Continuing on with the three phases of the plan of God, we move on to phase three.
PHASE 3: ETERNITY: Grace in the ages to come. That which we have previously covered, grace in salvation and grace in the Christian life, does not in any way even begin to exhaust the grace of God. Even more grace is to be brought in at the Rapture of the Church, and at the Second Advent. I Peter 1:13, "Therefore prepare your minds for action: be self-controlled; set your hope fully ON THE GRACE TO BE GIVEN TO YOU WHEN JESUS CHRIST IS REVEALED." The raising of those who have died in Christ, and the changing of believers who are alive, and the catching up together of all to be with the Lord forever is a provision of His matchless grace. (I Cor 15:52 & I Thess 4:16-17). No one deserves this final and glorious deliverance from the consequences and presence of sin. But even more, we will be conformed to the image of the Son of God (Rom 8:29), we will be made like Him (I John 3:2), we will have bodies fashioned like His glorious body (Phil 3:21), we will be one with the Father and the Son even as they are one (John 17:21), and we will share with Him the glory given to Him by the Father (John 17:22). All of these things can only be brought about because of the greatness of His grace. Nothing else can explain so great an exaltation of a creature that is so depraved and so unworthy to receive anything from God.
As glorious as all this is, it does not in any way exhaust the infinite and unrestrained provision of God's grace. God's ultimate purpose in saving man is expressed in Ephesians 2:7, "In order that in the coming ages he might show THE INCOMPARABLE RICHES OF HIS GRACE expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus." Forgiveness of sins is according to the "riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7). But the grace that is revealed in the coming ages (dispensations) is the "INCOMPARABLE RICHES OF HIS GRACE." Only after all things have run their course and are forever done away with, will the grace of God reach its fullest point. That surely will be the fullness of His grace.
In our study of grace one passage sums up the concept of grace, Eph 5:25-27, "...Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." This expresses the meaning of grace. It is not only God's means of forgiving sin, but it includes all that He does with and for the believer in raising him from his lost and condemned state, in purifying and perfecting him; and finally, in placing him as a glorious being, far above all other created beings in a perfect union with Himself.
Recently I discovered a perfect acronym for grace. -- G-R-A-C-E. -- God's Riches At Christ's Expense. I believe that this explains grace in its simplest terms, yet covers it all.
In part 2 of our study of grace I want to give a number of comparisons of grace to other systems of thinking, and other philosophies.
GRACE TEACHING VERSUS HUMAN TEACHING
The teaching of high ideals and high moral standards is purely a high level of human teaching. And even though they are necessary for the preservation of any nation, they are not God's standards for a life under grace. Why? Because the unsaved individual can have very high ideals and high moral standards, but that doesn't make him acceptable to God. PRINCIPLE: Anything an unsaved person can do is not the Christian way of life. But the purpose of grace teaching is to produce in the believer a life on the divine level. It is far more than just morality and ethics and a good code of conduct, even though all those things are a part of it. Even though many overt activities of both the saved and unsaved appear to be identical on the surface, it is the inner motivation that determines the level of living. The outward expression of godly living as taught by grace cannot always be determined from the high human standards of life. There are standards of godly living that are beyond the conception of the natural mind. These are on a divine level and are far higher than the very finest teachings of the best philosophers, or moral teachers. The standards under grace are so high that it makes comparison impossible. The standards of grace are even higher than the high standards of that which God gave in the Mosaic Law.
The thinking of one under grace should be in perfect harmony with the thinking of God. II Cor 10:5, "...we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." If every thought is made obedient to Christ, the overt conduct would also be obedient to Christ. Because overt conduct has its source in thought.
If you can begin to understand that there isn't anything anyone can do to help God in any way, then you have begun to get a glimpse of grace. Because it is only in our total helplessness, not only in salvation, but in living the Christian life, that God is able to "make all grace abound to you" (II Cor 9:8). But once you get the idea that you can actually do something to help God, or you can actually serve God in any way, then you have moved into arrogance, and in arrogance you live your life in legalism, religion, and self-righteousness. And it is only the god of this world (Satan) who will bless you and who will answer your prayers. Therefore, humility that is brought about by grace is the only means by which we can be in a position to be blessed by God. True humility can only come from the teaching of grace. Most human humility is nothing but hypocrisy. Only the humility that comes from the teaching of grace can be accepted by God. Humility basically means, "Teachability, and the respect for authority." In the Christian life it means no dependence upon self, but complete dependence upon God and His Word. Total dependence upon God produces true humility. Dependence upon self produces arrogance and pride. Arrogance and pride are out of harmony with God's program of grace, because grace emphasizes the fact that everything is of God. I Cor 4:7, "For what makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? (in other words, you don't have anything that was not given to you in one way or another) And if you did receive, why do you boast as though you did not?" I Cor 1:28-29, "He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." In other words, God went to great extremes to keep man from being arrogant and boasting about anything.
The only condition placed upon man for the enjoyment of all the blessings of grace is FAITH. Rom 4:16, "It is of FAITH so that it might be BY GRACE." This law of faith, or simple dependence on God in order to receive His blessings of grace nullifies man's eargerness to think highly of himself. Rom 3:27, "Where, then is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? NO! BUT ON THAT OF FAITH." Paul's attitude was expressed in Gal 6:14, "God forbid that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." The glory of the cross is based on the fact that because of it, God is free to act in grace toward man. And the only glory that comes to man is the glory of being in union with Jesus Christ. We share His glory. Rom 8:17 says, "We are heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ." And that includes His glory. But that is in eternity.
The grace of God taught Paul humility. I Cor 15:9-10, "...I am the least of the apostles, that am not worthy to be called an apostle....But by the grace of God I am what I am." The grace of God went one step further with Paul. Eph 3:8, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." Therefore, true humility is a complete dependence on God. This humility is only developed through a consistent learning and application of the Word of God in the filling of the Holy Spirit. This is a work of grace, and grace alone.
The current teachings of self-esteem, and the importance of self-esteem are evil to the core. Self-esteem causes one to depend upon himself, and that immediately sets it apart from the grace of God, which is total dependence on God.
GRACE AND THE POWER OF GOD
All that God does in redeeming, reconciling and justifying man, and in giving him a new life, is of God alone. Man can contribute nothing. It is very difficult for many to understand the truth that salvation from the penalty of sin is the work of God and Him alone, and it is only our faith in Jesus Christ that makes God's work effective. But even though it is very difficult for many to understand grace in salvation, it seems even more difficult for those who are saved to understand that the life that God expects them to live is not of themselves, but by His power, which is also by His grace.
Because of this lack of understanding, many believers strive in their own strength for high ideals of moral conduct, instead of depending on the power of God through the filling of the Holy Spirit and the application of Bible doctrine. The power of God and only the power of God will enable the believer to live according to the high divine standards under grace. But the believer must use the assets that God gave him at salvation in order to function in the power of God under grace. The first asset the believer must utilize is rebound. The confession of sins to God is the only way for the believer to obtain the filling or controlling ministry of the Holy Spirit, and it is only under the controlling ministry of the Holy Spirit that the believer can live his life in the power of God under grace. But the believer must also realize that the confession of sins to God is not the end. That is not the Christian life in itself. The confession of sins to God is only the beginning, it puts the Christian in the place by which he can live a life pleasing to God. The confession of sins gives us the filling of the Holy Spirit, and when we are filled with the Holy Spirit we can learn and understand the teachings of the Word of God. And it is the learning and application of the Word of God that produces spiritual growth. The confession of sins does not in any way produce spiritual growth directly, it only puts us in the position whereby we can grow spiritually. It is the learning and application of the Word of God, and only the learning and application of the Word of God that produces spiritual growth. And it is through this spiritual growth that the power of God is utilized in the Christian life. In other words, the more you learn from the Word of God, the more of God's power that will be directed through you. Therefore, it is very important to understand that the power of God is available to us, not because we live moral upright lives, but because we apply the principles of grace to our lives and follow the system that God has designed.
It is also very important to understand that you cannot live a life of grace by your own strength. It is only the power of God that can produce the standard of life under grace. And that standard is accomplished only by the filling of the Holy Spirit and the learning and application of the Word of God. The fact that the true Christian life under grace is one of total dependence on God is proof that our life must be lived by the power of God. If the Christian life could be lived in the power of the believer in any way, it would be a life dependent on self, and not God.
In the teachings of grace, great emphasis is placed on the fact that it is God who does all the working, not we ourselves. Phil 2:13, "For it is GOD WHO WORKS IN YOU to will and to act according to His good purpose." Heb 13:20-21, "May the God of peace....equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may HE WORK IN US what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. I Cor 3:7, "Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." I Cor 12:6, in writing about spiritual gifts and the true ministry Paul said, "there are different kinds of operations, but THE SAME GOD WORKS ALL OF THEM IN ALL MEN."
To show that the power of the Christian life under grace is only of God, the Bible emphasizes the weakness of men. II Cor 4:7, "But we have this treasure (God's power) in jars of clay (in frail human bodies) TO SHOW THAT THIS ALL SURPASSING POWER IS FROM GOD AND NOT FROM US." II Cor 1:9, "Indeed, we had the sentence of death in ourselves. But this happened (or God planned it this way) so that WE MIGHT NOT RELY ON OURSELVES BUT ON GOD who raises the dead." II Cor 3:5, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves: BUT OUR SUFFICIENCY IS FROM GOD." Rom 6:13, "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness." This shows us that the power is of God and not of man. Because the instrument is powerless apart from the master's control. This makes it very important to distinguish between trying to SERVE God and being USED BY GOD. We should also keep in mind that God does not desire to help Christians do things for Him. Instead, He desires to do the work Himself through them. That is grace. And grace is that which God does, and the Christian life under grace has all its sources in Him. This means, that whenever there is failure in the life of the Christian, it is because of dependence on self, and not on God.
APPLICATION - The Bible tells us that we are to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. But it does not tell us to go to anyone's house and knock on his door and give him the gospel or invite him to church. That is not the plan of God for the Church Age under grace. We are to be ready to witness at any time, and we are to wait upon the Lord to bring people to us just as He did for John the Baptist. Rom 8:14 says, "....those who are LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD are the children of God." Knocking on doors is a violation of human privacy and human freedom. Therefore, we are to rely upon the Lord to bring the ones to us that He wants us to witness to. If you don't ever have anyone to witness to, then God is simply telling you that you are not ready to witness, or there isn't anyone in your vicinity who is ready to hear the gospel. So don't push it. At the same time we are to be continually preparing ourselves to represent the Lord Jesus Christ by consistently learning the Word of God in the filling of the Holy Spirit, because it is only then that we will be able to fulfill the principle taught in I Pet 3:15, "Always BE READY (always be prepared) to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." Being saved in a Baptist Church, and being taught the Baptist ways of soul winning and witnessing, I used to go out and knock on doors and pass out tracts. I had, what the Baptist's call, success. I led people to Christ and encouraged a lot of Christians along the way. But when I started to relax, and do less in the form of overt activities, and rely upon the Lord to bring people to me, I have had many more opportunities to witness for Christ, and to encourage other Christians. Therefore, I know that the plan of God works. The plan whereby we consistently study the Word, and are ready to witness or to encourage when God opens the door. In other words, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Even though salvation is of God, it is through Jesus Christ. So also is godly living, which is of God and also through Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 15:5, "Without me you can do nothing." Paul said in Gal 2:20, "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." I Cor 15:57, "But thanks be to God! HE GIVES ME VICTORY THROUGH THE LORD JESUS CHRIST." In Phil 1:11 Paul tells believers to be "filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and the praise of God." Therefore, it is impossible to live the Christian life under grace apart from Jesus Christ. The popular idea that Christ goes along side of the believer to lead him and guide him is not found in the Bible. The Bible clearly teaches us that, in this age and this age alone, Jesus Christ is in, not merely with, all who believe in Him.
Dear Christian, it is very important to understand that the divine way of life for the Christian is not imposed on us from without. It flows out from within as naturally as a spring of water. It is the outflowing of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God from the inner-most being of the believer. Jesus said in John 7:38-39, "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'streams of living water WILL FLOW OUT FROM WITHIN HIM.' By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." Therefore, godly living is not merely a suppression of human desires. In Romans chapter seven, Paul describes the struggle and the failure in a life where self-effort was used to suppress and control evil and sin. Rom 7:15-25, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate that is what I do. And I do what I do not want to do, I still agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin (the sinful nature) living in me. I know that in me, that is, in my flesh (the sinful nature) there is no good thing. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin (the sinful nature) living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature I am a slave to the law of sin."
Therefore, the true Christian life is not a life lived by the individual with some assistance from God at crucial times. The true Christian life is the life of God Himself, through Jesus Christ, His Son, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit using the knowledge of the Word of God that the Christian has learned. In the Christian life we have two power options: The power of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which functions when we are filled or controlled by Him, and secondly, the power of the Word of God. "...the Word of God is alive and powerful...." (Heb 4:12). So you can see, that if you don't have a maximum knowledge of the Word of God, it is impossible to live the Christian life. In the human realm we know and we understand that children cannot live a life as mature adults because they do not have the knowledge, nor do they have the insight that is supposed to go with human maturity. This same principle applies to the Chrsitian life. Any Christian who does not have a maximum knowledge of God's Word cannot in any way live the true Christian life. Therefore, I challenge you to develop a consistent Bible study procedure in your life. Place yourself under a pastor-teacher who communicates the Word of God in depth, and in all areas. Utilize the power that God has made available to you as of the moment you were saved. You will be amazed what Biblical information will do for you as it saturates your soul and changes you into the person that God designed you to be.
GRACE IN CHRISTIAN SERVICE
Emphasis on Christian service as the primary factor in the Christian life is often accepted without question in Christian circles today. Service is a factor in the Christian life, but it is NOT the primary factor. The Bible teaches that the believer is to produce "good" works. Eph 2:10, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to DO GOOD WORKS, which God prepared in advance for us to do." The word "good" in this verse is a translation of the Greek word AGATHOS, which means "good of intrinsic value, or good of inner value." Therefore, it actually refers to the inner life, and does not emphasize overt activities. This is teaching that when the inner life is controlled by the Holy Spirit everything you do is classified as "a good deed," or "a good work," and is acceptable to God. When the Holy Spirit controls you, He can teach you self-discipline, He can teach you concentration, and He can guide you into a consistent pattern of learning and growing in grace. Therefore, the "good works" spoken of in Eph 2:10 refers to the "good work" of the Holy Spirit teaching us the Word of God and thereby bringing about spiritual growth. So the "good works" refers to spiritual growth. Growing in grace as per II Pet 3:18. Eph 2:10 could be translated, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to produce good of intrinsic value, achievements which God prepared in advance for us to achieve." This refers to spiritual growth.
Love is also a primary factor in the Christian life. Love has always been a factor in the plan of God, but in the Church Age love carries a new and greater meaning. Jesus said in John 13:34, "A new commandment I give unto you, that you LOVE ONE ANOTHER; AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, that you also love one another." A new commandment means that it had not been in force previously. This was the first time it was given. It also means that there had been a former commandment. What was the old commandment? Jesus in answering one of the lawyers said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is just like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang ALL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS." (Matt 22:37-40).
According to this the Mosaic Law was based upon love as is the new commandment, but still the new commandment is much greater than the old just as the divine is greater than that which is human. The measure of love under the old commandment, under the Mosaic Law was "your heart," "your soul," and "your mind." All these are on the human level. The love for the neighbor as for one's self while unfulfilled by any man, is still only human love. But to love one another as Christ loved us is to love with a divine love. Of this love Paul wrote in Gal 2:20, "Who loved me, and gave himself for me." The new commandment of love transcends the old commandment of love as the infinite transcends the finite. The new commandment of love calls for a standard of love never before thought of by man and in fact never thought to be possible.
For those who want to place the moral standards of the Mosaic Law on the Christian in this age, is to insist upon a purely human standard of life for one who has become a part of the new creation in Christ Jesus. All who are in Christ belong to the new divine order for which there is divine rule of life according to divine love. And when you insist upon the law as a guide to godliness and spirituality under grace, you are actually lowering the concept of godliness and spirituality. In essence you are actually lowering the standards.
Insistence upon the law of the Spirit and the new commandment of divine love does not lower the standards, but raises them. Nor does the law of the Spirit and the new commandment of divine love do away with the morals of the old law. Because all the good that comes from human love is included as a part, but only a small part of that which comes from divine love. Therefore, the morals of the old law are found restated in the grace teachings of the epistles, but they are presented as mere details to the earthly life of one who is in Christ and who has a heavenly calling. I John 1:10, "This is love: NOT THAT WE LOVED GOD, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins." I John 4:19, "We love him because he first loved us." I want you to notice the "matter of fact" statement, "we love him." This is not a command. This is not a requirement. This is a simple statment of fact. Under grace we are not commanded to love God, we are commanded to love one another in the way that God has loved us. Only under law were believers commanded to love God. Under grace we have the indwelling Holy Spirit who guides and directs our lives, and we are to be sensitive to His leading.
CONTINUED IN PART 3 OF THE BIBLICAL TEACHING OF GRACE:
BACK to MBC Links Page <><><> NEXT page, part 3 >>>
Copyright 1999 by Robert H. Kreger. All rights reserved. Anyone may reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.