Salvation through works
This would mean that we had to meet some condition so that we could then be saved. It could be:
|keeping the laws of Moses|
|keeping the rules of the church|
|regular prayer, bible reading, etc.|
|saying the 'sinners' prayer'|
|repenting (whatever people mean by that)|
|accepting evil experiences as 'refinements'|
|'accepting' salvation (whatever people mean by 'accepting')|
|grovelling to God|
The rescue from the eternal oblivion and nothingness of death which is God's salvation through Jesus is NOT AN OFFER, any more than creation-in-the-beginning or our own individual births were offers. It is an unconditional gift: that means that we don't have to meet any condition to receive it - not even accepting an offer.
Jesus told us through his parables what the grace of God is.
In His story of the runaway son, when that son finally returns, rather the worse for wear, the father abandons all dignity, so highly prized in that society for elders, to welcome the son who had in effect told him that he wished him dead - and make no mistake: the father had NOTHING to do with the mess the boy got himself into. And now we see the nature of God's grace ...
Does the father wait until the son is cleaned up before he greets him (the 'God can't look on sin' fallacy)? No, he immediately throws his arms round the smelly, muddy boy and covers his matted hair with kisses.
Does he put his son through a time of testing or refinement - give him a bad time to make him worthy of 'sonship'? NO! He throws a party for him without delay, puts the robe of honour and the ring of authority on him, and treats him like the best thing ever created. He won't even hear of anything else. He does all this before he checks whether his son is coming back to take more from him and return to his debauched lifestyle.
What's more, the father is nonplussed that everyone isn't reacting in the same way - it doesn't even cross his mind to do anything to the returning son that isn't overwhelmingly welcoming and pleasant. That's what grace is.
Once 'grace' is conditional upon anything at all it is no more grace, it has somehow been earned or merited.
The completely unconditional nature of grace goes against everything that instinct, training and good sense tell us.
It simply cannot be that anyone, even YHWH, would do something hugely beneficial for us without our doing anything at all to merit it, or even set it in motion.
Real grace - that is, totally unconditional grace - is outside our imagination. Only someone weak and foolish, a complete pushover, would risk doing something like that.
The weakness of God; the foolishness of God - that is what grace is!
God is 'holy' - that means 'other'. It is very 'other' to give one's own life to another - especially when that other
has not deserved it,
has not asked for it,
has not acknowledged the giver
or the giver's superiority
or maybe even the giver's existence.
The grace - the totally unconditional favour - of God is OTHER.
The grace of God goes completely against the grain.
It cuts across the whole notion of religion, the idea that it is through what we experience
that we can get something from a god.
With real grace, all those things - all of them - are completely irrelevant.
Otherwise grace is no longer grace.