. Unconditional Grace implies that forgiveness and the resulting blessings are granted despite one’s choice or conduct. That is, God would grant Grace completely on His own determination without taking into account one’s will, desires, and actions. That is nothing more than "unconditional election," one of the most fundamental doctrines of Calvinism. Surely, they reject that God offers salvation to all men in every place and that He gives each person the power to choose for himself. It is up to each individual, their choice, to accept or reject God's offer of salvation! God offers salvation to all men and desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth (2 Peter 3:9)! They also claim that since we don't deserve Grace, there is nothing that we can do to receive it. According to them, God will save the undeserving regardless of what they do: obey or disobey the Gospel Message. The Bible presents many great examples of people who received God's blessings by Grace, but they had to meet God's conditions to receive His blessings! They would never have received God's blessings had they failed to obey God's terms or conditions. However, though they met the conditions and received the blessing, they still were not worthy of the blessing. So, it was still a matter of Grace, after all.
The fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:1-20). In verse 2, we notice that God gave Jericho to Israel. Do you suppose they did not have to do anything to receive that gift? Verses 3-5 give us the answer. You see, for the people to receive the gift, they had to march around the city once each day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. They also had to blow the horns and shout. When they did all of that, the walls fell down flat. So, my question is: Was this act a favor from God? Of course, for it was a gift from God (verse 2). Did marching, blowing the horns, and shouting with a great shout "earn" the gift? No, marching does not merit the destruction of a walled city like Jericho, for it was "unmerited favor." A blessing they did not earn. Thus, they received it by Grace. So, were the people commanded to meet the "conditions" to receive God's gift? YES! Would the people have received the gift if they had not met the conditions? NO! So, it was conditional Grace! In Hebrews 11:30, we read, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days." This is a perfect example to demonstrate the kind of faith we must have to please God and be saved under the Gospel system of Grace (cf. Hebrews 10:39; 11:6). And just as Israel's faith demanded obedience to receive God's gift by Grace, so our faith demands obedience to receive God's gift of salvation by Grace. Yet, it is still Grace, for the conditions do not earn the gift.
So, if God's Grace is unconditional, then all humanity will be saved, for Grace extends to all! This is nothing but "universalism"! This is false doctrine, and there is no Truth in it because it contradicts God's Grace and His revealed Word. Furthermore, it contradicts those Scriptures that state that many will be lost (Matt. 7:13-14, 21,-23; 25:31-46; 2 Thess. 1:6-9 and many other passages). The only truth is that salvation by Grace is received "conditionally," and it is offered to all people. But each person must choose if he wants to meet the conditions given by God, and thus to benefit from His gift or favor. God is no respecter of persons, for He offers salvation to all humanity. However, many will be lost since they reject and refuse to meet God's conditions of Grace! And since the Word of God explicitly affirms that the Grace of God is extended to all people, we must conclude, saying that all men will be saved if they meet the conditions given by God to receive His Grace. But we must stress one more time that many will be lost, for Grace is conditional! The Gospel teaches salvation by Grace. Is baptism a commanded condition to receive the forgiveness of sins? YES! In Acts 2:36-41, the Jews obeyed the Gospel or were converted to Christ. Peter spoke to them (Acts 2:14, 38). The Jews had to be taught what to do to be saved, for Grace works through God's revealed Word (the Gospel) instead of some mystical and speculative way. They had to believe in Jesus completely (v. 36). They had to be told what they had done and who Jesus was. In verse 38, we learn that they had to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, that is the forgiveness of sins. That same day they were taught the Gospel, and 3,000 souls were saved and added to Christ, His church (verse 41). So was their obedience not essential to receive the gift? Of course, it was!! Because Grace and salvation are received conditionally!
By Luci Partain
Return to the General Articles page
Home / Bible studies / Bible Survey / Special Studies / General Articles / Non-Bible Articles / Sermons / Sermon Outlines / Links / Questions and Answers / What Saith The Scriptures /Daily Devotional / Correspondence Courses / What is the Church of Christ / Book: Christian Growth / Website Policy / E-mail / About Me /