GOD'S SAVING GRACE
©Copyright 1998 Randall D. Hughes
Grace is the favorite topic of Christians. If you write a song about grace it is almost certain to be a chart topper. And yet the majority of "Christians" have a misunderstand of Godís grace. Their misunderstanding could very well lead them to the path of destruction.
Grace is a gift from God. There are those who simply define grace as "Godís unmerited favor." While this is a truthful definition in that there is nothing we can do to deserve Godís favor, this definition is incomplete. The Bible is where we will find the true definition of grace.
Most Christians are familiar with at least one verse or two that mentions grace. The passage being Ephesians 2:8-10. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
In our quest to understand Godís grace it is important to realize that Godís grace is available to every man. Titus 2:11, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." It is interesting to note that Godís grace has been extended to all men, yet all men are not saved! That is not Godís fault though. For he came "to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10. This was the whole purpose of Jesus coming to earth. God purchased our salvation with his own blood, Acts 20:28. The price paid at Calvary is the ONLY price able to purchase our salvation. There are not enough good deeds available for any one of us to do to ever deserve Godís grace. Christ did the work to make salvation available to us.
Because of His sacrifice, there are those who say that all you have to do is believe and you are saved. Any other action on you part, such as baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost evidenced by speaking in tongues, or living by a certain standard of holiness in dress and conduct constitutes our working for salvation.
Please consider this. You work 40 hours this week and you get paid $1000.00. After you get your check you have to go to the bank. Maybe you have to drive 10 miles to get there. After you get there on a Friday evening around 5:00 p.m., the place is swamped. You then wait in line for 45 minutes to get to the teller. She requires you to endorse the check and provide her with some form of photo ID before she will cash your check. After all that effort, donít you think the check should be worth more? Look at all the effort you put forth to get it cashed. Probably at least an hours worth of your time, maybe spent in a hot car, waiting in the drive through. What if she decided you didnít look enough like your gorgeous picture on your drivers license and refuses to cash your check unless you came back during lobby hours? It still doesnít increase the value of your check does it? No matter how many banks you go to, how many lines you wait in, how many times you sign your name and show your ID the check will never increase in value, irregardless of the amount of work you put forth to cash it. The work to obtain that check has already been expended.
Jesus Christ performed the work for our salvation. His death, His suffering, His blood earned the Grace (check) for us. No matter if you believe that you must live like the Amish with the absence of virtually all-modern luxuries. Or live in as a monk, priest, or nun. No effort you put forth will increase the value of the check.
The problem that most "Christians" have is they have been taught they do not have to go to the bank, wait in line, endorse the check and provide ID to exchange grace for salvation!
If you were to receive a $10,000,000.00 check, it will have no actual value until it is endorsed and cashed. Unfortunately, most of Christianity is carrying around the "check" of Grace without activating it by obeying Godís word for fear they will be guilty of earning their salvation.
Grace is defined in Scripture as something that teaches us how to live! Doesnít sound like the traditional definition of grace? However, it is the Scriptural definition. Titus 2:11-12, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;"
Wow! That sounds too much like work! To deny ungodliness, lusts of the world, and live soberly, righteous, and godly takes a great deal of effort on our part! And yet, the Bible defines grace is just this way. What can it mean? Strongís (#5485) defines grace as "the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life."
This divine influence is a gift or favor of God. When Godís grace is truly working in a personís life it will be obvious. For many years some have quoted from the time God was speaking to Samuel in regards to choosing a king. God told Samuel, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." This verse has been used to give license to all kinds of ungodly behavior and appearance. Somehow, people are blinded to the fact that God does not do a partial job. God will not work on the outward appearance and not work on the heart. This was the problem with the Phariseeís. They would not allow God to work in their hearts. Even though outwardly they looked like godly men.
Our generation has taken the other approach. The outward appearance doesnít make any difference because God only looks on the heart. The fallacy of such thinking is exposed in the definition of grace. When God influences a heart, it will be reflected in the way the person lives! There is no way around it! Either God does not have the complete surrender of an individual that He desires to have, or there is no influence although claimed!
Many churches claim that all one must do to obtain salvation is believe. The Bible is very clear believing is certainly a critical part of salvation. However, even Jesus classified believing as a "work" in John 6:28-29. "Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." This word "work" is the exact same Strongís number (#2041) as "work" found in Ephesians 2:8-10. So Ephesians tells us we are not saved by works, yet Jesus says believing is a work? What gives?
First of all, who is qualified to determine what is a work and what is not? Who has the right to say believing is Not a work because it is done in the heart (even though Jesus just said it is), and baptism IS a work because it takes more effort on your part (even thought the minister is the one really doing the physical work)? Who has the right to say?
Lets look to the Scripture. The Bible give a list of some items that are "works" (also Strongís # 2041). They are found in Galatians 5:19-21. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." As you view the list you will find several items that are clearly outward actions. Adultery, fornication, idolatry murders, drunkenness, etc. These are obvious outward actions. Although sometimes hid to man, generally at least one other individual is involved. But others of these can be kept secret from everyone else in the world and only known by God. Although uncleanness may manifest itself outwardly, it also can be hidden internally. Hatred and envyings are examples of feelings that often times are kept secret.
So it is clear from the Biblical definition that both inward and outward acts are included in this definition of "works."
Since the Bible cannot contradict itself, how then are these two verses, John 6:29, and Ephesians 2:8-9, reconciled?
Although believing take our cognitive reasoning and understanding that indeed God robed himself in flesh and bleed and died for our salvation, believing is NOT a work in that God affected your choice to believe. The Bible tells us: "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." John 6:44. Later in the same chapter Jesus repeats himself, saying, "That no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." John 6:64. And again a few chapters later, Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." John 14:6.
So the very fact you believe is because God moved on your heart. As was stated earlier. Godís grace has appeared to all men. But they made the choice whether to obey or refuse.
What about Baptism? Isnít that a work?
Well, actually the minister performing the baptism is doing most of the physical work. But it is actually not a work on our part because it is only through Christ sacrifice on Calvary, his shed blood that baptism has any meaning. "We are buried with him in baptism," Romans 6:4. And baptism is only effective when we believe in its operation, Colossians 2:12-14. Titus 3:5, tells us, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." Throughout Scripture baptism has been associated with the washing of our sins. Acts 22:16, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Although baptism takes effort on our part, the actual work was done on Calvary. But it is through baptism the work of the cross is activated in our life.
What about receiving the Holy Ghost?
Once again, God does the work. When someone receives the Holy Ghost, it is God speaking through you. It is not a language you know. It is not just saying things you do not understand. But it is God speaking through you. Acts 2:4 tells us "Öthe Spirit gave the utterance." It is true these people had tarried for some seven to ten in days in prayer before God moved on them in this manner. But once again, it was God responding to their obedience.
What about living a holy life?
Remember the definition of grace? When you have His Spirit inside you it will teach you and guide you. So once again the credit goes to God for helping one to live righteous and godly. Grace teaches one how to live pleasing in his sight.
Have you obeyed all God has commanded you in his Word? Hebrews 5:9, tells us Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." Is it any wonder it doesnít just say believe! The reason being there is much more to salvation than believing. It does little good to carry around a check for $10,000,000.00 without cashing it. Obey Godís word and reap the benefits of Godís saving Grace. There is no price that could compare to eternal life. But you must cash in on grace to receive the benefits. It is not by works of righteousness on our part. Our efforts do not increase the value. The total amount of the "check" is already set. The work was done at Calvary. God's saving Grace is available for you!
©Copyright 1998 Randall D. Hughes
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