This might sound like a funny question, but I recently spent time with a friend, and as we talked, this topic came up more than once.
One side of the argument was that as Christians, we are meant to live out our faith, going where God tells us to go, doing the things God tells us to do, abiding by the principles we know to be Godly.
Many examples were raised of people both recent and past, who have done amazing things simply by heeding God's direction and serving him faithfully in the way God directed. It was clear on this side of the argument, that grace is a vital part of our ability to obey and serve.
The other side of the argument was that we are totally unable to obey God, grace being the only connection we have with him.
I feel I should leave the argument as it stands.
But of course this is a blog, so I am going to give my opinion.
I will give it this way.
Paul, the Apostle was a great man. Well, we certainly owe him a lot regarding our faith. He went everywhere, and suffered in terrible ways, all out of his conviction of who Jesus really was.
At whatever point Paul is called to give account of himself (assuming that we agree that we all one day will give account of ourselves), what do you think Paul will say?
"Yes, Lord, you know how hard I worked for your gospel, all the years, all the suffering I endured for your Name's sake, now allow me into your presence'?
"Wretched man that I am, who will save from this body of death'?
Yes, it is wonderful when we follow God's law, the way of the Spirit, obediently, accepting suffering, and walking in the works that God has prepared for us. BUT, at no point in our lives, are we be able to say that now we have achieved something that grants us God's favor, God's acceptance, God's stamp of approval.
I know how my own heart and mind work (well I think I know). How selfish, how angry, how un-Christ-like. And especially when I am caught in sin, how I lose all concern for my "record" of obedience, all I want, all I need, is grace. God's wonderful forgiving, propitiating love poured out for me on the cross.
Yes, obedience is necessary. Actually without obedience there is no grace. The obedience of the only begotten Son, Jesus. Who humbly served us in his humanity, obediently going to the cross and bearing the sin of the world.
His obedience. His grace.
There is nothing else.
“Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7:25, NIV.