Sunday, 27 March 2011

Grace wins

... where sin increased, grace increased all the more (Romans 5:20).

I remember being surprised a number of years ago to read, in his commentary on Romans, that John Stott believed that the number of people who would be saved would be greater than the number that will be lost.  He argued for this by referring to the 'super-abundance' of grace that is spoken of in the above verse.  Another popular commentator, F. F. Bruce, shared this view in his commentary on Romans. 

In his commentary Charles Hodge writes,
That the benefits of redemption shall far outweigh the evils of the fall, is here clearly asserted. This we can in a measure comprehend, because:
1. The number of the saved shall doubtless greatly exceed the number of the lost. Since the half of mankind die in infancy, and, according to the Protestant doctrine, are heirs of salvation; and since in the future state of the Church the knowledge of the Lord is to cover the earth, we have reason to believe that the lost shall bear to the saved no greater proportion than the inmates of a prison do to the mass of the community. 
2. Because the eternal Son of God, by his incarnation and mediation, exalts his people to a far higher state of being than our race, if unfallen, could ever have attained 
3. Because the benefits of redemption are not to be confined to the human race. Christ is to be admired in his saints. It is through the Church that the manifold wisdom of God is to be revealed, throughout all ages, to principalities and powers. The redemption of man is to be the great source of knowledge and blessedness to the intelligent universe.
Similarly, John Calvin himself, held this view saying that grace 'belongs to a greater number than the condemnation contracted by the first.' 

But before we get carried away, Calvin knew that there were people who disagreed with him on this and that the case against such opponents could not be proved.  So, I am left with the following conclusions: I don't know how the 'few-ness' texts of the Bible (when Jesus said 'few' find the narrow path was he saying that this would always be the case?  What about 'many are called and few are choosen'? etc.) fit with the 'many-ness' texts of the Bible (do the great crowds of Revelation 7 necessarily exceed those that are not among their number? etc.); but I do know that grace wins!  It super-abounds.

Even if the number of lost exceeds the number of saved grace still super-abounds.  It super-abounds because what grace gives is so magnificent.  What is lost as humanity fell is more than restored as humans are redeemed.  The spiritually-dead are not simply raised to life, they are raised to life in all its fullness.  They are not simply restored to Eden but to something beyond Eden.

Through sin there was loss, but that loss is more than offset in the super-abundance of grace.  Grace wins!


Brian McFarland said...

Interesting post Paul. I would be of the 'few' camp, believing 'quality over quantity' rules! But then I'm not a theologian!!!!!


To whom it may concern said...

Thanks, Brian.
I think that you are right by pointing out to the quality issue.

Virtual Methodist said...

sorry... slightly disconcerted... what exactly do you mean by "quality" over "quantity" when we are talking about God's grace addressing our sinfulness... where, as we are regularly told from pulpits, there is no sliding scale of sins and sinfulness... "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". I agree that crude numbers cannot be the sole measure of the "success" or "failure" of God's act of grace in Jesus... but references to "quality" over "quantity" suggest an almost Victorian approach re those deserving and undeserving God's grace... Forgive me if I am misconstruing Brian... Please elaborate...