Grace Knows No Human Contribution (Murray)

Murray vol 1 John Murray’s article called “The Grace of God” is a wonderful brief summary of how Scripture talks about the sovereign grace of God in salvation (election, the atonement, justification, and sanctification).  Here are a few parts I especially appreciated:

The grace of God comes to its richest expression in redemption and salvation.  How plainly this is set forth in Paul’s well-known word, ‘By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8)!  When he says, ‘and that not of yourselves,’ he is reminding us of the true nature of grace, that its whole urge and explanation reside in God.  It may be easy to give formal assent to this text.  Every evangelical Christian will do so.  But how ready we are to shy away from its implications!  In reality we deny the truth here asserted when we introduce at any point in the whole span and process of salvation a decisive autonomy on the part of man.  If salvation at any point is contingent upon some contribution which man himself makes, then at that point it is of ourselves, and to that extent it is not of grace.  Paul’s definition ‘and that not of yourselves’ is thereby effaced and the true nature of grace is denied.

…If grace is in operation, if it has any place, it must have the whole place, it must be exclusively operative.  If we are justified to any degree by works of law, we are debtors to do the whole law (cf. Gal. 5:3) and justification must be wholly of law.  Here again we have the same principle exemplified and confirmed: grace knows no human contribution.  If of grace, then it is wholly and exclusively of grace.  Since salvation is of grace, it is all of grace.  Human autonomy is excluded at every point as decisively as at the point of justification.

Grace alone means exactly that: salvation is all, only, and exclusively of grace – grace alone!

John Murray, Collected Writings, vol 1, p. 121-122.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

One comment on “Grace Knows No Human Contribution (Murray)

  1. Roy Kerns says:

    Certainly salvation is by grace alone, including all those glorious aspects for which we have technical lingo such as justification, sanctification, even perseverance. Yet simultaneously true the elect (more technical lingo) actually choose to believe the Gospel, actually exercise faith, actually repent (hating and forsaking sin because it is displeasing to God), actually act in lives changed by salvation, actually fear God, actually hear and obey God. The pagan scorns all of this. The Arminian denies the sovereign grace aspect. Rather than surrendering to the Bible’s not only implicit but explicit teaching, the Arminian attempts evasion by insisting on a freedom which dead people don’t have. Meanwhile, the hyper-Calvinist claims a parallel error, denying the total responsibility of man. God as 100% sovereign/man as 100% responsible applies to: 1) the Fall of Man; 2) the sinful acts of man; 3) belief of and in the Gospel. It also applies to 4) sanctification.

    Sanctification occurs 100% as a result of God’s grace, totally a work of the Spirit making one die to sin, alive to God and able to obey, even willing to obey. Sanctification appears in one’s live 100% as a result of their actually hearing, choosing, obeying. Scan, for example, Deut 6-9, where Israel is redeemed from Egypt entirely by grace, yet actually walked out of Egypt, crossed the Wilderness, and must fight to conquer the Land, are even promised a direct connection between their obedience in that war and God giving them grace to continue in it and promised that disobedience will result in God progressively removing himself from them and eventually destroying them. Read and ponder Phil 2:12-14. Rather than bow before this mystery of 100% sovereign, 100% responsible, many proclaim error, claiming it is bad math, claiming one or the other as the whole story.

    One may properly examine and discuss and teach either sovereignty or responsibility in isolation of the other. The Bible sometimes does so. It is sometimes good pedagogy. Yet failure to openly declare both sovereignty and responsibility risks far more than confusion. That failure imposes an error which scorns what God has revealed.


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