Scriptures

The Alternative To Grace

Introduction

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

God’s marvellous grace cannot be understood or appreciated until we contrast it with the alternative of condemnation. Condemnation is more than missing salvation with its joys and rewards.

It means a consignment to the horrors of an eternal destruction and isolation from all happiness, love and fellowship in the presence of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the angels and all the redeemed who have ever lived.

The terrors of hell are not pleasant to think about. The fact is we do not want to think about them. The mind withdraws at the thought of an eternal hell. However, Jesus used graphic images to convey to us the plight of the eternally damned. He describes it as a world of indestructible maggots, unquenchable flames, a remote dungeon of darkness disturbed by the sobbing of inconsolable sorrow and the pain wracked grinding of teeth Mark 9:48 / Matthew 8:12.

The cry of the rich man in Hades: “Father Abraham. have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” causes us to shrink back from even thinking about such a terrible ordeal.

All of these things seem as a paradox but that is irrelevant. The human mind can only grasp concepts that in some way are related to experiences in our own lives. We all know the pain of touching a hot stove and being burned. We have been repelled at the sight and stench of a rotting carcass riddled with maggots.

Who has not groped around in darkness searching for a light switch?

All of these things are a gripping object lesson and as a result most of us, however briefly, want to avoid spending eternity in the blackness of some awful pit.

Men often judge moral values in terms of “so much good in the worst, and so much bad in the best of us,” but the bottom line with God is that

“all have turned away, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good, not even one” Romans 3:11-12

He further says,

“Therefore, just as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through the sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” Romans 5:12

The attitude of the average person precludes any urgency in his seeking Christ. He thinks damnation is reserved for the singularly wicked person, so he is inclined to philosophise: “I’m no saint, but neither am I all that bad. I’m willing to take my chances with the next man and maybe I’ll squeeze through.” All outside of Christ are condemned.

Proverbs 20 asks the rhetorical question, “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure. I am clean and without sin?” The question is often asked, “If God has supreme power, why can’t he choose simply to save everyone?” The answer is found in the contrast between the nature of God and the nature of sin.

God’s perfect righteousness will not allow Him to condone sin in his presence. If God did not punish evildoers, he would put himself in the position of condoning sin. To do so would be a denial of his own holiness and God “cannot disown Himself” 2 Timothy 2:13.

In Romans 5:12, Paul says,

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death comes to all men, because all sinned…”

Some have read into this passage physical death. If so then God’s prediction failed by 930 years (his age at the time of his death).

Genesis 2:17 reads, “When you eat of it, you will surely die.” Certainly, Adam and Eve became subject to the laws of physical mortality when they were cut off from the tree of life, but of far greater consequence they were separated from God (spiritual death) on the very day of heir sin. God shut them out of the garden and ceased to walk with them which simply means man’s fellowship with God ended.

God’s perfect righteousness cannot in any way embrace sin. It inevitably follows that sinners are separated from fellowship with Him because of that unchangeable aspect of his character. Isaiah 59:2 says,

“Your iniquities have separated you from our God, your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.”

Paul told the Christians at Ephesus that they at one time were “separated from Christ.” He is simply saying because of sin you were absolutely and hopelessly lost.

It is of essential importance that we recognise and admit that unredeemed mankind has no prospect whatsoever of eternal life. I am not so sure we really believe that. Maybe part of the reason some churches have not grown since the 1960’s is because a generation has grown up that does not accept the fact that their non-Christian friends are lost, therefore we feel little or no compulsion to teach them.

When we consider the lost and hopeless state of man we are made to realise that we must do something. God’s grace has to be made known to the world.

Charlie Pence was a criminal who lived in England. He cared little or nothing about the laws of God or man. Finally, the law sentenced him o be hanged. As Charlie was being led down the corridor on his death walk, the prison chaplain routinely read some passages from the Bible.

Charlie Pence was shocked at the perfunctory manner in which the clergyman was reading verses that described heaven and hell. There were no tears, no expressions of regret for a lost soul, and no apparent strain upon the face of the chaplain. Charlie wondered if this man believed what he was reading.

Here was a man destined to lift up his eyes in hell and the preacher methodically recited the verses. The condemned man turned to the chaplain and exclaimed,

Sir, if I believed what you and the church claim that you believe, even if England was covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be on hands and knees, and think it worthwhile living if I could but save one soul from an eternal hell like that!

We may not be guilty of the sins that brought death to Charlie but our sins were such that we were separated from God. But because of the amazing grace of God we have been redeemed. We are no longer separated from God.

Because of a friend, relative, a mate, those of us here now have been saved by the grace of God, something we never deserved nor cold possibly earn. Our hearts should overflow with thanksgiving for the unspeakable gift of God’s son who has saved wretches like us.

QUESTIONS

1. Why is it important that a Christian understand condemnation?

Because it is important to know that if we choose to reject God’s grace the alternative will be a terrible existence after our death. Understanding how horrible it is should cause us to put forth every effort to avoid condemnation.

2. What all is involved in condemnation?

The basic idea is eternal separation from God where we cannot receive one single blessing from God. Instead we will suffer for an eternity under the most horrible conditions.

3. Does the average person think or feel he will suffer condemnation?

Certain polls that have been conducted where people were asked this question a majority did not believe it could happen to them. Many people dismiss it completely from their minds never considering it as a fact.

4. When we realise the terrible fate that people will suffer in hell what should become our number one priority?

To “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”

5. Do you believe your non-Christian neighbour is lost?

Many times, our neighbours and friends are good moral people who hold to high and noble principles. However, salvation and eternal life with God is only promised to those who obey the gospel. Paul writes,

“When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

6. Do you believe that good sincere people are lost?

Probably with most of we would like to believe they will be saved. The fact remains that they are outside of Christ thus they are lost.

7. Is it possible that God will make exceptions with some people when it comes to his justice on the day of judgment?

There is nothing in the Bible that indicates God will make any exceptions. This is why it is so urgent that we teach them about the grace of God and what to do to be saved.

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me"

2 Corinthians 12:9

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