When you come face-to-face with a Biblical picture of the grace of God, you will find that it is not a tame, easy-to-grasp, manageable sort of grace that says, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life…if you’ll have it.” It is not the kind of psuedo-grace that brings to mind the idea of Jesus hoping to be allowed in so that He might be able to do something different with your life…maybe, hopefully, perhaps, someday. This is the grace that speaks in terms such as this, “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17); and “so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:6). This is a grace that comes in to reign (Rom. 5:21) in the heart of the one that has been redeemed.
The work of grace is not a side show in the history of the world. It is not an addendum tacked on somewhere near the end. Grace has been the plan of God since before the foundation of the world and all of God is taken up with all of grace. Grace demands the full participation of the Triune God. Thus, the Father in His grace elects “according to (his) foreknowledge” (1 Peter. 1:2). But the plan does not just hang there in redemptive space. That plan is brought into time and space by the work of the Son of God. By entering human history, not at the invitation of any man, the eternal Son carried on the work of grace. He lived a perfectly sinless life. And when He died on the cross He died a substitutionary death in order to redeem His people.
And this is one reason for preaching and believing these doctrines: it magnifies the work of Christ.
Think of it this way: is it possible to die a substitutionary death if One does not know for whom He dies? Could you imagine this? Suppose you decide that you will go to the electric chair in order to pay the penalty of death for someone who rightfully deserves that penalty. Would you go to that chair if you knew that it was a possibility that no one would actually experience the benefit of your death? It would be senseless to say that Jesus went to the cross hoping that maybe someone might activate the benefits of His death. According to that reasoning, Jesus could’ve died as a substitutionary sacrifice only to find that His work was of no avail because no one believed and thus no one was ever redeemed. Yet that is exactly how we’ve thought of the death of Christ for far too long. We’ve thought of Christ’s death as making grace available to anyone who would earn it by their faith. But what we see on the pages of Scripture is a Savior Who went to the cross on purpose. His purpose was to ransom “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…” (Rev. 5:9). In other words, Jesus did not go to the cross to make redemption possible, as if He did 99% of the work for salvation leaving only a smidgen of work for us to do in order to activate the benefits of Christ’s work for us. No! Jesus actually redeemed a people…the very same people that the Father elected by grace Jesus redeemed by grace!
Christ was not a failure! And neither was He a liar. When He shouted, “It is finished” (John 19:30), it really was finished. The work was complete, the price was paid in full. And now we can say that there is absolutely no condemnation for anyone who is in Christ (Rom. 8:1). I contend that it is this and this alone that frees us to go into a world that hates God and to boldly preach “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That’s a statement of gracious fact! No talk about redeeming himself or activating the work of Christ. Just grace, pure grace. I can say to everyone, “You must believe on Jesus Christ or else you will perish. If you believe you will have eternal life, if you do not you will perish.” I can say this because Christ’s work is not incomplete but beautifully complete. There will be people from every walk of life who will believe because there was a people from every walk of life that was redeemed in Christ. His work did not fail, and praise be to God our work cannot and will not fail! He will build His church and He will use you and me to do it!