Unmerited vs. Unconditional

A couple of months ago there was a good deal of discussion here concerning what God requires of us, if anything, in order to obtain salvation. I was following the discussion, and one of the participants appeared to be confusing unmerited favor and unconditional salvation. I would like to spend a little time discussing these two concepts. The salvation that is from the Lord cannot be earned, therefore it is unmerited.

There is a bevy of scriptural evidence explaining that we can never deserve or earn our salvation. As such it is completely unmerited. Romans 3:23 says; “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 tells us that the “wages of sin is death.” Everyone on this earth has sinned and all deserve death. Paul tells us in Romans 3:24, and 6:23 that the gift of God is eternal life through faith in his son Jesus the Christ. There are many other scriptures that support this concept, that our salvation is completely unmerited, and cannot be earned by good works. An unlimited number of good works cannot erase a single misdeed. Only the blood of Jesus can erase our sins. Paul tells us plainly in Philippians 3:9 that we must be found to have the righteousness that proceeds from God through faith in Jesus Christ.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–   among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9)

It is undeniable that through the unmerited favor of God we are saved. The question is: does this mean that nothing is required of us? Because there is nothing we can do to earn salvation does this mean God doesn’t require that we do anything?

The salvation of the Lord is unmerited therefore it is unconditional. What?????

This assertion cannot be supported by the scriptures. In fact, the scriptures tell us that even though we can never earn our salvation, there is work that the Lord wants us to do. In Genesis 6:5-8 we are told that the Lord determined, “will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:7 KJV) In verse eight we are told that Noah “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:7). The Lord determined to save Noah and his family. I am certain, based on the scriptures above that Noah had not “earned” his salvation. But, did the Lord require anything from Noah? God required Noah to build an ark to His specifications. He required Noah to fill the ark with animals according to his specifications. Just because Noah “had found grace” did not mean that he had no part to play in his salvation. From Abraham to the Children of Israel, God required some action on the part of his followers. The same is true in the New Testament. Jesus gives us a powerful example in Matthew 25. Here he tells us about three servants in the kingdom of God. In this parable two of the servants went out and worked for the master using the gifts that they had been given for His benefit. One servant did nothing for the master, and at the end of time he was sent to eternal punishment in hell. The other two servants that labored for the master were given an eternal reward. God does require service from his servants. Below is a list of scriptures highlighting a few things that God requires.

1.    We must follow his commands. – John 14:15, John 14:21, I John 2:3-5 2.    We must believe. – John 1:12, Mark 16:16, John 3:14-15 3.    We must repent. –  Acts 3:19, Acts 17:30, II Corinthians 7:10 4.    We must confess. –  Matt 10:32 , Romans 10:9-10, I John 4:2 5.    We must be baptized. – I Peter 3:21-22, Mark 16:16, Acts 18:8 6.    We must have faith. – Hebrews 11:6, Acts 15:9, Acts 26:18 7.    We must imitate God. – Ephesians 5:1, I Corinthians 11:1, III John 1:11 8.    We must live pure lives. – I John 3:3, Philippians 4:8, Matthew 5:8 9.    We must be blameless. – Philippians 2:15, I Corinthians 1:8, I Thessalonians 5:23 10.    We must Love God and our Love Neighbor. – Matthew 22:37-40, I John 4:12, I John 4:7 11.     We must know His will. – Ephesians 5:17, Philippians 2:12, I Peter 2:2

All of these can be summed up in this simple command from our Lord: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24 The salvation that is from the Lord through Jesus is, without question, unmerited. It is not unconditional! Just because there is nothing I can do to earn my salvation does not mean that there is nothing God wants me to do!

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  1. rick moody
    March 27, 2011

    There were eight people on the Ark and only Noah was recorded has having found grace. So the next question is why the other seven? If for nothing else they listened to Noah and got inside before it rained. Noahs preaching saved his own family. Even though the rest of the world did not get in Gods word remained true. This example teaches me the responsibility that it takes to be saved. Action is required. Get in the Ark, a early example of the church, sit down and stay there. It will carry you through all of lifes stormy trials and tribulations.

  2. March 27, 2011

    @rick moodyThank you for the comment. You are correct, in that Noah was the only one identified as being righteous (Gen. 7:1), and as having found grace (Gen. 6:8). In addition to hearing his preaching I might add that they were blessed because of his faith. Paul says in I Corinthians 7:14 “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” Thanks again.

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