(This blog will be offline for a couple of weeks while I travel. Please enjoy these posts from the archives. Feel free to comment or ask questions. I will be able to respond when I return.)
It would honestly be difficult for anyone who acknowledges the sovereignty of God to see grace as earned or deserved. Since all good things come from God and nothing good is in us (of ourselves or on our own), then grace must be a gift from Him. If I could earn grace, I would have to contribute something that I was not given, something of myself. Paul acknowledged that there was nothing in his flesh that was good and that none of us can boast because everything we have that is good has been given to us. (Romans 7:18; 1 Corinthians 4:7)
There are some Bible teachers today who tell their people that grace is earned by doing well with the grace you have already received. They say that saving grace is a gift, but grace needed for living the Christian life successfully is earned by our obedience. They see a system of grace given in small increments to those who are faithful. If you trust God for a little, they say, you will be given much. (Luke 16:10; Matthew 25:29)
There are two problems here. First, this redefines grace. Grace is no longer a gift from the Lord, but a wage earned by a faithful servant. There is no place where grace is taught in this way. Second, these verses are not about grace. According to the simple interpretation, these verses would be speaking of authority or responsibility or even revelation. A case could be made for each of these, but not for grace. Some might suggest that this is a “principle” of Scripture, but that would be difficult to support.
The whole purpose of God in His work on our behalf is relationship. His desire is for us to live in dependent relationship with Him. He will care for us and give us all that we need. All He asks is that we trust Him. Trusting Him is not earning something. In fact, even faith is a gift from Him. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
You see, the foundational message of the Scripture is the great love of the Lord for His people. He has created us to be dependent on Him. We don’t see this as a negative thing because when we come to Him we find ourselves to be complete and fulfilled. It was sin that made Adam and Eve feel independent from God and sin that keeps us from the completion and joy offered in Him. Jesus came to restore that dependent relationship and to restore the joy of those who would come. All of this is the story of God’s grace. We could never earn the grace or gift of God because He wants us to know of His love.