Far be it from me to speak a word against the grace of God, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.
Amazing Grace – how sweet the sound –
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found –
Was blind but now I see.”
Eternity will not be long enough to speak of the wonderful grace of God.
But a grace that eliminates the “can do” or “must do” of persons is not something I find in my Bible. No less authority than God’s Son said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). Self-denial is something I must do. Taking up the cross is something I must do. Following Jesus is something I must do. To expect grace “to cover all my sins” without self-denial, cross-bearing, or following Jesus is to expect the impossible.
We are followers of the crucified, and his crucifixion must have its counterpart in our lives. This involves the cross once-and-for-all, and the cross daily. C.F.D. Moule refers to this as an “inexhaustible paradox; on one side, a true and total self-denial, on the other, a daily need for self-crucifixion.”
Salvation is by grace. But it is not an easy, cheap thing that so many have made it out to be. And it certainly does not eliminate responsibility on my part. God’s grace gave the cross; my faith responds to it.
It is wonderful to be rocked in the cradle of grace and sing about the love of God, but there is more. The cross is constantly calling us to SACRIFICE, and SUFFERING and a BLEEDING MINISTRY.
John Gipson, Little Rock AR 8 30 1992
LAW AND GRACE
God’s relationship with man has always involved law and grace! The concepts are inseparable. Divine law is a gift of grace, an expression of God’s deep love and concern for man, a means of promoting man’s happiness and well-being. Thus, the law of God contains “wondrous things” (Psalms 119:18), all penned in man’s best interests.
Salvation involved grace and faith (Ephesians 2:8). This faith has obedience and trusts as its motivation (Galatians 5:6; Proverbs 3:5). One cannot obey that which does not exist. Thus, the “obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26) necessitates law. Apart from law, man would have no means of expressing his faith in God.
The object of faith’s trust is God, not the act of obedience. For instance, in being baptized, one must trust in God, his grace and the provision thereof in Christ and the cross, NOT in the water, nor the act of baptism itself. Trusting in one’s own obedience transforms the works of faith into works of merit, thus nullifying grace. That’s exactly what the Pharisees did (Luke 18:10-13). Works of faith place their trust in God; whereas works of merit place their trust in self. Works of faith declare, “Look what God has done.” Works of merit exclaim, “Look what I have done.”
By grace, God has made abundant provisions for man’s salvation through Christ and the cross. However, in order to benefit from God’s grace, man must respond to God’s law in the obedience of faith, for salvation is “by grace through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8). Search in vain for a single Biblical example of any man being spiritually blessed apart from his obedient faith.
Consequently, relative to spiritual matters, human compliance with divine law activates grace. God forgives by grace through blood when man submits to his will by faith (Acts 2:38). God cleanses by grace through blood as man walks in the light by faith (1 John 1:7). Apart from divine law and compliance therewith in the obedience of faith, man would not have any means of appropriating the rich provision of grace to his soul.
GRACE AND OBEDIENCE, AGAIN
There is much fuzzy thinking about grace. Emphasizing grace biblically does NOT deny the necessity 0f obedience. Emphasizing the necessity of obedience biblically does NOT deny grace.
Salvation is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). We do not earn it. We do not earn most of it, or part of it, or even a little bit of it! As sinners we deserve death. When a sinner is justified, it is totally unearned and, in that sense, totally of grace.
Some are disturbed anytime “entirely, only or totally” occurs near grace, but grace is the only basis on which a sinner can be saved. Grace implies gift, distinct from what is merited. A gift is not earned; anything earned is not a gift (Romans 4:4-5).
Obedience, however, is necessary. We must walk in the light (1 John 1:7), not after the flesh but after the spirit (Romans 8:4). We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:5) and saving faith is not dead but living and obedient (James 2:14-26).
Obedience is necessary for salvation to occur. We obey from the heart and are then made free from sin (Romans 6:18-19). We MUST be baptized to wash away our sins (Acts 22:16). (The Calvinistic idea of “salvation by grace only” is an entirely [!] different thing).
Obedience is necessary to remain in grace. We are kept by the power of God through faith (1 Peter 1:5), a faith which is also active and obedient.
We must not think that being baptized we earn our salvation, or that by living the Christian life we put God under obligation to us. We must not believe we have to achieve our own salvation. We should not shift the focus of our trust from Jesus to our own obedience. In our teaching we need to be careful not to lead others to do these things, which are a denial of the gospel.
On the other hand, we must not think obedience does not matter, that one may be saved without being baptized, or that the baptized believer may rob, cheat, commit fornication, forsake the church, without repentance, and still stand in the grace of God. And we need to be careful not to lead others to believe that! That, too, is a denial of the gospel.
Cecil May JR Preacher Talk, February 1995
PAUL’S THORN IN THE FLESH
No, Hodge has no new revelation – not even an educated guess. In fact he has no interest in what the thorn was. Poor Paul – he will be hounded the first million years in heaven by brethren curious about the “thorn.”
Study the text within the context. Paul writes the Corinthians in defense of himself and his ministry. He must boast. Read 2 Corinthians 10, 11, 12. Paul boasted about his God given ministry and his sufferings – not his successes. Paul never bragged about his attendance drives and baptisms! SUFFERINGS.
The text within the context? Paul, using the third person, reveals his visit in heaven with God! Where, when, how – no man really knows. But it is scripture and therefore true. AMAZING. Paul had kept his mouth shut for 14 years. Talk about restraint. Privileged information.
So here comes the thorn. God knows men need balance in their lives. Paul went from Paradise to pain. Paul’s ministry could not be filled with pride so here comes the thorn. Privilege costs. Paul couldn’t tell about what God told him in heaven – but he could reveal what God told him on earth.
GRACE! God had a message of grace. The “thorn” actually was a gift from God. What a strange gift! There was only one thing to do – accept the gift and use it for the glory of God! God did not grace Paul with explanations – He made promises. Paul even glorified God in infirmities.
The grace of God and the glory of God!