Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. 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.
We are defining “grace” incorrectly today. The result has been morally catastrophic. Hopefully the next few years will see a return to what the Apostles meant by “grace.”
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, While we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14)
The following is what I believe to be the current definition of grace:
“If you profess belief in Christ, no matter what you are like as a person, how you behave, God has received you in Christ and has forgiven you. When you die you will go to Paradise to live forever in love, joy, and peace.”
I do not believe this definition is scriptural. When the Apostles blessed the churches with grace and peace, this is not what they meant by “grace.” I believe our perception of grace is incorrect and is destructive of God’s intention.
- Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, eases or removes God’s requirement that man be made in God’s image in spirit, soul, and body.
- Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, is a substitute for moral growth.
- Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, permits Christians to continue in sin without serious consequences.
- Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, removes the fervency required for the life of victorious living in Christ. It fosters the life of defeated living.
- Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, prevents a balanced interpretation of the New Testament, and removes the proper role of the Old Testament as a forerunner of the New.
- Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, provides a basis for the current errors, such as the “pre-tribulation rapture” of the believers in Christ, and the prosperity deception.
- Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, is the supreme delusion, from my point of view.
I would like to offer another definition of “grace,” that I believe is scriptural:
“Grace” is God in Christ forgiving man and enabling him to be transformed in personality until he meets God’s standard concerning the personality and behavior of man.”
The Apostle Paul taught grace as the Divine alternative to the Law of Moses, not as the Divine alternative to moral transformation, to the new creation of righteous behavior.
I think we have fallen into error by not placing sufficient emphasis on sanctification. Our preaching often seems to be occupied primarily with justification.
To be justified is to be without guilt in God’s sight. God is satisfied with us. We have met His requirements at this point in time and have been totally forgiven. Justification is accomplished through the blood of the cross.
Justification does not admit to degrees. We either are guilty or we are not. No person can be more justified than another person. Justification is not progressive.
Sanctification, on the other hand, is progressive. There are degrees of sanctification. To be sanctified is to be holy to the Lord. Each day the Holy Spirit brings to our mind some aspect of our behavior that is not Christlike. We may have practiced immoral behavior. We may have acted in spite or anger or jealousy.
The moment we become aware of darkness in our personality we are to confess it specifically and clearly as sin, and then resolve to turn away from such behavior. This is our part. God’s part is to forgive us and to cleanse us from this trait.
Justification is useless apart from sanctification. It is the daily process of sanctification that changes us into God’s moral image. God counts us justified (without the guilt of sin) with the understanding that we then will walk with Him in the work of sanctification. If we do not cooperate with the Spirit of God in the work of sanctification, then no new creation emerges. God’s purpose under the new covenant, of writing His law on our mind and heart, has been aborted.
Can you see how our overemphasis on justification and our neglect of the work of sanctification has resulted in a terrible perversion of the grace of God? The grace of God includes justification, sanctification, and glorification. Obviously we cannot jump from justification to glorification. But this is what the doctrine of the pre-tribulation “rapture” of the believers suggests is possible.
We have gotten off the Gospel track. The present perception of Divine grace, that it is an unconditional forgiveness (justification) unrelated to the change of our personality into the image of God, is a masterpiece of satanic delusion. This delusion has accomplished Satan’s purpose, which is to prevent the moral growth of the Christian people. As long as Christian people are morally immature they pose no threat to Satan’s kingdom in the earth.
As long as the believers in Christ do not move past the stage of justification through the blood of the cross, Satan does not fear them. It is when they begin to reveal in their behavior the righteous Nature of Jesus Christ that Satan is terrified. He flees from the righteous. Satan regards the earth as his possession, and any human being who, through the grace of Jesus Christ, begins to show forth the righteous behavior of Christ, becomes a dreaded enemy. Whoever departs from lawlessness and begins to serve God in righteousness becomes the prey of the wicked one. Such a person is a forerunner of the Kingdom of God that one day will govern the earth.
Let me say again: justification is static. It is the forgiveness of our sins. It cannot exist in degrees such that one person is more justified than another.
Eternal life, however, exists in degrees. It is not static. There is life and there is abundant life. One person can have more eternal life than another because eternal life is the Life of God that lives in us.
Holiness exists in degrees. It is not static. We are to increase in holiness each day. As the Holy Spirit leads and enables us we are to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. We should be more holy today and have more eternal life than was true at this time yesterday.
Our change into the moral image of Christ is not static. It increases as day by day we obey the Spirit of God. One person can be more in the image of Christ than is true of another person.
Divine grace forgives us, and then changes us so we can and will keep the laws of the Kingdom of God. These are the laws that are found in the Sermon on the Mount, and elsewhere in the four Gospel accounts. We are learning to keep them now as our sinful nature is destroyed and Christ is formed in us. They are the commandments of the Lord Jesus. They shall be kept and enforced during the coming Kingdom Age, and then throughout the new heaven and earth reign of Jesus Christ. This is the purpose and effects of grace.
Salvation sometimes is conceived of as a ticket. We get our ticket when we accept Christ. But salvation is not a ticket. It is a work that begins when we first accept Christ and then works in us each day as we increase in holiness and eternal life.
When we first accept Christ we begin to walk on the road that leads to the fullness of the Life of God. To stop anywhere on that path is to come short of the Glory of God. It also is to move backward; because the pressures on us are so great it is impossible to get to a certain place in Christ and remain there. We immediately begin to turn spiritually rotten, just as was true of yesterday’s manna.
It is my hope and prayer that the coming years will see a return to the New Testament.
(“Grace Defined”, 4063-1)