The Theology of God's Grace
We can comprehend all aspects of God’s grace when we look at the prime example given us by the Father. That example is Christ Jesus. He is described as the federal head of us all, the Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). Thus, the Father has given Christ to the world as the divine microcosm (as God’s perfect standard) to teach us what His relationship is to all humanity. To know how and why the Father does what He does to humanity, whether actively or by consent, look at how the Father treated Christ on earth and how He treated Him after Christ returned to heaven. Christ is the model for all humanity. He is the single example that embraces all the experiences that God uses in dealing with humanity. What will be the outcome?
Christ’s role in history was to be the standard model for mankind. In the plan of God, it was designed that Christ would live a life on earth in our place. You can read in the Bible how the Father treated the “model human” (Christ). And what happens in the end? God the Father will finally (through our trials and tribulations) exalt us to the highest position in the universe next to Him, sitting on the very throne now occupied by Christ Jesus, our Elder Brother. We will reign with Christ on that same throne. But to understand this procedure properly, we need to recognize and accept what is called the Theology of Grace. It is a central doctrinal teaching of the Holy Scriptures and is the very opposite of what mankind thinks should be right and proper.
The fact is, God’s ways are NOT man’s ways. Let us see what God’s grace is. It is shown to mankind in various ways.
First, let us look at the negative aspect of God’s grace. That aspect is centered on the Father’s treatment of the Last Adam. Note that when Christ entered the world as a baby, He was born perfectly sinless because not only was the sperm a spiritual creation of God, even the impregnated ovum was divine in origin and not from Mary’s own bodily functions. This procedure is totally unlike Adam’s children born in sin according to the apostle Paul (Romans 5:12–21). That special spiritually impregnated ovum was placed into Mary, the host mother of the divine child who became the Christ. When Christ was born, He then became our example and our standard model for life and death.
Paul then went on to say that when Christ was circumcised at eight days of age according to the Law of Moses, He was circumcised for us, that is, on our behalf. Whether we are male or female makes no difference because Paul is speaking of spiritual principles, not fleshly ones (Colossians 2:11).
Paul then states that Christ continued to live a life on earth on our behalf until John baptized Him in the River Jordan. This baptism, Paul tells us, was in place of us (that is, it was also done on our behalf) because Christ had no sin on Him to wash away (Colossians 2:12). That baptism was a substitutionary one performed for each of us. In God’s way of looking at it, each one of us has been baptized by no less than John the Baptist when he baptized Christ.
After baptism, Christ continued to live the perfect life during His ministry and no one could convict Him of any sin (John 8:46). Christ kept the Sabbath perfectly. Christ kept the Holy Days perfectly. Christ performed precisely all the Mosaic Laws. He kept them as a substitute for us. Since Christ did them for us, then we all did them in Him. The Father reckons that we were then all “in Him.”
Not only that, Christ did extraordinary good works by healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, and teaching the truth to mankind. 1 Christ Jesus was perfect in everything He did — and also in the things He did not do which might offend the Father in the slightest degree.
The main thing on earth Christ did for us was to die on the tree of crucifixion in our place as a substitution (Galatians 2:20). And finally, He was resurrected also for us so that when Christ sat down on the right hand of the Father after His resurrection, we were reckoned by God to sit down with Him on the same throne (Ephesians 2:6). Christ is our precursor. He is also our substitute. He is our Elder Brother.
This is all fine, but what does this have to do with the negative aspect of grace that I introduced as an important subject many people have not understood? What we need to ask is: what did Christ obtain from God for being the finest person (and, of course, the finest Christian) God ever saw on earth?
The good works Christ did on earth should have earned Him (one would normally think) the best possible reward that God could bestow on any human. But what did Christ actually obtain as His just reward? When God decided to judge Christ by the official Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court) for all the wonderful things that Christ did on earth, God forgot about all those perfect works of goodness and afflicted Christ with the worst punishment and most ignominious kind of death that ever could be experienced by man. God the Father dismissed all those good works and deeds of Christ, and all the perfection and holiness He possessed. Through the exercise of negative grace, God bestowed on Christ just the opposite of what He deserved. Indeed, God humiliated and crucified His only begotten Son. He did it to rescue all of us.
Those “good works” Christ performed for us (in our stead as our substitute) did not get Him the slightest favor with God at the time of Christ’s punishment. When Christ told the Supreme Court of the Jews (the Sanhedrin) the truth that He was God’s Son, they threw out His testimony and convicted Him of blasphemy from the very law that was supposed to give life and prosperity to people if they kept it. The divine truths that Christ told the Supreme Court were truths that brought on Him terrible and humiliating punishment. And what did God the Father do while all this was going on? He let the whole thing proceed without any intervention to save that perfect person called Christ Jesus. Our Elder Brother was on the tree of crucifixion without the slightest help from the Father. Indeed, Christ himself cried out in agony and in utter dejection: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
This is the negative aspect of grace in action. Good works (one normally thinks) should bring good rewards; evil works should bring evil punishments. But God, when He exercises grace does not consider works at all in His judgments, whether those works are good or bad. On the day of Christ’s trial and crucifixion, God avoided giving Christ a good reward for His good works. He, instead, failed to involve any works whatever in His decision to prompt the Sanhedrin to punish Him. God sent Christ a negative grace instead and presented Christ with the very opposite rewards that He should have had, the awful punishments deserved for the most wicked of men. It may seem strange that God the Father would do this (be a party to such undeserved treatment of His own Son), but that is what God did. And it was in the preordained plan of God to do that very thing.
That divine plan was devised before the foundation of the world (2 Timothy 1:9; Revelation 13:8). Amazingly, Christ agreed to the plan. How many of you would be willing to receive such injustice and wrong? 2
What an anachronism, violating the principles of fair play and justice that we humans think are proper. But this is the very thing that helps explain what grace on God’s part really is. The principle we need to understand is this: when it comes to grace, God NEVER takes “works” into account (whether good or bad works). When God shows grace to anyone, whether in a negative or in a positive sense, “works” never enter into the matter of His judgment. Works are then irrelevant.
Though God’s use of grace in these matters may not make any sense to most humans, that act of grace on God’s part is essential to get you and me saved. We have no chance of salvation without God’s grace and it makes no difference how good you or I think we are, or if we have performed the good deeds of a million “Mother Teresas” altogether. Our good works are not the standard.
Think for a moment. What good conduct can you muster and present in all its frills and lace before God that will grant you a personal righteousness in that single conduct? And though you may barely survive in that one good conduct, what about all the other things in which you have failed — and in most cases, miserably? As for me, to say I have personal righteousness is farcical. Let’s face it. We all need God’s divine grace actively operating on our behalf. And God promises us that we will obtain that grace.
There is hope for all of us. Let us now look at the positive side of God’s use of grace. This is the aspect that the apostle Paul rightly emphasized so much. Paul said it was not by works (whether good or bad) that we are saved, but that our salvation is through grace (Ephesians 2:8). So, just as God forgot all about Christ’s good works and by grace had Him undergo the punishment of the greatest sinners ever to live, God also forgets all our bad works (all our sins put together) and awards us by grace a judgment of great rewards and benefits the opposite of what we deserve. Christ suffered shame and degradation, we reap the rewards.
By God’s grace, all of Christ’s good works brought Him punishment and death on our behalf, but by God’s grace all our bad works bring us glory and everlasting life in the Family of God. Again, God forgot all of Christ’s good works in regard to Christ’s own salvation and God awarded them (by His grace) to us while He let His own Son die the punishment reserved for the worst of sinners. The whole body, soul, and spirit of Christ (including His blood) was thoroughly and completely tainted and polluted (in the Father’s eyes) on His day of crucifixion with the totality of the sins ever committed by humans or angels upon Christ’s back (2 Corinthians 5:21). No one could be considered more vile and depraved than Christ when He was being judged and finally punished by crucifixion. He was more evil at that time than anyone. Nero and Hitler (as evil as they were) were “saints” in comparison.
But what a paradox, God then went a step further in His awards by grace. What did God the Father then do with His divine Son? He took this most vile of persons (as Christ Jesus then was on the tree of crucifixion, loaded with so many sins that He was the greatest sinner ever on earth) and three days later God did a most unusual thing. God reached down with His divine power and authority, and resurrected that most “vile person” from the dead. Then what did God do with this “polluted” individual who had all the sins of the world on His back? He told Him to take a specimen of His own blood (that is, some of His blood that did not spill on the earth at His crucifixion) and return to heaven with that blood in His possession. What happened with that “polluted” blood?
Paul tells us that when Christ appeared before the Father in heaven, the Father then had Christ take that “most polluted” of blood and sprinkle it on the walls of the holiest part of God’s palace in heaven. And what purpose did that “most vile” of blood perform? In God’s eyes, that blood had the most powerful purifying holiness associated with it; because God declared that blood not polluted at all, but holy and pure by His divine grace. When that blood touched the walls of the Holy of Holies in heaven, those very drops of blood cleansed not only all mankind, but they even purified all things in the heavens and in the entirety of the universe (Hebrews 9:22–24). The truth is, it is God’s definition of things that counts and not ours, or the judgments of Satan the Devil.
When Christ was judged before the Sanhedrin and crucified on the Mount of Olives, God (through use of negative grace) declared Christ’s blood polluted beyond compare. But when God told Christ to sprinkle that same “polluted” blood on the walls of the Holy of Holies in heaven, God then declared that same blood (through positive grace) the purest and holiest blood in the universe. And all of this was done in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. That is how powerful God’s grace is. He can turn the most polluted in the universe into the most pure in the universe by a simple statement. It is just that simple. And thanks be to God, through our attachment to Christ, the Father will do the exact same thing for each of us. It is through grace that God does these things and no works (good or bad) are ever associated with such actions of grace. God shows His love to us with grace. Sure, this is all symbol, but it is the truth.
After Christ's exaltation, God said to Christ to put on the mantle of salvation, to come forward and sit down with Him in His throne to govern the entirety of this universe in righteousness and perfection. The Father will say the same thing to you and to me because all of us are now “in Christ” and we share in all His glory. That throne in heaven is also reserved for us (Ephesians 2:6).
To understand this, let us say you are standing in front of God in the resurrection. Satan the Devil has a long list of your sins and evil works on a long scroll and he is ready to proclaim you as one of the most wicked persons ever to live on earth. Of course, Satan would be right as far as your works are concerned. Then God the Father looks you in the eye and says: “You are in Christ and I declare to you and all the heavenly host by My divine authority that you are as holy and righteous as Christ is.” Without the slightest change in your actual character, you went (since you were reckoned to be in Christ at the time) from a most polluted person to equality with the most righteous, and in a twinkling of an eye!
That action of grace is not a reward to you for doing good or a punishment to you for doing bad. No works at all are involved in God judging you to be as perfect as Christ. This is because, as the apostle Paul said, we have grace in action. When grace is the agency, there are no works ever considered no matter how good or how bad they may be. When the time of our resurrections arrives, you will know for certain that through your works you deserve punishment (hell and destruction), but you will get the opposite rewards (glory and salvation) through the grace of God and Christ. That is how God’s Theology of Grace works. It is mankind’s assurance that we will be saved.
Christ experienced the most ignominious kind of judgment that could be meted out to man, and His death was the most cruel. God and Christ allowed this judgment and death to be meted out to Christ because many people have experienced terrible deaths and sufferings of loved ones, and many hold God responsible for those great sufferings. And so He is. Some even hate God for allowing such things to happen. But God the Father Himself cried His heart out when He saw His own Son (voluntarily and submissively) undergo such sufferings and disdain by the world.
There could have been a million other ways for God to show His love to humans by rescuing them from such misery and degradation without having His own Son undergo such extremities. But God and Christ voluntarily submitted to such torture when they did not have to, in order to show their deep concern for us humans who have been subjected to the same things. God promises, however, that He will make up for the sufferings with glories beyond compare (see Romans 8:18–39). Sufferings are only temporary in the plan of God and are necessary to show forth His divine love and grace.
Almost all people misunderstand God in His manner of dealing with us in awarding salvation (or even other rewards). This is because almost all people believe God provides these blessings through good works or punishments through bad works. This is the way we humans normally reason. This is because we do not comprehend the principle of the Theology of Grace. Understand that the use of grace has nothing to do with any kind of works. Solomon recognized this principle. The apostle Paul must have had some of Solomon’s wisdom in his inspired thinking when he gave all of us the doctrine of grace. Solomon said it was vain for mankind to judge God on matters of good or bad works. God can do as He pleases and His ways may be opposite man’s ways. Solomon said:
“There is a vanity that is done under the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.”
We humans normally express the opinion that the good a person does will be rewarded with good and the evil a person does will be rewarded with evil. And this is sometimes true among the rewards that we humans can give to people. But God’s grace works in a different environment. Some people are judged by God to be righteous when most humans would consider them wicked.
Take Lot for example, the nephew of Abraham. Remember how he left Abraham in the highlands of Palestine, went down to Sodom, and lived with the perverts. When two angels came to his household, he invited them in for fellowship. But the men of the city saw these strangers (who appeared like humans) and wanted them for acts that we now call sodomy (Genesis 19:1–6). Lot did not want this to occur so he said:
“I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do you to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.”
One has to admit that this is pretty poor judgment.
This action of Lot shows (in my way of looking at it) a pitiful display of wickedness in the extreme. I have two grown daughters and I would fight anyone to keep my daughters from being subjected to rape by those sodomites, as would any normal person. Yet, in the divine Scripture (and in spite of this action of Lot) this nephew of Abraham is called “righteous” (2 Peter 2:8). And do not be led astray in assuming that Lot’s “righteousness” was only a relational comparison to the lifestyles of people at the time (which were normally wicked). Some use this interpretation. That excuse, however, is a cop-out. It will not stand up in any biblical court. Listen, righteousness in the Bible is always relative to God’s righteousness. It is not something judged by the evil customs of mankind. God can call someone righteous, even if he is evil.
The fact is, when God said Lot was “righteous,” God meant it! Who am I (or you, or anyone) to dispute God’s judgment? But with the high standards given in both the Old and New Testaments on conducting oneself in a morally upright manner, one has to say that God gave His judgment on Lot through the application of God’s grace, not Lot’s works. Such is God’s prerogative. While normal standards of a decent society would render Lot an unrighteous person, God used His application of grace in judging the person of Lot and grace is never dependent upon works of any kind. By using the principle of grace Lot was judged as righteous, and no one on earth or in the universe can counter God’s judgment in regard to Lot and his conduct.
So also it is with us. God does not save us on account of any good works that we do. He saves us because of His grace. In the Judgment God will call you righteous through the merits of His Son, Christ Jesus, and each of you will be proclaimed as righteous as Christ Jesus is righteous. Indeed, God the Father even now considers you to be “in Christ” and as righteous as Christ is righteous. That is the teaching of “the Mystery.” We should all thank God that He gives us such grace.
Some Protestant ministers and Catholic priests have taught that “God does not save us IN our sins, but He saves us FROM our sins.” This is true. But God determines whether we have sins on us or not. Lot may not have been righteous according to human standards of conduct, but when God through grace declared Him righteous, then Lot was as righteous as any righteous person no matter what his works were. If God states we are free FROM sin, we are then free FROM sin no matter how men or angels may judge us.
The principle that God always uses is one that He devised, not mankind. The principle is that God “calls those things which be not, as though they were” (Romans 4:17). You and I may not actually be “righteous” by any standard that we know (and though I am a nice guy in most ways, I know I am not righteous as I should be). But I am informed in the Holy Scriptures that God has declared you and me righteous since we are in Christ and that means we ARE righteous in God’s eyes. Only God’s opinion counts in the divine courtroom. When you understand this truth of the righteousness that you have, you are on the way to comprehending God’s Theology of Grace in its scriptural manner.
Now, let us be mature Christians and show understanding in these matters of grace. Though it is true that we “in Christ” are not (nor will we be) judged by our works in regard to salvation, the Holy Scriptures state quite dogmatically: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16). We Christians are commanded to do good works because we have been created to do those very things (Ephesians 2:10). We are not to sin, that grace may abound (Romans 6:1). But we know that our sins will never triumph over us because we are “in Christ.” We will be rescued from our sins.
In spite of our works, whether good or bad, we have been awarded the positive aspect of grace. 3 Because God loves us intensely (as a Father to His only Son), we are all destined by God’s divine grace to sit on the right hand of the Father in glory for the rest of eternity no matter what our deeds on earth have been. This reward is assured because we are all reckoned to be “in Christ,” and no one can thwart God’s divine plan for us to sit on His throne of glory. Our enthronement will be done.
One of the most important teachings of the Holy Scriptures concerns the number of persons who will eventually be saved. Will only a portion of humanity have their sins forgiven and experience salvation, or does the Atonement of Christ reach out to embrace the totality of the human family? But beyond even this significant question, we must further inquire if all intelligent beings throughout the universe can be redeemed from their sins and also be given a salvation in Christ?
When we have a true comprehension of what Christ’s full Atonement accomplished for the human race and recognize the extent of that atoning act for every intelligent being throughout the universe, only then can we realize what the plain and simple Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. I will soon give scriptural proof to demonstrate that the Atonement which Christ worked out for the world, reaches out to include the entirety of intelligent beings no matter where they are in the universe.
The first thing we must recognize is that the consequence of sin [or, as it is expressed in the King James Version, “the wages of sin”] is death (Romans 6:23). Death awaits any being in the universe, whether the individual is a spirit entity or in the flesh, if the slightest taint of sin is harboring within that individual. This is the plain teaching of Scripture (Romans 6:23). No one will get out of this sentence of death for sinning no matter if the individual is an angel or a human. True, Christ made it clear that there was a class of angels in heaven that will never see death (Luke 20:36) and that in the resurrection we are to be like them; but if one of those angels decides to sin against God and the laws that He ordained for their obedience, each of those angels will automatically come within the sentence of death (Romans 6:23).
The only hope of escape from the penalty of such sinning by all creatures is to have someone else pay the price for those sins in their stead. That is where Christ comes on the scene. He came to earth and died altogether in body, soul, and spirit to pay the penalty of sins found upon all beings in the universe, those in flesh, in soul, and in spirit. This includes not only ordinary angels, but also wicked spirits, including Satan the Devil. Let us see how this works.
1 Listen, Mother Teresa, who has been honored for her “good deeds” and “piety,” could not hold a candle to the righteousness and perfection of the actions of Christ while he was on earth. And even Mother Teresa would no doubt agree with this appraisal. ELM
2 I often ask myself that question and I would not wish to tell you my own opinions about the matter because I had hard feelings against God the Father Himself, even bordering on bitterness towards Him. Yes, I often criticized God for His ways. But every time I do it He always responds by letting me know that He loves me with all His heart, and that the love He gives should be sufficient for me to know. Thankfully, I believe Him. I hope all of you do too. ELM
3 Remember, the negative aspect of grace is the fact that we can be the best Christians in the world, but if God awards to us through His grace an evil punishment as He did to Christ, we can be treated like the worst of sinners. This is God’s prerogative to do as He wishes. But since in the plan of God for our salvation, we find that Christ assumed that full negative role for us (on our behalf), all that is left for us in regard to salvation is God’s positive application of His grace to exalt and save us from ourselves and our ways. ELM
Order our Book: Essentials of New Testament Doctrine to read all the chapters.
© 1976-2023 Associates for Scriptural Knowledge - ASK is supported by freewill contributions