SINNERS SAVED BY GRACE?
By Elwin R. Roach
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:5-8.
The term, “I am a sinner, saved by grace” has been trumpeted as loudly and with as much conviction as “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. It is assumed and believed by quite a number that being a sinner saved by grace is just as scriptural as “For God so love the world….” To make sure one way or the other, we looked for a scripture reference to that statement, but all efforts failed. Not one was found! But surely, common as it is, the Bible must have it recorded somewhere. For heaven’s sake, we have heard it said and preached all our lives. If that isn’t in holy script, then we might wonder about, “God helps those who help themselves.” Ah, that saying is in the same oblivious category.
If this is the case, and it is, could it be that it is not biblically sound? If not, we might be in deep dogmatic mud. But we desire the truth above all else! Don’t we? So whether we have been bogged down in religious illusions or not, we will search out the matter, as it is the honor of kings according to do so as we read in Proverbs 25:2.
In this search, and while the answer is unfolding, we pray that the people’s lives that have been stirred, churned, tumbled, and even wrecked due to the lack of understanding will not only be set free, but also made free. Frankly, it is time for knowledge to take hold and do its work. Ignorance can no longer be accepted in the ranks of the saints. Let Hosea 4:6 become history: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge….” In doing so thousands of miles of wandering in dry deserts will be averted.
It goes without saying that countless sons and daughters of God throughout the body of Christ have been suffering in so many ways. They have searched everywhere for relief. They have gone hither and yon looking for anything that might set them free from the pain, the sorrow, the rejection, the loneliness. We received a letter from such a one who had read the book of Job with hopes of finding an answer. He also read our study, “Those Like Job,” but he was still not freed from his very trying hardship. He said that he feels that he is being chastised; even though, like many others who have said the same, he does not know what he has done that has merited God’s heavy hand upon him. The young man said that he does not know what to do to get off the rack and on the right track to experience fellowship again with God and His life-giving presence. He asked, “Do I just pray unceasingly? Do I just repent? Please help. Thank you.”
Since he never responded after writing back to him, I have no idea if my counsel helped or not. Even so, I am sorry to hear that people are in such dire straits, and from the mail we receive, there are many who suffer greatly today with a lot of them feeling the same as this brother, that they are being chastised and want to repent even though they cannot name anything they have done that merits repentance. Some even think that if it is not repentance God is after, perhaps it is penance, like depriving themselves from the joys of life, even food and drink, crawling on hands and knees upon shards of glass to the altar of their church. Ancient mystics, Lady of Fátima and Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon, commonly known as Madame Guyon (in her early years)*, performed self-flagellation on their bare bodies using bundles of stinging nettles. They were not alone in this. It was done by others as well to atone unknown sins that might have been committed, and they supposed the self-induced pain would surely put a smile on their angry God’s face.
There have been men and women over the centuries who believed and did pathetic things with hopes of appeasing God, some much harsher than stinging nettles; but He still used them in mighty ways. It might be hard to understand; but His gifts and callings have been without repentance and worked exceptionally well. * “I tore myself with brambles, thorns, and nettles, which I kept on me. The pain of these later caused my heart to fail, and entirely deprived me of sleep, without my being able to remain sitting or lying, in consequence of the points remaining in my flesh. It was these I used when I could get them, for they satisfied me more than any. I very often kept absinthe in my mouth, colocynth in my food.” Autobiography of Madame Guyon
Later on in Madame Guyon’s life, she forsook those ridged religious efforts of attempting to gain favor and union with God.
“Her philosophy became ‘Quietism’–the absolute submission of the human soul to the will of God. Give up all, lay aside all striving, all reaching out, all unrest, cease penance and lie low in the Lord’s hand; for He does all things well. Make life one continual prayer for holiness–wholeness-harmony; and thus all good will come to us–we attract the good; we attract God–He is our friend–His Spirit dwells in us. She taught of power through repose, and told that you can never gain peace by striving for it like fury.” LITTLE JOURNEYS TO THE HOMES OF FAMOUS WOMEN by Elbert Hubbard.