New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
…the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
The creation story teaches that we are all like God, made in his image, not divided, all one equal before God. It shows how good is the free will choice to walk in God’s good and perfect will. Evil is a choice that binds us to a cycle of self-love and self-will; it ensnares us and makes us slaves to it. To choose good is to choose life. We know that God’s heart is to be with us, there in every moment, in every choice, working with us for good.
Scripture leads us to understand that we are to be redeemed, brought back to this good and perfect state. Sin leads to death and God calls us to walk in new life. God’s desire is that we exercise true free will and choose good.
The creation story also shows us that part of our creation is that we are free as God is free to choose. We have choice and dominion in the world. With creation itself, we are cocreators with God.
Free will is the freedom to choose good, not so as to gain anything, but because this is our created nature, our true humanity. We are not free if we make choices out of fear, or because we feel we ought to, or because we think we might gain if we do. Free will is the ability to live in grace and be perfectly holy and merciful as God is.
Religion would have us believe otherwise and enslave us to a system, a tick list, so that in the end grace appears meaningless and is cheapened to a transaction. You do this and this is what you gain.
True grace saves us from this lie. Faith in Jesus frees us to be who we are created and called to be, Children of God. We cannot earn our salvation.
How does this work if salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ? Isn’t having faith a work? Paul proclaims salvation as a promise in Christ extended to the Gentiles just as for the people of Israel. It was true by their birth and John says,
John 1:12-13 (NRSV)
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
But still, Jesus says we are not forgiven if we do not forgive. It appears it is also taught that if we do not receive Christ we do not gain salvation. Salvation and forgiveness are by grace but appear conditional on our forgiving and receiving which is not grace, by definition. This can really weigh us down and rob us of assurance and make us very religious, just in case. I have to confess, I often leave Christian meetings, or finish reading Christian books, not knowing if I am good enough. Believe more, pray more, do more, follow this scheme… I just wish they would say less.
I think the answer is in being born of the will of God. That is the only way grace can operate, if you have, because you are, enabling you to be. So, I am forgiven for free because it’s God’s will and his grace is to empower me to become.
If I were in a game playing in a team, when the whistle went, I would have, with my team, lost, won or drawn. The moment the whistle was blown it was decided and settled though in some circumstances it may have been obvious quite early in the match. Once the whistle goes, every part of the game from then on can be seen to have led to the conclusion. Every victory and failing is part of the result which was predestined.
Paul teaches that faith in Christ gains eternal life. Those in Christ are predestined to salvation. Jesus is the final result which means that our every victory and failing leads to salvation. God makes it all good. Paul teaches that those in Christ have been predestined from the beginning and known to God as those who are saved.
Our faith in Christ reveals the outcome and we are fee to live and act and have our being in this knowledge. Perfect love, mercy and forgiveness lives in us. We are freed through faith in Christ to live in grace, as our salvation is God’s will not our own making. If we believe, we become saved. Religion finds this too radical, a licence to sin, but the good news is that in confessing Jesus is Lord we reveal ourselves to be those becoming the Children of God. We are empowered to do good by grace, not to receive a reward.
We no longer act out of fear; if we care we’re there! The journey has a predestined end.
It is a grave error to say this is settled and some are created to be damned, as in doing so, we are binding God to our understanding and will and creating God in our own image. This is truly a teaching of Satan.
For a time, we will need to be lead into the truth of grace. Through our whole lives we will need to be taught. This involves a transference of some of our freedom into the hands of those who lead. This is discipleship. But to think we are able remain in this relationship is a fantasy; every baby needs to be weaned off milk to grow strong.
Our parents, friends, teachers, systems and priests cannot stand in that place of responsibility forever otherwise they become idols taking the place of Christ. We need to be weaned from these controlling influences or the fantasy becomes religion, which grows into a demon called the bearded magistrate in the sky.
This false god wants to stand in the place of God to make us do thus and so and accept false grace and salvation by the works he demands. Evil makes us slaves to religion and power as we freely embrace the fantasy of our authority to judge others and control them. When the end comes it is revealed that we have not believed that Jesus is Lord, but that we are lord, and denied our humanity.
Good frees us to be truly free, and free others, and this is the fruit that reveals us to be becoming children of God. Let us be priests together, make disciples together and baptise and welcome all to the priesthood of all believers. Let us be revealed together to be those becoming children of God.
For further reflection: Montessori lessons in Grace and Courtesy