This post is not going to be some heady exposition of the Scriptures or the fathers. I don’t feel like doing that right now.
Rather, I just feel like reiterating a simple observation I made when I wrote about Eph 2:8-10:
Faith enters us into a relationship God where He transforms us into His own image (2 Cor 3:18) .
What saves us is our relationship with God, where we are “one flesh” with Him (Eph 5:31-32). This truth is not mere metaphor, but something God takes to heart. When Saul is knocked off his horse on his way to Damascus, empowered to massacre even more Christians, God tells him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me” (Acts 9:4)?
Christ’s Body, the Church is one with Christ. It is Christ.
In a good marriage, an attack on a man’s wife is an attack on himself. The joy of his wife is his joy. The suffering of his wife is his suffering. All of this is true of Christ and the Church.
As I reflect on this matter, our salvation is not transactional. Works do not earn us something. Faith does not earn us something. In some ways, not even what Christ has done has earned us something.
We have to stop thinking about salvation as a matter of achievement, award, or earning just deserts. The faith that saves has nothing to do with our works, either Christ’s or our own:
Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works (Rom 4:4-6).
There’s a sense where all the following are true: Our works are not due wages from God. But, neither are Christ’s. It is to the one who without works, either his own or Christ’s, that trusts Christ, that is saved. Righteousness is reckoned apart from both our own and Christ’s works.
When we get married, our loving overtures to our spouses are not due recompense. Love is not about recompense. “Love is not self-seeking” (1 Cor 13:5). Rather, true love is unconditional and completely sacrificial.
So, what saves us is God’s love. Unlike our love, His love is always a given. It’s dependable and unchanging. There is never a time that it is unavailable. We screw up 76 times, God is still ready to forgive us as if it never happened the 77th time.
The wickedness of the transactional approach to relationship with God is that it turns love into something that can either be earned (“I teach Sunday school every week, God must love me”) or something that can be taken for granted (“I can cheat on my wife, because she has no confidence and will always take me back.”)
Love is not something that we calculate in such a way where we see it as a commodity that is bought or always available. Love is not a commodity. Love is a relationship.
Woe to those who think they can sin that grace may abound–God does not save us to show off His glory. He is already glorious beyond contemplation. True, such sinning would truly put His grace on display. But God is not seeking to maximize His grace as if it were a commodity on the stock exchange. He stands in no need of it.
God simply is love. He loves us. His grace is experienced through His love. It is not emphasized or made greater in any way–God’s grace simply is because God is (Ex 3:14). Grace is not something maximized, but something that may be experienced though the marriage of the Church and Christ. Grace is a one-flesh relationship, not an equation.
A husband’s love for his wife is simply something experienced and shared. Believing in the love does not earn it. Rather, believing in the other’s love makes experiencing it possible.
Some of us have been through times where someone we love has turned against us, or has forgotten their love. We reach out to them, our hearts devoted. But that person, for good or bad reasons, doubts the love we have. And without their trust in our love, there is no relationship–no loved is shared.
Oh, I know my God has had His loving hand out to me so many times, and I turned my back on Him through blasphemies, sins, and lack of care. Honestly, these things came naturally to me because I did not really believe He loved me.
Eventually, a day came where I knew this was not true. The clearer God has made it to me how much He loves me, the more unthinkable it is to be disobedient or not think about Him all the day long. The more I understand His love, the more I have faith in His goodness, the more I love Him back.
This is why sinning so grace may abound makes no sense. A wife who has a loving husband who showers her with jewelry, kisses, attention, and affection does not flippantly curse her husband, taking joy that he now gets to demonstrate even more profound love by loving her all the more despite of it.
Further, true love, which has no conditions, keeps us close to God even when we do not feel His love. All of us have experienced times of want. Family members of ours have made bad financial decisions or lost jobs. Perhaps, some of us were that family member. Yet, those who really love you do not give up on you in these times. And if you love them, you still love them even when they give up on you.
Where is God in our times of want, whether physical or spiritual? With strong faith, we know these times of want do not mean God loves us less, just as loving children still revere and adore their father after he lost his job. We must have this childlike trust.
I am exasperated and depressed thinking about how anyone can conceive salvation in such a way that it can be earned. Salvation is a free gift that God offers it to all. The question is whether we want it. Do we want to love Him?
Love costs nothing–but true love consumes our very being. All our thoughts, actions, and motivations. Those of us who have set our hearts upon the Epitome and Author of love, Love Himself, have entered into a relationship that can only satisfy us. Though we have nothing, we have everything–because love is not a commodity that can be lost. It is a feeling and volition that may be enjoyed.
We have this great hope to look forward to: our love, now marred by our sinfulness, will be uninhibited after we die. Free from sin, we will be able to enjoy our love for Him for an eternity. And the longer that eternity lasts, the more our love grows and the closer we will be to Whom we love.
May God through the grace of Christ make it so. Amen.