The Bible teaches there are only 2 religions, which are grace and debt (Romans 4). Grace is the undeserved goodness of God offered to everyone who believes, it cannot be of works. Debt is owed by God because of good works, it cannot be of faith. These 2 religions are in stark contrast to each other. Grace teaches there is nothing you can do to earn salvation. Debt teaches you have to do everything to earn salvation. They cannot be mixed. Salvation is either by grace or by works—not both! If even the smallest amount of work is required, it is not grace. If even the smallest amount of grace is required, it is not debt. Consider the following 2 poems that illustrate these religions. Which one are you trusting?
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley, “Invictus,” in The Best Loved Poems of the American People, selected by Hazel Felleman (Garden City, N.Y.: Garden City Books, 1936), 73.
Out of the light that dazzles me,
Bright as the sun from pole to pole,
I thank the God I know to be For
Christ the conqueror of my soul.
Since His the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince nor cry aloud.
Under that rule which men call chance
My head with joy is humbly bowed.
Beyond this place of sin and tears
That life with Him! And His the aid,
Despite the menace of the years,
Keeps, and shall keep me, unafraid.
I have no fear, though strait the gate,
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate,
Christ is the Captain of my soul.
A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 4 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), 284.
When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it:
“Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sins are put out of sight.
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the LORD has cleared of sin.” (Romans 4:4-8)