“Receiving God's Grace In Vain”

Categories: Doctrine: Grace


Receiving God’s Grace In Vain

W. C. Hinton, Jr.

in the powerful fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul refers to certain basics of the gospel, to his preaching to those brethren, and to the appearances of the Lord. Then he gives an exclamatory statement of his own condition: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not found vain” (verse 10). God has favored mankind exceedingly by making it possible for him, as well as Paul, to learn to love and obey the truth that makes men free. How grateful we ought to be!

God’s grace meets our greatest need—salvation. “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). Urgings, facts and beauties of this salvation are communicated through the Word “which is able to build you up, and to give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Demands are made of the committed so that they are neither dull nor bored. A life of labor must follow one into the realm of salvation (see 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 2:20–21; Titus 2:11–12; Ephesians 2:10). What God does, He does extremely well; so that His grace is sufficient—more than adequate to meet our needs as seen from Romans 5.

But our attention needs to focus on Ephesians 2:8–10. In speaking of salvation, Paul says “for by grace have ye been saved through faith.” We must appreciate the stress made on the fact of the two sides of salvation. Salvation in God’s way clearly takes two. A clear-cut example is seen in Jesus’ lament over the city of Jerusalem: “I would have gathered … but ye would not” (Matthew 23:37). Or again, in the familiar story of Naaman, the cleansing (grace, if you please) was effected only after the one in need had complied with the specified conditions. Grace—the divine side—shows us God’s love. He planned/purposed and developed the means to redemption and spiritual blessings found in His Son. But Paul also said “through faith”—and here we see the human element. Rewarded faith is always live, active, working and obedient. It is by the means of this faith that we gain for ourselves the divine blessings. By the grace of God adequate provisions have been made, but men are not saved by mere provisions. God provides food and water for man but if he will not, for whatever reason, eat or drink—he will die. In Acts 2, Peter declared the provisions made by God and then urged them to “save yourselves.” Peter also observed, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respector of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34–35).

It is hard for people to admit that they are, or might be, lost. Lost is a dreadful word that stirs up chilling thoughts. Lost in the midst of a blinding blizzard, off the charted path in the churning, raging seas, or the lone pilot with dead instruments in the center of a storm cloud frantically searching for the airport are mild and can in no way be compared to one being lost eternally. But what does it mean to be lost? It means all the forethought, energy and yearning of the heavenly Father and His Son is thwarted by one refusing to accept God’s loving offer in His Son to renew a relationship, to pick up the pieces of life and self and become a child of the King—worthy of life eternal. On the other hand, we see that punishment of the lost is demanded by the righteousness of God—justice must be served. Two powerful forces act upon the stubborn will of man—love and goodness. “For the love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). “The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” (Romans 2:4). Both of these forces are seen in the scene of the cross and thus make its drawing power tremendous (John 12:32). Yet, some hearts are too tough to be touched by the tenderness of love and need to be shocked. To so move people was Jonah’s task in Nineveh; “in forty days Nineveh will be overthrown” brought them all, king to peasant, to repentance. The punishment of the impenitent makes us know that “God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

And it means that the sinner is ruined. You know, life is not easy. There are bitter trials, financial reverses, sicknesses, accidents, disloyalty of trusted friends, unrequited love and other trying experiences. Still, these cannot be compared with the horrors of hell. Standing there on the brink of eternity, lost, one might well reflect on Jesus’ penetrating question: “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” The rich man of Luke 16 cried out in pain, being in torment. It does not cease—“they have no rest day and night” (Revelation 14:11). And, although millions will be in hell, there will be the utter and complete loneliness, each engrossed in his own suffering with no thought or time for others. The final decree will echo in one’s ears, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41). Then think of the regret and remorse. Abraham told the rich man of Luke 16, “Son, remember.” Memories will drive us up the walls! Wasted years! Unaccepted opportunities! And worst of all, perhaps, is the hopeless despair of no relief or end in sight. Hell is eternal!

It is a frightful thing to think that God has made such abundant provision of His grace, and yet we can void it all. Paul said, “We … beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1). Being lost is such a tragedy, such a waste, so unnecessary—for Christ died to prevent it from coming to pass in our lives. What are you doing about it? Are you maybe not far from the kingdom? Hasten to activate your faith, commit your life, strike out for the high ground of mountain-top living. Or have you once been in the kingdom, enjoyed the blessings, experienced God’s generous grace—and for thoughtless reasons of little value turned your back on God? If so, it was the poorest decision you ever made. Retrace your steps and reclaim the crown so that you will not disappoint yourself or God. Dedicate your life to helping others, “snatching them from the fire”—and give thanks to God that you had the disposition and determination to come to your senses and set in order the proper priorities. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift—the Son of His love!

Originally appeared in the June 1984 issue of Christianity Magazine.