I mentioned in the introduction post that I didn’t understand the term GRACE, even though I had spent over twenty years hearing about it in church.
Simply put: Grace is a GIFT from God. As a gift, grace has absolutely nothing to do with our acts or abilities (or “works”). However, as a gift, it is something we must accept. As the verses just showed, the gift is salvation.
Here are some additional concepts or components of God’s grace:
- Grace is frequently defined as “unmerited favor”. We understand that unmerited is associated with the concept of a gift. In other words, if we had to earn our “gift” it would not be a gift but would be a “wage” or “reward”.
- God’s favor is toward “the elect”; those chosen by God “before the creation of the world”.
- We must accept the gift of salvation; we do that through faith by believing and trusting in what we heard, the gospel message. OK, but you may ask, “Where does election and the fact I am chosen come to play here?”.
Time or Chronology is the Problem
I think God has a problem with time. Think about it. He’s timeless and lives in a timeless environment; that is, he is infinite. His statement of “I Am” shows that he has been, is, and will be God. On the other hand, we are currently (a time word) locked into Time. One thing leads to another.
So if I try to put myself in God’s world, and think timelessly about all this, it might go as follows: In God’s timeless existence, he sees that I will someday be worthwhile for him to show his Grace and to Choose me for eternal life with him. He knows that I will hear the Word, that I will believe, and through faith come to trust in him and thus be sealed for eternity.
So, does my hearing, and/or my belief, and/or my trusting play a part in my salvation? Yes, as long as I’m chosen under God’s grace. Because without his Grace and choosing, my hearing, belief, and trusting don’t contribute anything to my salvation. In fact, they are really just another form of works.
We are chosen because of what we will do, are doing, and have done (seen from a timeless perspective). However, what we will do, are doing, and have done can’t get us into eternal life unless he first showers us with his Grace and chooses us.
You know, I don’t think we have the ability to understand all this. Our little minds can’t accept it. Let me give you an example so that you can prove to yourself that our minds aren’t capable of grasping truth in some forms.
Part 1: Trust Validated
Let’s say we go out to a sandbox and I have a small plastic bucket that has sand in it. Next to that, I have two plastic cups. One is filled with sand.
I tell you that the bucket has the same amount of sand as the cup with the sand.
You have now heard what I tell you is the truth. But do you believe? Since you and I have been friends for awhile, you may know me well enough to believe I’m speaking the truth. Therefore, in spite of how things appear; that is, there is a big bucket holding sand and a small cup that I claim holds the same amount; you decide that you believe me. You have faith that what I’m telling you is true.
So let’s bring in trust. Once you tell me that you believe me – I tell you that if I can prove that they have the same amount of sand – I will give you $1000 as payment for your trust in me. However, if one of the containers has more or less sand, then you will have to pay me $1000.
You take the bet and carefully pour all the sand in the bucket into the second empty cup. When finished, we can see that both small cups, identical in size, hold the same amount of sand. Your trust is validated and you earn the $1000.
Part 2: No Faith
You pour the sand from one cup back into the bucket as another fellow walks up. You give him the same challenge. He doesn’t know you or me and so he refuses. He doesn’t think they hold the same amount and won’t trust us to be telling the truth. He’s heard the truth, he doesn’t have faith to believe. You keep the $1000
Part 3: Faith without Trust
Another fellow walks up and this time, he believes that both containers hold the same amount of sand. He has accepted truth and has faith that you and he are correct. But when you give him the $1000 challenge, his faith is weak and he declines the bet. He doesn’t trust your word. He loses out on the reward of $1000.
Up to now, this may sound familiar to some of my recent posts about belief, faith, and trust leading to salvation. But wait, there’s more.
I have claimed that our timeless God chooses (or has chosen us “before the creation of the world”) out of his Grace based on our belief, faith, and trust – whether they are expressed now, or in the past, or in the future of our time existence. I have also claimed that our simple minds just can’t accept or understand this. So let me prove how limited our minds are using the sandbox example.
In the sandbox example, you acted on trust and when I poured the sand from the bucket into the cup, you then knew that they held the same amount of sand; and you came away with the $1000 reward.
The other two fellows were not as lucky. But what if we changed the order around some? Remember, God is timeless and so we are trying to contrive an example to understand this better.
Let’s say that for the two “no trust” fellows we change the experiment around some:
We now take our two cups and fill them with identical amounts of sand. Our bucket is empty.
When the other fellows come up we ask them if the cups are equal and they agree they are. We then pour the sand from one cup into the bucket. When that is done, we ask them if the bucket holds the same amount of sand as the remaining cup with sand and they both agree to the wager. Now trust is easy for them. Since they have the ability to understand that even if things appear otherwise, the bucket holds the same amount of sand as the remaining cup. In other words, in their minds – they REVERSE the logic. When they do that, they understand that even though the objects appear different now, they still hold the same amount of sand. This is based on their observations in the past.
So now you are thinking that this is obvious: that anyone could see that if the sand from one of two identical cups is poured into the bucket, or some other different sized container, that anyone would KNOW that they hold the same amount of sand. But I challenge your statement. I argue (and will let you prove) that not all people have the capacity. Some people will dispute that the amounts are equal even after you take two identical cups filled with the same volume of sand and pour one cup of sand into the bucket.
Even though you know this as a fact, that the amount of sand is equal in both containers, and that you accept what you have seen as truth, others will deny it. They will point out the differing sizes of the containers to illustrate why they don’t accept the truth. You argue that you know that the sand is equal because you saw the two identical cups with identical volumes of sand before one was poured into the bucket; so you know they must still be equal now. However, it is impossible for them to see or believe what you see as a fact!
Stop. Think about this for a minute. I’m saying that someone can watch me take the sand from two identical cups with identical volumes of sand, and pour one cup into the bucket and people will argue that the bucket holds more – even when we know it holds the same volume of sand. However, you see this very differently — dare I say clearly?
My argument is that this is similar to what we encounter with the fact that we are chosen “before the creation of the world”; but that the choosing is dependent on actions we take after we are born. In other words, it sounds implausible, but I believe it is what the Bible teaches. Likewise, I argue that like the people (who we will look at next) who do not agree that the sand in the bucket is equivalent to the sand in the cup – we simply are unable to understand the concept given the limitations we all share.
So let’s look at the people who disagree that the sand is the same after being poured into the bucket… I suggest you prove this to yourself.
Children under a certain age (around seven years old) are not able to understand what Psychologist call “reversibility”. Generally, this means that children who’s brains have not developed fully yet, are totally incapable of understanding that if an object’s quality such as shape or size is changed, that it can be returned to its original quality if the change is reversed. Our sand example above is one example. The next time you find yourself in the sandbox with your kids or grandkids – try it.
Two other examples you can use to prove this:
- Take a pencil and hold it upright on the table. With the child watching, let the pencil go and it will fall over and lie horizontally on the table. Now, ask the child to tell you what happens to the pencil between the time it is upright and when it is horizontal on the table. The child will not be able to tell you or show you where it was in transition between one and the other.
- Take a ball of play dough and cut it in half. Roll the two halves into smaller balls so that they are equal. Ask the child which is larger. They will almost always have you adjust one or the other. When the child is satisfied that the balls of clay are equal and hold the same amount of clay, then press one of them into a flat shape. Now ask the child which is larger and they will always point to one or the other. There is no way for them to understand that once the balls are equal – they will always be equal regardless of their shape.
Note, the ability to distinguish reversibility in children is not a gradual thing; it happens all at once. One day the child won’t understand, and the next they clearly see that reversing the quality will keep them equal.
This is a nice “party trick” for those proud parents who claim their kids are the smartest ever. I’ve seen parents try to teach their kids that the balls of clay are the same even after their shape changes. These “bright” kids will argue and argue that they are not the same and they just don’t understand why their parents don’t see the obvious. Get over it. It won’t be the last time your kids will question your intelligence.
Isn’t that similar to how we are with the idea of being Chosen? Don’t we argue and rationalize based on our limited understanding? However, someday we’ll see clearly.