Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The concept of grace that prevails today in the United States is a massive lie. Its purpose is to prevent people from entering the Kingdom of God.
Since we enter the Kingdom of God by gaining victory over sin and self-will, the teaching that God excuses our conduct through the Lord Jesus Christ will prevent the diligence necessary if we are to press into the Kingdom. It is just as simple as that!
If there is a term used more often in Christian circles than “grace,” I do not know what it is. “Grace” has come to mean Divine favor shown to us regardless of our behavior. It makes one think of an indulgent grandfather who keeps exclaiming, “Boys will be boys!” If I am not mistaken, this impression of God Almighty prevails among American Christians. It appears to be common among Muslim believers who, when they drink alcohol and attention is called to their sinning, they respond, “Allah is merciful.” In other words, He overlooks our transgression. When you stop to think about it, the Muslims have no blood atonement to forgive the guilt of their sins.
It is not this way with the God of Heaven. He forgives our transgressions only because of the blood atonement. When we come to Jesus for forgiveness, the blood atonement made on the cross of Calvary removes the guilt of our sins—not the sin itself, but the guilt of the sins. The practice and removal of the sin itself are dealt with later. Today, the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement has commenced, in which the practice of sin is dealt with, and will continue until the end of the final judgment of people.
That God is not indulgent toward our sinning, like a kindly grandfather, can be seen in the agony of Christ on the cross. It required unimaginable agony on the part of Christ and on the part of His Father, before the Father could forgive our sins. The crucifixion was no light matter.
We American Christians to a great extent have lost the fear of God. We have been taught that He has issued grace such that if we say “I believe in Jesus,” our sinful behavior is overlooked. The idea that God overlooks our behavior through grace may be the greatest lie told in the history of the world. It began when the serpent said, “You shall not surely die.”
Today this same lie is being preached in thousands of pulpits as ministers seek to curry favor with their congregations. That is a mean thing to say, but I cannot think of another reason why pastors would tell their congregations that God is overlooking their sin, or sees them through Christ. We have been woefully deceived in America concerning the grace of God. It is not a perpetual forgiveness, except when we are bearing our cross after the Lord Jesus each day, confessing and renouncing our sins as they are pointed out to us.
If Divine grace is not an indulgent overlooking of our sins, exactly what is it? Let’s take a look at how “grace” is used in the New Testament.
And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40)
Perhaps a good synonym of “grace” as used above is “blessing.” The blessing of God was upon Him.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Again, Divine blessing and Presence.
From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. (John 1:16)
I would say this means the Presence of God that dwells in Christ.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
The above verse tells us something important about Divine grace. It is the sequel to the Law of Moses. And I think this was the most important meaning of grace, as preached by the Apostle Paul. Grace assigns the righteousness of Christ to everyone who places his trust in Him rather than in the Law of Moses. It is as though we have kept the Law of Moses perfectly.
The righteousness of Christ is applied to us on the condition that we are following
the Spirit of God at all times. As many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)
We are free from the condemnation imposed by the Law of Moses provided we do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. We are to obey the law of the Spirit of Life. When we do not, the righteousness of Him who kept the Law of Moses perfectly is not ascribed to us.
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (Galatians 5:16-18)
The awesome misunderstanding of today is that “When we place our trust in Christ, we are free from the demands of the Law of Moses, and of every other law, except the ‘law of love.’” The so-called “law of love” is pitifully incompetent to enable us to resist the fiery demands of demons as they seek comfort and expression in our sinful nature.
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33)
Grace, as used in the verse above, probably means the obvious blessing of God. Would you agree with that?
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. (Acts 6:8)
Have you noticed that thus far we have not encountered the popular conception of grace, that it is God’s overlooking our sinful behavior because we make a profession of belief in Christ?
When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. (Acts 11:23)
I would think the synonym of “grace,” as it is used in the verse above, might be the “blessing and Presence” of God. The blessing and Presence of God on someone can be seen by people who love the Lord Jesus.
When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. (Acts 13:43)
The synonym might be the “blessing and Presence” of God. There also might be a shade of their having left the Law of Moses.
So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. (Acts 14:3)
“The message of His grace.” Probably alluding to the fact that they were free from the Law of Moses so they could serve the living Christ.
From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. (Acts 14:26)
Committed to the Presence and blessing of God.
“No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:11)
“Through the grace of our Lord Jesus” in this context means apart from the Law of Moses.
But Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. (Acts 15:40)
Please note to this point we have not seen Divine “grace” presented as an alternative to righteous behavior. To the Law of Moses, yes. But not as an alternative to growth in godly behavior.
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. (Acts 18:27)
Probably meaning they had left Moses and come to Christ. Or else that God had blessed them by enabling them to believe.
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)
My thought would be that Paul’s gospel of grace concerned the fact that people are invited to enter the Kingdom of God and His righteousness apart from the Law of Moses; never, as in our day, that people are invited to enter the Kingdom of God and His righteousness apart from repenting of their sins with the prospect of following the Lord into godly behavior.
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. (Ephesians 5:5-7)
Paul always preached godly behavior. His exhortations about grace, faith, imputed righteousness, always were addressed to people, particularly Jews, whom Paul was exhorting to receive Christ. It never entered Paul’s mind that people of the future would one day use his invitation to receive Christ apart from Moses to mean we go to Heaven by saying we believe in Christ even though we never have abandoned our sinful way of living.
What a monstrous, monumental, destructive, ungodly error today’s preaching of Divine grace is! We should know better. Actually, in light of God’s holy Nature, it borders on blasphemy!
Paul’s primary burden appears to be that all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, can leave the Law of Moses and receive forgiveness and righteousness by placing their trust in Jesus Christ.
Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)
“The Word of God’s grace” would be the message that we can be saved by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. We need not go back to the Law of Moses and keep all the statutes and ordinances. We Gentiles of today do not understand what an enormous burden the Law of Moses was.
Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? (Acts 15:10—KJV)
In the following verses we can review, from the Book of Romans, what the Apostle Paul meant by “grace.”
Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. (Romans 1:5)
We received the enabling Presence and blessing of God. The expression “the obedience that comes from faith” actually is the key to the whole concept. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. All that God required of Abraham at that time was that Abraham resolutely believe a fantastic promise. You see, it was not the belief itself that brought righteousness, it was the fact that Abraham obeyed God by believing. This may be a subtle point, but it essential to our understanding of why the present preaching of “faith alone” is in error.
When our faith does not lead to obedience, then it is no more than mental assent. There is no righteousness, eternal life, or salvation in it.
Later in his life, God asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham’s faith was not only a belief that God had said this, it was Abraham’s obedience that resulted in his being termed “the father of those who believe.” At that point, if Abraham had been so foolish as to say because I believed God about my offspring, I now am eternally righteousness, and had withheld Isaac from God, would his original righteousness have excused him when he disobeyed God? Would he have been the father of those who believe? Most assuredly not!
When God told us we would be righteous if we obeyed the Law of Moses and offered the required sacrifice, we were righteous if we obeyed. It was the obedience to the Law of Moses that resulted in righteousness.
When God says to us, I have a righteousness for you that is not earned by obeying the ordinances of Moses but by placing your trust in Christ, it is that same obedience that results in righteousness. In this instance, righteousness no longer can be gained by following the statutes of Moses.
So when we say “faith alone,” and do not accompany our so-called faith with obedience to Christ and His Apostles, our faith is not true faith and will not save us. Our faith at that point is nothing more than mental assent to the facts of the atonement. Only the obedience that results from faith is effective in the program of the redemption.
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)
Blessings and peace. I am making a change at this point. The following verses in Romans 3:20-28 contain several expressions of what the Apostle Paul meant by “grace.” What we are looking for here is to see if there is any suggestion that grace is an alternative to growth in righteous behavior, a new kind of covenant that, unlike all the previous covenants of God, does not require godly behavior.
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)
All fine so far. Paul is saying that people are not justified by keeping the Law. The purpose of the Law is to make us know what sin is. This is surprising, coming from a former Pharisee! Obedience to the Law of Moses at that time resulted in forgiveness.
The priest shall then offer the other as a burnt offering in the prescribed way and make atonement for him for the sin he has committed, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 5:10)
This was not because the burnt offering brought the forgiveness, but because of obedience.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; (Romans 3:21)
Now we can be righteous without keeping the Law. A point of view hotly contested by some of the Jews.
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (Romans 3:22)
Fine so far. God desires that we place our faith in Christ, and will count all who do so as being righteous.
However, right here there is a problem of understanding. Is Paul saying that there is no further need of righteous behavior on our part? His writing in His letters to the churches show that this certainly is not what Paul is implying. If Christian people desire to continue in sin, they can “prove” they are righteous from verse 22 above. But much of the New Testament speaks strongly against this point of view. So does our conscience.
I have read the Bible for many years. I believe God has left some passages in His Word for the purpose of allowing those who desire to believe a lie to have scriptural grounds for their assertions. Romans 3:22 would be one such verse. The people who claim that grace covers willful sinning appear to deliberately ignore the multitude of verses that show that their point of view is against the Word of God.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:26,27)
When we wilfully continue to sin, knowing we are sinning, we are a servant of Satan, not a servant of God.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
This certainly is a universal truth. However, Christian preaching carries this too far when the claim is made that there has been no righteous person on the earth. Many people in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, are described as righteous.
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (Romans 3:24)
Again this verse can be twisted to mean that God refers to the sinning Christian as righteous, even though he or she is living in known sin. We should know better than this.
However, Paul is not saying that. He is arguing that a Jew can leave Moses, place his faith in Christ, and be fully justified. This is infinitely different from claiming that a Christian living in known sin is freely justified because he claims to believe in Jesus.
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (Romans 3:25)
When we place our faith in the blood atonement made by the Lord Jesus, all of our sins of the past are forgiven. Thus we can come to God with a clear conscience.
To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:26)
God’s own righteousness as compared with ours. God is just, and if He wants to justify the person who believes in Jesus, that is His business alone. I suspect that the Jewish people were so enamored with the Law that they forgot that God can declare anyone righteous, with or without the Law of Moses. This would be an important concept in terms of Paul’s argument.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. (Romans 3:27)
Since it is God alone who determines whether or not someone is righteous, no believer has a basis for boasting. It can be seen that faith in God is true righteousness; and so all the boasting of people is misdirected. Please remember that if our faith in God does not result in our obeying the commandments of Christ and His Apostles, our faith is not true faith.
When we obey the commandments of Christ and His Apostles, we are not trying to earn righteousness by our works. Rather, we are being obedient to Christ. Christ Himself stated more than once that if we love Him we will keep His commands.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:28)
Can you see from the above that when Paul was contrasting faith and works, he was not contrasting faith and godly behavior (the mammoth mistake of our time), but faith and the works of the Law of Moses?
Because of the fact that God alone determines who is righteous, our conclusion is that an individual can be righteous apart from the works of the Law, if righteousness apart from the Law is what God is emphasizing at the time.
Remember, in our discussion of grace, we are seeking to determine whether the Bible supports the view that because of grace, belief in Jesus Christ is an alternative to godly behavior. So far this has not been shown to be the case. Rather Paul is saying that it is possible to be righteous apart from the works of the Law, if that is what God wants.
Since all true righteousness resides in our righteous God, He can refer to anyone He chooses as righteous, with the Law of Moses, or without the Law of Moses, or on any other basis He desires to employ.
Please keep in mind that righteousness is not a fixed standard of behavior. Righteousness means “approved of God”, nothing more than this and nothing less than this. Thus when the Lord said to the thief on the cross, “This day you will be in Paradise,” no one is in a position to say to the Lord “you cannot do this because he did not keep the Sabbath,” or anything else of the kind.
Where Christian people fall into error is by proving from this incident that it does not matter how we behave. We will go to Paradise anyhow. The reason they fall into the error is that they want this to be true. But it decidedly is contrary to the Scriptures! Also, these misguided people know nothing at all about the history of the thief in question. He may have been a righteous individual who stole a loaf of bread to feed his starving child. Christ may have overlooked this one sin because all his life the man had obeyed the commandments of Moses. But whether the man had been thoroughly wicked or not, his statement to the Lord Jesus revealed the kind of repentance that God requires.
I think some people believe that they can lead and sinful life, and at the last moment repent, like the thief of the cross. They are playing games with God, and God always wins! If our heart is wrong, we are going to misunderstand the Bible. That is all there is to that!
Let me tell you why a last minute repentance usually will not work. Repentance is a gift. We might think we can repent whenever we wish, but that is not true. There are some terrifying testimonies of people who waited until the last minute to repent. When their friends urged them to make their peace with Christ, their reply was, “I can’t.”
One man in another country went into a house of prostitution. He told Jesus to wait for him outside. When he came back out, Jesus was gone. There was a young girl who kept disobeying Jesus. Finally she realized she had sinned away her day of grace. Jesus was tired of her disobedience, her unwillingness to accept what He was offering in love. And too, remember Esau, who despised his birthright because he wanted some lentil soup.
See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. (Hebrews 12:16,17)
I must be careful when writing about sinning away our day of grace. Satan will accuse some weak Christian, frightening him by telling him he has sinned away his day of grace. This usually is not the case. I tell such people to go to church every chance they get whether they feel anything or not, and see what God will do for them. It may take a while. I’ll tell you it is a sobering experience to see someone at the altar who is crying out to God to restore to him the joy of his salvation.
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. (Romans 4:16)
The promise of righteousness comes by faith in the Lord Jesus. This promise proceeding from the grace (goodness) of God guarantees that all people, not just those under the Law of Moses, may benefit and know God as their Father. The reference to Abraham is to the faith of obedience to what God speaks to us, without regard to the works of the Law of Moses.
Through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)
It is difficult for us Gentiles to appreciate what a load was lifted from Paul when he understood that he could be completely righteous without obeying the statutes and ordinances of the Law of Moses. In spite of the clarity of Paul’s position, there are Christians today who still are wavering over the Sabbath commandment, not realizing that the Sabbath is fulfilled when we are serving Christ and living by His Life every hour of every day. So it is true that all of the Law of Moses is fulfilled in us when we follow Jesus. The Law is a servant who brings us to the school of Christ.
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Romans 5:15)
“Grace” here meaning God’s willingness to count us righteous apart from the works of the Law of Moses, whether we are Jews or Gentiles.
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)
Grace—the gift of righteousness apart from the works of the Law of Moses.
The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, (Romans 5:20)
The giving of the Law of Moses gave us an increased awareness of the sin in our behavior. As the sin increased, so must God’s willingness to count us righteous apart from the Law increase. Those whose hearts were not right toward God deduced from this verse that we should sin so grace would increase. So blind and evil are our hearts!
So that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21)
Eternal life always follows righteousness. God’s grace assigns righteousness to those who turn from the Law of Moses and place their trust for salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. By assigning righteousness to us, God assigned eternal life to us. We see this illustrated in the following verse:
But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)
Our inward nature possesses eternal life because of the righteousness freely given to us. Our body is dead because of the sin dwelling in it and practiced by it.
Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1)
Paul realized that people would conclude this from his argument about faith in Christ supplanting the Law of Moses.
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14)
While we are under the Law of Moses, we are informed that we are sinning, but no help is offered other than to sacrifice an animal. In this manner sin has mastery over us, condemning us all the time. “Who shall deliver us from this body of death?”
But under grace there is a continual forgiveness such that we need not go back and crucify Christ again. But—and right here is the deadly misunderstanding of our day—this continual forgiveness operates only as we keep following and obeying the Spirit of God!
The Spirit of God continually is directing us to confess our sins and stop committing them. The Spirit helps us do this. The sons of God are led by the Spirit to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.
If Divine grace were a gift of eternal righteousness, so that our behavior did not matter, then much of the New Testament is in error.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Does the above sound to you like a gift of eternal righteousness independent of our behavior? We of today have been grossly deceived!
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (Romans 6:15)
“Grace” meaning the gift of righteousness apart from obedience to the works of the Law of Moses.
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. (Romans 11:5)
“Grace” referring to God’s elect, His saints, who were not chosen because they were more righteous than other people.
Who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. (II Timothy 1:9)
I believe we have here a full meaning of “grace.” It is not a special “dispensation” given to the Christian Church but an outflowing of God’s inscrutable purposes in Christ.
There is a definition of “grace” that is fairly common: “Unmerited favor.” This may have a limited application. The truth is, everything we have been given is unmerited. “His own purpose and grace.” These are unmerited. The point is, once we have receive them, we must justify God’s wisdom in trusting us with our unmerited opportunities in His Kingdom.
All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. (II Thessalonians 1:5)
After we have been called out from the world by God’s grace, we must live in such a manner that we are worthy of the Kingdom of God. Did you ever hear that preached? It is a blind spot in today’s Christian teaching.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, (II Peter 1:10)
We do not earn our salvation. But if it is to profit us, we must respond to it. We must work out our salvation.
And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:6)
We do not earn salvation by any kind of works, religious or otherwise. But once righteousness is assigned to us by grace, and eternal life along with it, we must respond to it.
Remember, in the parable of the sower there were two kinds of ground in which the Divine Seed germinated and then died without bearing fruit. Only one of four kinds of ground on which the Seed fell bore the lasting fruit of the Kingdom, and that in three levels.
Which reminds me: The Bible teaches clearly that there are ranks in the Kingdom of God. The same grace that saves us also appoints ranks in the Kingdom. If we are appointed to a high rank, more is required of us in faith, obedience, and diligence than is true of those chosen for a lesser rank. “To whom much is given shall much be required.”
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:48)
We can see readily from the above that new-covenant grace is much more than a gift of righteousness given to us so we can go to Heaven and recline on our couch in our mansion. This impression is fairly common. It comes from making Heaven our goal rather than the Kingdom of God.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3)
“Grace” here may refer to the commission, and the ability to carry out that commission, given to the Apostle Paul by the Lord Jesus.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. (Romans 12:6)
The ministries and gifts of the Spirit of God are examples of Divine grace.
I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me (Romans 15:15)
“Grace” meaning the commission, and the ability to carry out that commission, given to Paul by the Lord.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (Romans 16:20)
Probably the Presence and blessing of Jesus.
To this point I may have included enough references to “grace” that the reader can get an understanding of its use in the New Testament. I have limited the references principally to the writings of Paul in the Book of Romans, since to Paul was given the explanation of the transition from Moses to Christ.
I would like to add four more items of interest. The following passage often is used to reinforce the concept of “grace” as an permanent pardon of everyone who professes to believe in Jesus Christ:
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9,10)
If we have read nothing else that Paul wrote, we might agree that this is all there is to the Christian salvation. All we do now is to wait to die and go to Heaven. This passage is part of Paul’s exhortation to the Jews to turn from the Law and place their faith in Christ. It is not intended to be a formula in which all of the aspects of our salvation are included.
Another item of interest. I suppose some theologian of the past century came up with a theology termed “A Dispensation of Grace.” The name may be derived from the following verse:
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: (Ephesians 3:2—KJV)
Paul is referring to the commission and enablement of the teaching of Divine grace that was given to him, not to a “Dispensation of Grace.” There is no such thing as a “dispensation of grace.” If I am not mistaken, it is one of the deadliest corruptions ever to enter Christian thinking.
From the impressions I have received, this theology espouses the following notions. If I am mistaken, then I stand to be corrected:
- We are in a new dispensation, a sort of parenthesis, different from previous covenants issued by God.
- “Grace” is a dispensation of eternal forgiveness on the basis of a profession of belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, in which our behavior is inconsequential. We are saved by the grace of forgiveness alone.
- There will be a Gentile Church in Heaven and a Jewish kingdom on the earth.
- There will be a “rapture” of Gentile believers to Heaven prior to the return of Christ to the earth.
I am not a student of dispensational theology, so I hope I have not attributed to it something which it does not teach. If the four notions I have just written are in fact included in dispensational theology, then this is a deadly error. I do not wish to be too dramatic, but it seems to me that if Satan wanted to destroy the Kingdom of God, these ideas would enable him to do just that.
A third point of discussion concerns the venerable Ephesians 2:8,9:
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.
I have heard Ephesians 2:8,9 preached since I first became a Christian. It was not until many years later as I began to notice the numerous passages of the New Testament that exhorted us to righteous behavior that I began to study the context. Ephesians 2:8,9, as it was taught, did not seem to fit the remainder of the New Testament.
Lo and behold! Guess what I found! The next verse:
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We have been created in Christ Jesus to do good works. A different idea from that of reclining a couch in our mansion in Heaven doing nothing of significance for eternity. As I stated previously, I do not wish to be melodramatic. But why have I never heard anyone quote verse ten? Am I getting paranoid? Am I seeing demons behind every bush? I honestly think there is an agenda here. There seems to be a concerted effort to ignore the passages in the New Testament that command righteous behavior.
A fourth point is one I do not particularly wish to bring up, but it might help someone in the future. There are good Christian people who are zealous to keep God’s commandments, who point out to us that we are breaking God’s commandment by going to church on Sunday rather than on Saturday. Saturday is the seventh day of the week and the Jewish Sabbath. I am aware that the Sabbath commandment was instituted at the time of the creation. It is included in the Ten Commandments, but it did not originate there.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2,3)
There were no evening and morning associated with the seventh day. Also, there was no eighth day. This tells us that the seventh day is an eternal day, a “day” that continues forever—eons after the earth and heavenly bodies of today have passed away, and the Bride of the Lamb, the new Jerusalem, has descended through the glorious new sky to be installed forever on the colossal new earth.
We understand there will be no churches and no religion in the new world of righteousness. The former things have passed away. God and Christ Themselves have become our religion. So there will be no day on which we “go to church.”
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Revelation 21:22)
Also, there will be no “seventh day” as such in the new world of righteousness, since there is no sun.
Let us now reason together. If the seventh day is an eternal day, persevering for eternities after the end of the present creation, and if there will be no churches in which to assemble in the new world of righteousness, then the seventh day, the day of eternal rest, symbolizes something more than going to church on Saturday.
Indeed it does. It symbolizes the eternal “rest” of God, which is the thesis of the Book of Hebrews. The “rest” of God is the eternal Sabbath in which the Lord Jesus always has and always shall live. Jesus kept the earthly Sabbath in order to fulfill all righteousness, His righteousness that is ascribed to us when we faithfully follow and obey the Spirit of God.
When Hebrews exhorts us to labor to enter the rest, it is referring to that place in Christ that supersedes all earthly religious ordinances. We are crucified each day, as we turn away from our earthly desires and plans. We are raised into eternal life each day as the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, which are our resurrection Life, are issued to us because we have, with His help, chosen to serve Him rather than our sinful nature.
To be crucified and yet live is the eternal Sabbath. It begins now and continues forever. We always and forever will live by the Life of the Lord Jesus, just as Christ lives by the Life of the Father. We must “labor” to enter the eternal Sabbath because there are so many “works,” even religious works, that our adamic nature is always prompting us to perform.
We labor to enter the Divine rest by looking to Jesus for all we are doing at all times and in all circumstances, so we are not living just by our human inclinations. We will be living like this when churches and religions have long ago passed away. We are coming a new creation, in which the old is passing away and all is becoming new in Christ. The new creation supersedes all previous covenants, and directs and enables us to perform the righteousness that is the intent of all previous covenants. The new creation is the new covenant between God and man.
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. (Galatians 6:15)
By no means is Sunday the Sabbath day, although it is a strong tradition in Christian nations based perhaps on the fact that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, that is, on Sunday. I commend these dear folks on their desire to keep God’s commandments. The Sabbath commandment is similar to the equally important commandment of the circumcision of a child. Both of these commandments are, in my opinion, equal in importance. Circumcision is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments and was instituted prior to the Ten Commandments, at the time of Abraham.
All of the Jewish statutes and ordinances are a shadow of Christ, and all are fulfilled under the new covenant. Christ observed them all, and so when we are obeying the Spirit of God, Christ’s righteousness is ascribed to us (Romans 8:4).
Paul told us clearly in the Book of Galatians that circumcision in the flesh has nothing to do with our salvation.
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:15,16)
The expression “the Israel of God” refers to all who are part of Christ, to the one “new Man.”
Likewise Paul told us of the true Sabbath of God:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
The above is what the Book of Hebrews means by the “rest” of God. I refer to it as living by the Life of Jesus. It is the eternal Sabbath in which the Lord Jesus always lives. Whether we attend church on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday has nothing to do with the Sabbath ordinance of the Ten Commandments. The purpose of the Jewish Sabbath was to give people one day of the week in which to focus their attention on God and to honor Him. Jews were forbidden to work on Saturday, but to give their attention to God. It was not ordained, as far as I know, that the Jews had to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath, although their custom was to do so.
We, however, are to give our attention fully to the Lord Jesus Christ every moment of every day of the week. There is no day in which we are to focus our attention on Christ more than any other day.
When we are crucified with Christ we are dead to the Law of Moses. The Law has no authority over the dead.
By the same token, if Christ is living in us, and we are living by His Life, He will guide us when we are to assemble. In the days of persecution that are coming to America, we may be forced to meet in hiding on some day other than Saturday or Sunday.
I have been a disciple of my Lord Jesus Christ for over 65 years. During the past five I have been more conscious than ever of living by His Life. Christ never once impressed on me throughout 65 years of commitment to His will that there was anything special about Saturday.
God’s will to me is everything. I seek the face of Christ continually that I might do His will. I do not seek His will more on Saturday than on any other day. Hopefully, every day that follows, as I learn to live one day at a time, is holier than the preceding. I would not have it any other way. I do not want the six days that preceded the seventh day to be less holy than the seventh day. I cannot accept that idea!
I am crucified every day. Every day I am raised to do the will of God.
Being a pastor, Sunday is not a Sabbath of rest for me, nor do I ever refer to it as such. Rather, I work harder on Sunday than on any other day. Saturday afternoon is a time of rest for me as I prepare for the Sunday sermon. But I do not regard Saturday afternoon as being more holy than any other time. I could not seek Christ more fervently on Saturday afternoon because I seek Christ fervently at all times—and more so as the days go by and He teaches me to live by His Life.
I certainly have no quarrel with anyone who desires to go to Church on Saturday. By doing so he is showing his love for God and is worshiping Him with other saints.
My only concern is that God’s people have a difficult time letting go of Moses! The truth is, Moses is dead. Christ now is Joshua. We do not know where Moses is buried, so we cannot raise him up and find righteousness by doing what God commanded through him.
I personally would inveigh against setting aside one day a week as being more holy than the other six, in that we might let down our consecration on those less-holy six days.
Everyone should worship God in a way that is meaningful to him or her, and I refuse to judge someone because he or she gathers with the saints on Saturday, or on Sunday for that matter. But I think we can live more fully by the Life of Christ when we give our attention wholly to Him at all times, rather than ignoring Him on Saturday by not looking directly to Him to see what He wants us to do right then—just taking it for granted that He wants us to assemble on that day.
As Paul said about the ordinances of the Law, when we look to something other than the cross of Christ for our righteousness, it is loss for Christ.
We have a new commandment, referred to as the Law of the Spirit of Life. This means we are commanded to follow the Holy Spirit and obey Him diligently every hour of every day of our life.
I have noticed in the Bible translations the expression “free gift.” (What other kind of gift is there?). This is a redundancy intended to emphasize that there is nothing for us to do other than to believe the facts about Christ. Is this nothing more than undisciplined writing or is there something in the Greek language that adds the term “free” to “gift”?
I have concluded that the philosophy of Humanism has altered Christian preaching. We want everyone to be pleased. They won’t accept Christ if they are not pleased, will they? I remember the account of two young people in Southeast Asia who wanted to join a church. The elders asked them if they were ready to be tortured and slain for Christ. Their response was, “Yes.” We ought to try that in America.
How long has it been since you have heard that to be a Christian, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ?
Well, I may have made a case in this article for the truth that Divine grace is more than a “free gift” to people so they need to do nothing but profess to believe in Jesus, and then wait to die and go to Heaven where they can recline forever on their sofas in their mansions and do nothing of significance for eternity. Even though they have not done well, they will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter the joy of your Lord.” You see, even Jesus has been affected by Humanism.
So we cannot do as a Muslim might and say, “God is merciful,” after we have broken His commandment. Our God has told us every idle word we speak will be brought before us in the Day of Judgment. Our God has warned us that as we sow we are going to reap.
We can come before our God, confess our sin, and ask Him to forgive us. God can do that on the basis of the atoning blood shed by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. But confession alone will not bring deliverance. We must turn away from our sin and walk in the light of God’s will. Then the blood of Christ will cleanse us from all sin.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (I John 1:7)
I sincerely wish that every Muslim person could come to the Lord Jesus and receive the forgiveness and righteousness that He lovingly paid for on the cross. Christ then would be pleased to see these new friends that now were receiving the benefit of the terrible suffering He bore for them. I certainly am not referring to joining the Christian religion. I am speaking rather of knowing Jesus personally as a friend and talking to Him all the time.
I think I see the problem clearly. Perhaps sometimes after my death, and America has been ravaged by destruction until it has become a third-class nation, there will arise prophets who will proclaim to the Christian people that they must confess and turn from their sins if they are to enter the Kingdom of God.
May our dear Lord in His mercy and kindness return the fear of God to the United States of America.
(“Grace”, 3812-1, proofed 20210919)