Thesis #76 of 95 - Covenantal admission is by grace alone; faithfulness is required to continue benefitting from its privileges.
Jn15:2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit
Gen4:7(Masoretic) If you (Cain) do well, shall you not be accepted? But if you do not do well, Sin lies at the portal. And his desire shall be for you but you must rule over him
1Jn3:12 Be not as Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And for what reason did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil, but his brother’s were righteous
1Jn4:7-8 “Beloved, let’s love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love”
Rom8:29 For those He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers
Rev3:21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat with My Father on His throne
Rev5:9-10 You (Christ) purchased people for God with Your blood from every tribe, language, people, and nation. You have made them into a kingdom of priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth
Mk8:34-35 “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it”
1Cor9:27 I (Paul) strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified!
Rom8:17 Being heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if in fact we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him
This thesis is affirming that everyone who enters a covenant with God does so on the basis of grace alone, i.e. divine favour and generosity not dependant on merit. Unmerited grace clearly applied to a Jewish baby born within the Abrahamic Covenant; equally to the Christian baby baptized by the Church and incorporated within the Covenant of Christ’s blood. Likewise, to the adult convert given faith to apprehend Christ (Eph2:8) and receive Christian baptism. And the human baby, starting with Cain as the world’s first infant, freely incorporated within the theologically eluded Universal Covenant of life through the two-way age-enduring merits of Christ’s righteous act that universally nullifies Adam’s act of disobedience (Rom5:18).
The issue then becomes how one retains the benefits of that covenant as opposed to defaulting. The answer is faith or faithfulness [same word in biblical Greek] evidenced by fruit. The Jew who turned from JHWE to idolatry defaults his covenantal privileges. Those in Christ who fail to produce fruit may remain in the Church but will not participate in the marriage of the Lamb, for every branch in Christthat fails to bear fruit will be removed (Jn15:2). Members of humanity who fail to produce any fruit in the form of compassionate love (agape) like Cain and the Matthew 25 “goats” remain on earth but become alienated from God’s loving care. They have a new master to look after their interests, and at least as far ahead as Scripture permits us to foresee will not be incorporated within God’s eternal Kingdom but will receive post-mortem punishment (Mt25:45-46).
The above is almost diametrically opposed to what so many Christians believe today. They understand men and women to have an innate ability to come to a saving relationship with Christ. And for those who do it is “all of grace” thereafter; perseverance being guaranteed. Hard-line Calvinists such as myself in the past rightly understand covenantal election to be unconditional. But in view of their binary soteriology, they cannot avoid impugning God’s equitable and loving nature. For the logical implication is that those excluded, being the bulk of humanity, have been destined for eternal misery at the Creator’s behest. Not only is this an odious distortion of divine providence, but it is clearly at odds with the Christmas angels’ message of “Good News of great joy for all people”. Thankfully, such a denigration of Christ’s saving work cannot be squared with Scripture as a whole.
GOD IS FAIR TO ALL
In the starkest contrast to the Reformed theology that I grew up with, the covenantal arrangements outlined in para one are entirely equitable; the economy of a Creator who is comprehensively and comprehensibly adorable. That is, at least once it is understood that the vast majority who are excluded from the covenants of promise (non-Jews in the OT, non-Christians in the current age) are not all “bound for hell”. The destiny of the soul after death, as Jesus indicated in the definitive final judgement passage of the New Testament (Mt25:31-46) and as I have been delineating in my writing has little if anything to do with religious faith or practice. It pertains rather to whether one is “of God” or from the Evil One [Greek: ek tou ponerou” 1Jn3:12; cf. Mt13:25-28 (see note#1); Mt15:13]. As Mt25 affirms, such a categorization is not determined by religious faith or practice but whether one has shown in life the capacity to exercise “agape” (compassionate love), of which our Creator is the personification (1Jn4:7-8 vis-a-vis 1Jn3:12).
In terms of God’s justice, God’s “elect” enjoy privileges now and shall do so immeasurably more in the ages to come compared to the rest. But their glorious inheritance is something that the majority have simply not been prepared for, in this life at least (Rom8:29; Rev3:21; Rev5:9-10). And as related in this thesis, their rewards are dependent on continued faithfulness. “Rewards” indeed, for as Jesus and Paul in particular make clear, to “attain to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ” involves personal sacrifice, self-discipline, even suffering in the present (Mk8:34-35; 1Cor9:27; Rom8:17).
Truly, we shall praise God with uprightness of heart when we have learnt of His righteous judgements (Ps119:7).
NOTE#1 The parable of the wheat and darnel is often portrayed by commentators as relating to the church whereas Jesus makes clear the satanic seed has been planted in the world (Mt13:38). The related parable for the Church is provided by Paul (2Tim2:19-21).