But it is not as though the word of God has failed.
When we see a Christian brother or sister in spiritual failure, does this mean that God has failed?
The doctrine of grace creates many questions. If God forgives freely, then why try to do the right thing? If God loves sinners, then why not just sin all the more so that God will love us even more?
These questions are addressed in the first eight chapters of Romans and the inspired concepts of Paul explain to us that to sin and to be unrighteous is not true freedom or true life, rather it is death. The grace gifts of God are life and peace. We may not gain forgiveness through our works, and we cannot gain life through our disobedience, but we may gain both of these through Christ and through His Spirit, which we receive through faith. It is the old man, the old sin nature, that rejoices in sin. It is the new man, the new person created by the Spirit of God that delights in obedience and in the life in the Spirit.
But another question relates to the nation of Israel: Did their spiritual failure mean that God had failed? At the heart of the answer is the nature of the Old Covenant, or Old Testament, and what this means for the New Covenant of grace we have in Christ? Since salvation is by grace through faith, and not by works, where is the dividing line between what we do and what God does? Where is our responsibility and where is His and how are they divided?
Paul responded that those who do not believe are marginalized by God - and this is true whether we speak of saving faith or day-to-day faith as we seek to live obediently to God. God looks for faith in our hearts, simple trust in God and obedience to His word and His Spirit. Those who lack saving faith are blotted out of His Book of Life, and cannot expect to spend eternity with God. Those believers in Christ who lack obedient faith to live for Christ, and not for themselves, are also marginalized from what God is doing.
But then in the end, does this mean that in a round about way that God had actually failed, since the object of His word to bring faith and transformation was not achieved? The answer is that God’s word brings clarity and His Spirit brings conviction, yet there is still the responsibility to believe and obey. Isaiah 55:11 avers: “My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it [to do].” The word of God embraced in faith results in salvation; the word rejected still achieves its purpose of judgment against the unbeliever.
A law on the books of society’s legal rules does not fail when a criminal disobeys it. And a sign on a life vest in a sinking ship has not failed if someone fails to heed the warning and take the means provided for his salvation. The word of God teaches both the standards of God’s righteousness and His rules for life that we should obey, and it presents the means whereby we may receive His grace and forgiveness in Christ.
This is why so many times in the Scripture we read of encouragements and urgings to respond to the word of God and the witness of His Spirit immediately. God has given us some responsibility to obey and though we will probably not be able to sort out in our theology exactly where that line between His election and our faith is - salvation always retains a great mystery of the way that God deals with us - He does hold us accountable to our faith or lack of it.
So today is the day of God’s witness to us and our time to respond. If we respond with faith and obedience, we are in the center of what God is doing in the world. God’s word never fails.