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John 14:20 Publishing
Royal City, WA
(Presented here by special permission of the author and copyright holder Timothy C. Holscher.
Scripture quotations not by author are from:
the New American Standard Bible Copyright c 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
The New Revised Standard Version Copyright c 1990 by the Division of Education and Ministry, National Council of the Churches of Christ. All rights reserved.
For Peg, for learning about
grace with me
1. Defining Grace
2. The Need for Grace
3. Saved by Grace
4. Being Saved by Grace
5. Motivation for Living
6. Grace as a Way of Life
7. What Does It Take to Live by Grace?
8. Can Chastening Be Part of Grace?
9. How Does Sin fit in a Grace System?
10. Did You Get Grace?
I've never met a Christian who doesn't believe in God's grace. We know what the Bible says about God. We know He's gracious. Most of us know Ephesians 2:8 by heart. Yet for some reason, the idea of grace seems to escape us. Oh, I don't mean that we think we'll make it to heaven by faith plus our works. We know better than that. I mean, we don't understand grace in our daily lives.
God didn't save us just so we could go to heaven. Salvation is much broader. Just prior to Ephesians 2:8 we find, "that in the ages to come He might display the overflowing riches which are His grace, in kindness on us in Christ Jesus" (v. 7). While salvation is in view, Paul was thinking about more than being saved from hell and going to heaven. He was thinking about what we learn about God -- what God shows us about Himself through His work in our lives. In 3:10 of the same book Paul said God is teaching angels about His multifaceted wisdom. Again, God does this through His provision of salvation.
Salvation. What is it? This is part of our problem in grasping grace. Robert Gromacki opens his book Salvation Is Forever with two chapters: What Does It Mean to Be Lost? and What Does It Mean to Be Saved?*1 He recognized the number one problem regarding eternal security is a poor understanding of salvation. We often limit the definition of salvation. We limit it first by what we include in salvation. What has God provided us in salvation? The Scriptures present a broader view of salvation, a larger content than many see, or have been taught for that matter. We also limit salvation in time. This is equally important in understanding grace. Is grace limited to a past moment, a few instances throughout our lives, or is God's grace an ongoing matter? Understanding these matters in salvation will clarify the issue of grace.
How do you read your Bible? Do you read it looking for a nugget of truth to get you through today? Do you read it as though it is one big promise book from God to you? Do you read it with discernment, seeing that some truths are plainly for you and other truths may actually be for someone else? How you read your Bible affects how you will grasp God's grace.
I would like to express my appreciation and debt to others. First of all I thank God for His overwhelming grace to us, and especially to me. I'm also thankful for the saints at First Baptist Church for their allowing me to grow by God's grace. I'm thankful for the late Miles Stanford whose correspondence and writings were encouraging. In 1983 I first encountered the Biblical revelation of the believer's position in Christ through a small pamphlet he penned, titled The Principle of Position.*2 The following year I read Lewis Sperry Chafer's Grace,*3 and first saw grace as a way of life. I would recommend The Christian "In Christ" by David Spurbeck for those interested in a more detailed study of the believer's position.*4 Bob George has written the popular volume Classic Christianity.*5 This book communicates some of these ideas of living by grace with illustrations in the lives of others. In addition to these fine books, I'm thankful to my seminary instructors: friends and brothers in Christ who poured so much into these truths.
In the following studies, we'll examine what the Bible reveals
about God's grace. We'll attempt to see a bigger picture of grace than
many of us see. It will be a brief study. This will not be an
exhaustive work (I would probably muddy waters if I attempted such a
work). Yet I hope that in this small work, we'll pull back the curtain
on some of the issues that make it hard for us to grasp God's grace in
our lives. We hope to let the Scriptures explain and illustrate these
issues, and the view of our gracious God to become clearer.
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What is grace? What does the word grace mean or what does it represent? When I was growing up we were often taught the acronym:
God's Riches At Christ's Expense
That's not a bad explanation of the word but it works from English backward. To understand grace, we need to go back to the words used by the writers of Scripture. The closest Hebrew word was chen [ken]. It was a word representing favor, "grace, favour, good-will"*1 and "agreeableness ... kindness of disposition towards."*2 However, as we shall examine later, it doesn't represent the idea of grace as clearly as the Greek word charis. This is largely because of a new emphasis applied to the Greek word. Charis derived from the Greek word for joy. It was a common greeting in New Testament times. People wished each other, "Charis!" It was sort of a combination of wishing them joy for their day and wishing it as a gift, which was part of the meaning of charis. So, charis meant a joyous gift? Well, that's pretty close.
Words change. Language isn't static. We speak it, we modify it, we abuse it. Grammarians and lexicographers*3 try to set down rules to maintain a continuity; however, people often don't care about grammar and disregard definitions. The English of a century ago is largely identical to modern English. The English of two centuries ago is readable but discernible differences exist. Look at English writings from a millennium ago, and you are reading a foreign language.
The same is true of any spoken language. Two thousand years ago, Greek was a common language. People spoke it and altered it. Even Jesus and the New Testament writers altered parts of the language. They may have combined words to form new words which can only be found in the New Testament. They also used common words but with new or special emphases.*4 This is true of the word grace.
The Old Idea of Grace
Grace was not a special word when the Church began. It became a special word in a short time. The first Biblical occurrence of the Hebrew word grace is in Genesis 6:8, "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." In the context, it was because he was a righteous man and his genealogy was perfect.*5 Noah had character traits that elicited favor from God. This idea of finding favor due to some response or character trait is the most common usage of chen in the Old Testament. The same idea is seen in the Greek charis. After recounting one event of Jesus' youth, Luke added that He was in submission to His parents (Luke 2:51). As Jesus continued to grow, He grew physically, mentally and in grace with God and men (52). How did He grow in grace with others? He exhibited character, an attitude, a way of life which endeared Him to others. In response, others showed Him favor or grace. They did so because something in Him merited that favor. When the Church began, the character of the people was such that they had favor with all people (Acts 2:47). Looking back at the Old Testament, Luke wrote that God caused Moses to find this kind of favor with Pharaoh, and David found this favor with God (Acts 7:10, 46). In each of these instances, the word charis is used. In each instance, it is favor merited from another in response to some attitude or activity. This is not the meaning of the word as it is applied to us.
We should notice that the merit may not be significant. When God showed this kind of favor to men, the degree of merit was obviously small. A friend of mine illustrated it as receiving a Cadillac for a nickel. The nickel was the amount of merit. The Cadillac, which is worth far more than a nickel, made it grace. So when these people found favor with God, don't think that they were outstanding, shining examples of virtue to whom God owed something. Except for the instance when Jesus found grace, God still provided far more than anyone deserved, hence it was called grace rather than just a gift.*6
A New Emphasis
The apostle Paul took the word grace and gave it a new spin, a change of emphasis.*7 It went from describing favor in response to another's attitude or work to emphasizing favor shown without regard to another's attitude or work. Maybe someone deserves it, maybe they don't; this definition of grace doesn't care. We find an example of this in Romans 11:6, "Now, if it is by grace, it is no longer from works, since then, grace would no longer be grace."*8 This is grace redefined. Grace no longer describes a work or benefit provided in response to some merit. Grace is unmerited, or without regard to merit.
Philippians 2:9 is an example of a gift given without regard to merit. In the preceding verses, Paul rehearsed Christ Jesus' willing submission to the will of the Father. Jesus is God. Being equal with God was not theft or seizure; it was His by right and nature. However, He emptied Himself. He gave up the free exercise of His divine abilities and became a slave to do the will of another, in this case the Father. That lowering or humbling of Himself led Him to the cross. So, in verse nine Paul stated that in response to this humility, the Father lifted Him up. The Father did something for Him in response to His work. However, in the next phrase, Paul used a verb form of the word grace, "and graciously gave Him a name above every name ..." The work of lifting Him up was related to His merit. The giving of the name, was just done for Him by the Father without regard to His merit. Did He merit that name? Sure. But, God didn't give it to Him for that reason. It was just given as a gift. Here is the real idea of grace redefined, a provision without regard to merit.
Since this new emphasis of grace excludes the idea of merit or work, it also excludes the idea of law. Law is a merit system. Moses said, "Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you will listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day; and the curse, if you will not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God," (Deuteronomy 11:26-28a). If Israel wanted a blessing from God, they were to obey God. Receiving a blessing for obeying is merit. They merited a blessing by obedience. They could also merit a cursing for not obeying. That is law. Since grace is not a merit system at all, there is no grace in law.
This does not mean that God never displayed grace to people who lived under His law. Paul cited David as an example of one under law who knew that God had declared him righteous apart from the law (Romans 4:6-8; Psalm 31:1f). However, because grace is not given in response to a merit, anytime God provided grace under law, it was not because of the law or obedience to the law, but rather it was in spite of the law.
Grace is an attitude. It isn't a substance. God doesn't inject people with some unseen substance called grace. God doesn't pour something over people called grace. Grace is an attitude. It is a way of thinking. Therefore, when the Scriptures speak of God's grace, they are describing God's attitude by which He chooses to not consider whether a person deserves what God can provide him. God graciously gave revelation, so that we might know some of God's gracious plans for us (1 Corinthians 2:9, 12). Do we deserve that revelation? No. Do we deserve those things which He has planned for us? No. God chose to provide both to us apart from our merit or more accurately, our lack of merit. God has provided each believer a gift, an ability to serve within the body of Christ. That gift is from God's grace (Ephesians 4:7). Do we deserve the privilege of serving in the body? No. God chose to operate by grace and give that ability anyway. This is how grace functions. God mentally chooses to not regard our lack of merit, and therefore, provides these benefits to us.
Some things don't mix. Hot and cold, oil and water, grace and law. Have you ever known two people who don't cooperate? One walks into a room and the other leaves. That's grace and law. If it is grace, then it isn't law. If it's law, then it isn't grace. We could also say, if it is merited, if it can be earned, if it can be deserved, then it isn't grace. Additionally, if it is free, if it is given even when one doesn't deserve it, then it isn't law. Paul wrote the Galatians, "I don't set God's grace aside, for if righteousness is through law, then Christ died without merit." (Galatians 2:21). If they were able to merit righteousness on their own, then Christ's death had no merit. That would be pushing this grace from God aside, refusing it, saying we don't need it.
This brings up another point regarding grace. The grace we are
considering has been called by some, "cheap grace." By cheap grace
they mean that it costs us nothing, that it makes no demands upon us.
However, isn't that exactly what Paul was saying about grace. This is
the problem many Christians have; we can't let go of our merit system.
Yet, if that grace costs me something, then by definition it ceases to
be grace. Oh, don't get me wrong, grace costs something, but you and I
don't get the bill. Our Savior Jesus Christ paid the bill and paid it
in full. Anyone who claims this is cheap grace is demeaning the work
of Christ. He did it all. He paid the price with His life. He paid the
price on a Roman cross. That is why it is grace to me. It cost Him
everything. It costs me nothing. That is God's grace!
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"For by grace are you saved through faith ..." (Ephesians 2:8). Regardless of when you were saved, I bet you know that verse, probably by heart. We've used that verse when presenting the gospel to the unsaved. We want them to know that they need to believe the gospel. We want them to know that believing is all they can do, that's why God used the word grace. Indeed this verse does contribute to properly understanding how God saved us.
Our subject of getting grace is really a family truth. I mean the family of God. If a person isn't part of that family, he or she will never really understand grace. The reason is that only a family member experiences the grace, and it takes an experience of this grace to understand it. Otherwise, it's just academic. It's just words, word meanings, interpretations, but it has to be lived out for you and I to really get it.
There are broadly two types of people reading this. Some believe that Jesus Christ is God, became man, died on a cross for our sins and rose again. That's called the good news or gospel. These people believe that they are forgiven and have eternal life because they have believed in Jesus, PERIOD! They know they can not do anything else to receive eternal life and become right with God. The others reading this may believe in Jesus and may not. They are "others", because they believe also that they must be baptized, do good works, live a good life, or any number of additions. These things aren't bad, but they do not merit eternal life and will not make you or I righteous with God. Some of this group may believe in Jesus, but they define him differently. To them, he's just a man, a good example, our brother, a god, but not really our Savior.
If you're reading this, and you believe that your works will help you get eternal life, or water baptism is necessary for eternal life, or any other addition to the good news, then you need to believe that good news now. If you believe in a different kind of Jesus, you need to change your mind, and believe the good news now. If you don't, you will never grasp the grace of God. For you, the rest of this book will be academic.
The next two chapters will examine this salvation. You don't need to know everything in these two chapters to be saved, for they will elaborate on salvation. However, the gospel can be stated very simply, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and He was raised the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If you do believe that, then you have already begun to experience God's grace.
To understand salvation by grace, it is necessary to understand what it means to be lost. Failing to grasp the seriousness of man's lost condition and the extent of man's separation from God can skew man's understanding of salvation. The Bible presents the fact that mankind is lost. Understanding what it means to be lost and God's solution, is the difference between eternity with God or without God; of heaven or hell, eternal life or eternal judgment. So, we'll start by examining the Biblical description of man's lost condition.
The Biblical Concept of "Lost"
The New Testament idea of "lost" is found in the Greek verb apollumi. This word comes from apo - "away" and oletheros*1 meaning "destruction, ruin, death."*2 Therefore it meant to "completely destroy" or to "completely ruin." It is illustrated in Matthew 2:13 when Herod desired to kill the child Jesus. Here kill has the larger sense of ruining or destroying. Herod saw Jesus as a threat and wished to fully destroy the threat. In Matthew 8:25 the disciples were crossing the sea of Galilee when a storm arose. They feared they would perish in the boat. They feared they would drown. These are physical examples of "lost". Lost can also describe a spiritual condition. It described Israelis who needed to be saved (Matthew 10:6; 18:11). Lost described those from whom the good news about Jesus Christ is hidden (2 Corinthians 4:3). Jesus described those who have not believed the good news and do not have eternal life as lost (John 3:15, 16). Paul wrote of some people who, in the future, will not love the truth so that they should be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10). These will be lost. So, lost in a spiritual sense describes those who are not saved, who do not know or believe the good news about Jesus Christ, and therefore do not have eternal life.
The Bible represents the lost as dead ones. This isn't physical death but spiritual death. We (that is, believers) were once dead in (or by means of) offenses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). We offended God and sinned against God. God views the world of the unsaved as a graveyard full of dead people (Ephesians 5:14). An unsaved man is spiritually dead because he is alienated from God's life (Ephesians 4:18). He is physically alive, but spiritually cut off from or separated from God. Therefore, man needs God to make him alive (Ephesians 2:5). Romans 6:23 states that the wages for the sin nature is death. Death is contrasted to eternal life, which is God's kind of life. Spiritual death is separation from God's life.
The lost man rejects God. The fool has said in his heart that there is no God (Psalm 53:1). God looked down to see if anyone understands, if anyone is seeking God (v. 2). What God found is that all had turned back. No one is looking for God (v. 3). In contrast, the believer knows God and is known by God (Galatians 4:9). Think about that last part, "known by God." If you believe in Jesus Christ, God knows you! The importance of this becomes plain when we read Jesus' words in Matthew 7:23, "Depart from Me, ... I never knew you." Jesus used the Greek word ginoskw which means to know with experience, not just knowledge by observation. It is the difference between knowing about a person and knowing that person. As God, Jesus knows everything and knows who everybody is. He knows who they are, but He has no relationship with them. We can summarize the lost man's problem like this; he denies God, he doesn't look for and naturally has no relationship with God. It follows that if one denies the existence of God,*3 and isn't looking for God, that this one would be cut off from God's kind of life. God doesn't know him. He is lost.
Ephesians 4:17-18 further describes how a lost man lives his life. When a person is lost, he has a number of problems. First, his mind is empty (v. 17). The Greek word for vain or empty looks at the result*4 and indicates that the mind is ineffective. An unsaved man does think but he can't relate to the world as God intends. Therefore, the output of the mind is always empty regarding God and God's purposes. Second, his thoughts are darkened (4:18). He can't think about things as God intends because the lights are off. He might think about many things, but when it comes to the things about God, he has no light to see them. Finally, he is alienated [cut off] from God's life (v. 18). He doesn't have God's kind of life. He is alienated because of ignorance, because He doesn't know God. He is alienated because of the hardness of his heart; he doesn't want to know God. He's too stubborn to do what God tells him to do. He may be religious and even name the name of Jesus, but he asserts his own means of achieving God's goal. He refuses to submit to God's means of salvation by insisting that he is able to do his part.
Apart from salvation, all mankind is lost. No one is excluded. David wrote that he was already in a perverse state and in sin at the point he was conceived (Psalm 51:5). Psalm 14:1-3 states that no one does good. This is from God's perspective, not man's. Men often think they are good, but our opinion doesn't count, only God's. Our opinion isn't objective. We read in Romans 5:12 that the whole human race sinned. Together, these verses help us see that every one is lost without salvation.
Jesus Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would convince the world (mankind) of three problems, three needs (John 16:8-10). After each problem, Jesus clarified what that problem is or how God solves each problem. The first problem, found in verse 9, is sin. Many claim to believe in Jesus Christ, but they do not believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible. The Bible records just a few facts about Jesus that one must believe in order to be saved. Christ said that one needed to believe that He was "I AM" (John 8:24). "I AM" is the Old Testament name of God--"Jehovah." This name is usually translated LORD [capitals] in English Bibles.
So, first, it is necessary to believe that Jesus is God, not just a god or a good man! In the rest of John 8:24, Jesus said that if one didn't believe that "I Am" (that He is God), that one would die in his sins. In John 3:18, Jesus said that the one who has believed into the name of the special*5 Son of God is not judged, but the one who has not believed into Him is already judged. We previously saw that 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 states two more things which one must believe to be saved. First, Christ died for our sins (v. 3). His burial was a proof of His death. Then He rose again the third day (v. 4). The many witnesses to His resurrection were a proof of His resurrection. Therefore, when one is convinced of sin, he is convinced that he has not believed that Jesus is truly God, that Jesus Christ died for his sins, and that He was raised the third day.
Righteousness is the second problem (John 16:10). Jesus said He would go to His Father and they would see Him no more. He alone is righteous and has the right to enter the presence of the Father! Therefore, one needs the kind of righteousness Christ has. Paul wrote that there is none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). Later in Romans, he wrote that for the one who believes, "... his faith is logically counted for righteousness" (Romans 4:5). Since the lost one has not believed in Jesus Christ, he doesn't have this righteousness. Romans 5:7-8 adds that Christ didn't die for righteous people but for sinners! He had to, because no one is righteous, not one! So, one convinced of righteousness knows that Christ alone is righteous. He knows that he can receive that righteousness by faith, by believing in Christ as we saw in the last paragraph.
The last thing of which the Spirit convinces the world is judgment (John 16:11). He convinces of judgment because the prince of this world is judged. The prince of this world is Satan (Ephesians 2:2). If God judges him, and Satan is more powerful than man, no man can escape that judgment. Some people might agree that they don't believe in the Jesus of the Bible. They might agree that they are not righteous by biblical standards. However, they don't think it makes any difference. They're wrong. Judgment will come upon those who do not believe and are therefore unrighteous!
We saw in John 3:18 that the one who has not believed is already judged. This one is living on borrowed time, waiting for the sentence to be enacted. John 3:19 states why that judgment exists. The light, the Person of Jesus Christ, came into the world but men loved darkness rather than light because their works are evil. In contrast John 5:24 promises us that those who have believed have passed out of death into life and will not come into judgment. So, one who is convinced of judgment knows that he will be judged. He will be judged because he does not believe in Jesus Christ and he does not have Jesus' kind of righteousness.
All three of the above problems will come together in the future. God will judge mankind upon the earth (2 Thessalonians 2:12). He will judge those who have not believed the truth. In addition to unbelief, they take pleasure in unrighteousness, and God reserves the unrighteous for a day of judgment (2 Peter 2:9). So, they do not believe and are not righteous and take pleasure in unrighteousness. As a result, God will judge them. This illustrates Jesus' words in John 16.
In summary, we've seen several characteristics of those people who are lost. One who is lost doesn't know God. He doesn't believe in Jesus Christ as the Scriptures describe Him. He has no righteousness before God. The final state of one who is lost is that he will be judged. He will hear Jesus tell him to depart into the lake of fire, because He [Jesus] never knew him.
This lost condition, this terrible state of alienation from God
and impending judgment, is dealt with by God, not by the lost man. Our
loving, merciful, righteous and gracious God has acted to save men
from this condition. We now need to see how God's grace addresses
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We may not be able to identify God's first act of saving grace. Perhaps the very act of not destroying Adam after he sinned was grace. When God became man, that was an act of grace. "The Word (that's God the Son) became flesh (human) and dwelled among us, and we saw His glory, glory of a special one from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). That man is Jesus Christ. Only God could provide salvation to man. He did not call on some created being to save us. He Himself did what was necessary. That is an ultimate expression of grace. Hebrews 1:8 and 9 states that the Son is God.*1 Though He is God, He became a little lower than the angels so He could experience death for every man (Hebrews 2:9). He had to become one of us so He could die for us. Read on in the same chapter and you find that the Son became flesh and blood because we are flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:14). This was an act of grace which made possible another act of God by grace.
Christ died for us in order to save us. He carried our sins in His body when He hung on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). He died for us when we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). The first part of the good news is that "Christ died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3). By His death, the Bible reveals that Christ satisfied God regarding our sins (1 John 2:2), paid the debt we owed so we could be forgiven (Colossians 1:14), and made peace (Romans 5:10).*2 Each of these is a provision from God's grace, based upon the death of Christ.
Three days after He died and was buried, Christ physically arose. He didn't rise as a ghost or apparition. Others saw Him after He arose. Some doubted his resurrection (John 20:25-28). He is alive right now and has a body of flesh and bone (Luke 24:39). Soon He will return, and when He does, He will come in that same real body in which He arose (2 John 7). We are born again by His resurrection (1 Peter 1:3). He can't give us life if He's still dead. We are justified (declared righteous) because of His resurrection (Romans 4:25). To be saved we must believe God raised Him (Romans 10:9). The second part of the good news is that He rose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4).
Christ's death and resurrection provided everything necessary to reverse man's lost condition. His death paid the price for our sins. His resurrection is able to remove our alienation from God and give us life. By His death and resurrection God is able to declare us righteous. If our sins are forgiven, our alienation is removed and we are declared righteous with God; then we will not face judgment in the future. Jesus once said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24, ESV).
Notice that Jesus' requirement was that they believe. Jesus spoke those words before He died on the cross and rose again. This is why they had to believe in the One who sent Him. When the jailer in Philippi asked Paul and Silas, "What must I do to be saved?", Paul answered, "Believe on the Lord Jesus*3 and you will be saved" (Acts 16:30-31). We might ask, what must we believe about Jesus? The Bible reveals many facts about Jesus. How many do we have to believe? We've already seen this twice in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. Through believing in Him, we can be forgiven, be right with God and not be judged. That is good news.
We've seen what one must believe. Now let's consider the act of believing. Paul answered the jailer, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ ..." Why does God ask us to believe? Because believing is compatible with grace. In Romans 4:5 we see, "Now to Him who doesn't work, but believes in the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is logically counted to him for righteousness." Paul distinguished believing from working. Believing is a response to a promise from God, but it is not a work. Ephesians 2:8-9 agrees with this, "For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift from God. It is not from works, so that no one can boast." Faith (the noun form of believe) is not a work.
We need a biblical definition of faith before proceeding. Faith gives substance to or makes real the things being hoped for (Hebrews 11:1). "Substance" is [hupostasis] the undergirding, the substance or solid framework of a thing. Faith makes a thing hoped for "real"; it gives a solid framework so that one can act upon it. Hope results from a promise (Acts 26:6, "Hope from ..."). Hope also involves something which one doesn't see (Romans 8:24). The promise of the gospel is salvation! In Acts 10:43 one who believes in Jesus Christ is promised forgiveness of sins (see also Acts 13:38). Acts 13:39 adds the promise of justification, or being declared righteous. So, when a person believes the gospel, he is believing that he will be forgiven and declared righteous with God. Faith makes that promise real, so that a man can trust his eternal destiny upon Jesus Christ.We've seen that grace and works are opposites. When grace walks in, works walk out and visa versa. Faith and grace are not opposites. They cooperate. We saw in Romans 4:5 that faith is not a work. Paul continued through Romans 4 to demonstrate that God has provided salvation through faith. Paul used two examples to make this point. He first pointed at Abraham. Romans 4:3 quotes from Genesis 15:6, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness." If one worked, that would not be grace (v. 4). If you work for an employer, you receive pay. That pay is not considered grace. That pay is given on the basis of merit--your merit, your work. Your employer owes you that pay. God owes us nothing. God has acted toward us in grace. This is why He justifies (declares righteous) man through faith, not works. None of us could be declared righteous with God through our works. God counted Abraham's faith for righteousness not his works.
Paul then pointed to David (Romans 4:6). Paul interpreted David's: a man is happy who is counted righteous by God apart from works. David is a good example because he lived five hundred years after God had given Israel the law. David knew the law well and even wrote about his love for God's law (Psalm 40:8). But David also knew that a man can not be righteous with God by law. "Happy*4 are those whose lawless acts are sent away, and whose sins are covered over. Happy is a man, for whom the Lord absolutely does not keep account of sin" (Romans 4:7-8). Though David loved God's law, he knew that a man was happy if God forgave him apart from law.
Paul continued through the following verses of Romans 4 to demonstrate that God counts men righteous based on faith. God doesn't count anyone righteous because he is religious, even if he has a religious mark on his physical body, such as circumcision (vv. 10-12). This is proved because God counted Abraham righteous before he was circumcised. Second, God does not provide this righteousness by obeying the law (vv. 13-16). God counted Abraham righteous over 400 years before He gave the law to Israel.
This righteousness is from faith. Righteousness is not from religious observance, circumcision, or obedience to law. Therefore, in Romans 4:16, "It is from faith, that it might be measured by grace ..." Since faith is not a work, faith and grace can cooperate. The only requirement God has for men to be saved is to believe in Jesus Christ: that He died for their sins, was buried, and rose again the third day. It is grace; that all God asks of us is to believe. Remember, that isn't cheap grace. Jesus Christ did everything necessary. In fact, if God were to require anything more of me or you, it would cheapen Christ's work. By the very definition of grace, it wouldn't be grace. Thankfully, it is from faith, so that it can be by grace.
Paul concluded these thoughts in Romans 4:23-25. Paul has shared with you and I his conclusions regarding Abraham and David, faith and works, faith and grace, for you and I. Those Old Testament records weren't written just for them but for us to understand that God also counts us righteous through faith. We are to believe He raised Jesus our Lord from the dead (v. 24). Jesus was given over to die for our trespasses (everything we do that offends God). He was raised so we could be declared righteous by God (v. 25). God required faith of Abraham. Jesus required faith of those in John 5. Faith was required of the jailer in Philippi. God also requires faith of you and I. Why? Because the only thing we can do that is compatible with grace, is believe.
Before we finish we need to consider the issue of repentance. What is it? Many think of repentance as crying or sorrow. This comes partly from misreading 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. Paul did not equate sorrow and repentance. He wrote that the grief which comes from God, produces repentance. Human grief may not produce repentance. It may produce only regret. Unfortunately, Matthew 27:3 has been mistranslated in some Bible versions. It gives people the impression that Judas repented. However, the Greek word indicates that Judas regretted what he had done. The word regret*5 means to have a different care or concern. It involved a change of feeling. The Bible presents repentance as an activity of the mind. Repentance is a translation of the Greek word metanoew. The word literally meant, "to think after." Repentance is not a change of "feelings", but a change of thinking or mindfulness.
So, how is repentance related to faith and the gospel? Is repentance an additional requirement? Paul preached repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). He was urging people to change their minds about God. Some people (usually Jews) needed to change their minds about God and believe that Christ Jesus is God. Some people (usually Gentiles) needed to change their minds regarding God and believe that there is only ONE God who is Christ Jesus! God announces that all men everywhere are to repent (Acts 17:30). They were to change their minds that God is not a god made of silver or gold or made by men's hands (v. 29). Man needs to believe that God will judge the world of mankind by Jesus Christ who is raised from the dead (v. 31). Simply, every lost person has a faulty understanding of God. Wherever the fault lies, he needs to change that way of thinking about God.
So repentance is simply a changing of one's mind. When one doesn't believe in God, he needs to change his mind and believe in God. When one doesn't believe that Jesus Christ is God, he needs to change his mind and believe that Jesus Christ is God. When one doesn't believe that Jesus Christ died for his sins and rose again the third day, he needs to change his mind and believe that He did. When one doesn't believe that his salvation is based on Christ's death and resurrection alone, apart from any works he might do, he needs to change his mind. He needs to believe that he will be saved by God's grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ. In each of these situations, repentance is the change from unbelief to belief. Repentance is not an added requirement. It is simply another perspective on faith.
God has provided us salvation by grace. First, He sent the Son to
become man. Then, the Son gave His life for our sins and rose again.
Finally, God requires man only to believe in Jesus Christ. Each of
these is an expression of God's grace extended to us.
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You mean it's not just about the past?
Ever had deja vu? "For by grace you are saved ..." There's that verse again. However, now we want to see why Paul really wrote it. Did you know that Paul didn't write that verse to be used for evangelism? That's right. He wrote nothing in the immediate context about evangelizing the lost. While it might serve to illustrate salvation apart from works, Paul wrote it to make a point for the Ephesian saints. He wrote that verse to the Ephesians and they were already saved. Had the Ephesians forgotten that they were saved by grace? No. Paul was telling the Ephesians about their condition. He wrote that verse to encourage them about their lives. This verse is what this book is ultimately about. This verse is about Christians understanding grace today.
Our English Bibles have a limitation -- the English language. We have no perfect manner to represent the idea Paul penned. That was a play on words, because the verb form Paul used is a Greek perfect. The word "saved" is a perfect participle. The Greek perfect tense expressed an action which was completed in the past and has a continuing result.*1 If we expand the phrase from Ephesians 2:8, it could read, "for we were saved in the past by grace with the result that we are still saved by grace..."
For some Christians, that might be a new idea. I find that many Christians think of salvation as primarily something that happened in the past. When they see some form of the word "save" they think of believing the gospel, being forgiven their sins, and being saved from eternity in Hell. The Bible presents more than this. Sometimes the word saved means physical deliverance from drowning or a disease. Sometimes it refers to political deliverance from the abuses and taxation of foreign nations. Most of the time in the New Testament, it refers to some form of spiritual salvation.
Even when used of spiritual salvation, the word save has different dimensions. It can refer to initial salvation or what happens in the moment one believes the good news about Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5; Romans 1:16). Growth or maturing in the Christian life is also called salvation (1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Timothy 4:16; Philippians 2:12). Finally, Christ's return for us and the change we will then experience is described by the word save (Romans 13:11; 5:9-10). *2 Like the New Testament writers, we can refer to it as saved, being saved, and salvation.
Understanding this threefold division of salvation helps us with some of the problems Christians have. I find that the questions or problems many believers have about salvation result from confusing the past with the present or future. For instance, when Paul wrote, "work out your own salvation," he wasn't writing about the past (Philippians 2:15). He wasn't telling the Philippians to work to get saved. He was telling them to work out or produce from what they already had. When he wrote that our salvation is nearer than when we believed (Romans 13:11), he didn't mean that his future was uncertain and he was hoping to make it. He meant that the final aspect of our salvation, the culmination of our faith, was closer than at the moment when we first believed and were first saved. We've been growing, hopefully, since then and that final point is now closer. Paul told Timothy to pay attention to himself and doctrine. By doing so, he would save himself and the ones who hear him. Paul wasn't referring to initial salvation. He was referring to growth. He wanted Timothy to pay attention to those things which would help believers make progress in living their Christian lives. Yet, by not paying attention to these various dimensions, some Bible teachers have given believers the wrong impression about their salvation. Sometimes believers are even left uncertain as to whether they are saved, or whether they will make it into God's future plans.
To understand grace in the present tense we need to compile some of the benefits which the Scriptures attribute to God's grace. Secondly, it will be necessary to assess how the Scriptures connect God's grace to these benefits. It will help us to contrast the manner in which law motivated men to live, and how grace motivates us to live. With that information in hand, we will hopefully be able to understand something of grace in the present.
Benefits of Salvation by Grace
The believer's salvation can be divided into two facets: the results of regeneration and the results of Spirit baptism. The former, popularly referred to as the new birth, involves members of the Godhead indwelling the believer. The baptism by the Spirit involves the Holy Spirit placing believers into Christ, so the believer can be said to be "in Christ." Theologically this is sometimes called our standing or position in Christ. First, we will survey the benefits of being in Christ and then the benefits of regeneration. Both facets of salvation involve God's grace.
Graced In Christ
The Spirit's baptism*3 places the believer into Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). That baptism is also described in Romans 6:3; Colossians 2:12; and Acts 1:5. Since we are finite physical beings, we can only be in one place at a time. As a result, being in Christ is an imputed relationship. That means it is a relationship which God credits to be true for our benefit. An example of imputation is given in Romans 4:5, 22-24. This passage states that God counts*4 our faith to be righteousness for us. Yet in 2 Corinthians 5:21, we are made God's kind of righteousness in Christ. Therefore, God mentally counts or credits us to be in Christ and in this way counts us to be righteous. This "in Christ" relationship is initiated by the Spirit's baptism*5 and depends on God's mental activity. As long as God remains gracious and faithful, we know that God will keep on counting us to be in Christ.
Ephesians 1:3 reveals that God extends those benefits to us by blessing us. The words "blessed" and "blessing" describe good words and the act of speaking those good words. Both Isaiah and John saw brief glimpses of heaven. Both saw spirit beings praising God night and day. Those beings are saying "good things" about God; they are blessing God. God also says good words about us in Christ in the heavenlies. For example, in verse four God chose us to be holy and blameless in Christ. While in life we may not always live holy and we might be blamed for some activities, in Christ we are holy and without blame. This is so because God chose to say we are holy and without blame. In verse five, God determined to place us as sons (English "adoption") a term emphasizing special privilege and position within a family. So God deals with us as privileged ones. In 1:7 we see that we have redemption and forgiveness of trespasses. The term "redemption" considers the price paid which results in a release or freedom.*6 The release then involves, in part, the forgiveness or sending away of trespasses (our offenses against God). In Ephesians 2:5 God also says we are alive with Christ and seated in the heavenlies in Christ. This follows our death and burial with Christ, which is also in Christ (Romans 6:3-4, 11). These are good things God is saying about us. In addition to righteousness, the believer in Christ is given many benefits like these.
Why would God choose to say these good things about us? The spirit beings who bless God night and day in heaven do so because God is infinitely worthy of such blessings. We, however, are without merit. We previously saw that nothing within mankind is worthy of even one blessing. Those who have believed in Jesus Christ have these blessings from God because of His grace. We find in Ephesians 1:6 that the benefits we have in Christ result from God's grace, "to the praise of the glory of His grace with which He has graced us in the Beloved." Grace is used twice in this verse, first as a noun and then as a verb.*7 The Beloved One is Jesus Christ. These benefits exist in Jesus Christ. These benefits were given to us by God by grace. He says we are in Christ, in part, because of His grace. He says we are holy and without blame, not because of how we live, but because of His grace to us in Christ. Since these benefits are extended by grace, they were not earned nor can they be lost due to our failure. That would not be grace.
The gracious benefits in Christ fall into one of two classifications: positions and possessions.
Positions are what God counts true of us in Christ: we are part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), we died with Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 2:20), we were buried with Christ (Romans 6:4), we are raised with Christ (Ephesians 2:6), we are saints (Ephesians 1:1). The body of Christ exists in Christ (Romans 12:5). The body is the Church (Ephesians 1:22-23). This is not a church, such as a group of believers in a town. This is the Church made up of all believers, no matter where they are on earth. It even includes the believers who have gone before, those who served on earth, have died and are now in heaven. God counts us all to be a part of that body. God does not see you by yourself or me by myself. God chooses to see all *8 believers as part of one body in Christ (Galatians 3:27-28). Because we are in this body, God does not distinguish believers by racial differences, sexual differences or social position. That's grace from God in Christ.
Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried and rose again. That is the heart of the gospel and it is historically true. His death was physically and emotionally painful, and spiritually excruciating. His experience was real! I died with Christ, was buried with Christ, and was raised with Christ. I'm not arrogant. I'm graced. Paul himself said, "I am crucified with Christ ..." (Galatians 2:20). God counts each of us to have participated in Christ's death, burial and resurrection. For Christ to have genuinely suffered, and then have God count that to us, that's grace!
After Christ rose, He ascended. He returned to heaven, and arriving in heaven, He sat down at the Father's right hand. He deserved that. It was a consistent response to His character. Does it surprise you to know that God counts you and I to have been raised up, and to now be seated in Christ? Ephesians 2:6 states that God, "raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." To be seated in Christ means that we are no longer distant from God, but that we are near to God (Ephesians 2:13). That nearness is by Christ's blood. It was through His blood that we have redemption and forgiveness of trespasses (Ephesians 1:7). Because He forgave us, we can be near. By being near to God, we are set apart to Him. That means we are saints in Christ (Ephesians 1:1). Being a saint is not about doing something outstanding, or catching the notice of others. Being a saint is about being set apart to someone. We are set apart to God, seated at His right hand. By being set apart to God, we are also set apart from sin, ungodly behavior, and the world. However, the emphasis is upon being set apart to God. Because all benefits in Christ are by God's grace, then we are raised up, seated near to God, and saints, all by God's grace.
The other side of our position in Christ consists of possessions. Possessions are provisions from God based on our position. Possessions are not merely counted to us but given. Since God counts us to be part of the body, He has given each of us a gift, a special ability to serve within the body (Romans 12:4-6). Gifts are given for the benefit of the whole body (1 Corinthians 12:7). The believer can minister his gift to others (1 Peter 4:10-11). God has equipped us and put us all together so we may serve one another. In this way, Christ provides to all the members of the body what the body needs to grow (Ephesians 4:16). Christ does this through all the members. Therefore, all the members are necessary. You are necessary, because God gave you a special ability to serve, and that service is necessary. Are we necessary because we brought something to the body of Christ, because God said, "I have to have _____ on my team?" No! We are each necessary because God graciously gave each a special ability to serve. That's grace!
Our ability to serve in the body is connected to other possessions in Christ. We possess freedom in Christ (Galatians 2:4). That freedom is from the law and from the sin nature. We are no longer under law, and therefore, we are no longer dominated by sin (Romans 6:14). That freedom makes it possible for us to serve. We are also priests in Christ (1 Peter 2:4, 5, 9; Ephesians 2:19-21). We can serve as priests, offering spiritual sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:15, 16). The first sacrifice is our bodies, and it is the basis of using our spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3-6). The second sacrifice involves giving of our material possessions to meet the needs of other believers. We can also do good to others as a sacrifice (this can involve using one's spiritual gift), and verbally praise God's character so that we encourage others. Did you notice that each of those sacrifices are for the benefit of others? That's what a priest does; he serves between God and others. Each of these is a result of God's grace. In fact, one of the words used for gift is charismata, meaning a thing which is a result of grace.*9
God has even revealed how we should respond to these benefits from grace. Paul wrote, "If (since) you are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God, set your minds to things above, not things upon the earth, for you died and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:1-2). First we are to seek those things which we have in Christ. We don't seek Christ, but things. Once we find those things, we are to set our minds to those things. The word "set our minds to" means to restrict our thinking to a set of facts. We might even consider it a corral in which we confine our thinking. The truths of who we are in Christ form the corral. Our thoughts operate within that corral. In the context of Colossians, false teachers were promoting truths which had no substance (Colossians 2:18).*10 They suggested teachings they consider plausible (Colossians 2:8). Paul warned the Colossians to not live (walk) like this (2:6). They were to spend their time seeking these truths in Christ. Then they were to use these truths as a corral. The philosophical teachings of the false teachers would not fit within that corral, but biblical truths would. What was true for those Colossians, almost 2,000 years ago, is still vital for us. This is all because of God's grace. By grace, God saves, provides, and then directs our lives.
The Other Side of In
In John 14, Jesus told His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit. He then went on and revealed that "in that day, you shall know that I am in the Father, and you are in Me, and I in you" (v. 20). We have looked at the "you in me" side of this relationship. Now let us look at the "I in you" side.
"I in you" involves the truth of regeneration. Just as the "you in me" relationship is the result of the Spirit's work of baptism, so regeneration is initiated by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). By regeneration, the Holy Spirit joins us to each member of the Godhead. This union is affected in the believer's spirit (cf 1 John 3:24; *11 1 Corinthians 6:17; 1 John 3:9). God is spirit. This isn't the Holy Spirit but the essence or substance of God (John 4:24). This substance belongs to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Regeneration results in a birth. That birth is in the human spirit. That which is born from the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6). The result is that the believer joined to the Lord is one spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17). When an individual believes the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit joins God's spirit to our spirit.
Since that essence belongs to all three members of the godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit), the believer is joined to and has a relationship to all three of Them. Each member then provides the believer with a benefit. The Son indwells the believer and gives to him eternal life (1 John 5:11-12). We don't receive eternal life by God injecting us with eternal life. The life is in the Son and by His indwelling us, we share in that life. That life is related to grace, so that a believing husband and wife are heirs together of the grace which consists of life (1 Peter 3:7). Eternal life is a gracious gift from God (Romans 6:23). God the Father indwells believers (Ephesians 4:6). *12 By His indwelling the Father's seed *13 is in the believer and this constitutes the believer a child of God. *14 This makes it possible for the believer to share in common in the kind of nature God has (2 Peter 1:3-4). This does not mean that the believer becomes a god. Rather the believer is enabled to live out some of God's character. Finally, the Spirit Himself indwells the believer (Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 3:16). Through His indwelling, He carries on several ministries in the believer's life: sealing, teaching, leading, filling. He produces in the believer the fruit which is a human expression of God's character. The results of these ministries is a Christ-like, victorious life. When the believer refuses to mature and sins willfully,*15 he is treating the Spirit of grace arrogantly (Hebrews 10:26-29). These results of regeneration are tied to or characterized by God's grace. None of the benefits can be forfeited or removed. We didn't earn them and we do not keep them by being deserving of them. Each is provided to us by God through means of His grace.
Paul opened many of his letters, "Grace is to you." *16 This referred to one's position. Paul closed his letters, "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is with you." In four of his letters, Paul clarified what he meant by adding "with your spirits." (Galatians 6:18; Philippians 4:23; *17 Philemon 25 and 2 Timothy 4:22). *18 Remember that "spirit" is the part of the believer in which he has experienced regeneration. "With" is the preposition _meta, describing a looser association than _sun. *19 Paul employed the looser idea of "with" because while all believers are regenerated, not all believers exercise the benefits of regeneration. The Galatian believers were trying to mature by their flesh instead of the work of the Spirit (Galatians 3:1-3). Paul wanted them to go on and mature by the Spirit's work. The Philippians had the potential to do priestly service in their spirit, but some of them were struggling with the idea of serving their fellow believers (Philippians 3:3). Philemon had a potential problem with a fellow believer, and therefore, he might or might not use the benefits of regeneration to respond properly. Finally, Timothy was struggling with fear. He was afraid that if he boldly proclaimed the gospel like Paul, then he would suffer Paul's fate of imprisonment and impending death. Therefore, each of these letters expressed that the benefits of regeneration are present, whether the believer avails himself of them or not.
The benefits of regeneration are the result of God's grace. The believer has eternal life. He is a child of God with the potential to share in the kind of nature God has. The indwelling Holy Spirit is able to take that life and energize the Father's seed. The result is a life which expresses God's grace.
The benefits of regeneration and the benefits of the Spirit's
baptism are necessary for the Christian life. God works in the
believer and produces desires within him (Philippians 2:13), but
desire is not enough. Early in Paul's Christian life, he had desires
but didn't know how to do what he wanted (Romans 7:18). The solution
was first revealed by Jesus Christ in John 15. He pictured believers
as vine branches and Himself as the vine (v. 1). He informed them that
they were capable of nothing, that is, nothing of worth, if they did
not abide in Him (v. 5). They were to abide in Him and He would then
abide in them (vv. 2-4). Jesus used abide
*20 to mean more than to remain in a location. He
used it to refer to remaining comfortably, to being at ease. The
believer is to be at ease in Christ; he is to remain comfortably in
his position in Christ. When he does, Christ then remains at ease in
him. Christ is always in the believer, but He is not always at ease or
comfortable in the believer. Therefore, as we relate to who we are in
Christ, Christ then lives out that life through us, and the Spirit
produces fruit through us. The "I in you and you in Me" relationship
comes full circle. We can only live out Christ in us as we are
comfortable with who we are in Christ. Both are benefits of grace, and
both are the basis for a life under grace.
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Life is often about motivation. People get up in the morning and go to work because they are motivated by the need to earn a living. Some people work because they are motivated to pay for their play time, trips, or recreational equipment. The motivations are similar, but there is a subtle difference between the need to eat and have adequate shelter and the wish for recreation. Prison or jail is a motivation -- a motivation to avoid incarceration. Therefore, both motivate people to a proper behavior. A parent's love and care for a child can motivate that child to a proper behavior. A child may wish to return the parent's love by living as a loved child. Again, the motivations are similar but there is a distinct difference between avoiding consequences and showing appreciation and love.
God has provided people motivation to live righteously. We'll limit our considerations to the motivation under Mosaic law and that under the present form of grace. We distinguish these two because Paul distinguished being under law from being under grace (Romans 6:14). John also distinguished the law from grace (John 1:17).
The Law, given through Moses, motivated the nation of Israel to obey. The motivation was the promise of blessings or curses. The blessings are summarized in Deuteronomy 28:1-14. Those blessings consisted of benefits -- good provisions*1 from God in the physical realm: a high position above other nations (v. 1), healthy children (v. 4), healthy crops (v. 4), healthy calves, kids and lambs (offspring of livestock) (v. 4), plenty of bread (v. 5). God would provide them the ability to defeat their enemies (v. 7). They would be successful in all their endeavors. Much of this would be accomplished by God providing them rain at the proper times so they could have healthy crops, which resulted in healthy people and livestock. God also promised to protect them from the diseases common among the nations (Leviticus 26:14-16). This was a motivation to not only eat and be sheltered but also a motivation to enjoy the best God had for them.
The Law also motivated Israel to obey by the promise of curses. The curses are summarized in Deuteronomy 28:15-68. Many of the curses are simply the opposite of the blessings just listed (v. 25). Yet Jehovah God gave three times as much space to detailing the nature of the curses. Not only would Israel lack health and then die, but God portrayed their death as providing food for the birds (v. 26). God threatened to strike Israel with panicked madness, *2 blindness, and bewilderment (v. 28). Their sons and daughters would be given to non-Jewish people. They would stand and long for their children, but would not be able to do anything about it (vv. 32, 41). They would labor in their vineyards and fields, but others would come and eat the produce (vv. 33, 38-40, 42, 50-53). The severity of these curses can be seen in the statement, "Then you shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy shall oppress you" (v. 53). God would bring on them and their children, "extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting,*3 and sicknesses grievous and lasting." (Deuteronomy 28:59). This motivation is more than just motivation to avoid death and hardship but to avoid severe hardship, horrible illness, defeat in war, and even cannibalism.
So, what is the base motivation under Law? Fear. When God appeared to Israel to give them the Law, He told them not to fear at that time (Exodus 20:20). He wasn't there to destroy or harm them at that moment, so there was no reason to fear. However, He did appear so that His fear (the fear of Him) would be before *4 their faces. God was on the mountain and Israel could look up to the mountain and see the smoke and lightning (v. 18). They could hear the thunder and the trumpet. They were afraid. They wanted Moses to talk to God for them because they thought they would die if God spoke to them (v. 19). They were afraid of dying. That was God's goal, to leave His fear on their faces as a motivation to not sin.
About forty years later, Moses led the nation of Israel to the east side of the Jordan river (Deuteronomy 1:1). It was forty years and eleven months after Israel left Egypt (v. 2). This was a new generation of Israelites. Their parents and older siblings had died in the desert because they had refused to enter the land forty years earlier. Their parents had heard the law at Sinai. Their parents had seen the mountain and feared. However, they feared the people of the land more than they feared God and more than they trusted God's ability to give them the land.
So, forty years later, to this new generation, Moses undertook to explain*5 this Law (v. 5). After rehearsing their history, Moses quoted Jehovah's words to their parents, "Gather the people to me, and I will cause them to hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days they live on the earth, and they may teach their children" (Deuteronomy 4:10). God's design for the new generation did not change. They too were to fear Jehovah their God (Deuteronomy 6:2, 13, 24; 8:6, et al). Jehovah required (asked) Israel to fear Him (Deuteronomy 10:12). The popular "awesome" God idea is really that God is a God to be feared (Deuteronomy 10:17). *6 The motivation to live in obedience to the Law was fear of God.
Now we can understand what was meant by the phrase, "the fear of Jehovah was the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10). Wisdom requires knowledge, so it is also true that "the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7). How did this work? If one feared Jehovah, that fear motivated him to obey the Law. In order to obey the Law, one had to know the Law, so he could guard it and do it. This Law, made up of commands, statutes, and judgments, was Israel's wisdom (Deuteronomy 4:6). So, the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom. Fear motivated them to learn the Law so they could keep the Law. The Law was how they could know God. It contained the knowledge God wanted them to have. The motivation to know that Law and to obey that Law was fear, fear of death and fear of God.
The Law had a twofold motivation: God promised Israel blessings and He promised them curses. They could be motivated to receive health and happiness in their land. They could also be motivated to avoid death, disease, and destruction. They were motivated to obey the Law because they feared they might die and they feared God. Because God devoted more space to curses and warnings, we can safely conclude that for most of Israel, their motivation was primarily negative.
How does grace motivate believers to live? We've seen the benefits God provides us by His grace: regeneration and baptism. Now God calls us to live worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1). To walk worthy is to walk in balance with those benefits *7 or consistent with that calling. That calling is in Christ and was into one body (v. 4). To walk worthy would then involve a manner of life which reflects one's position in Christ and one's relationship to other saints in that one body. In Ephesians 5:1, believers are encouraged to become imitators of God as loved children. "Children" connects this with regeneration. "Imitators" [mimetes] is not used in the New Testament of simply copying another's actions. It is tied to truth to which one relates. The result is action which is like that of another. If Paul taught truth and then lived it, others could imitate his faith, not by copying the actions, but by living the truth he taught.*8 In these cases, God provided the believers a benefit by grace. He did not offer it to them in exchange for obedience or because of obedience. He gave them a position in Christ and made them His children. He then asked them to live in a manner consistent with that provision. "The formula of grace is, 'I have blessed you, therefore be good.' Thus it is revealed that the motive for right conduct under grace is not to secure the favor of God, which already exists toward saved and unsaved to an infinite degree through Christ; it is rather a matter of consistent action in view of such divine grace." *9 That is grace motivation. God gives and then encourages us to live.
Grace motivation involves victory. Sin is not to be lord over us because we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). We saw that one of the benefits God gives us in Christ is that we are dead ones in Christ to the sin nature and living ones to God (Romans 6:3-4. 11). Since God provides these benefits to us by grace, then our response to that grace is not to be enslaved to the sin nature. This is exactly the idea Paul stated, when he wrote:
"Now the law came in that the trespass might increase, but where the sin nature increased, the grace abounded all the more, so that, as the sin nature reigned by means of the death, the grace also might reign through righteousness in view of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Should we continue in the sin nature that the grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to the sin nature still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been put into Christ Jesus were put into His death? We were buried therefore, with Him by the putting into His death, in order that, just as Christ was raised out from the dead ones through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 5:20-6:4).
Let's consider this passage phrase by phrase. In 5:20, Paul explained one of the reasons God gave the Law to Israel. It was intended to increase the number of offenses or trespasses *10 against God. It did this by providing the sin nature more opportunities to be plainly seen. Paul expressed this idea a little differently in 7:13, when he wrote that the commandment caused the sin nature to be excessively sinful. It didn't create the problem, but it brought the problem to light. It was in this context that God's grace abounded. If one could plainly see how sinful he was, then it becomes more obvious that any benefits God might extend to him must come by grace. God certainly isn't extending those benefits in response to the believer's good works, for the sin nature is increasing in activity.
So, in 5:21, Paul looks back at the sin nature reigning. It was able to do so because of the death. Here Paul meant spiritual death. Spiritual death made it possible for the sin nature to reign in peoples' lives. Now, grace reigns through righteousness in view of, or because of,*11 eternal life. Just as the sin nature had been able to reign by means of the spiritual death, now eternal life provides the basis of grace's reign. Some translations have "unto eternal life" as though eternal life is the outcome of one's works under grace. However, in 6:23, Paul clearly states that eternal life is the "gracious gift from God."
This leads some believers to errantly conclude, "Well, if I get more grace when I offend God and my sin nature is excessively active, then I should spend a lot of time operating in my sin nature" *12 (Paraphrase of Romans 6:1). When the biblical doctrine of grace is taught, some believers never get past this point. They don't wait to see that there is more. They really miss the point of grace when they stop here and make this kind of conclusion. Thankfully, God is faithful, and though they may be stuck for a time -- sometimes a long time -- He will bring them along.
Paul's response to this faulty reasoning is, "May it never come to be!" We died with Christ. We were buried with Christ, and while he doesn't state it as clearly here, we were raised with Christ and now sit at the Father's right hand with Christ. Does one who has been so abundantly graced, and privileged as this, go and enslave himself again to the sin nature? No. He should live in victory. He should live in that grace.
Does that happen automatically? Does the believer automatically have victory? Does salvation fix him so that he doesn't sin and doesn't operate in his sin nature? No. That's the very reason Paul was writing these verses. Some were living like slaves, and he wanted them to stop. He was also warning others away from doing so. In Romans 6:11 Paul lists the first of two responses to our sin nature: logically count yourself to be a dead one to the sin nature and a living one to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. God counts these to be true of us and we are to do the same. The second instruction is found in 6:13; don't present your members to the sin nature as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourself to God as one who is alive and then your members as instruments for righteousness. Just being dead doesn't do any good. A dead person may not respond to the sin nature, but a dead person can't do anything righteous either. Therefore, the believer needs to remember that he is now a living one to God, and with that frame of mind, present himself to God.
God's grace teaches us (Titus 2:11-12). The word "teach" involves the whole process of raising a child.*13 Be cautious. Don't pour into Paul's statement everything about child rearing that comes to your mind. Paul was using a word his readers would have understood, but he also was attributing that process to grace. Grace changes the process tremendously from normal earthly child-rearing. We use a series of positives and negatives in raising children. We also use a lot of law. "Don't touch that stove, it's hot." "Don't hit your sister." "Don't spit your food out." You know how it is. Every family has rules. That's law. Wise parents also maintain consequences for breaches of that family law (if they don't, it isn't law, it's just advice to the kids). I say this because God does this differently, due to the nature of grace.
So what does grace teach us in this child-rearing process? First, to say, "no" to ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:12). Why? Because they're inconsistent with grace. We've already seen some of the benefits of grace. Ungodliness and worldly lusts do not express eternal life or the new nature. They are also inconsistent with the position of one who has died to the sin nature, is alive to God, and seated at God's right-hand in Christ. God focuses us on the positives, on the benefits He has given us by His grace. When we focus upon this great salvation God has given us, we can easily see how some activities don't fit. Additionally, when we begin to enjoy freedom from our sin nature and experience living out God's kind of life, ungodliness and worldly lusts begin to lose their luster.
Next, grace teaches us to live sensibly, righteously and godly (Titus 2:12). Why? Because these are consistent with grace. The word sensibly is built from the root of the word "save" and another word meaning to restrict ones mind.*14 Together, the secular Greeks used the word of a sensible or safe attitude, treating the "save" idea as a reference to physical salvation. Paul could have been using this word in that sense, but because the believer has a spiritual dimension of salvation, I can't help but think that Paul had a larger definition in mind. It is consistent with grace to restrict one's mind to those things which are part of our salvation. It is consistent with grace to live out that salvation. "Righteously" describes the life characterized by righteous behavior. "Godly" describes the life as showing respect or honor for God by living out the salvation He has so graciously given us. One can only live this way because of the immense benefits from God.
Finally, grace teaches us to eagerly expect our Lord's soon appearing for us (Titus 2:13). We don't have everything God promised us. We have a great salvation, but the greatest portion of our salvation is yet future. When will we get it? When our Lord Jesus Christ appears for us. Both Jesus and Paul said that when He appears for us, He will take us to Himself, remove us from this world, and then take us to be where He is (John 14:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). When we see Him as He is, then we will be like Him (1 John 3:2). That's a future to be excited about.
As great as that future is, many believers are apprehensive about the future, and some are even afraid. This question about the future arises from the thought that we are earning our future. We even hear that taught. Indeed, the Old Testament believer did earn his future. We don't. When Jesus comes for us He will bring *15 grace (1 Peter 1:13). Sometimes people wear a special girdle or belt because they have a hernia in their abdomen. The girdle helps support or holds together the muscle tissue, so the individual can function without injury or pain. Christians sometimes have mental hernias. Adverse pressures can cause us to mentally lose it. Our minds fall apart, and we act irrationally or outside of God's revealed will.
That was the problem Peter's readers had. They were undergoing a myriad of temptations, which were comparable to going through the fire (1 Peter 1:6-7). Peter encouraged them with their future: the end of their faith, the completion of their salvation (v. 9). While they were undergoing this fiery trial in the world, they didn't have to worry about facing a trial in the future. Jesus would bring them grace (4:12; 1:9). Jesus had promised believers that they would not enter into judgment (John 5:24). From a human perspective, we might judge some believers to have lived their Christian lives in a worthy manner. From God's perspective Jesus will bring grace to us, because none of us will have merited our future. Not one of us will deserve it. The most outstanding believers would still come short. *16 Aren't you glad God's grace isn't just for our past but also our present and our future?
Grace makes our hearts firm (Hebrews 13:9). Believers who try to live by law are attempting to make themselves firm by observing a set of rules. The Hebrew Christians were trying to be firm by approaching a physical temple on earth (they still thought that was the proper way of coming to God, see Acts 21:22-26). But they had a better access to God in Christ (Hebrews 7:19). They thought they had to observe dietary rules to be firm (Hebrews 13:9). But they had a better altar than the one in Jerusalem. They thought they had to do law works (Hebrews 4:10). But they had a throne of grace where our works, our merits, don't apply (4:16). That throne provides us rest. We no longer must work to be worthy to approach God. Just these few examples remind us that God motivates us to proper living by His grace, not by law. God does not use the threat of judgment to get us to live the Christian life [We will look at this in the next chapter].
Once we understand God's provisions for us and the benefits of this gracious salvation, we have a basis for understanding Christian living. Why live the Christian life? Sometimes Christians can give the impression that our primary goal is to be moral people. Jesus gave us a good reason for living the Christian life: knowing God! "And this is eternal life, that they might know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent" (John 17:3). Jesus used the word ginwskw to indicate that eternal life is the basis of an experiential relationship with God. Eternal life is not just knowing about God (reciting facts, knowing verses, etc.). Eternal life is about knowing Him. We have eternal life because we have Christ in us (1 John 5:11-12). We have a position in Christ. Christ taught a synergy of these two relationships (John 14:20); abide in me and I in you (John 15:4). Jesus expected His disciples to understand and in the second phrase, "and I will abide in you." When we rest at ease (the idea of abiding) in our gracious position in Christ, He in turn, is at ease in us. The result is that we not only have eternal life but are able to use eternal life. Paul told Timothy to "lay hold of eternal life" (1 Timothy 6:12). Grace motivates, not to live a moral life, though that is a result, but to know God. Christianity is about a relationship with God.
Grace motivation does not involve the promise of blessings. God
has already given us all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in
Christ (Ephesians 1:3). What else is there? Grace is the opposite of
law. Law says, "Here is a blessing, obey and you will get it." God by
His grace says, "Here is a blessing, I'm giving it to you, free and
clear and it will not be taken away. Now go live like a blessed one
and know Me!"
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In Ephesians 3:2, Paul wrote of the "dispensation of the grace from God." The word dispensation*1 is translated "stewardship", "administration", and even "commission" in various English Bibles. The Greek oikonomia described the rule or principle by which a household received benefits. An owner of a house would appoint a steward or manager, an oikonomos [the masculine form of oikonomia]. The owner made available provisions for the household's needs. The owner also established a set of principles by which the household could receive those provisions. For example under a law principle, the household would be required to obey that law in order to receive the provisions. This is what we saw in our last study. In order to receive the promised blessings under the Mosaic law, one had to obey the Mosaic law.
Now, back in Ephesians 3:2, we see that this grace system was given to Paul. Paul served in the role of steward. The principle by which the system operated was grace. The owner of the household is God. We are the household (cf Ephesians 2:19-22). God has benefits for this household. Some of those benefits are called blessings. We saw in Ephesians 1:3 that God has given to us all spiritual blessings. He hasn't given us some but all. Those blessings are extended to us by God's grace (Ephesians 1:6). What do we have to do to receive the provisions? Nothing. It is a grace system. The benefits can't be earned. However, we have seen that we are encouraged to live as those who have graciously received these provisions from God. We don't live to get or retain blessings, but to express our appreciation to God for those blessings.
John wrote that grace came to be by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). He contrasted Jesus to Moses. Moses was only an intermediary. God gave the law through Moses. Christ didn't give grace. He caused it to exist.*2 We know that grace existed before Jesus Christ was born so in what sense did He cause grace to exist. The key is that both the words grace and truth have definite articles. Literally, John wrote, "the grace and the truth." John meant a specific aspect of God's grace and a specific truth. Grace in general had existed (we would presume) since Adam fell. John didn't mean grace in general but the grace, a specific kind of grace. He was writing about the same grace Paul named in Ephesians 3:2. It is grace as a way of life. Recall Ephesians 2:8. That verse isn't just about our past, in fact, it is primarily about our present. We are still saved by grace. We are in the state in which we are saved by grace through faith. God's design for Christian living is that we are to live in light of grace. That is the grace which came into being with Jesus Christ.
When did Jesus Christ cause that grace to start? Not at His birth. Not during His earthly ministry. During His earthly ministry He was upholding the Law (Matthew 5:17; Romans 15:8). He upheld the Law until He died on the cross for our sin. When He rose again, or more precisely, a few days later, He initiated this new way of life. He became an end of law for righteousness for believers (Romans 10:4). *3 God didn't give Israel the law when Moses was born. He didn't even give it when Moses had his fortieth birthday. God gave Israel the Law when Moses was about eighty years old. Likewise, Christ's provision of this grace followed His death and resurrection.
Before we continue, we should recognize that Jesus did demonstrate this grace. When He became flesh (man), He was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). John wrote that they observed with great attention*4 His glory. The glory was not a burst of light but the manner in which He lived His thirty some years on this earth. He glorified the Father by performing the works the Father gave Him to do (John 17:4). Grace and truth were visibly seen in His manner of life. By stating this at the beginning of the book, John didn't have to repeat throughout the book, "and this was grace", "... and this was grace again." When we read John, he expects us to see that grace and truth. When Jesus revealed Himself to a Samaritan woman, that was grace. He dealt with her in a manner that was not based upon any merit she may have had. When Jesus healed a nobleman's son, that was grace. When Jesus healed the lame man at the pool, that was grace. Jesus' words, "sin no more, so that nothing worse happen to you" likely indicates that the man's condition was due to his own sin. However, Jesus never established grace as a way of life during that earthly ministry. He was demonstrating it by the manner in which He interacted with others.
One of the best examples of Jesus' grace is seen in the controversial passage of John 7:53-8:11. *5 In this passage, a woman caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus. Her accusers wanted to place Jesus in a no-win situation. If He said she should be stoned, He would be against Roman law. If He said, let her go, He would have been guilty of not upholding Mosaic Law. Rather, Jesus told them, that if any were sinless, they should be the ones to throw the first stone. Her accusers left. Jesus asked the woman if any accused her. When she said none, He responded, "neither do I, go and sin no more." That's grace. "I don't' condemn you. So now go live like one who is free." That, by the way, is Romans 8:1, "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."*6 Such a judgment doesn't encourage loose living. It encourages righteous living. It encourages us to live like ones set free and not condemned. That's grace.
Paul wrote that this design, this way of life by grace was a mystery (Ephesians 3:9).*7 He defined a mystery three times in his writings. A mystery was a truth which was not revealed before the time God revealed it through Paul*8 (Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:4-5; Colossians 1:26). We might say that a mystery was a new truth at that time. It was new, because God had kept it hidden up to that time. Therefore, this grace way of life came into existence through Christ, and He chose to explain this grace way of life through Paul.
The establishment of this grace way of life followed Christ's ascension when He became our position in heaven and our life here on earth. Christ had to sit down in the heavens. We have previously seen that our position in Christ is a result of grace. However, we could not have that position if that position did not exist. We could not be seated in Christ, until Christ was seated. We couldn't be crucified with Christ unless He has been crucified. We couldn't be made alive and raised with Christ unless He has been made alive and raised. Our way of life is directly connected to the benefits from God's grace. Until those benefits were provided, that grace way of life could not be established.
God chose to use Paul. He made Paul the steward, or the one who dispensed the provisions, and explained how the household was to operate. Paul wrote that God had given the stewardship to him for the benefit of other believers (Ephesians 3:2). It was not given to Paul for Paul alone, any more than a manager is placed over another's business for the manager's sake. Paul was responsible for initially revealing the truths related to life by grace. Through Paul, God revealed to us, "Seek the things above ... set your mind on things above" (Colossians 3:1-2). Through Paul we have, "Logically count yourself to be a dead one to the sin nature but a living one to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11). Through Paul we read, "walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called" (Ephesians 4:2). Paul was responsible for explaining that we can only live this Christian life by spiritually (mentally) relating to the benefits we have in Christ.
Paul was the steward. He was the one God placed to initially reveal how this grace works. However, Paul did not do this alone. He recognized that the church was built on a foundation laid by the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). He recognized that while the Lord had revealed several new truths (mysteries) to him, the Holy Spirit had revealed those same truths by using the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:4-5).*9 Since Paul was the steward, God used him to initiate the revelation of those truths. Once the truths had been initially revealed by Paul, the other apostles and prophets were led by the Spirit to reveal these truths.
In practical terms, we should expect to find revelation regarding
this grace way of life in the New Testament letters (epistles). We
don't find this way of life revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures.
We don't find it revealed in the Gospels.*10
This grace way of life is explained chiefly in the letters of Paul,
with some important additions in the other letters. The restriction of
these teachings to the New Testament letters*11
is evidence that this way of life was new at the time the Church was
beginning. It is interesting that nearly 2,000 years later, many
believers are still wrestling with this matter of grace. Yet, whether
we understand God's design or are still trying to live by a merit/law
system, we are under grace and it does not alter God's gracious
provisions for each believer. If it could, then God's grace wouldn't
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We have two requirements for learning a practical truth. We must first learn the facts. Then we must live out those truths as we have opportunity. The facts are found in God's Word. God has revealed all that we need to know. As with any truth we might practice or live, it is necessary to begin with the objective revelation in God's Word. Objective revelation is the framework through which we evaluate our experiences. A group of people who have the same experience may each offer a different explanation (interpretation). Each might see the experience as something different and each might consider the reason or the why to be different. Thankfully, we are not left to a totally subjective interpretation of our experience. God's Word reveals what happens. We not only start with objective revelation, but we continually evaluate the situation in light of God's Word.
Once we have objective revelation, we then practice that revelation as we have opportunity. For example, once we have learned what a Satanic attack is, and how to put on the armor of God to resist him, we need an opportunity to apply or use those truths. When Satan attacks*1 us, we apply those truths. We must exercise discernment regarding our circumstances so that we can use the proper truths at the proper time. It is necessary to practice these truths in order to know them as God intends. God does not wish us to simply fill our heads with facts. His design is that those truths become part of our experience. We learn to live the truths He has taught us. There is a difference between knowing and rehearsing a set of facts, and practicing those truths. *2 The level of understanding begins to rise as we use what we know.
Therefore, to understand grace, we begin with God's Word. We have seen some of God's revelation regarding His grace. With that revelation in hand, we can begin to consider our experiences. We can apply those truths and live in light of what we know. As a result, we get to know grace on a new level. We then continue to refer to Scripture to be certain our evaluation is accurate.
The Practice of Grace
We've seen some of the facts of grace. Now let's look at the practice of grace. Remember this is not initial salvation, but grace as a way of living. We'll first note that grace was something believers were to practice or in which they were to operate. Since Paul was entrusted with this message, it is not surprising that the first mention of life by grace comes from Paul. Having announced the gospel in Antioch of Pisidia*3 some people followed Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:43). Those who followed were believers, following being evidence of their faith. Verses 14 through the first part of verse 43 record the events in the synagogue on one Sabbath day. Verse 44 is the Sabbath day a week later. The last part of verse 43 "speaking to them, urging them to continue in the grace of God", happened in between the two Sabbaths. The word urge in this passage [A.V. "persuade"] is an Imperfect verb, meaning this was not a brief charge to them but an ongoing activity. This is what Paul and Barnabas were doing during the six days between the Sabbaths. The participle "speaking" indicates they urged by talking with these followers. They were teaching these new believers about grace. In order for them to continue in that grace, they had to know something about it. If they didn't understand this idea of grace, Paul and Barnabas could tell them to continue in it, but it would do them no good. This is the first evidence of believers living by grace.
Leaving Antioch, Paul and Barnabas traveled to Iconium (Acts 14:1). Having evangelized both Jews and Greeks, Paul spent a considerable time speaking boldly on the basis *4 of the Lord (v. 3). While they were speaking, the Lord was giving testimony based upon the word about His grace. The expression, "word of His grace"*5 occurs one other time in Acts 20:32, when Paul was speaking with the Ephesian elders. In that passage, Paul committed the elders to God and the word about His grace, for it*6 was able to build them up and provide them an inheritance. Therefore, it is consistent that Paul was speaking the same word in Iconium. He was teaching the believers about God's grace.
After Paul had been teaching about this grace for some time, *7 he and Barnabas returned to Antioch in Syria. This church had sent them out, entrusted to God's grace (Acts 14:26). While there, men from Judea arrived and taught the brothers that it was necessary to be circumcised in order to be saved (Acts 15:1). This was not a question about initial salvation. Acts 15:5 reveals it to be a question about this word of God's grace which Paul and Barnabas had been preaching. It was a question of whether a believer could go on to maturity by grace alone, or whether it was also necessary that these Gentile believers be circumcised and obey the law of Moses. *8 Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to settle this matter (Galatians 2:1). They didn't go to ascertain whether they were correct. They went to receive an agreement from the other apostles, so that their teaching ministry would not be undermined. In Galatians 2:2, Paul expressed their purpose, "unless I am running in vain or had run." The word "vain" is kenos, to be empty of content. *9 Paul was concerned that after all he taught, the teaching would be empty if this addition to grace were allowed. Remember Romans 11:6, it can't be both law and grace. If believers are taught to live by grace, but then attempt to add obedience to the law, it empties the content of grace.Peter was one of the apostles in attendance at that meeting (Acts 15:7-11). Peter had heard them announce the things God had accomplished (v. 4). Something in Paul's report gave rise to the continued debate in verse 5. Paul had communicated this good news [gospel] about life by God's grace (Galatians 2:2). *10 Peter responded to this message. He heard something and understood that this life by grace would also be true for the Jewish believers. He said, "But we believe, through the grace from the Lord Jesus we will be saved according to the same manner as those also" (Acts 15:11). Peter perceived that the Jewish believers would eventually live by grace.
The Freedom and Liberty
Grace frees the believer from sin. We saw that God by grace counts the believer to have died and been raised with Christ. The believer died to the sin nature.*11 The believer is now to logically count himself to be a dead one to the sin nature, but a living one to God in Christ (Romans 6:11). God, by grace, counts that true of us, and we are instructed to do the same. Why? Because this is how God has chosen to provide the believer practical victory over his sin nature. Paul does not urge believers to overcome their flesh by sheer force of will but by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:2, 13; Galatians 5:17). The Spirit teaches him and directs him to the truth about his joint death and resurrection with Christ. To "walk by the Spirit" is to "think", or more accurately, to restrict one's mind to these things from the Spirit (Romans 8:4-5). The believer can have this victory because he is under grace (Romans 6:14).
Grace frees the believer to serve. The goal of freedom from the sin nature is not just to avoid being bad. Neither is this freedom from law intended to provide the flesh a basis *12 of operation (Galatians 5:13). Freedom allows us to serve others and God (Galatians 5:13; Romans 6:22). When we serve God in this manner, we have fruit because*13 we have been set apart, and the end is eternal life. We manifest eternal life in our daily living by service. Love and service are two expressions of grace and eternal life.
This freedom is in Christ (Galatians 2:4). Christ freed us so that we could be free (Galatians 5:1). Paul warned the Galatian Christians not to put themselves under the yoke of law again. When a believer attempts to live by law, he does not operate in his position in Christ where God has graced him. In that context he experiences no benefit*14 from Christ (v. 2). Christ didn't accomplish those benefits so that we could return to law. Therefore, the believer needs to let go of the law and get back to living by grace in Christ. In fact, Paul went so far as to say, that the believer who attempts to be righteous by law has fallen from grace (v. 4). This can not be an unsaved person, for he has never been in grace. This can not be a loss of salvation, for that would be contrary to the very nature of grace. This is a believer who is operating in his flesh, attempting to live righteously (cf Galatians 3:1-3). This is present tense justification not initial salvation. When the believer attempts this kind of justification, he (the believer) is rendered idle away from Christ (v. 4). The verb, variously translated, means to render idle, or null and void. *15 The believer who tries to live by his own flesh and does not relate to his position in Christ where he has been graced, is ineffective. He may be busy in his flesh. He might even be a pastor studying hard, polishing his work and presenting truths to believers, but done in his flesh, it is ineffective. He might be a deacon attending to his duties in the church, or any other believer carrying out service, but doing so in his own flesh by a standard of law. *16 Learning about God's grace requires the experience of freedom.
Our Past (Accomplishments) and Grace
We saw in the last half of Romans 6 that a believer who lives by grace is able to serve in righteousness. Such a believer does acts of righteousness produced by the Holy Spirit. How does the Biblical definition of grace affect this situation? Paul explained his way of looking at the past. He wrote the Philippians about both his past and present. His past involved works he had done before he was saved. These were works done in his flesh. Such works were considered good by mankind, especially Paul's fellow Jews (Philippians 3:4-6). Paul learned to look at those things as loss, to write them off rather than to keep track of them. But Paul didn't do this only with the works he did before he was saved. In 3:8, he said he counted *17 all things to be loss because of the excellency of the experiential knowledge of Christ Jesus. He found it much better to really know Christ than to rest on his past experiences. This was Paul operating by grace without calling it grace. *18
Counting the past to be loss, Paul made it his goal to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness (Philippians 3:9). His own righteousness would have its source in the Law. Paul had been a believer for close to thirty years when he wrote Philippians. "Not having my own righteousness" does not refer to an event thirty years earlier. He was writing about his Christian experience. Paul was not living his Christian life by law or a law principle. That would have resulted in a righteousness from law. Paul wanted a practical righteousness which comes through faith (3:9; cf Galatians 5:3). Paul wanted to live his daily life by faith, directing faith at God's promises for daily living.
Let's remember Ephesians 2:8. Our salvation, past and present is by grace through faith. Therefore, when Paul lived through faith in the promises related to Christ, he was living by grace. All this led Paul to an important principle about the need to look ahead. Faith involves things hoped for and a thing hoped for is not seen (Hebrews 11:1; Romans 8:24).*19 Therefore, to live by faith one must look forward not backward. Paul wrote, "but one thing first, forgetting *20 things behind then stretching out for the things ahead" (Philippians 3:13). This is a common challenge for us as Christians, to look ahead at what God has planned for us. We are tempted to look at the past. Some Christians are stuck in the past. Some only look at their initial salvation. They may have been saved fifty years but only know how to look back at the moment they believed. They have been graced by God but are not living through faith by God's grace. Some Christians have grown and accomplished things for God (like Paul) but now look back at those accomplishments and can't seem to look forward. We may appreciate how God by His grace has worked in our past, but grace encourages us to look ahead.
Every day, God calls us to relate to our position in Christ, to remember and think about the benefits we have now because today we are in Christ. We are sitting at the Father's right hand in Christ. We are priests in Christ and members of the body in Christ. Paul knew that God called him upward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). This was daily, perhaps even moment by moment. God called Paul to think on the benefits of grace in Christ. This is what God set before Paul, and so he left the past behind and focused on this call in Christ (by grace). Learning grace requires us to look ahead not back.
One's Calling and Grace
Most people are inclined to look at the famous, to gravitate toward the powerful and prestigious. The Corinthian Church struggled with an inner church popularity contest. Some of the believers were impressed by nobility (people born to prominent families). Some liked really smart people, scholars, while others liked the powerful (1 Corinthians 1:20-26). Paul told them to look at their calling, that is, what they were like when God called them to salvation. God had not called many wise (scholars) to salvation, neither many powerful or well born. He had called some, but since calling to salvation is by grace, God didn't call them because of who they were.
This is also an important lesson for us. It is easy to focus on who we are as people in the world. Some people are, by birth, more inclined to intelligence, some are more powerful, and some are from prominent families. It is important to leave these things behind. Like Paul, we should count them loss. God doesn't want us to boast in our flesh (1 Corinthians 1:29). We are not to focus on who we are by birth, nor human efforts, or accomplishments. Paul pointed the Corinthians to who they are in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus has become for us righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (v. 30). Each of these are benefits in Christ (cf 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:7). These are benefits of grace and shared by all saints, not limited to a special few. So Paul instructed them, "Let the one boasting, boast in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31). Some might want to boast in their worldly standing and accomplishments, for these might make them stand above others. However, every believer can boast in his position in Christ, because God by grace has given all believers the same position. Learning grace requires that we focus on God's provisions, not our natural strengths (or weaknesses).
Grand Experiences and Grace
Sometimes believers have an experience in which they might boast. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, Paul recalled an experience he had fourteen years earlier. Why did Paul mention how long ago he had this experience? Because the Corinthian saints had known Paul about five years and had never heard about this experience? Many saints have a remarkable experience and their fellow believers hear about it for years. Paul only related it at this time because of unbelieving false teachers.*21 He wished to cut off the opportunity from these men, for they wanted an opportunity to be found like Paul (2 Corinthians 11:2). By relating this experience, Paul pointed out how he was different from the boasting unbelievers.
So why had Paul kept silent about this experience? Because a messenger from Satan beat him up (2 Corinthians 12:7). The result of the beating left Paul with "a thorn in the flesh." This thorn in the flesh really bothered Paul, so he asked the Lord three times to remove it (2 Corinthians 12:8). The Lord's reply, "My grace is sufficient *22 for you, for my power is matured in weakness." (v. 9). God's grace can be eclipsed by our popularity, our grand experiences, or as in 1 Corinthians 1, our natural strengths. Three requests to the Lord by Paul demonstrated how frustrated he was. Paul learned that God's grace stood out best when he was weak, when he did not rely on his natural abilities and didn't rehearse his incredible experiences. Rather, Paul learned to boast in his weaknesses. Learning grace means letting go of the outstanding.
Grace and Failure -- Romans 7
Loser. That word makes us uncomfortable. Most people hope that word is never connected with their name. Failure, defeated, miserable, and pitiable are all descriptions people would like to avoid. We like success. It is built in to us to win, to come out on top. In fact, fallen human nature wants to win at any cost. *23 Failure in Christian living is even more serious.
Failure has different meanings depending on circumstances. When failure is used of a student, it means he doesn't know all he should, of a business venture, that it couldn't last, of a structure, that it couldn't stand. When failure is used of a citizen under a legal system, it implies his inability or unwillingness to obey the Law. Failure has consequences; a student may have to repeat a class, a proprietor may become bankrupt, a building may be bulldozed; a citizen fined, jailed, or in the extreme, executed. Failure, defeat and losing have consequences. Miserable and pitiable describe those who have failed, are defeated, or have lost.
The Mosaic law had consequences for failure. When an Israelite failed to keep the law, he experienced consequences. Sometimes he had to offer sacrifices (e.g. Leviticus 5:1-6; 6:1-7), *24 make restitution, and sometimes he was put to death. Because of the consequences, Paul called the law a ministry of death and condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:7, 9). Paul was raised under the system. He was a Pharisee, well trained in the law and knew well the consequences of failure. Since Paul was "righteous according to the Law," he had experienced some of those consequences. He had taken the righteous steps to rectify his unrighteous actions. As a zealous religious Jew, Paul knew the discipline it took to obey law. When Paul described the law as "a ministry of death" and "a ministry of condemnation", he was speaking from experience.
With that background, Paul experienced failure. He recorded that experience in Romans 7. Romans 7 is a record of a believer's struggle, Paul's struggle.*25 Note that in the middle of verse seven to the end of the chapter, Paul changed from second person [you] to first [I, me]. Paul recounted the "I" and "me" experience. This was personal. Paul knew it well. Paul had been alive separated from law (Romans 7:8). An unsaved man was never "alive." Paul said the sin nature revived *26 meaning it had been dead for a period of time. This sin principle is not dead in an unsaved person but rules over them (Romans 5:21). The unsaved man conducts his daily life in the lusts of his flesh and does its desires (Ephesians 2:3). Therefore, in Romans 7:8ff Paul described himself as a believer. He was divided as a believer. In his spirit, he served a law, a principle related to God, but in his flesh he served a law or principle of sin (Romans 7:22, 25). Romans 7 was Paul's experience as a believer. This was not his experience at the moment he wrote this. He likely experienced this during his 7-10 quiet years in Tarsus. It was in that time Paul learned to practice what the Lord Jesus had taught him.
The Problem of the Sin Nature
Paul became aware of an internal problem through his failure. He learned he had a sin principle or sin nature. He referred to it several times in Romans 7, but twice he clearly located it within himself. "But no longer am I producing it (i.e. sin), but the indwelling sin in me" (vv. 17, 20). Paul was not trying to free himself of blame. He wasn't identifying this sin as another entity within him. It was the bent part of his human nature, that part which awaits salvation. He wasn't throwing the blame, but was coming to understand why his struggle was so persistent, why he was so frustrated.
Paul explained the reason for the struggle and what law could not do and what God's grace taught him. The Law is not sin (Romans 7:7-13). Paul wanted this clear. It was through the Law that Paul learned about his sin nature (v. 7). For example, he learned about coveting from the Law. When Paul coveted contrary to the law, his sin nature became plainly visible (v. 7). The fault was in his sin nature, which took advantage of the situation (v. 8). Through the incitement of the Law, Paul's sin nature produced all kinds of coveting (v. 8). Paul remembered the time in his life, following his initial salvation, when he experienced freedom from his sin nature because he wasn't living by law (vv. 8-9, see above). It was when Paul turned back to the law, and attempted to live by law that His struggle began. He found that the commandment, which was life, was now death (v. 10). Now that he was saved, he saw a whole new purpose in the law.
He reminded the Romans that the law was not sin, rather Paul's sin nature used the law to lead him astray (Romans 7:11). It convinced Paul he could successfully live by law and please God by law. Then it (the sin nature) killed Paul (v. 11). The law itself was holy, it was set apart and could have set Israel apart from the nations by making them different (v. 12). Since the law is made of commandments, Paul pointed out three qualities of those commandments. The commandment was holy (v. 12). The commandment was righteous (v. 12). It forbade unrighteous activity and directed one to live a kind of righteousness. The commandment was good (v. 12). It served its purpose. It proved what God wished; specifically, that man can't do everything God asks (cf Exodus 19:8). It was also good because it provided a blessing for obedience which made people happy. Therefore, while the commandment was holy, righteous and good, Paul's sin nature was corrupt and led him astray by that commandment.
Neither was the law death (Romans 7:13). The law brought to light or made plainly visible the corrupt sin nature (v. 13). The sin nature was responsible for the death. The sin nature became abundantly sinful through the commandment. To claim that the law was at fault would be similar to blaming a piece of medical equipment for a cancer it makes visible. The equipment didn't produce the cancer and the law didn't produce sin. One reason God gave Israel the law was to show people their fallen sinful nature.
So Paul concluded that his sin nature was the problem (Romans 7:14-24). The law is spiritual (v. 14). Spiritual means it pertains to spirit. It appealed to man's spirit, to his rationale. It appealed to what made logical sense. However, Paul's problem was that he was carnal (v. 14b). Carnal means "fleshly." Paul characterized himself as operating in flesh. In fact, Paul said he was sold *27 like a slave under the sin nature. He was back in Romans 6:12-13, allowing the sin nature to reign like a king in his life, while he was presenting his members to the sin nature. *28
The Sin Nature Now
Beginning in verse 14 and continuing to verse 25 Paul switched from looking at his past to looking at the present. *29 Paul changed the verb tense (kind not time), and not for variety. The remainder of the chapter could be a vivid recounting of his past experience, but it is also possible that Paul's struggle, though not as pronounced, was still ongoing. Christian experience certainly agrees with this. Even the most mature believer does struggle from time to time, even sometimes entering into an extended struggle. The Christian life is not mastered so that the believer enters into perfect or final victory. Even John, when he was likely in his 90's and a mature believer of better than 60 years, included himself when he wrote, "if we should happen to sin" (1 John 2:1-2).
Paul explained what being carnal (fleshly) looks like in one's life. He used his own life as the example. He wasn't able to practice what he wanted but did what he hated (Romans 7:15). So, He agreed with the law as it showed him his sin nature (v. 16). He was unable to deny that he had a sin nature. Yet, the Law could not free him from the struggle with his sin nature (vv. 17-21). Paul identified this situation as a law, a principle, like the law of gravity (vv. 21-22). *30 The law or principle was that evil was always present with him when he wanted to do good. However, he saw another law (principle) which was fighting like a soldier against the principle of his mind (v. 23). It was a conflict. It was Paul's conflict. It is the conflict every believer meets sometime in his Christian life.
From a human perspective, that conflict appeared hopeless. *31 Paul always ended up loosing and becoming a captive of the sin nature (v. 23b). The result left Paul a wretched man in a body of sin (v. 24). All he could do was cry out for a rescue (v. 24). That is a miserable situation in which many Christians have found themselves. However, here is the good part, it is a step toward learning grace.
Paul recognized God's grace in all this struggle and failure (Romans 7:25). In verse 25, the word grace is translated "thanks" in almost all our English versions.*32 The phrase can be rendered, "But grace is by God." *33 The chapter division causes a mental disconnect with Romans 8:1. Paul realized that the conflict would be resolved by the proper use of his mind.
Paul realized there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). *34 This was a whole new experience for Paul. Paul knew that under law, failure brought condemnation (cf 2 Corinthians 3:7-9). Remember that Paul called the law a ministry of condemnation and death. However, God by His grace counts us to be in Christ. In Christ there is no condemnation! Since that position in Christ is by God's grace, the believer is not able to do anything which would cause God to remove benefits from him. Therefore, "no condemnation to those who are in Christ" is an absolutely dependable promise. It isn't just a promise, it is our present standing in Christ, and it depends wholly on God.
So, what was Paul's experience? We don't have to guess, we know that Paul lived and served for many years following his failure outlined in Romans 7. If his Romans 7 experience ended in the mid 40's, Paul served another 25 years. What did Paul learn? He learned he wasn't condemned. He learned that, as a fact and in his experience. He had the fact, and found it was true. By failing, and surviving, by not being condemned by God, Paul began to learn the importance of his position in Christ. What God said about him in Christ was true. God was teaching Paul grace in Paul's daily life.
Knowing that there is no condemnation, led Paul to a principle (law) pertaining to the Spirit's work which resulted in freedom (Romans 8:2). He knew that the Mosaic law couldn't free him from this cycle of sin and frustration. He had tried to live by that law, and it didn't work because it wasn't meant to produce freedom. The law was weak (v. 3). It didn't have enough incentive to free him from his powerful sin nature. The Spirit does! In fact, the righteous results of law*35 were fulfilled by people who walked according to the Spirit (v. 4). This is not commandment keeping. The kind of righteousness that resulted from law could now be produced without law through a work of the Holy Spirit. God could produce righteousness without law (vv. 4-11; cf 3:21-22).
How did the Spirit do this? First, look back at the end of Romans 7. Paul could serve the principle related to God with his mind. This is what he was learning by grace. What God had given him in Christ was valuable, it wasn't pie in the sky. It wasn't some worthless standing because it was only imputed. It was valuable. It was a key facet in walking by the Spirit.
The freedom and righteousness result from walking by the Spirit (Romans 8:2, 4). Paul explained how one walks by the Spirit in the following verses. "The ones being according to the flesh, set their minds to the things from the flesh and the ones being according to the Spirit, the things from the Spirit" (v. 5). First, "the ones being" *36 is a participle referring to the previous sentence, "walking according to." Therefore, being is related to the walking. Second, "according to"*37 involves the standard by which a thing is measured. These two groups are operating or walking by two distinct measures, one by the standard of the Spirit and the other by the standard of the flesh. Third, "set their minds to" involves the act of restricting one's mind. *38 The standard or measure to which one restricts his mind, is or are "the things from ..." Specifically, in this case, those things are a set of thoughts. For example, one who restricts his mind to things from the Spirit, forms a framework or corral with those things. Thoughts which do not fit within that framework are excluded. Therefore, the believer who is walking by the standard of the flesh takes a set of truths from his flesh, frames his mind to those facts and does not entertain other truths. If he is thinking and restricting his thinking to things from the flesh, it follows that his actions will be from his flesh. The same is true of the believer walking by the Spirit. Simply, walking involves the proper use of, or the proper restricting of the mind.
How did this mental activity free Paul? How did he learn grace through this? Focusing on law made him focus on the negative, the don'ts, and as a result on his flesh: idolatry, hostility to parents, adultery, murder, and coveting. Since he was restricting his mind to those things, it was natural that the outcome would be works of the flesh. No wonder, Paul was frustrated. In this way, the law really was good at bringing one's sin nature to light. However, by realizing that his position in Christ did have positive effects, God didn't condemn Paul, he learned to mentally relate to those truths. Since those truths from the Spirit are about our position in Christ and those truths are by God's grace, this involved relating to God's grace. By focusing on this gracious position in Christ, the believer lives in light of it. The believer lives by grace.
What does it take to learn grace in this case? It takes failure. Apparently significant failure. It takes failure accompanied by God's uncondemning grace. We'd probably like to avoid this, but in order for us to really get grace, it seems we have to experience it, and we experience it by seeing up close and personal how God treats us when we fail. However with the realization of grace, the believer then relates to the benefits of God's grace. Learning grace takes failure, and recognizing that God continues to be gracious. *39
This is how we learn grace. God teaches us from Scripture the facts about grace. He teaches us what He has given us by His grace. He then has to wean us from the idea that good works produce blessings and disobedience results in condemnation. He allows us to fail and fail and fail and fail and fail ... until we realize that we aren't condemned, until we see that nothing has or will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Then we can begin to truly grow and know God!
Peter and Grace
Finally, faulty definitions can mess us up. 1 Peter addresses a faulty definition of grace. However, before Peter wrote that letter, he had to learn how grace works. Peter's first exposure to grace as a way of life was when Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem in Acts 15. We previously noted Peter's interest in Paul's report. At that time, Peter recognized the Law as a yoke, a burden which they (the Jews) and their fathers couldn't bear. Peter's recommendation was not to burden these disciples (he knew they were believers) with extra rules for their Christian lives. Peter grasped something of grace.
When that Jerusalem council ended, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch in Caesarea (Acts 15:30-35). Paul tells us that Peter came to Antioch for a visit (Galatians 2:11). For a while, Peter lived by grace. He ate with Gentiles, something a good Jew under law would never do (v. 12). However, Peter became a hypocrite when some Jews from Jerusalem showed up. He withdrew from the Gentile table and ate only with the Jews (v. 13). Paul was so irate at this event that he moved across the floor and spoke to Peter in strong terms. *40 Peter's actions were not only wrong for himself, but it set a bad example for others. Even Barnabas was caught in the hypocrisy. Paul addressed Peter publicly, because Peter's actions affected other believers.
Grace is seen in Paul's statement to Peter, "If you, a Jew, existing in a Gentile*41 manner, and not living in a Jewish manner ..." (v. 14). Peter had not been living like a Jew, because he had heard Paul and realized that law keeping, which was part of the Jewish way of life, was no longer what God desired for His people. "Existing in a Gentile manner" does not mean that Peter was living out the works of the flesh (1 Peter 4:3). It simply meant he was living like the Gentile believers in Antioch. Recall that the debate which led Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem was whether those gentile believers should become law-keepers. Paul taught them to live by grace. So, if Peter were living in the manner the Gentile believers of Antioch were living, he was living, to some degree, by grace.
Except for a reference to Peter in 1 Corinthians, we do not hear of him again until he writes his two letters towards the end of his life.*42 He was well acquainted with Paul's letters and referred to them in 2 Peter 3:15-16. He knew that some of the things which Paul wrote were difficult. Unlearned believers or unstable believers can twist Paul's words, resulting in their own ruin. Peter was writing about the message of grace but did not call it grace until verse 18. He avoided it, because that was the very word the false teachers were misusing and perverting (cf Jude 4). Those teachers thought that this grace meant "easy living" or allowed for believers to live immorally. Jude wrote of the same men, saying they transformed grace into unrestrained sexual immorality*43 (cf 2 Peter 2:15-19). Peter described grace in terms of God being long-suffering (2 Peter 3:15). It is long-suffering with struggling, ignorant, and even disobedient believers , which leads to salvation. This is growth salvation, maturing. As we saw with Paul in Romans 7, there is no condemnation and God uses our failure to teach us about this grace. That long-suffering doesn't lead us to dive into unrestrained sin. When the believer really gets a hold of this long-suffering, this grace, he can go and "grow by means of the grace and full experiential knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).
Grace Towards Others
Once we have learned grace (it is an ongoing process), we are not only to live by it in our own lives, but we are to extend that grace to fellow believers. This is indicated by the Greek verb carizomai. The -izw ending is causative, and the meaning is to cause grace toward.*44 In the Ephesians' conflict, Paul encouraged them to be "gracious" with yourselves*45 (Ephesians 4:32). "Forgive" in many English Bibles is this verb. The English translation only hits one facet of this word's meaning. It is broader than forgiveness. It involves many facets of grace. In the context of Christians who have been graced by God in the One who is loved (1:7), it involves the believer relating, for his benefit, to the results of God's grace.
Once a believer has extended this grace to himself, he can then extend it to his fellow believers. So we find Colossians 3:13 "bearing*46 with one another and being gracious with yourselves, if one has a complaint against another. Even as the Lord dealt graciously with you, in this same way, you also." We have seen that with one's self, one needs to focus on the positive benefits of God's grace, not on the negatives, not on the don'ts or failures. So, much division among believers results from neglecting to focus on who we are together in Christ, on the grace that God extends not just to "me" but to "us."
Paul encouraged the Corinthians to exercise or cause grace towards a brother in 2 Corinthians 2:7, 10. We don't know who this brother is, though many have conjectured it is the brother of 1 Corinthians 5.*47 Whoever it may have been, the exhortation is to now treat the brother with grace. "Excommunication" (if that term is even legitimate) is never to be a long term solution, something many believers have forgotten in living by grace. Later in the same letter, Paul asked the Corinthian saints to deal graciously with him (12:13). He had served among them without taking any remuneration. He didn't burden them. The Corinthians were then turned against Paul by false apostles, who claimed Paul had evil motives in not taking anything from them. It was for this, which Paul asked to be treated with grace.
So, what does it take to learn how to live by grace? It starts with Gods' Word. We must learn the facts about grace. We start with a biblical definition of grace. We then move on to find how God has applied salvation to us by means of grace. We then compile a list (mental or on paper) of the benefits God has provided us by His grace. One can not understand grace without the solid concrete revelation of that grace in God's Word.
We then are able to consider the lives, and the actions of believers in Scripture. We saw Paul and Peter learn grace in their practice. That is important because it provides us a divine interpretation of our experience. Our experiences will mirror theirs. We are not left to surmise, or even to make an intelligent guess about our experience. We turn to the pages of Scripture and find out what is happening. Why did Paul record at length his experience in Romans 7? Because, God knew that most believers, if not all of us, would go through the same experience. With Romans 7 in hand, we are able to put our finger on the issue. We are able to say that is what's happening. We interpret our experience in light of Scripture, not the reverse.
Having learned the objective facts of grace, we then face some real challenges in learning to live out God's grace. We need to learn that liberty is for service. We are freed from law and the sin nature. We are freed so we can serve. We need to leave the past accomplishments behind. We'll never live by grace if we're resting on our past works. We need to leave behind our earthly standing. Maybe we're a somebody from the world's point of view. Who cares! Living by grace does not involve our being somebodies. We need to leave behind our extraordinary experiences. It isn't the grand things we've gone through that involve grace. God's grace is seen when we are weak. This of course leads us to the hardest part of this Christian experience, failure. It is hard to learn grace without failing first. A fellow believer once told me that every believer will have his own Romans 7. I disagreed. Now, I agree. We don't want to fail and it runs contrary to practically everything we're taught in popular Christendom, but it is so important that God lets us reach the end of ourselves. We need to see that there is nothing good in us (Romans 7:18). If anything good comes out, it is because of God's work.
This is the process of learning grace: objective truth, practice,
abandoning the past, the status and spectacular, failing. No, it
doesn't end with failure. Failure leads us to know that we are not
condemned! We are graced in Christ! When we learn to appreciate that
grace in our experience, when we can direct that grace to ourselves,
we can in turn direct that grace to others. In that environment, we
really can grow by grace.
Go to Contents
How does chastening fit in the grace system? What purpose does it serve. When I first began to work on the topic of getting grace, this was an appendix, an attempt to answer a "small" side issue. However, as I've continued studying this matter in the context of life under grace, I'm convinced that a proper understanding of chastening is crucial to getting grace. Many Christians don't understand chastening. They view it either as reserved for extreme situations or the norm, the common mode of operation by God. If we can wrap our minds around the role of chastening in this system, it will likely help us to get grace straight.
The word "chasten" translates the Greek paideuw paideuo meaning to train or raise a child. It involves positives and negatives (cp Titus 2:11-13). Sometimes both are in view and sometimes only one side is in view; context must determine the word meaning. The negative or disciplinary side of this work is tied to God's love not His grace (Hebrews 12:6). Grace indicates that which is not deserved. When a believer sins and receives discipline, that discipline is deserved; therefore, God exercises His love toward him. He does what is best for him.
The Scriptures record some acts of discipline. God killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying in Acts 5:1-11. God had brought degrees of sickness and even death on some of the Corinthian saints (1 Corinthians 11:30). The Churches did not enact this discipline. The state*1 did not carry out this discipline. God did. Churches and individuals were responsible to enact some forms of discipline. The Corinthians were told to put an immoral brother out of their assembly (1 Corinthians 5:1-5, 13). The Ephesian Church was to rebuke sinning elders before their assembly (1 Timothy 5:19-20). Where does this fit in the context of life under grace?
It is interesting to note who is disciplined in the Church and why? Ananias and Sapphira experienced discipline because they lied to God before the Church. The Corinthians who were sick and others who had died had shared in communion while maintaining a divided spirit toward their fellow saints. Communion is about a fellowship in Christ's body and blood, as members of the body of Christ, and as those who share in the new covenant. Yet the Corinthians had split over men, holding loyalty to certain of their teacher-leaders (in this case apostles). Some Corinthians were more concerned with justice than their public testimony, and had pursued legal matters before the unsaved. Some Corinthians were more concerned with their liberties than with the spiritual health of fellow saints, and had caused fellow believers to sin. The immoral brother appears to have flaunted his lifestyle in the Church. His fellow believers had become puffed up. Their tolerant pride spread like a leaven and was affecting most of the assembly. The elders who were to be rebuked were pastors, leaders of the assembly. People were to follow their way of life as those men lived what they taught. In each instance, the discipline was a response to actions which were affecting or potentially affecting a local assembly. The discipline was enacted to stop the spread of negative activity.
Even when implemented, discipline was ultimately designed to be corrective not simply punitive. Hebrews 12:8 indicates that all believers are partakers of discipline. We all have times in our lives when God intervenes with discipline. The goal of that discipline is that we might live in such a manner that it (the discipline) yields the peaceable fruit consisting of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11). It is not indicated, the extent of the discipline, but that all will share in some.
God didn't design discipline as the dominant motivation for Christian living. Each case found in the Church involved such a degree of stubbornness on the part of the one sinning that God resorted to discipline. John encouraged saints to ask for a brother that was sinning a sin not unto death (1 John 5:17). A brother could sin a sin unto death and another brother was not to make a request about it. John used two different words for asking in this passage. The first is aitew, to ask. The second is erwtaw, which involved a request or question among equals. Christ addresses the Father in this latter method. He is able to ask as an equal. We are not Christ and do not have the authority to ask God to intervene with a brother sinning a sin unto death. Such a request would likely be a request for death. We are not to make that request. What is the difference between a sin unto death and one not unto death? It was something that John's readers could have understood. The word sin is anartharous; therefore, it is a quality of sin, not a specific act of sin, as some might attempt to identify in a non-biblical list of mortal sins. In the context of 1 John, it would appear to be sin which issues from a persistent lack of love for one's brothers. The believer who does not love His brothers, is remaining at ease*2 in the realm of death (1 John 3:14). Since he remains in that realm and from that lack of love sins against his brother, he is liable. This agrees with the other examples of discipline involving one's relationship to fellow believers.
Therefore, the discipline is used when the believer will not be turned by God's grace. A common question believers ask at this point is, "How long does God wait?" God doesn't tell us. God is long-suffering and gracious. Had God told us how long He would wait, it could have functioned like law and motivated people by fear. Believers would know they could go just this far and then they would have to stop or be disciplined. This is not God's design. God knows the heart of each saint and what is best for each saint. He knows when a heart has become so calloused that it will not respond to His grace.
Church Discipline and Separation
This also affects the way in which Churches practice discipline. No New Testament Scripture indicates that the Church is to inflict any form of corporal punishment. The only form of discipline churches can enact is to exclude fellow believers from gathering with them, that is, separation. I was raised in a church which practiced separation, sometimes going beyond Biblical instruction. Some even practiced secondary separation. Separation involved two individuals or churches which differed over doctrine, usually significant doctrine. However, secondary separation takes this one step farther. Two churches, let's call them A and B agree in doctrine. Church C differs in doctrine from A and B. A separates from C over this doctrinal difference. B does not separate from C. Therefore, A separates from B because B does not separate from C. How did churches ever arrive at this point?
Several New Testament Scriptures do instruct believers on how to respond to deviations in doctrine. In the extreme, a church might have unbelievers who teach or attempt to teach false doctrine which is grossly in error. The church or churches to which John wrote had these kinds of men. They denied that Jesus is God (deity) and/or denied that Jesus had raised bodily from the dead (1 John 2:22-23; 4:2-3). Both of these denials reject who Jesus is as the Christ. To deny either of these truths is to deny the very gospel for salvation. These men were not believers. However, the church did not have to separate from them. The false teachers had separated from the church; they had gone out, because they were not really part of the Church (1 John 2:19). *3 If a church continues to teach God's Word correctly, it does not provide a comfortable environment for false teachers, especially unbelievers. This is because the unbeliever is a soulish [AV natural] man. A soulish man does not welcome the things from the Spirit, because he sees them as foolish [moronic] (1 Corinthians 2:14-15). If such an individual is not allowed to teach openly, and truth is uncompromisingly presented, it is logical that he will only tolerate listening to such teaching to a point and then leave. This, however, is separation of unbelievers from believers. John never told them to leave such people. John explained why the others left.
The issue of separation is stickier when we are talking about believers with believers. When the Church began, the saints were united around the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42). In time, doctrinal questions and differences arose among genuine believers. We considered one such difference in Acts 15. This was not rare. In fact, almost every New Testament letter was written to address errors both in doctrine and practice. We'll briefly survey a few responses, and attempt to draw a conclusion.
We'll begin with a situation which involves a difference of opinion and maturity. Romans 14:1-15:13 addresses this problem. A normal healthy church will have believers at various levels of maturity: new believers, growing believers, maturing believers. *4 It shouldn't surprise us that what might be an issue for a young believer is no longer an issue for a growing or mature saint. A young believer brings a lot of baggage with him, and may have questions that seem to be significant to him: Should I change the things I eat? I used to drink alcohol, but that was part of my old life. Aren't I supposed to observe a special day now that I'm saved? If you've grown, you've probably dealt with those issues or others. However, after you've grown, you might be tempted to treat such questions with disdain, to view them as juvenile, but they're not insignificant to this new believer. Paul instructed both groups about how to relate to one another. He placed the real responsibility on the more mature believer. The mature saint is to put up with or bear with the weaknesses of these immature saints (Romans 15:1). They were to receive these saints into their assemblies. How could believers ever be expected to mature if we kept them out of our assemblies until they were mature enough to enter? Therefore, these matters do not call for separation.
This last situation can give rise to a problem that calls for a form of separation. As Paul closed the letter to the Romans, he briefly revisited the issue. Some in the assembly would make divisions contrary to what Paul had taught (Romans 16:17). This word "division" means a split within the whole, not from the whole, that is, they continued to meet but formed an inner split. They did this by dividing the church between those who were mature and those who were immature, between those who could eat what they liked and those who abstained from certain foods for religious reasons. Those who made such divisions ignored Paul's instructions about how to relate to one another. They did so because they served their own bellies, quite literally, they were more concerned about what they could eat or drink, than with how their food and drink would affect their brothers (v. 18). Their behavior potentially hindered [skandalizw] the growth of other saints. Paul wrote the Romans to mark or keep their eye on those believers and to avoid them (v. 17). The verb ekklinw does not mean "kick them out of the church," but to lean out of the way when they come by. Since they are selfishly disrupting the fellowship in the church, by avoiding them, the Romans were not offering them close fellowship. In fact, fellowship is hindered by the very fact that they were not sharing in common.
When Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy, Timothy was facing greater false teaching than earlier. Some were even teaching that the resurrection had already happened (2 Timothy 2:17-18). This affected other believers by overturning their faith or literally "the faith of them." "The faith" is not an individual's faith in God, but a reference to a set of truths describing how to live the Christian life. It is on this background that Paul told Timothy to cleanse himself, so he could be a vessel fit for God's use. The vessels describe kinds of believers in the household of God.*5 The act of cleansing then involved Timothy's avoiding those teachers (v. 16). Again, if Timothy, being in a position of authority with the Ephesian Church, did not give them audience, it would be effective in dealing with this problem. Timothy wasn't told to remove them from the church but personally to avoid these false teachers.
Paul told Titus to treat heretics *6 similarly (Titus 3:8-10). These heretics were teaching law as a way of life, as opposed to grace. Paul spent the last half of Titus 1 dealing with the errant law teaching. Titus was told to warn these heretics twice and then refuse to give them time or attention. It is interesting that false teachers want to bring up their favorite error in almost every situation. Titus was to warn them once and point them to grace, a second time, and after that, "We've already discussed this, no!" He was not told to kick these people out of the church, but to warn and then refuse them an audience.
These are just a few examples, but they do not align with the popular separation doctrine. Churches stayed together and were told how to respond to deviations. Believers are to relate to other believers by grace. However, sometimes, because of persistent behavioral problems, churches are to relate differently to certain believers while those believers continue in the assembly. In extreme cases, such as the immoral brother, a church might exclude a brother from entering into their meeting, until such a time that the brother ends his behavior. Then the church treats him graciously again. However, most of the time our experiences will involve the above types of situations.
God's Chastening Work
Now, lets turn back to the issue of God's work of chastening. Under grace, God does chasten. Every one of us will experience some discipline from God. God even directs churches to implement discipline on some believers. When God chastens, He does so from love. It would seem that the churches also could or should direct love in such situations by implementing discipline. They should desire the best for their fellow believer, who they do not allow to meet with them. They do not wish to treat him viciously. In fact, Paul warned against treating them like enemies (2 Thessalonians 3:15). This is love, as distinct from grace. Grace is the normal way of life towards other believers.
The book of Hebrews provides a good illustration of grace and chastening. However, in order to understand this we must understand the nature of the book of Hebrews. The letter to the Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who had never left Judaism. Acts 21 indicates that the Jewish believers in Jerusalem were still going to the temple, still keeping the Jewish feasts, and still engaging in the Jewish sacrificial system. Almost two millennia later, that seems hard for us to swallow, because we have incorrectly thought that the Jewish sacrificial system was in some way related to their initial salvation. However, the temple, the priests, and the sacrificial system was not about initial salvation, but how the Jews had access to God at the temple. The Hebrew believers knew that their salvation was based upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What they didn't know was that their present daily access to God was also based on the person of Jesus Christ. They thought that their access to God was still based on their temple and the sacrificial system.
As background to the book, it appears that these Jewish Christians had been recently excommunicated from the temple. They were no longer allowed to come to the priests and participate in the sacrificial system. Therefore, they thought their access to God had been cut off. Under the Mosaic Law, one of the penalties for disobedience was being cut off from the people. Being cut meant that one had no access to God. It is often taught that these were considering returning to Judaism. No. They had never left Judaism, but had been recently forced out. Their problem was that some were considering giving up assembling with believers. They had a church. They had been assembling with believers. As a church, they agreed verbally regarding Jesus Christ. However, thinking they no longer had access to God, some felt they could abandon the church and be allowed to return to the temple. This was the circumstance of these Hebrew believers.
Hebrews was written to explain that the Jewish system was done. It was written prior to the fall of Jerusalem, encouraging these Jews to leave Judaism while they could do so willingly. In a short time, Jerusalem would fall and it would be impossible for them to go to the temple, for the temple would be a pile of rubble. Without the temple, the sacrificial system would be ended. Without the temple and sacrificial system the priesthood would have no purpose. Therefore, they should leave Judaism while they could leave willingly.
Therefore, the writer of Hebrews challenged these believers to live their salvation, to hold fast to the hope (Hebrews 3:6), to hold fast to their agreement (confession) (Hebrews 4:14), to hold fast to their agreement of the hope (Hebrews 10:23), and finally to go outside the camp [of Judaism] and bear Christ's reproaches (Hebrews 13:13). This last passage meant simply that they needed to leave Judaism and start living like Christians. To encourage them along this path, the writer contrasted the old way of life under the Law to the better way of life under grace. They could enjoy and rely upon these new things. They had better revelation than that spoken through angels, namely the Old Testament Mosaic Law (1:4; 2:2). They had a better covenant based upon better promises than the Mosaic Law Covenant (7:22; 8:6). They had a better hope, the hope of drawing near to God and maturing. This was contrasted to the hope under Law of approaching God in the tabernacle and having rest in the land of promise (7:19). They had a better sacrifice consisting of Christ, who offered Himself in place of the believer. That sacrifice is contrasted to the perpetual animal sacrifices under the Law (9:23, 26). They had better possessions in heaven which could not be taken away as one's personal property here (10:34).
Woven with these better things and the challenge to live them out are five warnings. The first was the warning against drifting (2:1-3). These believers could drift if they didn't keep their attention on their salvation. Their salvation involved the things they had heard. Their salvation is described as "so great a salvation." It is an extensive salvation, graciously and abundantly supplied. It is based on so great a work as our Savior condescending, dying and rising again. But by focusing on their earthly struggle, they could lose the focus on their salvation. Though they might drift they could not escape God. God had begun a good work in them and He would complete it. From what would they attempt to escape? Though unstated, it is implied from verse two, "a righteous payback." The nature of that payback is not specified at this point of the letter.
The second warning was to not doubt that God could give them rest (3:12, 4:1). Israel had not entered their rest in the land, and these might not enter their rest. They could only enter by faith. This rest in Hebrews 4 is not heaven, but a rest in this life, a rest from one's spiritual labors. A Jew under Law always had to live by the law, so that He could have access to God. We now have access based upon the person of Jesus Christ. Faith is a response which produces some action. When one initially believes in the work of Christ, he ceases any attempts to secure salvation by his own efforts. If these Jewish believers would believe that God could give them rest, they would cease from their efforts to gain access to God. One had to believe that he had that access to God at a throne of grace. If he was trying to live by law, he couldn't enter. He needed to rest from his law works and enter that rest. If one didn't believe that God could give him that rest, then he wouldn't enter it. He'd spend the rest of his life on earth trying to live up to a set of standards, and never resting.
They were next warned against refusing to mature (5:12-6:8). They had time to mature, enough time that they could have become teachers (5:12). However, they were still immature. So they were to let God carry them *7 on to maturity. However, they could be carried on to maturity only if God let them (if God permits). Why wouldn't God permit them? If they refused to mature by God's plan, and tried to mature by law. This would never happen. This would offend God. The word "fall away" *8 is a participial form of the word "trespass." A trespass is an act of offense against a person.*9 This act is one of several acts:*10 being enlightened, tasting, becoming partakers, tasting and then trespassing. In other words, they have had time to grow, they've shared in all the experiences common to believers, but then chose to remain under law. They trespass against God by refusing His means of maturing. God would only permit them to be carried along to maturity if they would leave the law behind and begin living by grace.
In chapter ten, the writer warned his readers not to despise the Spirit of grace (10:29). The believers had a new and living way into the heavenly holy of holies (10:19-20). They could enter with boldness, because that entrance is Jesus Christ. He is alive, and in heaven, and our position in the Father's presence. The writer encouraged them to enter that heavenly position. He then added that they ought to consider other believers. They could prod and sharpen other believers onto love, and they could encourage other believers (vv. 24-25). They could stick with their fellow believers in their local church. Some had abandoned their fellow believers, and were no longer meeting together. By abandoning the assembling with believers, they were trampling Christ before unsaved Jews, counting the blood of the covenant a common thing, and treating the Spirit of grace with arrogance. These Jewish believers needed to know that there was no more sacrifice for sin (v. 26). They might be able to go to the temple and offer a sacrifice, but God would no longer provide any forgiveness in that manner.
What would remain was an expectation of judgment (v. 27). Under law, God brought judgment on His people for their disobedience. Under grace, God might bring chastening, but He might not. However, because these believers weren't living by grace, they would expect God to respond as He did under law. Living with the expectation of judgment would cause them to become mentally wearied. They would also be left with fiery zeal*11 to consume the enemies. This is often applied to God, but God will not consume His own with fire. Believers who refuse to go on and mature, who choose to stay behind, often turn on their fellow believers. Believers who go on to maturity are to them, a painful reminder that they are not doing God's will. As a result they are consumed by zeal regarding those fellow believers. Under law, a person died at the testimony of two witnesses. The writer asked about those who would not go on, "How much worse punishment do you think he shall be considered worthy of?" What is this worse punishment? It could involve a physical ailment as in 1 Corinthians 11, which might be worse than dying. However, in the context, living as a failure in the Christian life, is a miserable condition. Remember how Paul felt at the end of Romans 7, "O, wretched man that I am." Some Christians who have failed horribly and still refuse to go on, wish they could die because it would be better than living in failure.
The final warning, involved four things for which they were to
that no one lack regarding the grace from God (Hebrews 12:15);
that no root of bitterness springs up (v. 15);
that no one become immoral or profane like Esau (v. 16);
that they not refuse God (vv. 25-27).
In the first instance, if they continued trying to live by law, they would not be living by grace. In the second, if they didn't live by grace, a root of bitterness could spring up. This is similar to the warning in chapter 10. Others will be inheriting the birth-right, enjoying the rest, and continuing to focus on their salvation. Bitterness would arise as one who doesn't live by grace, watches those who do. Thirdly, this is like Esau. He was a fornicator. The writer of Hebrews used fornicator in a broad sense. Esau's parents were grieved by his wives, women taken from the Hittites (Genesis 26:34-35; 28:8). Isaac instructed Jacob to find a wife from another family, because of the grief caused by Esau's Hittite wives (Genesis 27:46-28:2, 6). Esau responded by seeking more wives, this time from the family of his uncle Ishmael (28:8-9). Esau's fornication was broadly in taking wives from families that were not part of God's plan. *12 So, these Christians might engage themselves with the unbelieving Jewish community in a manner that would be considered fornication for the New Testament believer. Or, he might be profane, counting common the birthright which God has given to us as heirs. In Hebrews 12:23, we are described as the church of firstborn ones. *13 The first born is the heir and like Esau, the believer can lose this part of his inheritance. This inheritance is not in the future but in the present. That inheritance includes the promise of rest. If this involved a future inheritance then grace would be overturned, making our future depend on our present merit. In either case, they would be refusing God.
Now, let's collate this information, because we'll see a picture of chastening related to grace. First, in each case, the writer points the believers to the better things he has. The writer encourages the saints to enjoy or experience those better things. As the letter builds, so does the extent of the better things. A better revelation, a better rest, a better maturity, a better access, and better things. In a similar manner the warnings grow: you can't run away, you don't want to miss the rest, you don't want to remain immature, you don't want to fall into the hands of God, you don't want to refuse the God who speaks from heaven. This is grace and chastening. God first points us to grace and encourages us to live by grace. If believers fail to live by grace, and resist God's wooing to enjoy the benefits of grace, to rise above and rest in Christ, God begins to exercise discipline. God does so, because God loves His son. He desires more for him than the son wants himself. However, at any time that the believer should realize that God does have better things, he can turn and begin to enjoy God's gracious provisions. As the writer of Hebrews said, "I am persuaded better things regarding you, even things which accompany salvation."
An Illustration of ChasteningI would like to conclude our brief look at chastening with an extended biblical illustration of its relationship to grace. I realize that this illustration might be controversial, and some Bible students may disagree with the interpretation of the facts. This illustration comes from the life of the apostle Paul and it revolves, in part, around the word: anathema.
Anathema! That was Paul's charge against those who preached a gospel different than that which Paul proclaimed. The meaning of anathema is generally accepted as "'a curse' or 'a thing devoted to destruction'".*14 This translation follows a restricted use of the word! A similar form [anath`ema] related to anathema is considered distinct. J.B. Lightfoot wrote, "But though originally the same, the two forms gradually diverged in meaning; anath`ema getting to signify 'devoted' in a good, and anathema in a bad sense."*15 But as he goes on to point out this is only a general distinction and some writers gave both definitions to anathema. Joseph Thayer cited both ideas under anathema.*16
Let's look at three occurrences of the word anathema. *17 Paul wrote that he wished to be accursed from Christ, in order to see Jews come to salvation (Romans 9:3). Paul wasn't wishing to lose his salvation, or to go to hell so they could be saved. That would have made Paul their savior rather than Christ. Paul wished to be divested of his blessings if that would help. Paul knew he couldn't lose his salvation (Romans 8:38-39). Paul wished that he could give up his gracious way of life in Christ to see Jews saved. However, by describing God's sovereign dealings, he knew it wouldn't change the divine design. In Acts, we find a group of Jews who devoted themselves to be "set up" from food until Paul was destroyed (Acts 23:12, 14, 21). They were going to deprive themselves of the joy and necessity of food to accomplish their purpose. They weren't asking for hell, but were setting themselves aside from the normal way of living. Finally, when Peter denied Christ, "he began to curse, to swear off" (Mark 14:71). Peter set Christ aside as insignificant. He set Christ away from himself. In none of these instances was the idea cursed to hell or eternal damnation. In every instance, it was separation from present benefits. Remember, that both forms anathema and anath`ema retained the idea of something or someone that was set aside in devotion to God. While anath`ema meant to devote for good use to God, anathema referred to devotion for mistreatment, deprivation, or discipline. In reality the content or extent of the deprivation must be determined by context, for it is not inherent in the word.
The word gospel refers to several different messages in the New Testament. Most Christians think of Romans 1:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 when they read the word gospel. This is the gospel for initial salvation (see chapter three Saved By Grace). It is not, however, the only gospel in Scripture. The good news in Romans 1:16 is for the unsaved and we believers proclaim it.
The New Testament reveals other gospels or good news for Christians. Once a person believes in Christ as his own savior, there are other announcements God has that are good news. One of those gospels explains how the believer matures in conjunction with the Holy Spirit's ministry. This was the issue in Galatians, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:1-3 ESV). The problem was not how a person is saved initially, but how one who is saved, goes on to maturity. Maturity is the idea in the word "perfected." Some were trying to teach the Galatians to mature by law, while Paul taught them to be led by the Spirit and to operate in Christ (cp Galatians 5:17).
What has this to do with the anathema of Galatians 1:8-9? Paul declared that if anyone, himself included, were to proclaim any other means of maturing, any other way of moving towards God's design for the Christian, that person should be deprived of benefits, set up, set aside or shelved. In fact, Paul even wrote this in other words, "You are rendered ineffective away from Christ, those who are being declared righteous by law" (5:4). *18 When one turns to the law, he separates himself from the only place in which he will be effective. He isn't taken out of Christ, but neither is he living above in Christ. In that context, the Spirit does not work through him.
Paul mentioned one other group which could have been anathemaed, angels (1:8). This is more difficult to deal with. The eternal state of the angels has already been established and evidenced from their departure with Satan. So this statement could not deal with the eternal destiny of these spirit beings. Angels were involved in the giving of the Law (Acts 7:53). The misleading teachers, might have appealed to the ministry of angels to bolster their position. Paul said if even angels went contrary to God's present work, they would be anathemaed.
In Acts, Luke recorded one of Paul's trips to Jerusalem. Prior to this trip, however, Paul was warned by the Spirit not to go (21:4, 11).*19 He went. Arriving in Jerusalem, Paul related what God was doing among the Gentiles, and this caused the brothers to glorify God. Yet immediately Luke tells us that they expressed their concern for the thousands of Jewish believers who were still zealous of the Law (Acts 21:19-20). Word had reached the Jewish believers, that Paul was teaching the Jews out among the Gentiles not to circumcise their children, and not to guard the law of Moses (v. 21). In Galatians, Paul had written, "circumcision makes nothing strong, neither uncircumcision" (Galatians 5:6) and "circumcision is nothing, neither uncircumcision" (Galatians 6:15). If you were a Jew, what would that mean to you? It would mean, "Don't waste your time circumcising your boys." If you weren't going to practice circumcision, then why would they continue to keep law? Was this grace way of life only for Gentile Christians? No. So, in a very real sense, Paul was teaching Jews to stop living by law, as a way of life.
The leaders of the Jerusalem church asked Paul to take some steps that would assure the believing Jews that he was not doing this. They asked him to take four Jewish men with vows, purify himself and pay the expenses so the men could shave their heads (Acts 21:23-24). What was involved in shaving their heads? They each had to offer a sacrifice so they could shave their heads (21:26). Paul agreed to this. He agreed to pay for Jewish ritual sacrifices! Paul was indicating that it was okay for Jewish Christians to continue practicing the Jewish law system as a way of life. He was giving his consent to another good news.
Did Paul come under the anathema of Galatians 1? Yes. He was seized in the temple, and through a series of events, spent the next two years in prison. Luke provided us quite an account of Paul's time in prison, and Paul accomplished very little. He came near to communicating the gospel with some Roman officials, but Luke never tells us that Paul was carrying on any extensive ministry. God put Paul aside. We might say, He benched Paul. Did God permanently set Paul on the shelf? No. He slowly allowed Paul to resume his God-given ministry. Though still in chains, Acts ends "And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching unhindered concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness" (Acts 28:30-31).
God disciplined Paul. In our impatient society, two years seems
rather long to us. However, it was necessary for God to get across His
point regarding grace. Paul knew the message, but like all of us,
learning to practice that message is nine tenths of the process.
Thankfully, God is faithful to keep on working, to keep on bringing us
to that point, teaching, letting us fall, sometimes exercising
discipline, but ultimately moving us to conformity to Christ.
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A friend once commented that teaching on the biblical nature of sin is a sure way to start a fight between Christians. I don't want to start a fight, but it is necessary for us to look at the issue of sin as it relates to grace.*1 We need this because people go to extremes. I've gone to extremes. We learn a little bit of truth and run with it. We might get a bit of the Biblical definition of grace and neglect what God intends His grace to teach us. Remember, grace frees us, and part of that freedom is denying ungodliness and worldly lusts*2 (Titus 2:11-12).
One extreme is a near denial of the Biblical doctrine of sin. Just as some Christians back away from grace in practice, so others nearly deny that sin is a concern. On the other hand, some elements of fundamentalism have stood so firmly on the issue of sin that they have effectively stepped back from living by grace, tagging it a license for loose living. I trust that in the preceding pages I have demonstrated a high view of Scripture and adherence to the doctrinal tenets of sound evangelical fundamentalism. I also believe that if to this point we have followed the Scriptures' teaching about grace, what we will see about sin will be easy to understand. So lets ask some questions. What is sin? Can sin exist under a grace system? Is sin an absolute? How does sin affect our salvation?
Sin is one of several words which fall under the larger heading of unrighteousness. God does not have an attribute called "not sin." He is righteous. Activity, thoughts, and character which are contrary to God's are unrighteous. In Romans one, Paul traced the downward decline of man.*3 He cited three consecutive times when God gave mankind over, allowing them to express their fallen nature in increasing depravity (Romans 1:24, 26, 28). Simply, God let man act worse and worse. Paul introduced this by contrasting the unrighteousness of man to the righteousness of God (Romans 1:17-18). The result of man's decline was being filled with all unrighteousness, which Paul then summarized in Romans 1:29-31.
One of the unrighteous qualities in Romans 1:31 is expressed by the Greek asunetos. The A.V. and NASB translate it "without understanding" and the NET and NIV "senseless." Paul chose this word to express the inability to formulate reasonable ideas or conclusions based on available information. Romans 2:3 provides an example. A man does the very action for which he judges another, and concludes that he will escape the same judgment. This shows a lack of understanding. Is that lack of understanding sin? Is the inability to put facts together and draw reasonable conclusions sin? No, but it is unrighteous, because it is contrary to God's righteous character. God is always able to draw proper conclusions. Therefore, not everything in this list is sin, but all are unrighteous.
John wrote that all unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17). At first this appears to equate the two, however John omitted the definite article (like our "the") before both words. In Greek this meant that everything which has the character of unrighteousness has the character of sin. It is similar to saying that all men have the character of fathers. Yet all men are not fathers. "Here, having implied that sins committed by believers (sins "not to death") may be prayed for and forgiven, the author does not want to leave the impression that such sin is insignificant, because this could be viewed as a concession to the views of the opponents (who as moral indifferentists have downplayed the significance of sin in the Christian's life)."*4 While believers are to agree regarding our sins, God cleanses us of more than just sins but all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Just because an action isn't sin doesn't make it insignificant. Christ not only died for our sins but our trespasses (Ephesians 1:7; see 2:1). *5 An unrighteous action is as serious as one specifically identified by God as sin.
Now lets look specifically at sin. Two word families are properly translated sin: the Hebrew chata and the Greek hamartia. Both word families have in their background some idea of a miss: a misstep, or a missing of a mark.*6 If a man aimed at a target but missed it, that would be a chata. So, does this mean in spiritual terms, if a man is trying to get to/at God's will but fails, he has sinned? If a man attempts to use the fruit from the Spirit, especially love, long-suffering and kindness, but in the face of other's unrighteousness becomes angry, has he sinned? Paul indicated it isn't sin. He wrote, "Be angry and don't sin ..." (Ephesians 4:26). "Be angry" is a verb in the imperative mood. It is also one of two Greek words which describe God's wrath. Since God uses it, it can't be sin in itself. In the context, Paul instructed the Ephesians to be angry about the problem of division in their assembly. He warned them not to sin while angry. While it isn't sin or unrighteous to be angry, the believer must be cautious because it is an attitude which tends to foster unrighteous actions. Unlike God, we have a sin nature which often responds due to anger. We are not righteous like God, so we tend to respond unrighteously. This passage illustrates the problem of defining sin.
Though the Scriptures are clear that anger is not sin, some would call it sin. Here lies the problem, different individuals, churches or organizations have their pet sins and issues. I once sat under a ministry where at least once a month we heard of the evils of alcohol and cigarettes, though I didn't know of anyone in attendance who participated in these activities. Therefore, even though Paul told Timothy to drink wine for his stomach, we were told it was sin (and Timothy was drinking grape juice). I've been told that missing church services, perhaps because of company visiting, is sin. There are lists of other activities which some identify as sin: attending movies, attending theatrical productions, listening to rock music or any music which is not traditional and religious, dancing, playing cards, not obeying church leadership (even if they are out of line), enrolling one's children in public school, sending them to a secular college instead of a Bible college, spending time in ministry activity with Christians who don't hold to all of our doctrinal standards. OK, enough picking on the conservatives (I consider myself generally one).
Others also have their lists of sins. I had a good friend whose church taught that owning more than one home was sin, because they should care for the many impoverished in the world. They applied this to expensive (how expensive?) vacations and cars. Hence they classified sin as social irresponsibility. Some Churches teach that failure to seek reconciliation (racial, social, political) is sin. Are white American Christians sinning by not apologizing for the slavery enacted by our ancestors (if indeed our ancestors were even in America at that time)? If Christians sit by while others (Christians or non-Christians) around the world live under unjust regimes, are they sinning? Do you see that defining sin without sticking to Scripture is difficult?
Sin is Lawlessness
Even when we stick to Scripture, all the above groups have verses they use to support their pet sins. Some passages are totally out of context and others strained, but some appear to be valid. John provides us the best definition of sin in 1 John 3:4, "The sin is the lawlessness." In 1 John 5:17, the words sin and unrighteousness had no articles (anarthrous), but here sin and lawlessness have articles. This was John's way of telling his readers that these are the same. "Sin, then, is not merely a failure to measure up or a weakness, it is an active and purposeful refusal to conform to law." *7 If etymologically, sin is a missing of the mark, then biblically, sin is the intentional missing, it is shooting at the wrong target on purpose.
Lawlessness is acting without restraint or limits. *8 Therefore, a man sins when he acts as though he has no boundaries or restraints. We have already seen that today we live by grace and not by law. Therefore, the boundaries or limits are not legal boundaries. "No particular code of laws, such as the Mosaic system, is in view here."*9 We do not have boundaries involving prohibitions such as "Thou shalt not ..." So, what are the boundaries?
We have seen that grace as a way of life has its basis in our relationships to God. Summarized, those relationships result from regeneration and Spirit baptism. The former makes us God's children, and the latter puts us in Christ where we are sons. In the context of 1 John 3:4, John states both relationships. First in 3:1 we are children because of God's unique sort of love. Second in 3:6 we are to abide (be at ease) in Him (Christ).*10 So what are the boundaries for the believer? His relationship to God as a child and his relationship to God in Christ. Those are positive boundaries. They are boundaries which John described as love. When the believer chooses to act outside these boundaries, his actions are normally unrighteous and become sin.
A lawless believer is acting without regard to his status as child or son. He may claim it as liberty, but fails to remember that he is free in Christ. Outside of Christ is slavery. To see this, let's look at some actions which God specifically calls sin. As we do, keep in mind the boundaries for the believer today, and see how they compare with each context.
Not Doing God's Will
We begin with James 4:17, "For the one who knows to do good, but isn't doing it, for him it is sin." This at first appears rather broad and has been used to support many, if not all, the catalogs of sin mentioned earlier. Yet in the context, James was writing about Christians who developed a plan for their lives without ever considering whether it was God's will. James was written to scattered Israeli believers (James 1:1). When you were scattered at their time, you left your job, left your home, and took with you only those few possessions that you could carry. There were no realtors or U-Hauls, and when you left because of persecution, no one cared to help you, or took up your cause. As a result they had lost their possessions and status.
When James wrote, some were attempting to regain their status and possessions. Some were showing favoritism to the rich and shunning the poor. In their pursuit of wealth and renewed status, some had made plans and never stopped to consider God's plans. We can relate to this, because we rarely consider seriously the possibility that God wants us to stay put, be satisfied with a living wage, or even to go without, to be a nobody, joyously doing a crumby job. Therefore, two people may do the same act and for one it is sin and for the other it is not. It is sin for the former because he has engaged in this course of action without taking God's will into account, while the latter has. Donald Burdick pointed out that lawlessness is "the repudiation of the expressed will of God."*11 This demonstrates that sin is not an absolute, for in this case it depends upon man's knowledge. Under law, Israel could sin in ignorance, that is not true today (Leviticus 4:13-14).
James' statement can also be placed in the larger context of
God's will. God has revealed many activities which He desires the
believer to do. A number are specifically identified.
Present your body a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).
Be transformed by the renewed nature*13 of your mind (Romans 12:2).
Use your spiritual gift for others (1 Corinthians 12:18).
Give yourself to the Lord and to your brothers (2 Corinthians 8:5).
Be filled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:17-18).
Serve the Lord as a slave (Ephesians 6:6-7).
Walk in a manner which is worthy of the Lord by being fruitful and growing (Colossians 1:9, 10).
Know in your experience the riches consisting of the glory because Christ is in you (Colossians 1:27).
Be set apart specifically by refraining from immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18).
Worship without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).
Give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Do good so you silence foolish men by your actions (1 Peter 2:15).
Doing good and sometimes suffering for doing so (1 Peter 3:17; 4:19).
Ask for yourself and for others according to God's will (1 John 5:14-15).
God desires or wishes these for the believer, but He allows us to choose obedience or disobedience. Many if not all these shape the idea of doing God's will. The second in the list, "be transformed" is contrasted to "don't be conformed to the age." *14 That age uses material prosperity to gauge a person's obedience. Therefore, having material wealth would make one appear to be a good law-keeper. Yet pursuing this gave rise to the very problems James addressed. James four begins with problems arising from the pursuit of wealth. Therefore, if a believer knows he should consider and do God's will and does not do it, in that context it is sin.
In this same context, James addressed the sin of partiality. People who are somebodies would seem to be more help in restoring the wealth and status of these believers. Therefore, some saints were showing partiality within the body. They played favorites with the well-to-do and told the poor brother to sit on the floor (James 2:1-4). James said this is sin (James 2:9). If you think about it, this is a form of idolatry. They idolize the rich, and cater to them in hopes of currying favor. James addressed in this same chapter the neglect of the basic need of brothers and sisters: food, clothing, shelter (James 2:15). To these they only had words, and offered no help. James asked if that kind of faith can save (James 2:14). James used the word "save" to refer to spiritual growth. He never questioned whether this was a brother. Rather, he wanted his readers to realize that a faith which does not act, certainly won't bring on spiritual growth. The believer who lives by grace is to be gracious to his brothers. He is to relate to them as members of the body, where no differences exist. Favoritism is outside the boundaries of our position in the body of Christ.
Being A Heretic
Paul left Titus on Crete to set in order certain matters in the churches: doctrinal problems and appointment of bishops (pastors). One of the prominent problems among the Cretan churches was law-teaching (Titus 1:13-15).*15 Paul wrote Titus about dealing with these law-teachers, and at the end of the letter warned him not to get into fights regarding law (3:9). It is a temptation to engage others, for we are certain we can show them the light. But this rarely works. Rather, Paul told Titus to warn such an heretic two times and then to avoid *16 the issue (3:10). He is a heretic, because he is choosing what he believes in the face of clear revelation that we are no longer under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). He is also a heretic, because he is likely drawing a following around his deviation (Titus 1:10-11). Paul then pointed out that such a man sins being self-condemned (Titus 3:11). He is self-condemned because that is what law brings, for no one can live flawlessly under Law. He is sinning, because He is living outside the gracious boundaries of his position in Christ (2:11-12).
Actions Between Mature and Immature Believers
Mature believers have learned that nothing is unclean of itself (Titus 1:15). As a result, mature believers can eat and drink anything, and participate in various activities which are not in conflict with God's righteousness. However, when people get saved, they have a past. God sends away that past, but the individual often brings it with him. As a result, an immature believer may have areas of struggle with which the mature believer has no struggle. The immature is worried that certain foods, drinks, or secular activities might damage his relationship with God. It is the responsibility of the mature believer to look out for these weaknesses in his immature brothers (Romans 15:1). When an immature brother sees or knows of a mature brother doing those activities, it can trip him up (1 Corinthians 8:9). Trip up*17 means that his actions encourage the immature to do the same. The immature brother isn't yet convinced that he can eat or drink without consequence to his relationship with God. Yet, he copies the actions of his mature brother. Paul dealt with the same issue in Romans 14, where he said that the immature believer sins because he acts while doubting (14:22-23). He isn't convinced that his actions are God's will or are righteous, but he does it because of the influence of his mature brother. This is related to the matter in James 4, he is acting without regard to God's will. For this reason it is a sin for a strong brother to knowingly influence his weak brother to act while doubting (1 Corinthians 8:12). In both cases, the actions are intentional and outside of God's revealed will. The mature is not treating his brother as a member of the body. The weak is not acting because of his freedom in Christ, but because of the actions of his mature brother. Both sin in this context.
In Acts five we read the account of a couple who lied to the church. They had sold some property and agreed to give some of it to the church (Acts 5:1-2). They allowed the church to think they gave the whole sum. Keeping some back was not the issue. Keeping some back, when they let the church believe they gave it all, made their act a lie. When Peter addressed them, he told them that they had not lied to men but to God, to the Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). Later in Acts nine, when Paul was persecuting the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Paul asking, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4). Christ's union with His church is so intimate, that He took personally Paul's actions against His body on earth. Likewise, in Acts five, the Spirit's relationship to the church is so intimate, that the lie told to the church was really a lie to the Spirit. It is an act outside the sphere of our union (all of us) in Christ.
In our last chapter, we considered the role of chastening and church discipline in a grace system. As an apostle, Paul could demand that a church exercise discipline on certain members. Some believers in Corinth had begun to think rather highly of themselves (1 Corinthians 4:7-18). In his second letter to them, they had come under the influence of false apostles, men who were not even believers, men who were attempting to discredit Paul (2 Corinthians 11:12-15). This influence was not good. It didn't encourage the Corinthian saints to relate to God in His grace. Rather, some had sinned and had not changed their minds about their past behavior (2 Corinthians 12:20-13:2). This behavior involved three forms of sexual immorality. In his first letter, Paul pictured one such action as, "Shall I make the members of the Christ, members of a prostitute" (1 Corinthians 6:15). Again, such acts fail to see one's self as an intimate member of the body of Christ, and has no care for the effects of such actions.
Paul considered himself the foremost sinner (1 Timothy 1:15). In verse thirteen, Paul pictured the idea of foremost. He had been a blasphemer (a form of lying), a persecutor, and an arrogant person. This was Paul's past. Yet these may help us understand his warning about sinning while angry (Ephesians 4:26). In his arrogant zeal and anger, Paul had persecuted people and had made false claims about God (blasphemy). It is easy when we are angry with our brothers in Christ, to make their lives miserable, and to even make false claims about God regarding them. We fail to operate in Christ when we know better.
Does grace mean that sin is not an issue? No! All our sins were judicially forgiven. Yet sin has effects? Chastening is one potential effect of sin. John wrote 1 John because he wanted his readers to have fellowship with him (1 John 1:3-4). Fellowship involves sharing something in common.*18 In this letter, eternal life is the common thing shared. For John, the chief way in which we share eternal life in common is by loving one another, fulfilling the new commandment (1 John 2:7-8). *19 However, this desired fellowship was derailed by the departure of some unbelieving false teachers from these assemblies (1 John 2:19). At first, we might think that would have been a good thing, and indeed it should have been. Yet these saints had responded differently to these teachers. Some were wondering if their teaching had some validity. Some were wondering if their methods might be worth adopting. Others were unaffected but weren't stepping up to help.*20 The false teachers made several false claims, some were serious lies about the person of God the Son and some were lies about the nature of the Christian.
The first lie John addressed involved the false claim that one shared something in common with God while living one's life (walking) in darkness (1 John 1:6). We don't have to be philosophical to figure out what light and darkness are. John explained light in John 1:4. It is God's kind of life, which Jesus Christ made visible through His earthly life. Darkness is the absence of that visible life. It is absent either because one does not have the life, as in the case of an unbeliever, or the failure of the believer to use that life, as in the case of believers who have come under the influence of false teaching. Therefore, a believer who claims to know (in his experience) God but is not loving his brother, is living his life in darkness (1 John 2:9). This one is not living out eternal life. So, in 1:6, we find a believer claiming fellowship with God, but not living out God's life; he is not loving his brothers. This one is lying and is not practicing the Truth. In contrast, believers who live their lives like the Son does, have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7). These benefit from an ongoing cleansing from all qualities (effects) of sin. We've seen that we are not permanently free from sin or its presence. Even the believer who lives his life in keeping with God's will is affected by sin. He needs this cleansing to avoid a disruption to the fellowship.
The second lie is that we don't have sin (1 John 1:8). Apparently some of the false teachers had presented the idea that sin is not an issue for the believer. This is not only a lie to others but to one's self, "we lead ourselves astray" (v. 8). Believers know that we are freed from sin, but should be able to recognize that sin is still present. In John eight, Jesus addressed a group of Jews about their need to believe that He is the I AM (John 8:24). Many believed in Him (John 8:30). To those who believed (the rest of the crowd remained and listened),*21 Jesus said that if they remained at ease in His words, then they would truly be His disciples (John 8:31). He promised them that in the future they would know the truth and it would free them (John 8:32). Jesus had to explain that the freedom of which he spoke was freedom from sin, specifically what we popularly call the sin nature *22 (John 8:34). When the believer lives his life in this freedom, God then accomplishes works through him (John 3:21). If a believer claims that sin is not an issue, he is claiming that he has no need of the Truth. The Truth, which explains the how to live in freedom, can not be in one who denies the need for the Truth.
Rather than deny the issue of sin, John wrote that they should agree with God regarding their sins (1 John 1:9). Denying one has any sin problem, even denying the existence of a sin nature will not help. It's still present. Biblical confession is the act of agreeing. When one confessed Christ, he agreed to Christ's claims about Himself. When one confessed bodily resurrection and angels, one agreed they exist. If one agrees with God regarding the sin nature, rather than denying it, God forgives the sins. This issue of forgiveness has resulted in various views on this passage. Some understand John to be describing initial salvation, but the context is addressed to issues with which believers were struggling. Some understand it as restoration to salvation after one has lost salvation, yet loss of salvation is not possible, especially when one grasps the nature of God's grace. Some understand this as a cleansing from sin to restore fellowship within God's family. This latter view is closer to John's point, but I do not believe that John was setting up a Christian confessional in which we approach God, confess, get cleansed, and are restored. None of these interpretations fit the context.
John was contrasting the denial of the sin nature to the agreement that the sin nature is a problem. When the believer agrees with God, God responds by sending the sin nature issue away. This removes an obstacle to the believer enjoying fellowship. In fact, God not only addresses the issue of the sin nature, but all unrighteousness. Remember, unrighteousness is larger than sin. One can not experience freedom from something he refuses to acknowledge. So, if the believer wishes to have fellowship, he needs to experience freedom. If the believer wishes to experience freedom regarding his sin nature, he needs to acknowledge it exists. Paul in Romans 6-8 and Galatians 5 explained how the Truth works. John did not elaborate on how to experience freedom, that is, he didn't explain the Truth. He assumed his readers already knew of what he wrote. He was concerned that they practice the Truth.
Do you see, a proper recognition of God's grace doesn't minimize
sin. In fact, it is grace that not only motivates the believer to live
free of sin, but grace explains how that freedom is attained. In
Paul's words regarding the sin nature, "sin shall not act as a lord
over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14).
Sin does exist in a grace way of life. A grace way of life does not
ignore sin. Sin is an impediment to experiencing fellowship with God
and other believers. By His grace, God has counted us to have been
crucified with Christ, to have died to the sin nature and to be living
ones to God in Christ (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:11). Grace appeals for
us to logically count that true of ourselves, to enjoy the freedom
which Christ accomplished and God extends to us.
Go to Contents
What does it take to get grace? What do we need? We need information, truth, God's Word! We won't get anywhere without solid instruction regarding God's grace. We need to understand what God has provided us in our salvation. We need to see how all those provisions are provided to us by God by His grace.
We then need to put that truth into practice. We need to live what we have learned. We learn that there are certain attitudes and actions which do not measure up to God's gracious provisions. Those we let go. We also find that certain attitudes and actions are consistent with the benefits of God's grace. These benefits reflect what God has provided us. When we relate to who we are in Christ (all by grace), the Spirit freely produces through the believer that fruit which reflects the character of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We even need some failure. We don't try to fail! It just happens. It happens because there is not one of us who perfectly lives in light of grace. Sometimes we fail because we keep trying to live by our works, our merits. We fail to grasp in our practice the nature of God's grace. Yet in failure, we begin to learn some of the key aspects of God's grace. We realize that God so extends His grace to us, that He allows us to fail, so that we might learn just how gracious He is.
Finally, we need to understand chastening and sin. At first it appears to be out of keeping with God's grace. However, everyone of us so obstinately refuses to live by grace, that God intervenes with some form of discipline. He does so out of love, desiring to produce peaceable fruit consisting of practical righteousness. The design is to turn us back to His grace.
Our God is gracious. He has been gracious throughout human
history. However, since the advent of the present work of the Spirit
and the Church, God has specially directed His grace to us. He has
made His grace the basis of how we are to live. He has removed law as
a way of life. He has put us under grace. Like Paul, we can therefore
encourage believers to continue in the grace from God. We can say with
Peter, grow by means of grace and the full knowledge of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ.
Go To Contents
*1 Robert Glenn Gromacki, Salvation Is Forever (Chicago: Moody Press, 1973). I recommend this book as the best and most Biblical defense of eternal security I have read.Back
*2 This pamphlet is now included in a larger work The Complete Green Letters, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1975.Back
*3 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Grace, Grand Rapids, Kregel Press, 2007. [Also found in the Public Domain section of the Bartimaeus website.]Back
*4 David K. Spurbeck, The Christian "In Christ", Forest Grove, OR., Know to Grow "In Christ" Publications, 1999. [Also found in the Christian Bookshare section of the Bartimaeus.us website.]Back
*5 Bob George, Classic Christianity, Eugene, OR., Harvest House Publishers, 1989.Back
*1 William Gesinius, A Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, trans. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 290-291.Back
*2 Hermann Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1895), 575.Back
*3 Or compilers of dictionaries.Back
*4 The word ekklesia, translated "church" in English Bibles is another example.Back
*5 Perfect is tahmeem to be complete, whole or having integrity. Cf Alexander Harkavy, Students' Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary to the Old Testament (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1914), 768. Back
*6 For a fuller theological word study on these ideas see Charles Caldwell Ryrie, The Grace of God, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1963). Back *7 Cremer notes that "N.T. caris is not identical with the caris of the LXX (Septuagint, Greek translation of the O.T. )." Author clarification. op cit. 575. Later in the same paragraph, Cremer pointed out that New Testament caris more closely corresponds to the Hebrew chesed. This latter term carries the idea of, "kindness, love, loyalty, mercy," Robert Mounce, Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 426. It conveys faithful, loyal love. Back
*8 The longer version adds, "Now if it is from works, it is no longer grace since then, that work no longer is work." ei de ex ergwn ouketi esti caris, epei to ergon ouketi estin ergon. The support for this longer rendering is broad and it certainly drives home the point. Back
*1 Many passages state that the Son is God. See for example John 1:1; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Philippians 2:5. Back
*2 Respectively, these three ideas are expressed by the big theological words propitiation, redemption, and reconciliation. Many good theologies develop these subjects. For a series of word studies on these topics see Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955.Back
*3 Some texts add Christ.Back
*4 "Blessed" in most English versions.Back
*5 The Greek is metamelomai, meaning "I change one care or interest for another." Alexander Souter, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament, (London: Oxford University Press, 1960), 157. Back
*1 David Alan Black, It's Still Greek To Me (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 107-108. "While dealing with the past to some extent, the perfect tense is primarily concerned with present time." Back
*2 Christendom has often called these justification, sanctification and glorification. Personally I find these inadequate as each of these can be said to have happened in the past, to be ongoing and to come to a culminating point in the future.Back
*3 The Greek baptizw describes an immersion into something. This word is not translated in our English Bibles but given an English pronunciation. This allows Bible teachers to present their own views on baptism without conflicting with a translation. However, to be accurate we must remember that this word properly refers to a "placing in to." Sometimes the emphasis seems to be on the resulting identity from being immersed. Some have claimed the word means to put into and take out of. They have reasoned that when water baptism is practiced, people are put into water and then taken out. However, the act of taking out is not the point of water baptism, only the dunking part.Back
*4 Some of our English Bibles use several different words to translate logizomai, reckon, count, and impute. logizomai is a logical process of the mind.Back
*5 The Spirit's baptizing work may be the initiation of a new act of thinking in the mind of God. It might be as though the Spirit tells the Father, "Now begin to count ______ to be in Christ." The Scriptures don't reveal that it happens this way, but it may help us understand how the baptism works.Back
*6 Gingrich and Danker, "release ... Fig. redemption (lit. 'buying back'), deliverance, acquittal, ransoming" op cit. p. 23. Back
*7 Some English Bibles don't translate the verb so that the verbal idea of grace is seen. The A.V. translates it "accepted" and the idea of grace is missed. The English Standard version translates it "blessed." This verb form is used only twice in the New Testament. See also Luke 1:28. This verb emphasizes a state connected with an action. The -ow ending, is active, state, see J. Harold Greenlee, A Concise Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, rev. 1979), 20. This form also occurs in Luke 1 when Mary is pronounced, "graced" by God.Back
*8 "All believers" are limited to those from the day of Pentecost immediately following Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. It was at that time that Jesus promised to send the Spirit, and that the Spirit would begin baptizing believers (Acts 1:5).Back
*9 Result is indicated by the -ma ending. ibid, 19.Back
*10 J.B. Lightfoot called this, "treading the void." The Epistle of Paul to the Colossians and to Philemon (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), p. 197.Back
*11 John used the preposition ek to indicate that the Spirit is the source of the Son's indwelling.Back
*12 Some Greek texts omit the final words "in you all." However, these words are important because they distinguish the Father's relationship to believers from His relationship to the rest of creation. Back
*13 The Greek [sperma] that which a father contributes to a child's conception, thereby imparting the father's genes to the child. Back
*14 The believer is a child, not by adoption but by birth, i.e. the new birth.Back
*15 The verb enubrizw can mean to speak, hence to insult or to act, hence to treat with arrogance. Since this is action, arrogance fits best.Back
*16 caris umin (Galatians 1:3, et al) is a verbless clause. A.T. Robertson indicated that the Indicative Mood of eimi is the most commonly implied copula. "Naturally this copula is not always considered necessary. It can be readily dispensed with when both subject and real predicate are present." "As a matter of fact the copula may be absent from any kind of sentence which is free from ambiguity, ..." A Grammar of the Greek New Testament In Light of Historical Research (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1915), 395. "Is" is added for exactness though the passage is quite plain without it.Back
*17 The Byzantine text-form omits "your spirit" and is reflected in the Authorized Version. Back
*18 Some Greek manuscripts omit "your spirit" in 2 Timothy 4:22.Back
*19 See Samuel G. Green, A Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek New Testament, New York: Fleming H. Revel Company, nd, 241, 250; and H.E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Toronto: MacMillan, 1955), 107, 111.Back
*20 The meaning of the word menw is simply to stay or remain. The idea of ease or comfort must be determined by the context. Back
*1 The Hebrew root barak is taken to originally mean "kneel." At first meaning to kneel before another with the desire to invoke a blessing (a benefit) it came to mean "blessing" itself. See Gesinius, op cit. 142-143.Back
*2 shiggahon expresses intense panic. Brown, Driver, and Briggs adds, "fig. of wild and helpless panic" A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (abridged) Based on A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, by F. Brown, S.R. Driver, and C.A. Briggs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907). Digitized and abridged as a part of the Princeton Theological Seminary Hebrew Lexicon Project under the direction of Dr. J.M. Roberts. This electronic adaptation c2001 OakTree Software, Inc. Back
*3 The words "lasting" translates the Hebrew verb ahman, to trust or be sure. Both are in the Niphal, here as a passive stem, indicating that God will make those conditions sure, and therefore, lasting. Back
*4 The preposition is al over, above, or on. In this case, over their faces.Back
*5 The Hebrew beeeer meant to dig. To explain involved, "to dig out the sense, and to set it forth when dug out," Gesinius. op cit. p. 100.Back
*6 The English Standard Version uses the noun "awesome" thirty-two times. Thirty-one occurrences translate some form of the yahree. Most of these are Niphal participles, and indicate that Jehovah or His works are feared.Back
*7 axiws -- "Strictly 'bringing into balance,' hence 'equivalent' (e.g., Rom. 8:18), with such extensions as 'being appropriate'." W. Foerster axios in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, abridged by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 63. In the same article, he notes, "In many expressions a genitive or infinitive is put with axios to denote the sphere of correspondence." In Ephesians 4:1 "calling" is Genitive, klesews.Back
*8 The Thessalonians were imitators of their Jewish brothers who suffered in Judea. However, the Thessalonians had not met those brothers. They both lived truth which resulted in persecution. See 1 Thessalonians 2:13-14.Back
*9 Chafer, op. cit. 235-236.Back
*10 While I find the NASB to be a very accurate translation, their choice of "transgression" to translate paraptwma is unfortunate. Transgression is a better translation of parabasis which they sometimes translate "transgression" (Galatians 3:19; 1 Timothy 2:14; Hebrews 2:2; 9:15), but in Romans "violation" and "breaking of the law."Back
*11 This is a causal use of the preposition eis, for which see Brooks & Winbery, Syntax of New Testament Greek (Lanham, MD: University Press of America,1979), 55.Back
*12 The New International Version missed the point of verse 1 when they translated it, "go on sinning." Sin is an articular noun and not a verb or participle. Additionally, Paul wasn't speaking specifically of acts of sin but of operating within the sphere of one's sin nature. The result would include sins among other acts of unrighteousness, such as trespasses (5:21).Back
*13 G. Abbott-Smith lists first, "to train children, hence, generally, to teach, instruct" A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T & T Clark), 333.Back
*14 The noun is fr`en and the verb fronew. These two involve more than thinking but the restriction of the mind, the corralling, or fencing in of thoughts and the filtering of other thoughts through that restricted mind.Back
*15 The verb is ferw to carry or bear. The phrase is literally, "hope perfectly upon the being carried to us grace." Back
*16 This appears to be Paul's thought in Romans 3:23. It is not just that the unsaved continue to come short with respect to God's opinion (glory), but those who are declared righteous freely also continue to come short. That's us.Back
*1 The AV, ASV, and NKJV translate this word "dispensation," the NASB rev. 95 and ESV "stewardship," the NIV and Darby "administration." Back
*2 The verb used with Moses is didwmi, and the verb for Jesus is ginomai -- G. Abbott-Smith listed as a first definition, "to come into being, be born, arise, come on." op cit p. 92. Some writers have attempted to present the law as a display of God's grace. However, this is a deduction which does not have Scriptural support and fails to understand the purpose of the law.Back
*3 It is interesting that Irenaeus of Lyons (b.c. 140 AD) wrote, "And that He does not want the redeemed to turn back to the Mosaic legislation, for the Law was fulfilled by Christ, but, through faith and love (towards the Son) of God, to be saved in the newness by the Word," On the Apostolic Preaching, trans. John Behr, (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997), 94. He makes similar comments in the context, reflecting an early post-apostolic understanding of freedom from law. Back
*4 The verb theaomai meant to look at or watch with careful attention.Back
*5 This section is omitted in some early Greek manuscripts. However, without this passage, the struggle in chapter seven is left hanging. It is likely that it was omitted early in the text's history because some felt it might promote adultery.Back
*6 The Majority text has moved the words tois me kata sarka peripatousin alla kata pneuma "the ones not walking according to flesh but according to the Spirit" from the end of verse four, to the end of verse one. These words make sense in the former but contradict the idea in verse one. This move appears to have been early in the text's history as there is no noted variation within the Majority tradition as represented in Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982). Back
*7 There is a textual problem in which the TR reads koinwnia, "fellowship" rather than oikonomia, and is reflected in the A.V. The support for the latter is broad including the Majority text. See Hodge and Farstad, op cit, 586.Back
*8 This is true of the mysteries in Paul's letters. Christ also revealed some mysteries (cf Matthew 13) and John wrote of some mysteries in Revelation (Revelation 1:20; 10:7; 17:5, 7). Life by grace, however, was one of the Pauline mysteries.Back
*9 In both of these verses, "prophets" refers to the New Testament prophets not the Old Testament prophets (cp Ephesians 4:11). Back
*10 John recorded some statements by Jesus that regard our position. However, John's record does not include details or the manner of life which results.Back
*11 This does not mean that grace can not be found in Old Testament Scriptures. We can find many examples of God's grace in the lives of His people; however, there is a distinction between the extension of grace at times and grace as a way of life. This is the distinction we are attempting to see.Back
*1 A Satanic attack would be a temptation, a filling of one's heart to respond or act in a certain manner. Such an attack can involve the manipulation of circumstances as the basis of such an attack. This is illustrated in Acts 5 when Ananias and Saphira were in a circumstance which was the basis of Satan filling their hearts to lie to the Holy Spirit. Back
*2 The New Testament writers employed several terms to describe various aspects of knowledge and understanding. oida was knowledge by observation, similar to our idea of book or head knowledge. ginwskw was knowledge involving experience. Knowledge practiced repeatedly might be termed full or fuller experiential knowledge and was represented by a perfective form of the latter term, epiginwskw.Back
*3 Located in then Asia (minor), today known as central Turkey. Back
*4 Luke used epi as the foundation or basis of Paul's bold words.Back
*5 tw logw t`es caritos autou Back
*6 I take the participle tw dunamenw to refer to logos as the nearest antecedant.Back
*7 David Smith attempted a detailed chronology of Paul's life. He suggested that Paul was in Antioch of Pisidia from early August to the end of October AD 47, in Iconium from November to early summer of AD 48, in Lystra until late August, and Derbe from September to midwinter. Life and Letters of St. Paul (New York: George H. Doran Company, nd), 645ff (esp. 649). This is simply a suggestion but does demonstrate that these were not overnight visits in these cities.Back
*8 Most interpreters appear to understand salvation to refer to initial salvation or salvation as a whole, however, if this were the case, would not these coming from Judea be teaching salvation by works. Such a judgment would also be true of the believing Pharisees in Acts 15. If that is true, then their faith would be suspect. But by the word salvation they meant the growing or life following initial faith. Andrew Miller hit it with the words, "Christian liberty or legal bondage was the question at issue: whether the law of Moses--in particular the rite of circumcision--ought to be imposed upon the Gentile converts." Miller's Church History (Addison, IL: Bible Truth Publishers), 83.Back
*9 G. Abbott-Smith, op cit p. 244. "k. of its quality ..." Back
*10 Paul did not mean the gospel for initial salvation. Compare Peter's message to Cornelius and Paul's message in Antioch. They both proclaimed Christ's death, resurrection, and forgiveness by faith (Acts 10:39-43; 13:28-30, 38-39). On this the Jewish and Gentile believers were in agreement.Back
*11 Paul simply wrote "the sin" `e amartia. We add the word nature to describe this principle. Back
*12 aform`e from apo + orm`e, the latter being a violent movement, hence an opportunity for an attack. Abbott-Smith. op cit. 72. Back
*13 I take this as a causal eis, that which is done "in view of" not "with a view to." For more info see Dale R. Spurbeck. THE CAUSAL USE OF THE GREEK PREPOSITION EIS IN THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT. A paper presented at the 1997 Theological Forum on Contemporary Issues.Back
*14 This is a translation of wfel`esei "to help, benefit, do good, profit." Abbott-Smith. op cit. 491. Back
*15 The NIV has "alienated", the NASB 1995 revision, ASV, and ESV have "severed." The AV applies the verb to Christ, "Christ is become of no effect unto you." Darby however comes closest, "Ye are deprived of all profit from the Christ as separated [from him]," and then adds a footnote, "The verb translated here 'deprived of all profit' is hard to translate. The active form means to render anything useless and unprofitable, or miss an opportunity; as 'annulled,' Eph. 2.:5. Here it is passive and with the preposition (apo) 'from.' Hence it is to be deprived of the profit or effect of anything. It is used in Rom. 7:6 ('we are clear') in the same form as here, for our deliverance from under the law." In Romans it doesn't refer to profit, but to the action of the law. It had for them become void of effect. What the word speaks of is, not separation from Christ personally, but from the benefits for us in Him. Back
*16 These people are believers. The legalism of which Paul was concerned was not unsaved people trying to please God but of believers trying to please God and men by their own efforts.Back
*17 `egeomai comes from agw to lead. It involves the idea of leading the mind to a conclusion or a way of thinking. Back
*18 Paul uses caris two times in Philippians and the verb carizomai two times, one time of Christ, not us.Back
*19 Though initial salvation is based upon Christ's work in the past, an unbeliever is not presented with the hope that he was saved when Christ died and rose again, but that he can or will be saved if he believes in Christ's work for him.Back
*20 Literally, to let something escape one's attention. Back
*21 Paul called them ministers of Satan who masquerade as ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15). They did proclaim a Jesus like Paul's Jesus, though Paul did not talk about Jesus in that way (v. 4). They also preached a different gospel and promoted a different Spirit. Back
*22 arkei Back
*23 This is zeal in the negative sense. Galatians 5:20 translates this "emulations" and modern translations "jealousy." z`elos is zeal and the negative form of zeal drives us to succeed without regard to cost or outcome. If it hurts others, we don't care. If we must compromise, that's OK. This is negative zeal and is a work of the flesh.Back
*24 This passage demonstrates that God did provide for intentional sin though many claim that God made no provision for willful sin. This and other passages indicate otherwise.Back
*25 F.F. Bruce pointed out that taking this autobiographically was no longer popular among Bible interpreters, "But it is the most natural way to understand this section, and the arguments against it are not conclusive. Paul of course, did not think of his own experience as unique; he describes it here because it is true in a greater or lesser degree of the human race." The Epistle of Paul to the Romans: Tyndale New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), 148. On page 152, he again states, "This unequal struggle against 'the law of sin which is in my members' (as Paul calls it) has been the real experience of too many Christians for us to state confidently that Paul cannot be speaking autobiographically here - and in the present tense too." Back
*26 anazaw -- to live again.Back
*27 From pipraskw to sell, to conduct commerce. Back
*28 If it is not possible for a believer to operate in this fashion, it seems foolish for Paul to instruct Christians regarding this. Back
*29 In verses 7-12, Paul used 13 Aorist verbs and participles and one Imperfect and only one Present participle. In the remainder of the chapter, he used 34 Present verbs, participles and infinitives, one Perfect, one Pluperfect, and one Future. It could be argued that the Present tenses are intended as Historic Presents, a Present used of a past event for vividness. However, it seems more consistent that Paul was looking at his ongoing situation.Back
*30 "The different senses in which nomos is used must be carefully distinguished. First, there is the comprehensive law of my being, which includes the two antagonistic principles (ver. 21 euriskw ton nomon). Then these two principles are considered and described from an objective and a subjective standpoint. The good principle is called objectively, 'the law of God' (ver. 22 tw nomw tou theou ), subjectively 'the law of my mind, of my rational nature' (ver. 23 tw nomw tou noos mou ); the wrong principle is termed objectively 'the law of sin' (ver. 23 tw nomw t`es amartias ), subjectively 'the law in my limbs' (ver. 23 tw onti en tois melesin mou )." John Barber Lightfoot, Notes on the Epistles of Paul, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, 304.Back
*31 Some see this as so hopeless that they reject this interpretation. They believe that Christ's saving work necessitates that a believer should be free from struggle. Yet these teachers do recognize a sort of struggle, they simply misattribute the problem.Back
*32 Some lexicographers believe "thanks" is within the semantic domain of caris. I believe this conclusion has resulted from not understanding the use of caris in several passages. Because the common definition or idea of grace doesn't seem to fit, translators and lexicographers have gravitated toward the nearest definition of its cognate eucaristia. Back
*33 This is a verbless clause caris tw thew. It occurs three other times and in each case is a statement of God's grace connected to an accomplishment from His grace (Romans 6:17; 2 Corinthians 8:16; 9:15). Back
*34 The textual problem of Romans 8:1 involves the transposition of words from verse 4 to the end of verse 1. The shorter reading is harder. The Church's history demonstrates people are more inclined to add requirements than to remove. The last half of this verse occurs in the Majority text. It appears to be an interpolation from verse four. If it is allowed to stand it turns the whole doctrine of grace in Christ on its head by making freedom from condemnation contingent on the believer's conduct. These words may have been moved by accident or intentionally by a scribe or scribes who feared such a statement would lead to careless living.Back
*35 This is not lawkeeping. The -ma ending of the noun indicates kind of results, the obedience, etc., is what Paul meant. Back
*36 oi ontes -- Present Active Participle. Back
*37 kata -- according to. This preposition means to be down against and hence developed the idea of measuring or the standard by which a thing is measured.Back
*38 The roots fr`en and fronew are briefly discussed in note 14 Ch.5 on Titus 2:12 under Motivation For Living, subheading Our Teacher.Back
*39 Paul elaborated in Romans 8 just how much God is on our side. He wished the Romans to realize just how gracious God has been too us. Paul concluded that nothing can successfully be against us, since God is for us (Romans 8:31)! God didn't spare His Son (v. 32). He declares us righteous and therefore, won't bring a charge against us (v. 33; see 2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ Jesus won't condemn us (v. 34). Why? Because He died for us; He was raised for us; He is at God's right hand for us; He is interceding for us. Paul then concluded that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (v. 39). This is grace! This is not law! Under grace, nothing can cut us off! NOTHING!Back
*40 Paul said Peter was to be blamed. kataginwskw means, "to find fault with, blame ... to accuse, condemn" Joseph Henry Thayer, New Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (Lafayette, IN: Associated Publishers and Authors, 1979), 330. Condemn might be a little strong, especially in light of what we have seen, but the sense of a strong denunciation or blame is clear.Back
*41 uparcwn ethnikws is the phrase, the first word being a Present Active Participle which in this context describes the manner in which one exists, living or being within a specific set of circumstances. See Thayer, op cit. 638. The second is an adverbial form of the word Gentile, modifying the former in regard to manner, or how one existed or was being. Back
*42 1 Peter is likely written about 65 AD and 2 Peter 67-68 AD. Back
*43 aselgeia Back
*44 Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 2:12 demonstrate that this word involves more than forgiveness, but also provision. The AV, ASV, and NASB translate it "freely give", Darby "grant", the NIV and ESV "graciously give." The latter probably providing the best sense. Colossians 2:13 appears to be clearly a statement of forgiveness.Back
*45 Most English bibles translate the pronoun eautou as though it were reciprocal all`elwn. This is to one's self.Back
*46 Of putting up, anecomai.Back
*47 Paul stated that the punishment epitimia (a punishment inflicted for what one deserved, hence this term is derived from timia the value of thing) was sufficient from (upo) the many (v. 6).Back
*1 Some Protestants have held that the secular government was intended to carry out discipline regarding religious matters. In this way the church kept its hands free of their blood.Back
*2 The verb is menw which meant to remain in a location. Jesus and John used the word with the emphasis of remaining at ease in that place. One of the definitions Thomas Sheldon Green gives is "to abide, to be in close and settled union" A Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1970), 116.Back
*3 One of the key problems which occasioned to John's first letter, was how various believers in the church(es) responded to the departure of these unbelievers. John classified all the saints by various degrees of spiritual maturity. Each group had a response to the departure. The little babes [teknia] and the young children [paideia] appear to have had the most trouble with their departure. The young men were loving the world, perhaps considering a change of technique or method, while trying to hold to the Word of God. The Fathers were of a level of maturity that they were not dramatically affected.Back
*4 The length of time one has been saved is not equal to one's maturity. Hebrews 5:12 indicates that believers who have had time to grow, are sometimes still immature.Back
*5 See George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles in The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 417. Back
*6 A heretic is one who chooses what he believes. He creates a division around the error, but the division is not the main point, but rather his or a group's choice of what they believe. We do not choose, but are told in God's Word what to believe.Back
*7 While English Bibles often translate this "go on to", the verb is a passive voice of the verb "to carry" or "bear" ferw. The translation should reflect this, and indicate that God carries them. Back
*8 The translation "fall away" is used in the NASB, NIV, ESV, AV and variations in the ASV, and Darby. The verb parapiptw is used in the LXX to translate "fall" for nahphal in Esther 6:10; "to really be unfaithful" for limahl-maal in Ezekiel 14:13; 15:8 and along with its noun form in Ezekiel 18:24 for the same. The three Ezekiel passages are important, because the verb mahal means to be unfaithful, to break trust. Its use demonstrates that it does carry the verbal force of the noun trespass. Back
*9 It is distinguished "from parabasis as the transgression of commandments)." W. Michaelis in Kittel op cit. 848.Back
*10 Robert G. Gromacki, Stand Bold In Grace (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 109-110.Back
*11 The words fiery zeal are translated "fiery indignation" in the AV, and "fury of fire" in the NASB and ESV.Back
*12 Gromacki, op cit. p. 207.Back
*13 "Firstborn" is plural not singular: prwtotokwn versus prwtotokos. The Genitive case is not indicating possession but character, i.e. the church made up of firstborn ones.Back
*14 Lehman Strauss, Galatians and Ephesians (Neptune, New Jersey: Louizeux Bros. 1957), 21.Back
*15 J.B. Lightfoot, Galatians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957), 77.Back
*16 Joseph Henry Thayer, op cit. 38. Back
*17 Other passages in which anathema occurs are: 1 Corinthians 12:3 -- No one by a work of the Holy Spirit can say, "set Jesus off" or "set Him by." (cp 16:22 -- 1 John 4:20-21 A believer who does not love the Lord will be set off by the Lord. See also James 1:12.)Back
*18 The A.V. has "Christ is become of no effect unto you". The A.V. translators applied the verb to Christ, while it is a second person plural verb and must be applied to the Galatians. The verb is passive. By turning to the law, they were removed from the benefits of their relationship to Christ.Back
*19 There is some debate due to Acts 20:22, where pneumati is also articular. However in that verse, the participle "bound" is in the middle voice. Paul had so determined within himself to go to Jerusalem that he had effectively bound himself. Note that in 21:12, Luke included himself among those who were encouraging Paul not to go; he wrote, "we." Back
*1 This chapter will roughly follow the outline used by my fellow pastor Josh Fanning. Josh was teaching the outline of this book for me and felt it was necessary to address the question of sin.Back
*2 I would contend that this denial is part of the freedom God provides.Back
*3 Paul traces this decline from the flood of Genesis 8 up to the giving of the law. This time line includes the events of Babel with the worship of the heavens (Genesis 11:4; Romans 1:20-23) and Sodom and Gomorah during Abraham's day.Back
*4 NET Bible textual footnote under 1 John 5:17. Back
*5 Though the A.V. has "sin" even the Textus Receptus from which it is translated has trespass paraptwma.Back
*6 See Judges 20:16 and Proverbs 19:2 cited by William Gesinius, op cit. 271. G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1948, 23.Back
*7 Donald W. Burdick, The Letters of John the Apostle, Chicago: Moody Press, 1985, 236.Back
*8 The Hebrew torah [law] primarily meant "teaching" Robert Mounce, op cit. p. 392. The Greek nomos derives from a word meaning "to assign, manage, or administer" and had the idea of order. Cremer, p. 429. Therefore, the idea of lawlessness involved action that doesn't align with teaching or order. Paul wrote that he acted lawless when among the lawless. He didn't mean that he went around defying laws, but rather that he didn't act the part of a scrupulous rule-follower or enforcer. Yet towards God, Paul was never lawless. Even though he may not have demonstrated careful adherence to man's rules, he always knew God's boundaries.Back
*9 Burdick, op cit, 236.Back
*10 Christ is meant as the one who was manifest to take away our sins (1 John 3:5).Back
*11 Burdick, op cit, 237.Back
*12 These are probably identified because of the tendency to neglect them, and even because of the foundational nature of these activities. Anything God has revealed for us to do falls under His will. Back
*13 This word often represented "renewing" is a noun. Paul was not writing about renewing the mind, but being transformed in the realm of the body. That required the use of the renewed mind (1 Corinthians 2:16). Back
*14 The age to which Paul referred was likely the legal age, following the discussion of law matters in Romans 9-11.Back
*15 The expression "commandments of men" refers to the misapplication of Law commandments to believers today. God did not command them for us, but for Israel. Therefore, when men foist them upon us, they are no longer God's but men's commands.Back
*16 Our English Bibles usually have some word such as "reject" (A.V., NASB). However, what does reject mean? Is he kicked out of the assembly? Rather the word has the idea of avoiding something. Titus was to avoid being drawn into their fights and debates. Perhaps he was to respond, "We've already talked about this, there is nothing else to say ..."Back
*17 proskomma a stumbling, from proskoptw to strike, with the idea of striking a foot so as to cause one to trip. G. Abbott-Smith, p. 386. Back
*18 Fellowship is not a matter of mere possession but active sharing. Believers possess eternal life, but only the use of that life can constitute fellowship.Back
*19 John like Jesus refers to this commandment both as a commandment and as commandments (1 John 2:4). Jesus gave this new command in the upper room (John 13:34-35). In John 14-16, Jesus restated that command from several perspectives, thus making a single command into commands. I accept that John is writing late (c. 95). This places 1 John 65 years after Jesus gave the command. Therefore, John wrote, "I am not writing a new command but an old one" (1 John 2:7). It was 65 years old.Back
*20 This is seen in the address to little children, fathers, young men, children, fathers, and young men in 1 John 2:12-14. Each group indicates a level of progress or maturity. Each group had strengths but also needs. The children had the need to evaluate the false teachers' claims against the basics they knew. The young men needed to stop loving the world, and understand why the world listened to these false teachers but would not listen to the believers. The fathers had matured and should have been doing what John was attempting to do with this letter.Back
*21 It is likely that this other group are those who respond, "we've never been enslaved..." As the exchange between Jesus and these continued, He told them that the Devil is their Father (John 8:44). Back
*22 The Scriptures nowhere use the expression "sin nature." This is our way of explaining the principle of sin which Paul described as living in his flesh and hindering him from doing the good he wished to do (cf Romans 7:17-23). In the New Testament the articular form of the word sin, normally refers to this sin nature, unless the writer is referring to a specific act of sin. The Old Testament writers referred to the bent nature of man by the word families ahwah and ahon which are most frequently translated iniquity.Back
END OF BOOK
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