“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” – Romans 11:6
When we first read this verse it almost sounds like double-talk. However, the apostle Paul is making a truth statement about grace so as not to misunderstand the nature of it. Paul makes it clear that one cannot mix grace and works. It is like trying to mix oil and water. This verse, as well as many others in the bible, is clear on the fact that salvation, or eternal life, is by God’s free grace (Romans 3:24; 5:15: Ephesians 2:8,9).
Here in Romans 11:6, Paul explains that this grace given by God is unmerited favor and our good works play no part in obtaining grace, “otherwise grace is no more grace.” It cannot be that man does his part and God does His for salvation. Even our works of righteousness, such as repentance, faith, and baptism cannot be brought before God to merit His grace (Titus 3:4-7).
If people could be saved or justified by their own merit, there would be no need for free grace, but rather one’s works would necessitate a debt owed by God.
If it could be that the teaching of salvation by free grace could be held in one hand, and at the same time hold on to the belief that a person goes to heaven by being a good, then it would follow that the nature of grace had been violated. The very idea of being saved by merit contradicts the very idea of grace.
Lillie Baltrip was a good bus driver. In fact, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram of June 17, 1988, the Houston school district nominated her for a safe-driving award. Her colleagues talked her into driving a busload of them to the awards ceremony. However, as providence would have it, on the way to the ceremony Lillie turned a corner too close and flipped the bus over, sending her and sixteen others to the hospital for minor emergency treatment.
Since Lillie was accident free during the school year, did she get her award anyway? No. After that, they saw her record as tarnished. Award committees do not operate on the principle of grace, but performance.
How greatly blessed believers are that when we cut corners and when our personal sin tarnished our life-record that God in love and mercy came and dealt with us according to His unmerited grace. How can a just God do this? God shows favor to us because His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, was our substitute and lived the perfect life we could not live, and paid for our sin by dying the death that we deserved. Justice was satisfied in God’s Son, whereby God can justly deal with sinners according to unmerited grace.
David C. Hale, pastor