THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD AND THE CROSS OF CHRIST
By no amount of good works — no matter how great — could any human being earn (or obtain) the forgiveness of even one sin which he has committed. If man could have been saved by meritorious works, there would have been no need for the grace of God (the unmerited favor of God). God’s gift of His Son on the cross of Calvary is the crowning act of God’s providence in regard to His eternal purpose. It could well be said that what the cross teaches is the very heart of the Bible. It perfectly ties together the eternal purpose of God (in His love, to save every person who truly loves Him, in return (John 14:15 says; “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Verse 21 says; “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”)
So, let us look at what the cross of Christ tells us about His providence.
1. The cross is God’s supreme declaration of His own existence. There are many proofs of God’s existence. Among these are..
(1) Man Himself (his mind, his body, his soul) Psalm 139:14 says; “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
(2) The Heavens. Psalm 19:1-4 says; “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. Without speech or language, without a sound to be heard, their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun.”
(3) Jesus Himself said; “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9). The Father gave the Son so that men might receive eternal life (John 3:16) You’re all familiar with that verse. But how about Romans 8:7-9; “For the mind that is set on the flesh, is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot. Those controlled by the flesh, cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
The Greatest Manifestation
There is no greater manifestation—there CAN BE no greater manifestation of the providence of God, than the gift of His Son for the sins of the world. Hebrews 2:9 says; “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”
What could not have been provided in any other way, was provided when God gave His Son on the cross. The cross declares, that God gave His Son, to provide salvation for sinners, who will repent and obey Him. Hebrews 5:8-9 tells us: “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience, by the things which he suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him, the source of eternal salvation.”
And Romans 5:8-9 tells us; “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, (He commended His love towards us) in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God, through Him.”
2. Every human being of accountable age needs to be provided with the message, “You have sinned!” By giving His Son to die on the cross, God cried out to every person, “You have sinned!” What wonderful providence. Romans 3:23 declares to us; “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
3. By giving His Son to die on the cross, God provided all men with the message, “God is righteous — infinitely just; He CANNOT tolerate sin.” He thereby declares that, something must be done about your sin. You will be lost forever, if you are not forgiven of your sins And Romans 8:1-5 says to us; “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For in Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life, set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law (the old covenant law) was powerless to do, in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did, by sending His own Son, in the likeness of sinful man, as an offering for sin. He thus condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous standard of the law, might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh, set their minds on the things of the flesh; But those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
Romans 3:24-27 says; “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation (a propitiation is an appeasement.. And appeasing sacrifice) in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God, He passed over the sins previously committed; He did this to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so as to be just, and to justify, the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.”
4. By giving His Son to die on the cross, God provided man with an essential message; No sinner can be saved, apart from the grace of God—through the blood of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 says to us; “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Now, I’ve got to stop here and comment about verse 8.. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God..” I talk to more people about this one verse, probably more than any other verse in the bible. And that is because there are two false conceptions that have been derived from this one verse.
First, so many people will contend, that because this verse specifically says that we are saved by grace, that there is nothing else that enters into our salvation. You are saved by grace, and that’s it! But that simply ignores all the other verses that mention all the other things that go along with God’s grace, to bring about our salvation. And I’m not going to get into that false conception tonight.
But here’s the second false conception, in regards to this verse. Many, many people, and I have been shocked by how many people there are, who believe and contend, that FAITH, is the “gift of God” that’s spoken of in this verse. I’ve always believed that it was GRACE that was the gift of God. Have you heard that claim, and that belief? That the “gift of God” spoken of there, is our faith. In other words, we don’t do anything to acquire faith, but rather, God GIVES us the faith that is needed, in order to become saved. That really takes the whole thing out of our hands, doesn’t it?
It puts salvation totally on God, because God obviously gives us His grace, which is His kindness, which we in no way deserve. And so obviously that’s a gift from God. But then the claim is that God also gives us our faith, as another gift, so that we don’t need to do a thing, to be saved. The reasoning, or I should say, the false reasoning is, that a dead man (or a dead person; We’re spiritually dead, before God gives us new life) But, a dead person, CANNOT do ANYTHING, in response to God, because he’s dead! Therefore, God must do it all. Have you heard that claim? Oh, it’s a popular one among many, many denominations today. I hear about it constantly.
But let’s go back to Ephesians 2, verse 8; “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and THIS, not from yourselves; it is the gift of God..” The claim is that the word “this” refers directly to the word “faith”. Some versions use the word “that” instead of “this”, but that’s neither hear nor there. You are saved through faith, and THIS, not of yourself. You see what’s being said don’t you?
Well, of course we know from Romans 10:17, that the source of faith, is not a direct operation of God, but rather, the scripture tells us that “..faith comes by hearing, and hearing, by the word of Christ.” So then we see clearly that faith doesn’t come by a direct operation of God! It’s up to US, to be willing to “hear” the words that God has ordained, which save us.
Now, God’s word is of course a gift from God. And as I’ve said, God’s grace is obviously a gift from God. Just by the very nature of what grace is, we know that God is the one who gives it to us. But we must have a very obvious hand in acquiring faith, because it’s US, who must do the “hearing” of the word.. The “accepting” of the word, as the truth that it is, and the believing, of what it says.
The Gift of God
Now, I want to share something with you that I found very interesting. I was having a discussion about this very topic, with someone this past week. About how faith is the gift of God, and not God’s grace. I’ve always believed that the “gift of God” was referring to God’s grace, I guess simply because we know, that grace, is a gift. God bestows His kindness upon us, what more is there to be said about it?
So this person that I was talking to, said to me.. You really need to go back to school and learn grammar, and learn that the word “gift” MUST refer back to the last named noun, in the sentence. Therefore, the “Gift of God” must refer to faith, which was the last thing mentioned. So there you have it, cut a dry. It’s a matter of proper English grammar.
But what came to my mind, is the fact that we’re really not concerned with English grammar. What we’re concerned with is Greek grammar. So the question is.. In the original Greek language, what is the afore named nouns, either grace or faith, is the proper “recipient” of the word “Gift”? Does that sound like fair question? I thought so. So, what did I do to find the answer?
Well, I emailed my friend in Greece, whom I’ve told you about several times. Once again, his name is Harry Foundalis; He’s a native Greek, He’s a scholar in the Greek language; He’s also studied in the Unite States; He has degrees in communication, and in physics, and his career, is as a “Mathematical Physicist”. So, he’s no dummy. And he does do Greek language teaching also. That’s of course how I got acquainted with him.
And I call him a “friend” because over the last few years, we’ve had quite a few theological discussions, (his wife is an Orthodox Greek) and discussions about the Greek text of the bible. And while normally Harry charges for his language services, this past year when I ask about making payment, he’s been telling me, don’t worry about it. which I thought was very nice of him.
So, I emailed Harry, and I said; “Hi again. I’m hearing several people claim that the “gift of God” spoken of in Ephesians 2:8, is faith, and not grace. Would you enlighten me as to the proper sentence structure, and the proper word that is being referred to as “the gift of God”.
And I was a little bit surprised at his answer. Here’s what he said; And I’ll just read his email, so please listen closely; It’s a short and to the point answer..
Did you understand what he said? Let me read Ephesians 2, verse 8 once again; “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and THIS, not of yourselves; it is the gift of God..” The entire concept, of being saved by grace through faith, is the “gift of God”. And once he pointed that out, I could see the perfect logical of it all. Salvation is really the gift; But grace and faith are the “means” by which the gift has been given. And so the phrase “by grace you have been saved, through faith” is the package that God has given us. Salvation, including the means of that salvation, is what God has given us, through Jesus Christ.