Jim Harris

Bethel Baptist Church – Texarkana

Most people can quote John 3:16, and many do so while missing many great truths from this simple verse. Of course the verse is often quoted to prove that salvation is totally by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. But even then, without a deep study into the wording of this verse, we miss the deepest points of it. In this short (we hope it’s short) article we will look at the word “gave.” “For God so loved, he gave . . . ” According to Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest, this is a “specialized word.” He says, “It denotes not merely a gift, but a gift which is given out of the spontaneous generosity of the giver’s heart, with no strings tied to it. The Greek word grace (charis) has the same root and the same meaning. Thus the word refers, not to an undertaking based upon terms of mutual agreement, but upon the free act of one who gives something, expecting no pay for it. This at once shows the difference between law and grace.” If God had intended for us to understand that our salvation is based upon a combination of works (law) and faith, He could have used a word which refers to an offer based upon the terms of a mutual agreement. If that were the case, God would have offered salvation based upon our performance of certain acts – totally void of faith. When it comes to salvation, faith and works are mutually exclusive. In Romans 4:1-5 Paul said, “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? (2) For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. (3) For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (4) Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. (5) But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” And then in Romans 11:6 he points out, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Furthermore, the verb is in the perfect tense which speaks of a past completed act having present results. In other words, “the past act of God giving the inheritance (salvation) on the basis of a promise (faith) has present results – present to Paul in his day, and to us in our day. God does not offer us salvation on any merit or goodness on our part. It is “out of the spontaneous generosity” of His great love and mercy for His fallen creation. “In my hand no price I bring. Simply to thy cross I cling.” (“Rock of Ages”)

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