In Will God Run?, Charles Hodge writes some powerful words on salvation, grace, and the restoration of relationship with the Father (emphasis is mine throughout):
“The father gave the prodigal a ring. When the son met the father he said, ‘I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and I am no more worthy to be called thy son. I wish to be recognized as a servant, a slave.’ The father’s first impulse is to get that notion from his system. He said, ‘Son, you are my son. I don’t want slaves. I want sons.’ Salvation is restoration!1
Salvation is more than penalty remitted; it is basically relationship restored!…May we suggest again, he is forgiven because he was a son. He didn’t buy salvation because he was penitent. He didn’t earn restoration because he came home. His fondest hope was to be given a decent job as that of a servant. Beloved, we are saved by grace and must never forget it.2
Religion’s advice is ‘try a little bit harder,’ ‘work at it just a little bit more.’ Christianity is not advanced humanism, not just simply a few good morals! If Christianity were only morals, Socrates could be our savior. But Christianity is the restoration of a father-son relationship.3
Salvation…is the placing of God’s best robe on the worst sinner! We strive to place ourselves not to need the robe when that is our basic need! God’s answer is not ‘clean up, son.’ It’s not “try a little bit harder.’ God’s answer is, ‘Come home, son. Come home.’”4
There is so much to weigh in on in these few quotations, but I’ll just briefly touch on one issue. So often, people seem to think (and maybe they think this because it is implied in preaching), that they just need to ‘get their lives right’ and then in some sense they will be worthy of being God’s children.
This thinking is completely backwards. First, we are at no point worthy of being God’s children, and secondly, while moral living is important, it proceeds from a right relationship with the father; it does not precede that relationship.
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1Charles B. Hodge, Jr., Will God Run? (Searcy, AR: Resource Publications, 2002), 50.