Vol: 23 Issue: 12 Thursday, April 12, 2018
When I was a young man, among my favorite books were the early works of a science-fiction writer named Robert Heinlein. A Marine buddy introduced me to them by lending me a book called, ”The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.”
Throughout the book, whenever it fit the story plotline, one of the characters would utter the catchphrase, “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” by its acronym, ‘TANSTAAFL’.
It was one of those oddball phrases that stuck in my head because of the simple truth it conveyed; in this world, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Everything comes with a price tag.
It is a basic law of physics as expressed by the phrase, “for every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction.”
As a principle, it stands at the core of economic theory, as well as virtually every other area of human endeavor. God so designed this universe that that everything is, in the end, a zero-sum game – all things balance out to zero eventually.
The Book of Ecclesiastes, or “the Preacher” was written by the wisest man the world has ever known, King Solomon. Late in his life, Solomon realized his gift of wisdom had benefited all but himself.
The Book of Ecclesiastes could be described as the somewhat bitter memoir of a wise old man who looks back on a life filled with regrets. It is lots more than that.
Many Christians find Ecclesiastes a gloomy book; its central theme is that life is pointless, (all is vanity) and since all that awaits us is the grave, “every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:13)
But if there is one central theme in the Book of Ecclesiastes, it is TANSTAAFL.
“For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20)
Critics and skeptics argue that these verses contradict Scriptures that speak of the afterlife and resurrection. There will always be critics and skeptics that will find a way to read Scripture to make it sound like there are contradictions.
They are so intent on disproving the wisdom of Scripture that the wisdom of Solomon goes completely over their heads.
Solomon is expressing reality as viewed from this side of eternity. All of his laments make the same case. All is vanity.
You can be the wisest man who ever lived. You can have all the riches the world can offer. You can be the world’s most powerful king and have the world’s most desirable woman for your queen.
You can have the admiration of men and the love of women and the riches and wisdom of Solomon, but in the end, it is STILL a zero-sum game.
“Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.” (Ecclesiastes 2:15-16)
Ecclesiastes isn’t a gloomy book. Neither is it contradictory. Written by the wisest man who ever lived, it is unsurprising that those who attempt to understand it’s message apart from the Holy Spirit miss it completely.
They are looking for what they think is the central theme of the Bible. That because the Bible freely offers salvation to “whosoever will” that the Bible offers a free lunch.
Solomon isn’t contradicting Scripture, he is setting the record straight. They are looking for a free lunch.
TANSTAAFL. There ain’t one.
By now I can almost hear some of you arguing with me in your head; “What are you saying! Salvation is a free gift. The Bible says so! Look!
“But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” (Romans 5:15)
See! FREE GIFT. A GIFT has to be FREE, or it isn’t a gift! Right?
“And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.” (Romans 5:16)
See! FREE gift!
“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” (Romans 5:18)
See! Free gift upon all men is this HARD?
TANSTAAFL! Read it more closely. The gift of eternal life is free – to YOU. But the price paid to secure it was unimaginably high.
You just weren’t the one that had to pay for it. Jesus Christ paid the price for every sin you ever committed or ever will commit — on the Cross at Calvary.
And it HAD to be that way. He could not pay the price for just some of the sins you commit – that is an imperfect price. Since there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as a partial payment on a free gift.
To be free, the payment must be in full and to be a gift, it must be offered without further payment due.
The gift of salvation wasn’t free – it was paid for with the Blood of Jesus Christ. Does that mean that you can now sin with impunity?
That’s what lots of people teach, even though logic and experience and the principle of TANSTAAFL prove the opposite to be the case.
Even more will reject the idea eternal security on the grounds that it is a free lunch, which they logically – and correctly — understand to be impossible in God’s creation. Nothing is free. Not in the here and now and not in the hereafter.
My salvation was purchased for me. It was then offered to me as a free gift. Once I have accepted it, it is mine forever – once saved, always saved. But that does not mean that I am exempt from the consequences of sin – I certainly am not.
If one smokes, one will pay the consequences. Smokers get COPD, lung cancer, emphysema, etc. Continuing to smoke after salvation will kill you just as dead, just as slowly and painfully as it would an unsaved smoker.
Chronic boozers get cirrhosis, heart disease, and all kinds of other ailments.
“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.”
“Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.” (Proverbs 23:29-32)
It is often rightly said that sin will take you further than you want to go and keep you there longer than you want to be there. That is one of those universally true statements because it is founded in a universal truth.
Sin has consequences. But sin is NOT the dividing line between heaven and hell. One doesn’t go to heaven because one is sinless or to hell because one is a sinner. If that is true, then Jesus Christ would still be the only human qualified to enter.
And strictly speaking, He IS the only one qualified to enter – on His own merit. The rest of us are qualified by Jesus, based on His righteousness and not our own.
Jesus paid the eternal penalty due for all sin – but the temporal penalties remain outstanding.
A saved person cannot sin with impunity. There are physical consequences attached to sin. There are social consequences attached to sin. There are emotional consequences attached to sin. Sin hurts a saved person more than it does a lost person.
But sin isn’t the determining factor between saved and lost. ALL Christians are sinners. The determining factor in salvation is whether you repented (changed your mind) about sin and turned your life and your will over to Jesus Christ and then trusted Him with your eternity.
Neither can a person sin without spiritual consequences — as well as physical ones. Each of us will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to answer for those things we have done in this life.
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-14)
God has a plan for your life and it will be reviewed at the Judgment (Bema) Seat of Christ. There you will be rewarded for the times you were faithful and you will give account for the times you were not.
You will see the rewards you would have earned, had you been where you were supposed to be when you were off sinning somewhere.
Your sinful works will be tested by fire, and burned into so much ash and stubble, and you WILL suffer loss. Unimaginable loss – for eternity.
But not the loss of eternity. Your eternal security is not a free lunch. Jesus paid for it. Your sin is not a free lunch. You will pay for it. Just not in hell.
“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
You cannot ignore the consequences of sin simply because Jesus has ransomed your eternity. You cannot smoke without consequence. Or drink without consequence. Or stuff yourself without consequence.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
Obviously, this destruction can only refer to the ‘temple’ – the body – and not the eternal soul that Paul just finished saying would be saved, yet so as by fire.
Defile the temple and God will destroy it. Need another proof text? Visit a cancer ward.
What is the point here? Eternal security is NOT a free lunch. To argue otherwise elevates man to the level where he plays an instrumental role in his own salvation.
“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19)
“Not Thee, Lord, but thee and me.” That elevation comes at a price by minimizing the price paid at Calvary. Jesus can’t do it, but together, we can.
“And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are Your’s.”
If salvation is a case of “Thee and me” then there would be ample reason to glory in men.
“I am saved because Jesus paid the price and now I don’t sin. I used to be a terrible sinner, but now just look at me. Look at what Jesus can do.”
That is why if one sins after being saved, there is no way to renew him to repentance, as Hebrews 6:6 says, “seeing they crucify the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame.”
If you don’t sin anymore because of what Jesus did for you, what does it say about Jesus when you fall? For you will fall. Did you fall? Or did Jesus drop you?
Why is this important? Because there is no “license to sin.” Salvation is not a function of sin. It is a function of grace. There is no such thing as a free lunch. There is a huge difference between consequences and penalties.
Consequences are the effect, cause or outcome of an action. A consequence can be good or bad. A person can save someone’s life and consequently be awarded a medal. Or he can stand by and do nothing and consequently that person will die.
Consequences are simply outcomes of particular actions.
A penalty is a punishment imposed for a violation or crime. A penalty is always bad and can never be good. Eternal security means that the penalty due for my sin was paid for by Jesus Christ.
But the consequences of my sins are on me.
Featured Commentary: The 9th of Av ~J.L. Robb