Salvation By Grace Alone and The Judgement Of Our Lives According To Our Works

Salvation By Grace Alone and The Judgement Of Our Lives According To Our Works

I do have a text of holy scripture that I want to set before you and consider in this message. it is 2 Corinthians chapter 5. We need to read the whole context but for our purpose in this message, we will focus on verses 6-11.

 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,
 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.
 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. (2 Corinthians 5:6-11 ESV)


We are continuing on in these series of messages to consider the interesting and important part of the teaching of the Bible on the subject of a truth polarity that we find presented to us in the Holy Scriptures. By truth polarity I mean two opposing truths or truth of competing emphases that are not easy to reconcile to one another that lie at each end of a continuum of any particular subject or doctrine such the person of God, or what causes things in the world, or the person of the Lord Jesus Christ as God and man.

The opposing truths that lie at each end of this continuum are presented boldly in the Bible and without qualification.  They are counter-poised to one another.  They are placed side by side, but they  are never synthesized. These truths are juxtaposed, set next to one another, but they are never harmonized. No effort is made to find a middle ground between the two extremes; and we as readers of the Bible and thinkers about its teaching, do constantly find ourselves pulled in two different directions.  And it is our task to hold fast to those poles and not let them fly apart and to make sure that we are understanding any teaching of God's word according to those truths.

Everywhere we look in the word of God, we find this pedagogy, this way of teaching, call it what you will, paradox, antinomy, polarity, whatever: where we see the setting side by side of truths of competing emphases that are not easy for us to reconcile to one another.

We are not saying that these poles of truth, these competing emphases, are actually contradictions in the Bible because there are no contradictions in the Bible. But our minds are too small to take it all in or to see reality as God sees it in one unified whole.  So we don't understand precisely how God is one and three at the same time; or how Jesus Christ is God and man at one and the same time, and the Bible doesn't help us to understand those things.

It is quite interesting that in all of the teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ of which there is so much in the New Testament; not once do we look inside into His inner life and never once are we taught what it was like for Him to be God and man in the same person at the same time. We know that sometimes, He is obviously a man, He doesn't know things.  We see that all the time in the Gospels.  Remember, He is walking with His disciples towards Jerusalem and there is a fig tree over there in the distance. And He wonders whether there is any fruit on the tree, and He goes over to find out: just like you and I would have to do because He is not omniscient (or all-knowing) as a man.  He knows what He learns. He knows what He has been taught. He knows what he himself has discovered.

As God, Christ knows all things; but as a man, he had to go and look on a tree to find out if there was fruit on it.  How can that be?  The Bible never explains that to us.  And we don't understand it. 

When we get used to hearing the Bible and reading the Bible and preaching the Bible in this way, recognising the polarities of truth and the way the Bible presents truth to us in terms of those polarities; we are helped no to worry about making perfect sense out of everything, not to worry about being able to explain everything in the Bible. This way of teaching also helps us to be sure that whatever the Bible teaches us is to be believed and to be obeyed even if it teaches us things that are not easy to understand how it is that they can be true at one and the same time.

I quoted to you in our previous message from Charles Simeon the great Anglican preacher of the 18th Century who said, "I love the simplicity of the scriptures and I wish to receive and inculcate every truth precisely in the way and to the extent it is set forth in the inspired volume.  I have a great jealousy on this head, never to speak less or more than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding.  I would run after nothing, and I would shun nothing.  The truth is not in the middle, it's not in one extreme.  It's in both extremes."

And we have spoken of the strength of this pedagogy and the reason God uses it to communicate His truth.  This way of teaching forces us to face the facts when otherwise we would be very tempted to come away from the Bible with something less than what it teaches us: something less than an absolutely sovereign God and an absolutely responsible human being. Something less than a Jesus Christ who is the living God, who dwells in unapproachable light, who no man can see or has seen; and at the same time, a genuine human being just like you and me.

The danger of this way of teaching, which we find everywhere in the Bible as I had pointed out before: is one-sidedness.  Because of our personality, because of our background, because I am an American and you are a Ugandan; we are all tempted to prefer, to hear more clearly certain things that are taught us in the bible and to ignore to minimize certain other things almost invariably on the other pole on some biblical continuum of truth.  And I think that's what you find.  

What I am giving you in these series of messages is a diagnostic tool, a way of explaining why things are as they are in the Christian church.  So often, we are one-sided.  So often, we have latched hold of something the Bible has said and have forgotten or ignored something else the Bible has said that is related to it.

Now I want to begin with this example.  I want to consider with you in this message the dialectic, the juxtaposition of these two seemingly contradictory truths: salvation by grace alone on one hand, and the judgement of our lives according to our works on the other.

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