“Law and Grace” – Romans 5:12-21

December 4th, 2016

Romans 5:12-21

“Law and Grace”

Call to Worship: Psalm 119:25-32

Aux. text: Eph 2:1-10

 

Service Orientation: The promise to Abram and his descendants was by grace.  The Law was by grace.  Jesus’ coming was by grace.  Our only hope of a relationship with Almighty God must be by His grace. The abundant life is a life lived in the light of God’s grace.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. — Ephesians 2:8-9

 

The sheer number of times Paul uses the word (grace – Gk charis) suggests that it is integral to his theology of salvation.  He uses it twice as often as all other NT writers.  Only Luke, among the Synoptists, uses it at all.  1 John and 3 John do not use it, Jude and Revelation hardly ever.  It occurs 51 times in books other than the Pauline letters, 27 of which are in Acts and 1 Peter.  We find it 101 times in Paul.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 549)

 

The question to be answered is . . .  What is the connection between grace and the Law of God?

 

Answer:  The Law of God had the promise to Abram as its context.  The Law was fulfilled by Christ.  The promise, the Law and everything associated with them is by God’s grace.

 

Grace (Webster’s Dictionary) = A help held to be given man by God especially in overcoming temptation or in leading a good life.  A disposition to kindness or mercy.

 

Grace (Gerhard Kittel; Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 373-402) = “. . .what delights”.  “It may be a state causing joy or an act accompanying it.” “Good pleasure”, “favor”, “good-will”, “joy”, “what pleases”, “thanks”.  “Grace and mercy complete righteousness.” “Attractiveness”.

 

Love in response to goodness is not love, it is reward.  You don’t earn love.  If you earn it, it isn’t love.  So when the Bible talks about love and grace, it is always in the context of sin and rebellion.  The Prodigal Son is not the exception of love, but the very definition of it.  (Steve Brown, Born Free, 138)

 

Man is born broken.  He lives by mending.  The grace of God is glue. —Eugene O’Neill  (Philip Yancey, What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 270)

 

My pastor, Pete Alwinson, has the best definition of grace:  “Grace,” he says, “is doing good for someone when there is no compelling reason to do so and every reason not to.” That’s it. That is what God has done and continues to do for me. (Steve Brown; What Was I Thinking?, 208)

 

But conditional grace is not earned grace.  It is not merited.  “Earned grace” is an oxymoron.  Grace cannot be earned.  The very meaning of grace is that the one receiving the grace does not deserve it–has not earned it.  If a philanthropist pays $80,000 for your college education on the condition that you graduate from high school, you have not earned the gift, but you have met a condition.  It is possible to meet a condition for receiving grace and yet not earn the grace.  Conditional grace does not mean earned grace.  How can this be?  (John Piper, Future Grace, 78-9)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Grace

 

Grace becomes greater in proportion to the ultimate benefit to the recipient and the distance of the relationship between the recipient and the one giving grace.  — Pastor Keith

 

“Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to bestow it in the presence of human merit . . .  Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to withdraw it in the presence of human demerit . . . {Grace} is treating a person without the slightest reference to desert whatsoever, but solely according to the infinite goodness and sovereign purpose of God.  (Samuel Storms; The Grandeur of God, 125)

 

“Grace has meaning only when we are seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation & liable to eternal wrath.” (Samuel Storms; The Grandeur of God, 124)

 

If it can be lost – it is not grace

If it has to be earned – it is not grace

 

Karl Barth said, “Only when grace is recognized to be incomprehensible is it grace.”  If we think we understand God’s love and grace, we are probably without it.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Romans, 19)

 

The great preacher Donald Grey Barnhouse observed, “Love that gives upward is worship, love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace.” (Exposition of Bible Doctrines Taking the Epistle to the Romans as a Point of Departure, vol. 1, 72)

 

Catholic Church to Martin Luther in 1520 – If you continue to preach this message of grace, people will go out and do what they want.  Luther:  “What is it that the people want to do?”

 

What is the connection between grace and the Law of God?:

I-  The context of the Law, the promise to Abram, was by grace.  (Gen chps 12; 15; 17; Rom 4:16; 9:10-16; 1 Cor 15:10; Gal 3:18; ch 4; Heb 6:13-20; 11:8-10)

 

 

The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Dt 7:7-8).  God chose Israel not because they were better than the other nations, not because they were more worthy of His love, not because they were a greater or more impressive nation than any other, but simply because of His grace. (John MacArthur, Jr.; The Love of God, 132)

 

God cannot be approached by any legalistic means, anymore than the burning mountain of Sinai could be approached by the sinful people or even by the sanctified priests.  God is to be approached only by the new and living way which He has established in free and unmerited grace on Calvary.  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Grace, 114)

 

II-  The Law was given to Moses with grace.  (Dt 7:6-9; 9:4-6; Ps 119:29; Rom 11:5-6; 1 Cor 15:10)

 

If you want to be able to measure the greatness of grace you have to go down as well as up.  You have got to see what we have been delivered from, as well as what we are delivered to.  That is why I emphasized that if there is not an adequate preaching of the Law there will never be a true conception of grace and of salvation.  It is because of serious defect at this point that it is true to say that the note that is most lacking in the Church today–and, alas, I include even evangelical circles–is the note of true praise and of glory.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 5, 305)

 

On the very mount whence God looked down on the awful sin of this people, He gave the specifications for the tabernacle, altar, priesthood, and the method of approach that honored His holiness, and was consistent with His justice.  “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”  Sin rolled as high as Mount Sinai; the grace of God rolled as high as Heaven.  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Grace, 125)

 

The Law & Judgment of God must be preached . . .because:   Judgment proceeds and defines mercy.   You have to have judgment before mercy is relevant.   Judgment is a pre-requisite of mercy and grace.  It is no wonder that the people of America do not understand the message of grace.  They have a terribly perverted view of justice.  —Steve Brown

 

If you want him to admire the matchless grace of Christ, see to it that he first realizes that he is face to face with God’s holy Law.  He cannot realize the nature and the power of grace fully apart from the ministry of the Law.  He must first see that sin has abounded; and the Law makes it abound in the way that the Apostle explains.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 5, 296)

 

The law as a way of salvation is nothing but an instrument of divine wrath, delivering man over to wrath.  But in the true meaning, the law is a means of God’s grace, for it does not keep man in its bondage, but gives him over to Christ that grace may abound all the more.  (Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans, 228)

 

I think he means that we are no longer under the law in the sense of being underneath the awesome, weighty burden of the law.  Paul says we are no longer in the condition of being crushed under the weight of the law, no longer oppressed by its burden of guilt and judgment.  We are now under grace.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8)–a truth of which Paul was continually reminding Christians.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 199)

 

Law comes with grace into the renewed soul.  There is no such thing as grace without law.  Even in human relationships, graciousness must have an order if it is to be graciousness.  (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 215)

 

The young ruler was offended by Christ’s remark directing him back to the very law from which he was turning.  But when Christ advised him to give up all that he had and follow Him, the rich young ruler turned away sorrowing and presumably went back to his old ways, cleaving to his fortune (which was shown to be his true god) and violating the law.  In contrast, the rich young ruler Saul came to consider all that he had achieved under the law as worthless and prized only what he found in Christ (Phil 3:8).  Paul died to the law while the rich young ruler was simply troubled by it.  Paul passed from serene confidence to a shattering disillusionment with the law as a scheme of salvation, whereas the rich young ruler seemed never to have had either the total confidence or the complete disillusionment:  he did not die to the law, but continued to die in it.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 90)

 

Where there is Law, we sin more, both in terms of quantity and of depth.  But in doing this the Law also moves us closer to grace because the farther we descend, the nearer we are to brokenness and thus to Christ.  This is why Paul says victoriously, “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (v. 20b).  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Romans, 118)

 

To be under law is to accept the obligation to keep it and so to come under its curse or condemnation.  The be under grace is to acknowledge our dependence on the work of Christ for salvation, and so to be justified rather than condemned, and thus set free.  For ‘those who know themselves freed from condemnation are free to resist sin’s usurped power with new strength and boldness’.  (John Stott, Romans–God’s Good News for the World, 181)

 

We find the same basic contrast in the famous Jn 1:17 passage:  “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  Paul has presented the Mosaic law as a power that leads to sinning (recall Rom 5:20:  “The law was added so that the trespass might increase”).  In other words, for believers to be set free from the dominion of sin (6:14a), they need also to be set free from the dominion of the law.  (Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans, 201)

 

Legalists point to the law to show what they CAN do.   Christians who are saved by grace point to the Law to show what they cannot do and what drives them to Christ.

 

It is not that Pastors should preach grace only or that they should preach law only.   The problem (as I see it) is that pastors need to preach a more intense grace, a more unfathomable love of God, and a more forgiving and compassionate God; and at the same time God’s utter contempt, abhorrence and disgust with our sin.  We should more intensely preach God’s Law and the tragic consequence of our disobedience.  It is not Law and judgment only, or grace only that drives us to repentance; but a powerful understanding of both at the same time.  Our preaching has become anemic, narrow and superficial  because we preach only law or grace and not an extreme of both. —  Pastor Keith

 

Do you want a vision of divine wrath?  Of intense holiness?  Of righteous judgment?  Look at the Cross!  Do you want to know divine love?  Mercy?  Grace?  Look at the Cross.  But don’t look at either dimension of the divine character in isolation.  Don’t try to grasp grace without seeing judgment.  Don’t expect to appreciate God’s mercy without being stunned by his holiness. (Stuart Briscoe; Choices for a Lifetime, 44)

 

III-  The Law was fulfilled by Jesus by grace.  (Rom 3:19-31; Gal 2:19-21; 5:4; Eph 1:6-7; 2:5-8; 2 Tm 1:9; Ti 2:11; 3:7; Heb 7:20-28; 9:11-10:4)

 

Levitical laws guarded against contagion:  contact with a sick person, a Gentile, a corpse, certain kinds of animals, or even mildew and mold would contaminate a person.  Jesus reversed the process:  rather than becoming contaminated, he made the other person whole.  The naked madman did not pollute Jesus; he got healed.  The pitiful woman with the flow of blood did not shame Jesus and make him unclean; she went away whole.  The twelve-year-old dead girl did not contaminate Jesus; she was resurrected. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 154)

 

Both the individual and the church are the dwelling place of God through the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 3:16; 12:11, 13; Eph 1:12; 2:22; etc.).  In this connection note must be taken of the association between “grace” and “power.”  God’s special “favor” and God’s diversified “favors” are alike the result of divine grace (cf. Rom 1:5; 12:3; 15:15; 2 Cor 8:9; Eph 4:7; etc.), it is therefore natural to conceive of the relation between them in terms of “power” (1 Cor 15:10).  This association between “grace” and “power” is given special emphasis in 2 Cor 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (cf. 2 Tm 2:11; 1 Pt 4:10).  By referring to charis as the active power of God, “grace” may be thought of as the presence of the Holy Spirit.  For the presence of the holy Spirit is “power” (cf. Lk 4:14; 24:49; Acts 1:8; 8:10; 10:38; etc.).  Between “grace” as divine “power” and “power” as the presence of the Holy Spirit there is, then, a vital kinship.  The experience of being “full of the holy spirit” and being “full of grace and power” is hardly to be distinguished (cf. Acts 6:5-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Eph 4:7-13).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 2, 801-2)

 

Grace is the antithesis of sin.  It denotes God’s free act in Christ of overcoming sin and His free act of forgiving personal sin.  The sin that Christ overcomes is not only personal sinfulness, but sin as the prevailing power of the old age.  Sin manifests itself as a “law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2) and as such reigns over human life until Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom 5:21).  Since God’s victory in Christ, grace has become the dominant power (Rom 5:21).  Thus, grace and sin are in conflict as the ruling forces of the two hostile kingdoms, the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of grace.  We can, in the light of this antithesis, see how grace can be a synonym for Christ and the Spirit.  To be “in grace” (Rom 5:2; cf. 1 Pt 5:12) is the same as to be “in Christ” (Rom 8:1; 2 Cor 5:17) and “in the Spirit” (Rom 8:9).  Christ is the Lord of the new age, and the Spirit is the Lord at work in the Church (2 Cor 3:17f.); and grace, as the typical way in which Christ rules, can be a synonym for Christ.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 550)

 

This cannot mean that God became the cause of sin’s increase.  It means that it was God’s will and purpose that in light of his demand of perfect love (cf. Mt 22:37-40; Mk 12:29-31; Lk 10:27) man’s consciousness of sin might become sharpened.  A vague awareness of the fact that all is not well with him will not drive man to the Savior.  So the law acts as a magnifying glass.  Such an instrument does not actually increase the number of dirty spots on a garment.  It makes them stand out more clearly and reveals many more of them than one can see with the naked eye.  Similarly the law causes sin to stand out in all its heinousness and ramifications.  In connection with this see also Rom 3:20; 7:7, 13; Gal 3:19.

Moreover, this increase in the knowledge of sin is very necessary.  It will prevent a person from imagining that in his own power he can overcome sin.  The more he, in light of God’s law, begins to see his own sinfulness and weakness, the more also will he thank God for the manifestation of his grace in Jesus Christ.  Result:  where sin increases, grace increases also.  Not as if these two forces, sin and grace, were equal.  On the contrary, grace not only pardons; as verse 21 shows, it does far more:  it brings “everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  Truly, where sin increases, grace increases all the more!  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Romans, 183-4)

 

A-  Through His obedience. (2 Cor 5:21; 8:9; Heb 2:10-12; 4:14-16; 9:11-15; 1 Jn 3:5)

 

The law by itself kills off any hope of rightness and righteousness through human ability and effort, but it kindles hope in God ever brighter as we walk in the law through Christ in us the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).  (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 214-5)

 

Heidelberg Catechism: Question number 60 Q. How are you right with God?

 

  1. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 3:8-11).

Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all of God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them (Rom 3:9-10), and even though I am still inclined towards all evil (Rom 7:23), nevertheless, without my deserving it at all (Ti 3:4-5), out of sheer grace (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8), God grants and credits to me the perfect salvation, righteousness, and holiness of Christ (Rom 4:3-5; Gn 15:6; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-2), as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me (Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21).

All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart (Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30-31).

 

 

B-  Through His paying the price for our disobedience  (Jn 1:14-17; Acts 15:11; Rom 3:24; 5:1-21; 2 Cor 8:9; Eph 1:5-12; Heb 2:9, 14-18; 9:23-28; 1 Jn 1:7; 2:1-2, 12; 3:5; 4:10)

 

 

Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment.  It is the love of God shown to the unlovely.  It is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against him. (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 21-2)

 

The first and possibly most fundamental characteristic of divine grace is that it presupposes sin and guilt.  Grace has meaning only when men are seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation, and liable to eternal wrath…

Grace does not contemplate sinners merely as undeserving but as ill-deserving… It is simply that we do not deserve grace; we do deserve hell!  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 32)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the Lord Who recognized our human weakness and established a relationship with us based on grace and not our efforts, works, merits, or performance.

 

“. . . the sense of sin is the measure of a soul’s awareness of God.”  —Father Danielou  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 183)

 

The higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem. — C. H. Spurgeon

 

The man who really knows most about the grace of God is the man who knows most about his own sinfulness.  The man who thinks that there is very little wrong with him believes also that it can easily be put right, and so has little if any understanding of grace.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 5, 295)

 

St. Augustine wrapped a powerful thought in vivid imagery when he said, “God always pours His grace into empty hands.”  The hands of John Newton could not have been emptier.  (David Jeremiah, Captured by Grace, 17)

 

The Law is a divinely sent Hercules to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness and to show us every day just how desperate we need God’s grace. – Martin Luther   (Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 7)

 

To receive God’s Grace all you have to do is humbly admit that you need it.  James 4:7.

 

Grace always flows downhill.

 

The improvement of our graces depends on the keeping of our hearts.  I never knew grace to thrive in a careless soul.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 32)

 

  1. I. Packer once told me our view of God is like a pair of old-fashioned scales. When God goes up in our estimation, we go down. Similarly, when we raise our sense of self-importance, our view of God must, to that same degree, be lowered.  (Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace, 16)

 

One reason God permits the gift of freedom to result in sin is in order that we can arrive at a consciousness of our own finitude and our own inability to attain righteousness on our own.  Hence Luther viewed temptation, sins, and suffering as closely related to providence.  A major function of the law (the divine requirement codified in Mosaic law) is to train us to not rely upon our own righteousness.  Thus providence works, even through the law, to teach us that we cannot achieve righteousness on our own, apart from God’s sustaining help and grace.  The germ of that idea was already present in the patristic writers.

According to Augustine, God would not permit evil at all unless He could draw good out of it.  (Thomas C. Oden,; The Living God, 298)

 

If you are not making the devout nervous you are not preaching grace as you ought.  The message of grace is scandalous.    (Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 7)

 

An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give.  Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god.  This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace.  It is a subtle but deadly mistake.  The sign that you have slipped into this form of self-justification is that you become what the book of Proverbs calls a “scoffer.”  Scoffers always show contempt and disdain for opponents rather than graciousness.  This is a sign that they do not see themselves as sinners saved by grace.  Instead, their trust in the rightness of their views makes them feel superior.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 131)

 

The Christian faith flies in the face of social Darwinism and its principles of perfection.  Ours is not the “survival of the fittest” but the “survival of the weakest.”  That is, those alone who come to terms with their spiritual impotence are granted the grace of God to persevere in his strength.  You will fall.  Stop trying to live the “victorious Christian life” and simply live, as you feed on God’s Word and grow by his Spirit.  (Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace, 213)

 

Gospel Application:  Without grace there is no promise, no Law and no gospel.   We are saved (justified), sanctified (made holy like Jesus), and glorified (given a perfect body, mind and spirit in a perfect place) by grace

 

As sin was a power in our lives, so grace becomes a power in our lives.  If it were not so, not a single person would ever be saved.  Grace acts, and acts as a king.  It reigns as a king.  It reigns in the Christian in exactly the same way as sin reigns in the unregenerate.  It is the power of grace, therefore, that matters; and the Apostle’s whole purpose is to shew that grace is supreme.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 5, 318)

 

I know of only two alternatives to hypocrisy:  perfection of honesty.  Since I have never met a person who loves the Lord our God with all her heart, mind, and soul, and loves her neighbor as herself, I do not view perfection as a realistic alternative.  Our only option, then, is honesty that leads to repentance.  As the Bible shows, Gods’ grace can cover any sin, including murder, infidelity, or betrayal.  Yet by definition grace must be received, and hypocrisy disguises our need to receive grace.  When the masks fall, hypocrisy is exposed as an elaborate ruse to avoid grace.   (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 204)

 

The more I reflect on the elder son in me, the more I realize how deeply rooted this form of lostness really is and how hard it is to return home from there.  Returning home from a lustful escapade seems so much easier than returning home from a cold anger that has rooted itself in the deepest corners of my being.

The spiritual games we play, many of which begin with the best of motives, can perversely lead us away from God, because they lead us away from grace.  Repentance, not proper behavior or even holiness, is the doorway to grace.  And the opposite of sin is grace, not virtue. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 205-6)

 

“ No one will listen to radical grace unless they know they are radical sinners.” (Steve Brown; The book of Daniel series, “The Sure Things of Life”)

 

I am not what I might be, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be.  But I thank God I am not what I once was, and I can say with the great apostle, “By the grace of God I am what I am. — John Newton.

 

To be under grace is to be free from the guilt of knowing the right but falling short of doing it.  Grace means “that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1).  It means that despite ourselves God is for us (8:31), God is faithful (2 Cor 1:18), and God frees us for himself (Gal 5:1).  (James R. Edwards, New International Biblical Commentary–Romans, 165)

 

Augustine prayed, “Give me the grace [O Lord] to do as you command, and command me to do what you will!…O holy God…when your commands are obeyed, it is from you that we receive the power to obey them.”

That is a biblical prayer, and we will see many like it in the chapters to come (e.g., Ps 51:12; 90:14; Rom 15:13).  It corresponds to the mystery of the Christian life.  We must delight in God.  And only God can change our hearts so that we delight in God.  We are thrown back on God utterly.  The Christian life is all of grace.  “From him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever” (Rom 11:36).  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 53)

 

The dying words of one ancient saint were, “Grace is the only thing that can make us like God.  I might be dragged through heaven, earth, and hell and I would still be the same sinful, polluted wretch unless God Himself should cleanse me by His grace.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 21)

 

Grace is not a two way street.  — Buddy Briggs

 

As you stand with your sin before God, believe that He has declared your sin paid for in Christ Jesus, and application will flow in a miracle stream.  Christ alone.  Grace alone.  Grace overflowing.  Grace super-abounding.   Not grace plus works, but grace alone.   Not grace plus an ordinance or a sacrament, but grace alone.  Not grace plus repentance, but grace alone.  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Grace, 141)

 

We creatures, we jolly beggars, give glory to God by our dependence.  Our wounds and defects are the very fissures through which grace might pass.  It is our human destiny on earth to be imperfect, incomplete, weak, and mortal, and only by accepting that destiny can we escape the force of gravity and receive grace.  Only then can we grow close to God.

Strangely, God is closer to sinners than to “saints.”  (By saints I mean those people renowned for their piety—true saints never lose sight of their sinfulness.)  As one lecturer in spirituality explains it, “God in heaven holds each person by a string.  When you sin, you cut the string.  Then God ties it up again, making a knot—and thereby bringing you a little closer to him.  Again and again your sins cut the string—and with each further knot God keeps drawing you closer and closer.”  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 273)

 

Paul does not suggest that human faith is a cause or ground of God’s grace.  He says, rather, that faith is mankind’s manner of receiving God’s gift of grace.  Indeed, it is in faith that a person is conscious that the gift is totally free (Rom 3:24f.).  Therefore it is most unlikely that faith could be construed as a Christian means of meriting grace.  Faith and grace together form an antithesis to claims of merit.  Faith excludes the claim of merit (Rom 3:21-31) for the same reason that grace excludes it (Rom 6:14; Gal 2:21; 5:4).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 550)

 

According to the Pharisees, people can do what they will and thus can keep the law.  For them, the law is all that one needs for a godly life.  It was the Jews’ particular advantage to have such direction.  But Paul realized after his encounter with Christ that the law was only appointed to salvation:  Christ is the fulfillment and incorporation of the law and He alone can enable a person to fulfill it.

The mistake of the Pharisees, in Paul’s opinion, was overlooking the “second use” of the law, the pedagogical.  If one understands the law correctly, it becomes a tutor to bring him to Christ (second use) and Christ becomes the power to fulfill the law (third use).  As Drane has seen in Gal 3:24, “by trying to gain salvation by their own efforts at keeping the Law, men realized that it was an impossible task, and so the way was prepared for God’s act of grace in Jesus Christ” (pp. 137f.).  But the coming of the Savior did not liberate Paul from the law, but to the law.  In fact, for the first time he was able to keep it (cf. Rom 8:1f.).  As R. Bring (p. 22) observed, the Israelites did not understand first that the law was given because of sin, and second that righteousness was to come by promise (Rom 3:31).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 90)

 

A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way.  As long as we think that the next election might eliminate crime and establish justice or another scientific breakthrough might save the environment or another pay raise might push us over the edge of anxiety into a life of tranquility, we are not likely to risk the arduous uncertainties of the life of faith.  A person has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he, before she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace. (Eugene H. Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction discipleship in an Instant Society, 23)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Seek to recognize and appreciate God’s grace towards you.  Allow this to motivate and encourage you towards greater love and sanctification (holiness and becoming more like Jesus).

 

The only true and enduring motivation for the ministry of mercy is an experience and a grasp of the grace of God in the gospel.  If we know we are sinners saved by grace alone, we will be both open and generous to the outcasts and the unlovely.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 58)

 

Some years ago I met a woman who began coming to Redeemer, the church where I am a minister.  She said that she had gone to a church growing up and she had always heard that God accepts us only if we are sufficiently good and ethical.  She had never heard the message she was now hearing, that we can be accepted by God by sheer grace through the work of Christ regardless of anything we do or have done.  She said, “That is a scary idea!  Oh, it’s good scary, but still scary.”

I was intrigued.  I asked her what was so scary about unmerited free grace?  She replied something like this:  “If I was saved by my good works then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through.  I would be like a taxpayer with rights.  I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life.  But if it is really true that I am a sinner saved by sheer grace at God’s infinite cost then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.”  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 120-1)

 

Believers who are the most desperate about themselves are the ones who express most forcefully their confidence in grace….Those who are the most pessimistic about man are the most optimistic about God; those who are the most severe with themselves are the ones who have the most serene confidence in divine forgiveness….By degrees the awareness of our guilt and of God’s love increase side by side. —Paul Tournier  (Don Matzat, Christ Esteem, 42)

 

THE CHRISTIAN’S PERSONAL IDENTITY:

I believe that in Christ Jesus my sins have been fully and freely forgiven, and I am a new creation.  I have died with Christ to my old identity in Adam.  I have been raised with Christ to a new life.  I am seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  God has given to me the full righteousness of Jesus Christ.  I am joined with angels, archangels, and all the saints in heaven.  God is my Father, and if He is for me, who can be against me?  Because of who I am in Christ, I am more than a conqueror.  In fact, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.  Christ Jesus is my life!  Everything in my life here on this earth is working out for good according to the purposes of God.  Christ Jesus Himself dwells within me.  I have been called according to the purposes of God.  These things I believe and confess, because God, my Father in heaven, says they are true.  Amen!   (Don Matzat, Christ Esteem, 96)

 

Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God.  No one sins out of duty.  We sin because it holds out some promise of happiness.  That promise enslaves us until we believe that God is more to be desired than life itself.  (Ps 63:3).  Which means that the power of sin’s promise is broken by the power of God’s.  All that God promises to be for us in Jesus stands over against what sin promises to be for us without him.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 9-10)

 

Here is a spiritual principle regarding the grace of God:  To the extent you are clinging to any vestiges of self-righteousness or are putting any confidence in your own spiritual attainments, to that degree you are not living by the grace of God in your life.  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 33)

 

If you cannot bear to really look at all the stupidity of your life, if you cannot bear to see what is wrong with you, if you cannot bear to really see your flaws, if you can’t just take criticism, you just go to pieces, cause you know it is true; it is because you really do not have the strength from knowing the grace of God.  It is the grace of God that helps me not feel, “Oh I must be OK,” but gives me the freedom to admit what is wrong with me without being devastated.  And therefore, Jesus Christ is saying, “Do you know that unless you know the depth of your sin and the height of God’s grace: When things go well you are going to be smug instead of happy and grateful or when things go poorly you are going to be devastated instead of hopeful and enduring.  Unless you see both of those you are going to move back and forth from being a proud Pharisee or being a cynical sceptic and you’re going to not be able to handle the suffering and troubles of life.  (Tim Keller message, “The Falling Tower”)

 

In a world ruled by law, grace stands as a sign of contradiction.  We want fairness; the gospel gives us an innocent man nailed to a cross who cries out, “Father, forgive them.”  We want respectability; the gospel elevates tax collectors, prodigals, and Samaritans.  We want success; the gospel reverses the terms, moving the poor and downtrodden to the head of the line and the wealthy and famous to the rear.  Having embraced Christ in the hellhole of a Siberian prison, among cell mates who mocked his infirmities and despised his advantages, Dostevsky understood grace at it’s most contradictory.  In his novels it enters stealthily, without warning, silencing the skeptics and disarming the cynics.  They think they have life figured out until suddenly an encounter with pure grace leaves them breathless.  (Philip Yancey; Soul Survivor, 139)

 

Let us consider what regard we ought to have to our own duty and to the grace of God.  Some would separate these things as inconsistent.  If holiness be our duty, they would say, there is no room for grace; and if it be the result of grace there is no place for duty.  But our duty and God’s grace are nowhere opposed in the matter of sanctification; for the one absolutely supposes the other.  We cannot perform our duty without the grace of God; nor does God give his grace for any other purpose than that we may perform our duty.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 133)

 

Currently we are not only saved by grace; we are paralyzed by it.  There is deep confusion.  We find it hard to see that grace is not opposed to effort, but is opposed to earning.  Earning and effort are not the same thing.  Earning is an attitude, and grace is definitely opposed to that.  But it is not opposed to effort.  When you see a person who has been caught on fire by grace, you are apt to see some of the most astonishing efforts you can imagine (1 Cor 15:10).  (Dallas Willard; The Great Omission, 166)

 

So What?:  We are nothing without God’s Amazing Grace (Jn 15:1-17; 1 Cor 15:10).  We are who we are by grace (1 Cor 15:10).  We receive every good and perfect gift from God the Father by grace (Jam 1:17).  We have hope and a future by grace.  The abundant life is a life lived in the light of God’s grace.  Praise God for His grace.

 

The Christian life is all of grace.  “From him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever” (Rom 11:36).  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 53)

 

Grace is a renewing power as well as the free gift of pardon and acceptance.  Grace present within the life of the Church is shown in the Church’s overflow of generosity toward others (2 Cor 8).  In Ti 2:11-13, Paul speaks of grace disciplining life unto sobriety, righteousness, and piety.  Paul seems to be speaking of the power of grace within him when he says that what he is, he is by the grace of God; he works very hard, he says, but then is quick to credit his own achievements to “the grace of God which is with me” (1 Cor 15:10).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 550)

 

AMAZING Grace:  You say grace before meals.  Alright.  But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing, and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.  —GK. Chesterton

 

Nothing matters in the Kingdom of God but the grace of God.  That is the whole point of the parable (Parable of the workers in the vineyard, Matthew 20).  God has a different way of looking at things.  He does not see as men do; He does not compute as they do; it is all grace from beginning to end.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 89)

 

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.  And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 18)

 

 

Mercy withholds the knife from the heart of Isaac—Grace provides a ram in the thicket.

Mercy runs to forgive the Prodigal Son—Grace throws a party with every extravagance.

Mercy bandages the wounds of the man beaten by the robbers—Grace covers the cost of his full recovery.

Mercy hears the cry of the thief on the cross—Grace promises paradise that very day.

Mercy pays the penalty for our sin at the cross—Grace substitutes the righteousness of Christ for our wickedness.

Mercy converts Paul on the road to Damascus—Grace calls him to be an apostle.

Mercy saves John Newton from a life of rebellion and sin—Grace makes him a pastor and author of a timeless hymn.

Mercy withholds what we have earned—Grace provides blessings we have not earned.

(David Jeremiah, Captured by Grace, 23)

 

I don’t mean to disparage any spiritual discipline, commitment, or sacrifice. These all have their place in the realm of grace. But they are never to be relied on as a meritorious cause for expecting God’s blessing or to answer prayer.  Martin Luther, in his exposition of Dt 8:17-18, spoke of “blessings that at times come to us through our labors and at times without our labors, but never because of our labors; for God always gives them because of His undeserved mercy” (emphasis added).  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 72)

 

 

JESUS:

GRACE INCARNATE

 

 

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