Gracious Debt?

Now [to one] working, the reward is not counted according to grace, but according to debt” (Romans 4:4; underlining mine).

“I say then, Did not God thrust away His people? Let it not be! For I also am an Israelite, out of Abraham’s seed, of [the] tribe of Benjamin. God did not thrust away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture said in Elijah, how he pleaded with God against Israel, saying, Lord, they killed Your prophets, and they dug down Your altars, and only I am left, and they seek my life. But what does the Divine answer say to him, I reserved to Myself seven thousand men who did not bow a knee to Baal. So then, also in the present time a remnant according to election of grace has come into being. But if by grace, no longer [is it] of works; else grace no longer becomes grace. But if of works, it is no longer grace; else work is no longer work” (Romans 11:1-6; underlining mine).

But, Paul, what about those who would agree that Jesus died for those whom God chose to save, and for all whom Jesus died will be saved, and yet believe that there are one or more conditions that the sinner must meet in order to be saved? Let’s consider this question.

Some say the condition is faith. Others say the condition is perseverance. Others posit different conditions, portraying them in different ways. Yet they all believe there are conditions that the sinner must meet IN ADDITION to the strict twofold conditions Jesus Christ met on the cross for His people.

“For as many as are out of works of Law, [these] are under a curse. For it has been written, Cursed [is] everyone who does not continue in all the things having been written in the book of the Law, to do them. And that no one is justified by Law before God [is] clear because, The just shall live by faith. But the Law is not of faith, but, The man doing these things shall live in them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us; for it has been written, Cursed [is] everyone having been hung on a tree; that the blessing of Abraham might be to the nations in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:10-14; underlining mine).

But doesn’t Galatians 3:10-14 say “through faith”? and does not this necessarily make faith a condition or prerequisite? NO. It doesn’t. Why? Because Paul just finished explaining what the sole and exclusive conditions were. But if one insists on believing that faith is a condition then they are under a curse and are thus debtors “to do all the Law” (Galatians 5:3; cf. Galatians 3:10).

Christ was made a curse for His people so that they would receive the promise of the regenerating Spirit of God. The Spirit of regeneration precedes faith and thus faith is not a condition of or prerequisite to salvation or justification. Instead, faith believes that Jesus Christ met ALL THE CONDITIONS FOR SALVATION. Faith is an immediate and inevitable FRUIT or RESULT of regeneration, and the instrument through which a believer receives the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ and is justified.

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, having come into being out of a woman, having come under Law, that He might redeem the ones under Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba! Father! So that you no more are a slave, but a son, and if a son, also an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:4-7; underlining mine).

Consider this passage along with Galatians 3:10-14. Christ’s being made a curse for His people ensures and demands their receiving the blessing of Abraham, the promise of the Spirit, the adoption of sons. Christ bore the curse of God’s law that His people would be blessed. Christ’s redemptive work infallibly guarantees and ensures that in time the Spirit of His Son WILL BE SENT FORTH into their hearts, crying, Abba! Father! Clearly, this cry of faith is NOT a condition. This cry rejoices in the One who alone met all the conditions.

We continue on. Some say Jesus Christ purchased these conditions on the cross and that God, “in an amazing display of gracious condescension,” infallibly enables elect sinners to meet these conditions. This would be like saying that God graciously and infallibly enables the elect sinner to meet the condition of circumcision (Galatians 5:3). This erases any concept of works-righteousness, reward of debt, or being justified by law. This is to debase, dilute, degrade, set aside, or lower the demands of God’s law and justice. In this scheme NO ONE can be charged with profaning the blood of Christ or with believing in justification by works of law since the charge can be evaded by lowering the Law’s demands and by prefacing the word “grace” to everything.

Many Calvinists have called this “gracious-enablement” a “non-meritorious condition.” They think calling them non-meritorious will actually make them non-meritorious. Just think about it. Anybody can make ANYTHING a condition and then call it “non-meritorious” in an attempt to repel the charge of conditionalism or works-righteousness. They could say that making a trip to Geneva is an instrumental condition of salvation but that it’s non-meritorious because Jesus Christ purchased this condition on the cross and God enables all the elect to meet this condition. Every condition that you could possibly think of, including any of the Roman Catholic conditions, could be labeled as ‘non-meritorious’ — just say it is. But in light of Romans 11:6 and 4:4 is this REALLY grace? Or is it a form of works, and thus, debt? Obviously grace has been stripped of its true meaning.