John 15:5 – Jesus says “apart from me you can do nothing.” Humanity is totally dependent upon God for salvation. Human nature is frail, weak, and lost, and needs divine assistance and care if it is to be restored and renewed. This only happens when God’s generous and unmerited favour is bestowed to humanity, by which this process of regeneration/restoration may begin.
Human nature was certainly created blameless and without any fault originally; with spiritual life to relate to God; but the human nature by which each one of us is now in a state which is born of Adam requires a resurrection, because man is dead. All good things, which it has by its conception, life, senses, and mind, are from God, its creator and maker. But the weakness which darkens and disables these good natural qualities, as a result of which that nature needs enlightenment and healing, did not come from the blameless maker but from original sin, which was committed by free will.
For this reason our guilty nature is liable to a just penalty. For if we are now a new creature in Christ, we were still children of wrath by nature, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, on account of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead through our sins, raised us up to life with Christ, by whose grace we are saved. But this grace of Christ, without which neither infants nor grown persons can be saved, is not bestowed as a reward for merits, but is given freely [gratis], hence why it is called grace.
There is however an age old heresy which pops it ugly face through the epoch of time. Some wrongly believe that “fallen-man” is not corrupted or incapacitated or compromised in any way. Thus affirming that humanity could, through grace, choose to be sinless, the natural God-given human faculties of reason could and should enable humanity to choose to avoid sin.
Anyone reading the New Testament can see the erroneousness of these misinterpretations. Grace from the Work of Christ is NOT to be understood as grace to be external enlightenment or instruction graciously provided for humanity by God. God does not just demand that human beings should be “perfect”, which is a vague term. Rather, God graciously provides specific guidance as to what form of perfection is required – such as keeping the Ten Commandments, and becoming like Christ. Grace thus informs humanity what its moral duties are (otherwise, it would not know what they were); it does not, however, assist humanity to perform them, because there is no need for such assistance.
The New Testament, envisaged grace as divine assistance to humanity, rather than just moral guidance. Humanity was created good by God, and then fell away from him – and God, in an act of grace, came to rescue fallen humanity from its predicament. God assists fallen humanity by healing, enlightening, strengthening, and continually working to restore and renew the human soul. These heretics nullify the work of the Christ by believing that humanity merely needed to be shown what to do, and could then be left to achieve it unaided; humanity needed to be shown what to do, and then gently aided at every point, if this objective was even to be approached, let alone fulfilled.