Image by Thomas Allsop
Image by Thomas Allsop

The Legal Enforceability of God's Promise of Eternal Life

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

Being a law student has changed the way I read the Bible for the better. I'm able to better grasp legal terms and concepts presented in Scripture, such as justification. Last semester while we were taking Contracts I, one of my fellow Christian classmates presented me his questions of "Is God's promise of eternal life enforceable?". and "Is there gross disparity?". As someone who loves discussing theology, I was super excited to combine my two loves of Scripture and law together to formulate an answer using my very limited first-year knowledge of contracts. Thus, below is my answer to these questions using the elements of a contract and Scripture. Thank you to my classmate for these questions.

I have divided the first question's answer into two: a contract among the Trinity and one between God and humans. Each will address the basic elements of a contract (a promise): offer, acceptance, assent, consideration, mutuality of obligation, and definiteness. I will give a quick explanation for each to guide your reading. An offer is a promise made by one to do/not do something. It is a restricted right to perform; and because the offeror is the master of his offer, he can determine how the offer is accepted: promise, performance, or both. Acceptance is the expression of commitment to the terms of the offer. Silence is not acceptance. It must be unconditional, cannot change or vary the offer, and be done through either performance or promise. Assent is part of acceptance, and is a mutual understanding of the terms (both parties intend to be bound). Terms must be interpreted the same way. Consideration has four elements: a promise, forbearance of a detriment (not doing what have legal right to do), the promise must induce the detriment (promisee suffers detriment because of promisor's promise), and the detriment induces the promise (promisor made the promise to induce promisee to induce detriment). Without consideration, there is no contract, and the consideration must not be extremely uneven (gross disparity). Mutuality of obligation is that both sides are obliged to do something, and definiteness means that these duties must be ascertainable.

Contract: Jesus and God (Romans 5:8-9)

1, Offer: Eternal life by God's wrath against sin being paid for and satisfied by Christ dying on the cross and being raised again.

This is a specific, restricted promise, creating a bilateral contract (both parties of obligations). As master of His offer, God has Jesus accept this offer by full performance (an offer to be accepted by performance becomes irrevocable once performance begins).

2. Acceptance: Jesus paid debt (suretyship: promise to pay debt of another)

This satisfies the mirror-image rule (must mirror the offer) because it is an unconditional acceptance, does not vary or change the offer, and manifests an intent to be bound to the terms of the offer. Christ follows God's Will and knowingly and willingly dies on the cross to satisfy God's Wrath and pave a way to eternal life.

3. Assent: Jesus understood the terms of what He was doing and what was going to happen to Him.

Both parties knew and agreed to what would happen with the same understanding. There was no ambiguity, for God always makes Himself clear, especially with Jesus (the Son in the Trinity). John 1 explains this idea of assent.

4. Consideration:

- Promise made: eternal life for humans if God's wrath against sin is paid for

- Promisee suffers detriment: Jesus dies on cross for sins of all of humanity (payment of debt)

- Detriment induces promise: (intent) Have sins paid for

- Promise induced detriment: Jesus died so we can have eternal life by sins being paid for

5. Mutuality of obligation: Jesus dies on cross, and God paves way for eternal life

6. Definiteness: terms are written in God's Word; evidence of Christ and resurrection (I have a video on Youtube discussing this)

* Suretyship: since promise is to pay the debt of another, the Statute of Frauds states that to be enforceable, the promise must be in writing, signed by promisor. The Bible is God's signed, sealed Word. It is not novation, which would be the exception, because Jesus was not substituting His debt for our debt. Also, it satisfies the main purpose rule because Jesus did not benefit Himself from what He did.

The eternal life out of this contract is gratuitously promised and given to us out of love. It is love because we are all sinners who fall short of the Glory of God and need a Savior to atone our sins and reconcile us to God. You can't do anything to earn salvation; but it is out of relationship that it is offered to all, which leads to a second contract.

Contract: God and Humans (Romans 10:9-11)

1. Offer: If you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, repent, and trust and have relationship with him, you will have eternal life (paid for by Jesus dying on cross for sins)

This promise is restricted: God has to perform promise if offer is accepted. It is accepted by promise to have relationship by declaring Jesus to be Savior of one's life and repenting (continual promise); and accepted by a performance that lasts a lifetime (relationship), and one must declare Christ as Lord and repent (turn away from one's sin). Once performance begins, there is a manifestation to be bound (acceptance). Acceptance by performance must be the full thing. This offer cannot be terminated unless it is rejected. No lapse of time can terminate this offer, for it expires upon our death, and death of the offeror will never occur.

2. Acceptance: Silence is not acceptance, particularly with this offer. It is a communicated acceptance via promise and performance. The acceptance following the terms of the offer mirrors it (mirror-image rule), does not change or vary the offer, is unconditional, and the expression of assent manifests one to be bound by the terms of the offer. This is a bilateral contract because both parties make a commitment, and is a conditional contract in that that performance on one side (acceptance) conditions another (granting of eternal life when one accepts Jesus as Savior and repents--start of relationship/reconciliation).

3. Assent: Scripture is pretty straightforward on what one must do to accept the offer of eternal life through Christ (My Romans 10 Bible Study video discusses this in-depth). God is not ambiguous when it comes to salvation. One knows what they are entering into with salvation: it is a choice and cannot be forced.

4. Consideration: (Jesus paid price of sin on cross)

- promise made: accept Jesus as Savior of life and repent and will have eternal life

- promisee suffers detriment: forbearance here is repenting, following God's principles for one's life, and "taking up your cross daily" (Matt 16:24)

- detriment induces promise: (intent) pave way to eternal life and relationship (reconciliation) now that Jesus paid debt from sin by having one turn from their sins and accept Jesus as Lord

- promise induces detriment: if one wants eternal life and a relationship with God, they will accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and repent

5. Mutuality of Obligation: bilateral contract (see above)

6. Definiteness: Duties for both sides are straightforward and ascertainable.

Is there a gross disparity?

A gross disparity is when consideration is so unfairly uneven that the contract (promise) cannot be enforceable. Jesus died on the cross and rose again to satisfy the wrath of God against all sin, and in return gets a relationship with us. Jesus willingly gave His life so all sins of every human to ever exist to accept Him as Savior can be paid. Jesus never sinned because He is perfect and is God (Trinity) (Hebrews 9:28, 1 John 3:5). To me, that seems like it would seem like an extremely unfair deal to Jesus: pay the debt of sinners without ever sinning yourself, and these sinners fall every single day. However, Jesus looks at it as getting a relationship in exchange for us being reconciled and atoned through His actions, which is what He wants. From the beginning, Christ has been in the plan to satisfy God's wrath against us to pave a way for man to be reconciled to the almighty God (John 1). Soli Deo Gloria!

Further Scripture:

- John 3:36

- 1 John 4:10

- 1 Thessalonians 5:9

- 2 Corinthians 5:21

- Romans 3:23-35

- Isaiah 53:4-6

- 1 Peter 3:18

- Romans 6:23

By: Bible and Hot Cocoa (IG: @bibleandhotcocoa)

Jules is the founder of Bible and Hot Cocoa. She is a law student with a passion for standing up for those who cannot speak for themselves, such as unborn babies, and for connecting families through adoption. In any free time, she loves to read (Victorian lit is her favorite), study theology, write, and draw or paint. Jules's favorite book of the Bible would have to be a tie among John, Psalms, and Romans (as of now), and her favorite figure besides Jesus is King David or Paul.

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