Jump Start # 3511
Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Oh, grace! That little five letter word stirs up so much emotion, concern and confusion. Some have a difficult time reading our verse today the way the Holy Spirit delivered it. Grace through faith is the way the passage reads. We are saved by grace through faith. Do you believe that?
Instantly, some have to respond, “Not faith alone.” And, any good student of the Bible understands that. Is it necessary to add that? Then some want to say, “that includes baptism, obedience to Christ and faithfulness.” And, any good student of the Bible will see that clearly. Is it necessary to add that to the verse? Even a careful walk through Ephesians will show what God expects and where our faith ought to take us.
Maybe, we feel compelled to say these things because the religious community has butchered grace and faith and redefined them so they are not longer what God intended. To help people see through the fog of such things, we might over explain things. There is a balance. We must look at all that the Bible teaches, not just one singular verse. That one verse may not give us the complete picture. Yet, on the other hand, we ought to be able to read a passage as God gave it to us. There is a balance.
The subject of Grace among us is often hard to understand.
First, this generation is not the only ones to discover the concept of God’s grace. The way some have said things, you’d get the idea that preachers from the past never mentioned grace. Some have gone so far as to actually say that. But, a simple dig in history shows how wrong that is. I know of my generation, grace has been preached often. I know generations past, even to the restoration movement, grace was a major theme in sermons and articles. I grew up hearing many great preachers talking about God’s grace. This isn’t a topic some have failed to teach on. It’s hard to talk about the prodigal son and not open the door to grace. The woman caught in adultery, the parable of the man who owed thousands of talents all stand upon the platform of God’s grace. It is unfair, inaccurate and even cruel to accuse earlier generations of ignoring the topic of grace. They did not.
Second, God’s grace isn’t a pass to say none of the other things we do matter. What if we started all over, and only had the Gospels, and all we had was Jesus, wouldn’t that make things easier and better. Such a foolish thing was presented in a sermon. We don’t have just the Gospels. The God of Heaven saw fit to give us all the N.T. The whole counsel of God is what we need. While we may not like things such as discipline, or patterns, or authority or doctrine, these things are part of Jesus. You cannot separate Jesus from His message and His message includes the totality of the N.T. You can’t have Jesus without His word. And, His word is more than just what was spoken in the Gospels. Check out what the apostle said in 1 Cor 14:37?
If anything, grace teaches us to live righteously and godly, as we find in Titus. Righteously means living RIGHT. It is God who determines what is right. Ignoring what God has said, doesn’t make one right. Understanding that you have been given a second chance that you do not deserve, leads one to walking closer to the Lord and trying ever harder to please the Lord. Grace isn’t an open door to do whatever I feel like. When radicals say “all this church stuff doesn’t matter,” what are they basing this upon? Is that something God has said? The first Christians were devoted to the apostle’s doctrine. Yet, some today think, doctrine is a dirty word. Doctrine doesn’t matter. Just give me Jesus, is what they say. Yet, the Jesus they want is one that they have made up and is not the Jesus of the Bible. Six times in John’s first letter he mentions the need to keep the commandments. Grace and obedience are not enemies. They fit together nicely in the platform of faith.
Third, the truth is that I need grace. You need grace. We can’t get it right. We sin. We drop the ball. We have our little issues. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. We are not perfect in our behavior and we are not perfect in our thinking. We study so we can know God’s will. We work hard at teaching the best that we can, but in the end, there are topics that I may not be correct on. I want to be, but I am not. As I learn, I change. My goal is to please the Lord. I want all to know the Lord.
And, the area that this causes most trouble with is how we see each other. To ourselves, we readily admit that we are not perfect and we need God’s grace. But to others, we can be so quick to write them off, accuse them of error and be ready to cast them adrift on their own.
We seem to thrive in being the prosecutor and jury and even the judge to so many others. We are quick to say, “they are wrong.” We pull that out faster than a six-gun in the ole’ West. The N.T. warns of trouble makers. Paul named by name those that were being a pain to him and not walking according to the pattern. But it seems to me, that the greater emphasis ought to be looking at one’s own self and allowing God to determine who is in and who is out. Fellowship exists on a congregational level where there is accountability and responsibility and action that can be taken, as well as benefits drawn from. Brotherhood is something we are to love.
I am thankful for God’s amazing grace. I’d have no chance without it. And as I see others struggling along, I want to help them. I want to share with them what I believe is true. And, if they want me to participate in things that I am uncomfortable with, I will kindly decline. My faith won’t let me do that.
Grace, it’s a topic that is hard to fully understand, especially when we don’t deserve any of it.