Grace + Faith + Nothing
By David Brandt Berg
God has raised up great saints throughout the ages to be examples and ideals for the believers. But often the saints and the great heroes of the Bible have been so exalted and seemed so far superior, it can make you feel like, “What’s the use of trying? I could never be like that. I’ll never make it.” You didn’t even feel like trying, because they were so far beyond and above you. Even characters in the Bible can sound so far above and beyond us that they become unrelatable to our present existence.
But what the Lord has tried to do in His Word is to show you how human they were and how much like us they were. They weren’t perfect and they weren’t all that much different from you in many ways. That’s why King David has always been such a great encouragement through the ages, a man who could sin and be as wicked as he was, and yet the Lord forgave him after he had a great repentance, and called him a man after His own heart. He wrote all those beautiful psalms and wound up a good king and a great man and a prophet who loved the Lord in spite of all his mistakes and sins.
Even the apostle Paul wasn’t perfect, despite being the great saint of the New Testament era who the church highly venerated.
It can be a negative effect of exalting the saints so highly, when you have a feeling of such inferiority and hopelessness that you could never possibly attain to such heights of godliness and saintliness and glory and suffering and persecution, and you feel like just giving up and saying, “What’s the use? I will never make it.”
But it’s important to remember that even God’s greats like Moses made mistakes and sinned, and nearly every man of God in the Bible was a hero with clay feet and just as human as we are. That’s why I’ve tried to point out their mistakes and failures and shortcomings and sins. It’s a false ideal that a Christian is to be perfect, with absolute holiness and sinless perfection. The Bible doesn’t cover up the sins of its heroes. The Bible shows their sins and errors and mistakes, and tells how God had to chastise them and correct them and straighten them out time and time again.
That’s why King David is such a wonderful example, because he was such a mess and he made so many mistakes and committed horrible sins, and yet the Lord forgave him and used him. I must say, he was my ideal, because I always figured, “If he made it, I guess I can make it.” I never expected to attain to his heights of glory and beauty and psalmistry and prophecy and all the rest, but I figured if a great man like that could be such a great sinner, then there was some hope for this little sinner.
The famous preacher Harry Ironside (1876–1951) was reared in a Holiness church and he had secret sins that he knew were sins. Yet he kept pretending that he had attained sinless perfection and never sinned anymore, because they had this second work of grace of the Holiness experience of eradication, and God had cut out all the old self and sin and they were now absolutely totally sinlessly perfect and couldn’t sin.
Harry was honest with himself; he knew it wasn’t so with him, at least. He got to reading his Bible and finally woke up to the fact that it was all by grace, that it had nothing to do with our own sinless perfection or any kind of perfection. We’re all fallible, we all make mistakes, we all have sins, and it’s all the grace of God. It’s only His love and mercy and His grace and His sacrifice on Calvary that saves us. Nothing else. Nothing.
Harry finally confessed to himself that he wasn’t perfect and sinless. He realized he had saving faith in the blood of Christ and in Christ’s salvation. He got desperate, read the Bible, and came to the same conclusion and made the same discovery that dear Martin Luther did, that “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not by works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)
He immediately began to tell everybody, to witness. He taught that all you have to do to get saved is just believe and receive. Just believe. God’s grace, your faith, plus nothing. That’s all it takes to get saved. Grace + Faith + Nothing. Of course, the works will come, as works of love and labors of love for the Lord, but they are not required for salvation. They’re a manifestation of salvation and your love for the Lord and others.
He went around shouting and praising God and witnessing and preaching this newfound gospel, just like Martin Luther did when he finally came to the conclusion that we’re saved by grace through faith! Martin Luther got up from his crawl on his knees up the steps and began to shout: “I don’t have to do this to be saved! I don’t have to do penance. I don’t have to crawl up these steps on my hands and knees to the pope or anybody! I can be saved by the grace of God. He’s already given it; all I have to do is receive it and thank God for it.”
He went everywhere preaching that and getting folks saved by grace, and he got thrown out of the Catholic Church because that was absolutely intolerable doctrine—that you didn’t have to be good, you didn’t have to have works, you didn’t have to be a saint to be saved. You could just be a saved sinner, saved by grace through faith. Grace + Faith + Nothing.
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