The Unmerited, Conditional Grace of God
Reflections on Psalm 25
8 Good and upright is the Lord; Therefore He instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way. 10 All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies. 11 For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, Pardon my iniquity, for it is great. 12 Who is the man who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose ... 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted ... 18 Look upon my affliction and my trouble, And forgive all my sins ... 20 Guard my soul and deliver me; Do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in Thee ... 21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for Thee.
All the forgiveness and help of God are gracious and unmerited. But they are not all unconditional. Our election and our regeneration are unconditional but subsequent blessings like ongoing forgiveness and guidance and help in trouble are conditional on our covenant-keeping.
This does not mean we lose security or assurance, for God has pledged himself to complete the work he began in the elect (Philippians 1:6). He is at work within us to will and to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). He works in us what is pleasing in his sight (Hebrews 13:21). He fulfills the conditions of the covenant through us (Ezekiel 36:27). Our security is as secure as God is faithful.
But what this means is that most of the blessings of the Christian life are conditional on our covenant-keeping. Consider the verses from Psalm 25 above. The words in bold type are all conditions that the psalmist says he fulfills in order to receive blessings. The words in italics are all references to the fact that these blessings are gracious and not earned.
Read it carefully. Do you see that there are conditions we meet in order to receive God’s guidance (v. 9), God’s lovingkindness (v.10), God’s instruction (v. 12), and God’s protection (v.20)? But all this condition-keeping is done by “sinners” (vv. 8, 11). And notice that these covenant-keeping sinners who receive God’s guidance and protection are being preserved by their “integrity and uprightness” (v. 21).
In other words, even though we sin every day in various ways there is a profound difference between sinners who keep God’s covenant (v. 10) and those who don’t. I urge you to search your heart in the light of this Psalm to know if you “wait for the Lord” (v. 21) and “take refuge in him” (v. 20) and “fear” him (v. 12) and are “humble” before him (v. 9) and "keep his covenant" (v. 10). These are the sinners whom God will guide and protect.
Fearing him for forgiveness with you,