Monday, September 21, 2009

Whatever is not of Grace
is not of God

Acts 15:11 – But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
Acts 15:28 – For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;

The apostles gather in Jerusalem to discuss some extraordinary events that were taking place on the mission field. Rumors were surfacing that suggested Peter and Paul believed that Gentiles could believe on Jesus and be saved in the same way as Jews. This issue had to be discussed, and if it was indeed so, what commandments were these new Gentile believers supposed to obey? Were they supposed to obey the Jewish law? Remember this was during the embryonic days of the church and everyone was still learning and the Holy Spirit was still guiding the church into truths that would astound the early believers.

With James as the presiding pastor of the church at Jerusalem, the meeting takes place. Some of the issues were concerning baptism and circumcision, and just what outward commandments must be followed in order to be saved. The Spirit still had some work to do to completely extricate the early Jewish believers from any semblance of the Old Testament law, and James would prove to be still in that process.

So it was in this atmosphere that first Peter and then Paul gave witness to the salvation of Gentiles without the works of the law. And their testimonies were so convincing that James believed that Gentiles could indeed be saved and without the law. In verse 11 I have noted above that Peter himself strongly testifies of the gospel of grace without any preconditions of the law and without any commandments of the law after sinners are converted. Even the Jews, Peter says, are saved wholly by grace through faith.

This grace issue was a difficult concept to grasp back then, just as it remains difficult today. There is nothing attached to grace, either before salvation or after one is regenerated. Simply by faith in Jesus can a sinner be saved, forgiven, and the recipient of eternal life. Any hint of human works detracts, and possibly voids, the finished work of Jesus Christ when He died for the sins of the world. His sacrifice was offered freely to every sinner with the plea, “only believe”.

This gospel, this good news, is built upon grace alone and still men have tried their best to abrogate the very nature of grace by laying out a set of rules that must be obeyed before men can be saved. While it may be true that a sinner who is born again should exhibit some evidence of that spiritual reality, it has nothing to do with grace. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to regenerate a sinner, as well as it is to know who is and who is not an authentic believer in Jesus Christ. It is possible to identify when a person is trusting in a wrong theology concerning salvation, but it is impossible to declare with certainty a person’s eternal standing before God.

And so continues the church’s vacillating handling of grace, sometimes embracing grace fully and other times revealing a disturbing infidelity to its very essence. We attempt to monitor and even control God’s grace through various systems of self righteousness that are designed to constrict its scope by identifying behavior that might be inconsistent with Biblical exhortations. However it is those very inconsistencies that provide a spiritual purpose for grace. Is it possible, even probable, that many professing believers will be exposed as not genuine? Of course, but God reserves the right for that final analysis.

As recipients of God’s grace we should strive to fellowship in His presence, absorb His Word, spend quality time with Him in prayer, and allow God’s Spirit to mold us into His image. But just like a family that has a child who seems unwilling to conform to his family’s wishes and rules, that child is still part of that family regardless of his rebellion. We need not give false assurance to openly disobedient sinners who profess Christ, but we also cannot discount them wholesale simply based upon their unwillingness to meet our standards.

This gospel will always be one of grace, and we as believers must embrace that grace even when we are tempted to apply our personal template to those who are struggling. Grace should never be an excuse for sin, but neither should self righteousness be an excuse to ignore grace. Whatever is not of grace is not of God. Whatever is not of grace is not of God. Whatever is not of grace is not of God. Whatever is not of grace is not of God. Whatever is not of grace is not of God. Whatever is not of grace is not of God. Whatever is not of grace is not of God. Whatever is not of grace is not of God. Whatever is not of grace is not of God. Whatever is not of grace is not of God. Whatever is not of grace is not of God.

Whatever is not of grace is not of God.

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