Summary: The Grace Paradox is that one who is good in man’s eyes who has not trusted in Christ will not be saved whereas a "bad person" who trusts in Christ will be saved.
The Grace Paradox
Sermon 2 in the series, “Free Grace in Focus – A Biblical Answer to Lordship Salvation”
Chuck Sligh / August 26, 2010
TEXT: Acts 10:1-8
I want to talk to you today about the greatest paradox in the Bible. That paradox is captured in this statement: “A good person can go to hell and a bad person can go to heaven.”
That sounds so strange to our ears, doesn’t it?—“A GOOD person can go to hell?… and a bad person can go to heaven?”
That just doesn’t make sense—unless you know your Bible well. We’ve been conditioned all our lives to believe that anything we get in life, we must earn.
Illus. – When I was growing up, in order to instill a work ethic in me, my dad had several short maxims he repeated many times in my life. He’d tell me, “Son, there’s no free lunch.” – In this life, that is so true. He’d also remind me, “Chuck, never forget: there’s nothing free in life.” – In society, that also is true. And he said often, “Son, if you want something, you’ve got to work for it.”
Because we must earn what we get in everyday life, it’s easy to assume that must also be true in the spiritual realm. But as far as what the Bible teaches—nothing could be further from the truth!
Our popular culture has conditioned us to accept the lie that we can get to heaven by our works or the good life that we live or by doing good deeds.
Illus. – How many of you have ever watched Tom and Jerry cartoons? Remember whenever Tom was tempted to whack Jerry on the head? A little angel with a halo would fly up to his ear and whisper, “If you do that you won’t go to heaven.” Another reinforcement by popular culture that heaven is earned by works. It never worked, though—Tom still always whacked Jerry anyway.
Illus. – I remember the TV show “Touched by an Angel” about an angel going about doing good in people’s lives, showing them they should change their lives. It was a good clean show, but you went away from every episode with the impression that the path to heaven was by cleaning up your life, by turning to goodness, by being a better person.
Those are all good things, and they make for a better society and better families. But again, the idea being good to get to heaven or be forgiven is found nowhere in the Bible; Just the opposite, in fact.
Look with me Isaiah 55:8-9 where God says to Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
The Bible teaches that the way God deals with us is not the way that fits our understanding of the way the world works. No, God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Nowhere is this more true than with salvation.
Now listen carefully to what I’m about to say—it is the major premise of this sermon: The Bible clearly and unequivocally teaches that NO ONE can get to heaven by his own effort, or works, or religion. These really have NO BEARING WHATSOEVER on where you spend eternity. One is saved by the grace of God alone, through faith in Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross alone.
Therefore, a person who is GOOD in man’s eyes, but who has never trusted in Jesus Christ for eternal life and forgiveness of sins, will not go to heaven. And a BAD person, who has never served God, or done any good works, or whose bad deeds outweigh his good is eligible for heaven if he’ll simply trust in Jesus to save him.
This is the “Grace Paradox.”
You say, “Chuck, how can this be? This defies human reason. This doesn’t make sense.” Beloved, there is massive Scriptural support for this, both in Scriptures that teach the principle of the grace paradox and in illustrations of the grace paradox. In fact, the Bible teaches no other way to God.
Let’s look at just two such illustrations for our study today. I’d like to look at two contrasting people. One was a good man on his way to hell; the other was an evil man whom Jesus Himself assured He would see him in heaven.
I. THE FIRST MAN IS CORNELIUS – A GOOD MAN ON HIS WAY TO HELL.
To see this illustration, please turn in your Bibles to Acts 10 in the New Testament: Verses 1-8 say, “There was a certain man in Cæsarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, 2 A devout man, and one who feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. 3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. 4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Your prayers and your alms are come up for a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: 6 He is lodging with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what you ought to do. 7 And when the angel who spoke to Cornelius had departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; 8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.”