GOD’S GRACE NOT RELATED TO
Now we come to the third matter, man’s responsibilities. God’s grace can never be tied to man’s responsibilities. What are man’s responsibilities? Suppose I give a brother ten thousand dollars to send to a certain place, but because I am afraid that he will lose the money, I charge him, saying, "You are responsible for this money." What do I mean? I mean that if he loses the money, he has to pay it back. This is the meaning of responsibility. Wrongdoings are matters of the past. Achievements are also matters of the past. But responsibilities are matters of the future. If God is to give us grace, it cannot be tied to responsibility. When I ask a brother to take ten thousand dollars to the bank, that money is not his, so I tell him that he is responsible for the money. But if this money is a free gift to him, can I say, "You are responsible for it"? Surely not. Once I give the money away to him, the money is his. What he does with the money is up to him even if he throws it into a river or a trash can.
Some have said that prior to our salvation we did not have good works and were unable to save ourselves. There was no other way to be saved except to have God’s grace save us. But now that we are saved, they say, we should do good works, for if we do not do good works now, we are again doomed to perish. Many think that salvation is of grace, but that maintaining salvation is of our merit and work. This is what I mean by responsibility. Many think that if we behave properly after we are saved, our salvation will be preserved, and if we do not behave properly, God will take back His salvation. If salvation can be taken back, is it grace anymore? If it is grace, there is no question of past merit, present work, or future responsibility. If we bring in future responsibility, then again it is no longer grace.
Once a preacher came to talk to me who did not believe that once a person is saved, he is forever saved. I asked him why he thought so. He said that he believed that man is saved by grace, but if man does not behave properly after salvation, he will perish. "Is this then grace?" I asked. Then I gave him an illustration. Suppose we go to a bookstore together and each of us pick out the same book to buy. When you ask the salesman the price, he tells you that it costs sixty cents. You give him sixty cents and take the book home. But I dig into my pockets and realize that I do not have any money. I want the same book also, so I tell the salesman that I have not brought any money with me, and ask if I can take the book now and send him the money later. He says that it is fine to do so because we know each other well. Thus, I take the same book home also. You have paid cash, but I have postponed the payment. Let me ask you, was the cash transaction grace? Surely it was not, because the book was paid for with sixty cents. For man to be saved through good works is like a cash transaction. If you have done good works, you can go to God and He will say, "Fine, you can be saved." If a man is saved this way, his salvation is not through grace. Thank the Lord that no one is saved this way. How about my case of postponing the payment? This is like God advancing salvation to man. If man would not do good after salvation, his salvation will be claimed back from him. One would have to do good in order to keep his salvation. But this is not grace either. Grace is not a cash transaction nor is it like a postponed payment. In a cash transaction one pays now; with a postponed payment one pays later. But both have to pay. We do not purchase our salvation on credit. I told the preacher that if salvation is of grace, there is no need for good works. Then he asked, "Does this mean that we do not need good works anymore?" I said, "No. Christians need to do good works. But the good works that I am talking about have nothing to do with salvation. The good works that I am talking about have to do with the kingdom, with the reward and the crown. Salvation is not bought, nor is it purchased on credit. Salvation is given freely."
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)