Last week, I shared that I was recently interviewed by Covenant Spotlight Magazine on the issue of grace. Below is part of the interview that will appear in their upcoming publication.
Many people believe that it’s possible to earn grace. The Roman Catholic Church has built an entire system of belief upon this idea. If you examine the Roman Catholic Church closely, you will see that they add works and the traditions of the Church to the grace of God. However, when we look at the Scriptures, we see that grace is a gift of God and as dead sinners who are brought to life by the power of God – who are we to boast?
Do we receive grace because of our act of repentance? Or do we repent because of the grace granted by God? Could you elaborate?
Buice: Tragically, in many evangelical circles, grace has been reduced to three easy steps at the end of a church service. The fact is, we don’t earn grace or cooperate with God to receive grace. By its very definition provided in holy Scripture, that would nullify grace. Grace is granted to fallen sinners by His mercy alone, not by foreseen favor or merit in sinful man. In Ephesians 2:8-9, we read Paul’s explanation and I can’t provide a better explanation in my own words. He writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (ESV).
Much debate has ensued over these two verses. Is faith or grace God’s gift? It could be argued that faith is God’s gift because that’s what Paul seems to suggest as he speaks about repentance as being a gift of God in another letter to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:25). We would readily admit that grace – the salvation of our soul and the forgiveness of sins is indeed a gift of God, but what about faith? Is faith something we have at our disposal and is it something that is capable of being employed by our human will? According to God’s Word, the fall of man had devastating results upon humanity. Human depravity has affected the totality of humanity. Not only do we have the stain of sin upon our soul, but we have its effects upon our mind, will, and body. We have no ability to raise our spiritually dead soul from its spiritual grave (Eph. 2:1-10). That is a work of God. We are born from above – not from the power of our will or because of the dignity of our works (John 1:11-13). Therefore, I would argue that the totality of grace – faith, repentance, and grace are all gifts from God.
Now that we know the answer, how should this affect the way we view non-Christians?
Buice: First of all, we can’t expect non-Christians to behave like children of God. The Bible, in vivid detail, portrays unbelievers as sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), lovers of darkness (John 3:19), filled with unrighteousness, covetousness, malicious intent, full of envy, murderous desires, filled with strife, gossiping tongues, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, inventers of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless (Rom. 1:28-32).
While we can be involved in politics and accomplish many good things as William Wilberforce and others from church history have taught us, we must be fully committed to gospel ministry that targets the hearts of God-hating rebels. It’s only through the power of the gospel that rogue sinners will be changed from lovers of darkness to children of light (Eph. 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:5).
Secondly, we must not show hatred toward non-Christians. Our default position should be love and a desire to see them come to faith in Jesus Christ. I’m not worried that the agenda of “tolerance” will plague the church as much as I fear the church tolerating a lack of commitment for missions. The Great Commission should lead us to pray for unbelievers. Through prayer, God will break our hearts for people who need to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. According to JoshuaProject.net, out of 7.2 billion people on planet earth, approximately 42% of the world is unreached with the gospel. God has saved us and commissioned us with the message of reconciliation. We must go and share this message – from the neighborhoods to the nations.