You have heard it said that “Our God is a God of second chances.”
This is a popular phrase in the church today. I barely get through a testimony without hearing someone talk about a second chance God gave them.
I am not sure if what they always refer to is a second chance, necessarily, or it is a third, tenth, or a nine-hundredth chance.
Sure, we blow it every day. Fair to say, we blow it every microsecond, so I understand all attempts at ‘second-chancism.’ It sounds like Good News, a turning of a fresh page, getting a new opportunity to redo, only that this time we do it better.
At their heart, all attempts at ‘second-chancism’ are aimed at earning salvation from God with our tears, sweat and blood, just like we do every year with New Year resolutions.
When we say that “Our God is a God of second chances,” or when we pray that God gives us a second chance, what we are doing is seize the tools of salvation from God’s hand and get to work at saving ourselves and pleasing God with our ‘trying again.’
Because the culture is in our corner shouting “Don’t give up, be brave,” we go on to put our faith in our ability to do better at pleasing God so long as He grants us that second chance.
In his commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, Martin Luther had this to say:
The true way of salvation is this. First, a person must realize that he is a sinner, the kind of a sinner who is congenitally unable to do any good thing. “Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin.” Those who seek to earn the grace of God by their own efforts are trying to please God with sins. They mock God, and provoke His anger. The first step on the way to salvation is to repent.
Nowhere in the bible do we find God telling his people to try harder and harder until they make it happen. Mr. Miagi in Karate Kid could give his little friend countless chances until he got the job done, but that is not how God operates. He gives us no chances to save ourselves.
He goes at it Himself. It is what the preacher in Hebrews 9:11-14 is saying:
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
In salvation, God demands perfect obedience to the Law and then moves to perfectly obey the Law on behalf of sinners and sufferers.
God as a giver of second chances is not Good News; it is bad news. When salvation is put in our hands, there can only be death for the bible is clear when it says that we cannot please God by doing stuff (Isaiah 64:6; Galatians 2:16).
Martin Luther adds:
God sent His only-begotten Son into the world that we may live through His merit. He was crucified and killed for us. By sacrificing His Son for us God revealed Himself to us as a merciful Father who donates remission of sins, righteousness, and life everlasting for Christ’s sake. God hands out His gifts freely unto all men. That is the praise and glory of His mercy.
The Good News of the Gospel is that the God of the bible is a God of one chance in His Son Jesus Christ. Christ comes once to offer a Himself as a sacrifice once for all for your sins and mine. That also goes for our spirited attempts to save ourselves through second chances, which is also covered in that one time sacrifice at Calvary.
The Gospel is a story of God coming down in the flesh and doing for us, with one chance, what we could never do with a million chances on our hands.