The answer to the question, “Why has God chosen to save sinners by grace?” is easy to answer. It can be said that God saves sinners by grace because there is no other way for souls to be saved. Sin is the transgression of the Law of God who is perfectly just. Infinite justice cannot be satisfied with man’s feeble attempts to right the wrong he has committed. His very efforts become another offense. When the mass murderer Ted Bundy looked at the parents of an eight-year-old girl he raped and murdered, his very offer of sorrow became an insult. In like manner the sins committed against a holy and righteous God are of such a despicable magnitude that the very offer of good deeds in recompense is offensive. If there is to be restoration of fellowship between man and God, the initiative must come from the gracious character of the One offended, for there is nothing of merit in the offender.
Then second, God has ordained that sinners be saved by grace, in order that He might have the praise and the glory in salvation (Eph. 1:5, 9). The Bible says, “That we should be to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” God is a jealous God, and He will not lose His praise. Nor will God give, or even share His glory with another. The only way this can happen is if sinners are saved by grace. Because of the Divine protection of His character, and His eternal decree (Eph. 1:3, 4; 3:8-11; Rom. 9:23), the greatness of the glory of grace is manifested. We find in grace the attributes of God engaged for us.
There is the mercy of God. “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Rom. 9:15).
There is the wisdom of God. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence” (Eph. 1:7).
There is the power of God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3).
There is the justice of God. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Rom. 3:24).
There is the holiness of God. “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; 31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; 32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. 33 Nevertheless my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. 34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. 35 Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David” (Psa. 89:30).
There is the providential care of God. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).
There is no limit as to what grace can do for sinners. Grace can take sinners into favor with God who are yet in their natural sins. “I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare. 8 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine” (Ezek. 16:7-8).
Grace can make children of those who have been by nature the enemy of God “As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God” (Rom. 9:25).
Grace can make sinners God’s people who were not God’s people. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Pet. 2:9-10).
Grace can pardon ungodliness, and justify the wicked by the righteousness of Christ. Grace can lift up those who are down. It can heal those who are wounded, and can multiply pardon when there are multiple transgressions. And, there is more.
Grace and mercy are everlasting. Grace is the delight of God. Grace will stand up and shout in joy against judgment. Grace, therefore, really is the surest way of salvation. For man to try to think of another way of salvation is for man to defy the known will of God.
When Israel tried to follow after the Law, they stumbled and fell. When Christ was offered to Israel in grace, the nation rose up to kill the Son of God. The prophets had taught that this would happen. “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense: and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. Like Cain, man has an insatiable need to try to please God by the energy of the flesh. Men constantly offer to God his own spiritual labors and insist that He be pleased. When the prophetic word is declared that such human labors are not acceptable, we become angry. More than one person has sworn that if they are not good enough to go to heaven apart from the church, apart from the love of Christ, and apart from gospel duties, they will be damned” (Rom. 9:33).
It is grace that awakens the hungry heart to the dangers of eternal hell fire. It is grace that produces tears at the sight of a wounded bleeding Saviour. It is grace that makes the conscience tender, and moves the heart to pray for mercy and pardon. The final word on this whole matter is that we must be saved by grace, or else the main pillars and foundations of salvation are broken up and overthrown.
If man is not saved by grace, Divine election becomes a non-choice of God, the new covenant ceases to exist, the death of Christ holds no meaning, and the glory of God is overthrown. But this will never happen. The Bible teaches that what God hath purposed shall stand. “The election of God standeth sure” (Rom. 9:11; 2 Tim. 2:19). The covenant of grace is confirmed. “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Heb. 9:16).
Christ, who is the sure foundation, is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 8:8). The glory of God shall never be diminished. There is only one will that shall triumph in the universe, and that is the will of God. There is only one righteousness that shall save a sinner, and that is the righteousness of Christ. There is only one covenant that will be honored, and that is the covenant of grace.
Because sinners are saved by grace, several things happen. First, the fear of failure is vanquished. Martin Luther, when he tried to please God by works, grew to hate God, because he realized that he could never please God. Then he discovered that the just shall live by faith. Second, the glory of God is manifested. Why should God be God if He is not to be the object of universal and complete adulation? Third, there is freedom of soul to think and write, to travel, to talk, and to create. Grace brings security so that life is not consumed by trying to work our way into heaven. Every soul must ask itself, “Have I found grace?”
Paul found grace. “And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace” (Gal. 1:14). Moses found grace in the sight of the Lord. There was grace for incestuous Lot. There was grace for murderous David. There was grace for Peter after he denied Christ. There is grace for the worst of sinners.
But the grace of God must not be abused, as Judas abused his gospel privileges. The grace of God must not be rejected, as the thief on the Cross did. The grace of God must be accepted and received by faith. The grace we are to receive is compared to a sea, and an open fountain. “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1).
The grace we are to receive endureth forever. “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever. 2 O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth forever” (Psa. 136:1-2). The grace we are to receive can do more than we ask or think. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20). The grace we are to receive invites us to come boldly in prayer. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Let us therefore embrace the gospel truth that a sinner is saved by grace alone. God saves sinners by grace for that is the only way a soul can possibly be saved.
This Blog is based on a sermon by John Bunyan, with additional comments by Stanford Murrell.