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I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life." But what is God's reply to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. (ESV)


By Grace! By Grace!

Friday of Pentecost 3

19 June 2015

Some years ago, Edward Cassidy, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, visited our Lutheran seminary in Fort Wayne. While there he was introduced to one of our now sainted professors, Dr. Harold Buls. Cardinal Cassidy greeted Professor Buls, "How do you do, Professor Buls?" Professor Buls immediately replied, "By grace, by grace, Cardinal Cassidy. How do you do?" Cardinal Cassidy shot back: "By works, by works, Professor Buls," to the delight of both men and everyone watching their mutual greeting. Their little altercation highlights the reality that it can only be one way or another, by works or by grace. That was certainly what the Apostle Paul thought.


American dispensationalists argue that God saved his church in various different ways during various different historical dispensations. For example, dispensationalists argue that before the coming of Christ and the proclamation of grace and justification, the church was saved by the good works of the people of Israel. Therefore, the dispensationalists propose at least two different ways of salvation given by God: one by works, the other by faith. A number of things could be said about this way of looking at the Bible's way of salvation. But one thing is for certain, that if the dispensationalists view is correct, the New Testament view of the Old Testament is dead wrong. The apostle Paul certainly presumes that the way of salvation is by faith in the Messiah alone whether He has come, as in the New Testament, or whether He is hoped for, as in the Old Testament. He argued that God's salvation was always by grace in the Old Testament and therefore, was certainly by grace in the new era.


In every era and time, salvation must be by grace and can never be by works. Works fail to meet the divine standard, which is perfect. No one ever will fulfill the requirements set by the unchangeable will and law of God. When Elijah complained that he knew of no believers other than himself he was guilty of judging who were believers and who were not on the basis of their works. He could see none. But what could be seen: good works, was never the standard for salvation in the sight of God, who sees the heart and fathoms what is in our minds. No, God knew His chosen; the believers redeemed by the precious blood of the Messiah and sealed by grace for those who dwelt in trust. He was not alone. Far from it. There were seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed their knee to Baal (1Ki 19:18). Just when you think we are terribly alone and God's grace for Israel has failed, God pulls down the curtain on the universe and points out the many whom His grace has redeemed.


You can complain all you want about the burdens of the law placed on the backs of those who seek to be pleasing to God. And it really is a burden. It's supposed to be. But it has never been the way of getting right with the God whose greatest glory is to love unconditionally his wayward children. This was true at Elijah's time, at Paul's and in our own age.


John Chrysostom


"'But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace' (Rm 11:6). Paul pounces upon the arguments of the Jews, in what he has just quoted (Rm 11:2-4). On this basis he deprives them of excuse. Paul means that you cannot say that the prophets truly called, God invited, the historical events cried aloud, and the provoking to jealousy was enough to draw us to Him, but what was required was too burdensome, and this is why we could not draw near. We had a performance of works demanded of us and laborious good works. For you cannot even say this. For how would God have demanded this of you, when this would just throw His grace into the shade?


"This Paul said out of a wish to show that God was most desirous that they might be saved. For not only would their salvation be easily brought about, but it was also God's greatest glory to display His love toward man. Why then are you afraid of drawing near, since you have no works demanded of you? Why are you bickering and quarrelsome, when grace is before you. Why keep putting the law forward to no purpose whatever? For you will not be saved by that and will mar the gift of grace also. If you stubbornly insist on being saved by the law, you do away with the grace of God. Then that they might not think this strange, having first taken those seven thousand (Rm 11:4); which he said were saved by grace, he says, 'So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace' (Rm 11:5), he shows that they also were saved by grace."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 18

Almighty God, You gave Your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon Himself. Grant that we, Your adopted children by grace, may daily be renewed by Your Holy Spirit. Rescue those still enslaved to the law and free them by the power of Your Word that they might live in Your freedom together with us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


For Hilary Murray who will be moving her earthly goods this weekend, that she would be kept safe


For those who are threatened by rising waters, that the Lord, who saved Noah and his family, would bring rescue to them


For Ed Jutzi, that the Lord would grant him strength of body and soul
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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