GRACE: THE GROUND OF ASSURANCE – ROMANS 4:16

 

In Romans 4:16 Paul refers to the strong assurance of salvation generated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Romans 4 Paul gives step by step teaching that Abraham’s relationship with God, described as ‘justified’ [verse 2] and ‘righteousness’ [verse 3,5,6,9,11,13,22,24], was not grounded in anything Abraham himself had done: not in works [verses 2-7], not in circumcision [verses 8-12], not in law [13-15]. On the contrary – it was ‘by faith’ [verses 3,5,9,11,12,13,,16,,17,18,20,24].

In Paul’s writings, including Romans 4, it is clear that faith works synergistically with grace. If something is by faith it is automatically also by grace, because faith depends on God, and on God’s gift, not on anything to do with personal spiritual merit or performance. If something is by faith and by grace it of necessity has to come from God, not from us or anything in us.

In 4:16 Paul states: ‘the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed …’

This word ‘guaranteed’ surprises us if we are locked into a performance-based relationship with God, because obviously any relationship with God grounded in human performance cannot be guaranteed. The word ‘guaranteed’ is out of place wherever human merit is the criterion for acceptance with God.

But there it is in the text – ‘guaranteed’.

Because grace is the key factor in salvation, salvation is sure, steadfast, stable, grounded. It is no fickle, transient, variable thing. It is not here today, gone tomorrow, dependent on the varying levels of our personal spirituality.

Because salvation if God’s gift, freely given, unconditionally given, our fluctuating responsiveness to God does not change the gift or cause God to withdraw the gift. It was given to us with no cause in ourselves. No cause in us can cause its reduction, temporary withdrawal, or permanent termination.

It is guaranteed.

We must not allow anyone to tell us that such assurance of salvation is arrogant, that it equates with an obnoxious and unbiblical self-righteousness. Rather, to reject this assurance, this confidence, is what is arrogant, for it refuses to accept God’s free gift and insists on depending on human ability to gain and maintain a right relationship with him.

True humility accepts this gift, and expresses complete assurance of permanent salvation in and because of Jesus Christ [4:23-24].

Human arrogance rejects this gift, or seriously reduces this gift, and in its pride or despair can only say ‘I’ll be saved if I am good enough … obedient enough … spiritual enough … ‘ [Romans 9:30-10:4].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2009