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If It's Free

by Tim O'Hearn

There is a commercial for a certain brand of fish oil capsules. In it they offer a free bottle of their product to anyone who calls in to place an order. This is clearly so people will try their product and, hopefully, call back to order more. During some testimonials in the ad, one woman makes the ridiculous statement, “If it’s free it must be good.” In fact, they even repeat her comment at the end of the commercial. Some people may actually fall for that ploy. What does the price of a sample have to do with the quality of a product? Absolutely nothing! They could just as correctly, and obnoxiously, say, “If it’s free it must be December.” It would make as little sense. The one has nothing to do with the other.

A case could be made, however, that God says the reverse. “If it’s good it must be free.” We even write songs to say that. “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” “The things that I prize like the stars in the skies are all free.” (from “I Got Plenty o’ Nuthin’”, updated to Standard English) We consider that it is only cynics who say there’s no free lunch.

James tells us, rather, that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (Jas 1:17) If it is from God it is, necessarily, good, It is also a gift, and therefore free. Does God sell water, as man does? No. “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt 5:45) With God there is no argument over water rights, as between Texas and New Mexico. God doesn’t bottle fresh air and sell it for a price. He did not create Adam and then sell him the breath of life. Men may take some things that are bad and make them free, but God takes everything good and gives it to us free.

Since everything good from God is free, the greatest gift must also be so. What man needs most is reconciliation to God. God gives it freely, both in the sense that he gives it without limit and the sense that he gives it without price.

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 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. 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. For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 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 5:14-18)

Some people say that grace is the free gift of God. Not Paul. He says here that righteousness is the gift, and it is given because of grace (God’s good pleasure). Through Christ we have that righteousness imputed to us because our sins are forgiven. We may “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Heb 4:16) because Jesus is our High Priest who has offered atonement for our sins.

Oh, the gift of righteousness. If it’s good it must be free.