Can We Merit Grace?
Grace, What is Grace and can anyone merit grace? Different religions might tell us the right words; however, they often have a different meaning to the words used. For example, we find this to be true in the use of the words "being saved by grace."
As normal, let's look at how this Christian terminology is explained in Nelson's Bible Dictionary.
Grace is described as, "favor or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that same person deserves. Grace is one of the key attributes of God. Therefore, grace is almost always associated with mercy, love, compassion, and patience as the source of help and with deliverance from distress. The grace of God was supremely revealed and given in the person and work of Jesus Christ. By His death and resurrection, Jesus restored the broken fellowship between God and His people, both Jew and Gentile. The only way of salvation for any person is 'through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.' The theme of grace is especially prominent in the letters of the apostle Paul. He sets grace radically over against the law and the works of the law. Paul makes it abundantly clear that salvation is not something that can be earned or merited; it can be received only as a gift of grace. Grace, however, must be accompanied by faith; a person must trust in the mercy and favor of God, even while it is undeserved."
Did you notice in the description above how grace is not something that can be earned or merited? Furthermore, this is how the Bible looks at grace and merits as we can see in Romans 11:6, which says, "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." Here is some more of what the Bible tells us. Paul tells us that, "We were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God,"(1 Thessalonians 2:2) "so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God,"(Acts 20:24) "whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son." (Romans 1:9)"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth," (Romans 1:16) "in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise." (Ephesians 1:13) " But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the giftof Christ." (Ephesians 4:7)
That may be a bit to much to understand, so I'll repeat it in a simple way. The Gospel is from God, it is a Gospel of the grace of God, a Gospel about His son Jesus of whom is the Christ and the Gospel is the Gospel of our salvation acquired by faith when we believe it. The grace is given to us as a gift as our Lord Jesus determines we should have.
Again notice that it is a gift to those who believe in what Jesus did, not something we work for, so we can rest from trying to earn or merit salvation, for Scriptures tell us, "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." (Romans 4:4,5) Thus we are to spread this good news of Jesus, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" found in Scriptures at Ephesians 1:7 and in Colossians 1:14,where it also tells us about Jesus, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." As John tells us in John 6:28,29 when Jesus was asked concerning works, it says, "Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30) and I believe Him.
Yet there are some denominations that believe differently. For instance, In Roman Catholicism, we see that their Catechism says on line 2010, "Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion." If they'd stop there, they'd be somewhat Biblical, but it continues with, "Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions."
They repeat this type of error in paragraphs 2025 - 2027; "We can have merit in God's sight only because of God's free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man's collaboration. Man's merit is due to God. The grace of the Holy Spirit can confer true meriton us, by virtue of our adoptive filiations and in accordance with God's gratuitous justice. Charity is the principal source of merit in us before God. No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods."
It appears to be the misconception here is that they claim it is by God's grace that He gives us the means to merit salvation. That, however, nullifies grace as Romans 11:6 said above in that it can't be both works and grace together.
In closing of this article about meriting grace, just look at the oxymoron itself. Merit means to deserve something, where you've done something to get something and you are focused upon what you can do, how well or how often you do it. Grace is as described in the first paragraph, getting something that you don't deserve. Paul tells us that the working method (or the attempt to merit) didn't gain Israel any salvation satisfaction in Romans 9:31,32 and 10:2,3, and since God never changes, it won't gain us salvation either. It's time to take your eyes off of yourself and to place them on Jesus Christ, to thank Him for His gift of grace and salvation. To Him be the glory always!!!