I wrote recently about grace. If you didn’t see it, the article is here. But I’m thinking further about this topic, and I’ve come to the idea of grace as being a second chance from God. For an example by way of anthropomorphic vegetables singing about this idea while in the belly of a CGI whale, click here!
With all due respect to plant-based angels singing Gospel music, that’s not what grace is.
Think about the idea of a second chance. Can you think of examples from the real world? Here are a few. I got pulled over for speeding in California once. But the officer didn’t write me a ticket, letting me off instead with a warning. That’s a second chance. We caught an employee in a gross violation of company policy. When we pulled him in for disciplinary action, he said he wouldn’t do it again, and asked for a second chance. In some states, if you buy a lottery ticket that doesn’t win, you have the opportunity to enter a second chance drawing. One could even say that the rules of a double-elimination tournament offer a second chance to a team or individual that loses one match. It seems there are many ways we see second chances in the world.
What do they all have in common?
Two things mainly. First, the second chance in question allows you either to avoid a penalty or not miss out on a reward. In other words, without the second chance, you’d be saddled with the penalty or miss out on the good thing. That’s grace of a type. But not like God’s grace. Second, the second chance implies it’s the last chance. You can’t go right back to breaking the speed limit. You can’t keep breaking company rules. You can’t keep replaying that lottery ticket. And the team working its way through the loser’s bracket can’t lose a second game and stay in the tournament. As such, while the first aspect of this idea of a second chance is good, the second is not.
Finally, this idea of a second chance proceeds from the wrong idea. It is a second chance to – what? A second chance to do the right thing? There’s the problem. God’s grace isn’t about doing at all. It’s about being made right with God not through our own works, but through the work of Jesus. And so a second chance that means we must do better the next time around is not grace. Look at Psalm 32:1-2a:
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity
Notice it doesn’t say the transgression was the first chance, and then he got it right. He said the sin – all the sin – is covered! Sin can’t outdo God’s grace. See Romans 5:20b-21:
but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Sin is no match for God’s grace, freely given through faith in the Lord Jesus. Second chances, third chances – even four-hundredth chances do not even begin to take onboard the immensity of this gift of grace. And because we’ve already seen that sin is so far beyond our ability to deal with on our own, it wouldn’t matter how many chances we were given to make it right.
Therefore, friends, God is not the God of second chances. He’s the God of grace, which is so much more.