The Biblical Teaching Of Grace: part 3


As we continue on the subject of Grace in Christian Service, it is very important to note that love for God is a major motivating factor in the Christian life, but love for God only comes by learning about Him. And we can learn more about Him by learning a little of His Word every day. Notice, I said, "Learning His Word." Not just reading His Word. Reading the Word of God has its place in the Christian life, but reading is only to go along with studying. Reading by itself will not bring about the love for God that is mentioned in I John 3:11, "This is the message you heard from the beginning: we should LOVE ONE ANOTHER." I John 3:23, "....this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ (salvation), and to love one another as he commanded us." This is recorded in John 13:34, "A new commandment I have given to you, that you LOVE ONE ANOTHER; AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, that you also love one another." Everything we are to accomplish in the Christian life is connected in some way with the learning of the Word of God. Under grace, learning the Word of God is the primary function of every Christian. Any Christian who does not take the time that God has given him to learn His Word, is NOT living the Christian life, and is NOT functioning in any true Christian service activity no matter how many good things he may do. Everything God desires for us to accomplish is connected in some way with the learning and the application of the Word of God.

The Bible says that faith is required of all of us if we are to please God. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, "Without FAITH it is impossible to please God." Not only does God require us to have faith, but He also provides the means by which we can obtain that faith. Romans 10:17, "Faith only comes by learning, learning from the word of God." The only way anyone can develop faith is through the learning of the Word of God. You do not pray for faith, "Faith only comes by learning the Word of God."

Do you want to be "approved of God?" II Timothy 2:15 says, "STUDY TO SHOW YOURSELF APPROVED of God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

Do you want to "love God?" I John 2:5 tells us, "....if anyone follows his Word (the Bible), God's love is truly made complete in him." Before you can follow His Word you must know it, and before you can know it, you must consistently learn it. This requires the greatest work anyone can do, self-discipline and concentration.

Therefore, love is a primary factor in the Christian life. Love for one another. To love as Christ loved. And that is only possible through the filling of the Holy Spirit and a maximum knowledge of the Word of God. Luke 10:38-42, "As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was ever-busied by much serving. So she came to him and asked, 'Lord don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are concerned and interested about much serving, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her." These sisters represent two attitudes that believers take toward Jesus Christ. Both were intensely interested in Jesus and in being with Him, but there was a big difference in their attitude toward Him. Martha's attitude was to do some overt material service for Him. She carried this so far that the Bible said that she became "over-busied" because of "much serving" and, as a result, she became impatient with her sister.

Martha consdered overt service for Jesus as all important. She was occupied totally with the things concerning Jesus. All that she did was for Him. There are many Christians today who are just like Martha. They are totally occupied with the things concerning Jesus, like: witnessing, giving, praying, working in a local church, helping other Christians, etc., etc.

But Mary, on the other hand, instead of doing something for Him, she sat at His feet and received from Him. Mary desired to receive spiritual things from Him. Martha was so busy in her good deeds in serving Him overtly that she had no time to receive the spiritual things He had to offer her. Then Jesus expressed His estimate of the two attitudes toward Him. He kindly rebuked Martha for being concerned and troubled about many things, but added that Mary had chosen that good part, which would not be taken away from her. By His answer to Martha, Jesus was saying that an attitude of desire to receive from Him (Bible teaching) is more highly valued by Him than overt service.

The good works that are a part of Christian service are acceptable to God only under certain conditions. First of all they are only acceptable when the one producing them is filled with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 says, "Be filled (controlled) with the Spirit." This is a command. Secondly, there must be the application of the Word of God that has been learned. II Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every GOOD WORK." And thirdly, there must be love for other Christians. John 13:35, "By this shall everyone know that you are My followers, if you have love for each other." John 15:12, ".....love one another as I have loved you." Galatians 5:22, "...the fruit of the Spirit is love...."

Fear is a false motive for Christian service. Teaching believers to fear God's vengeance on the day of judgment, or of being lost, or being forever cast out by God unless certain standards of life are followed is wrong. Usually these standards are man made and endorsed by various religions and denominations. Fear is used to restrain people from doing what is the wrong thing or to encourage good deeds and to encourage contributions to the church. All of this is appeasement or bribery offered to God. It is not the Christian way of life. Fear was a part of the Mosaic Law. Proverbs 1:7, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." That was under the law, it is not the same under grace. It should be noted that fear is a motive in the lives of many Christians because they do not understand the grace of God. Fear has no place in the life of the believer. II Timothy 1:7 says, "For God has NOT given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind." I John 4:17-18, "Herein is our love made complete, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in the world. There is NO FEAR IN LOVE; but PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT FEAR: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made complete in love."

Christian service must be a voluntary and joyful activity. Because our motivation is based on love, our service must be voluntary. That which is done because of love is never done grudgingly, nor is it done to be recognized by others. Our Christian service activity should never be thought of as a duty performed nor as a responsibility fulfilled. I Corinthians 13:4-8, "Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...."

Christian service is not that of a master and slave relationship. Jesus said in John 15:15, "Therefore, I do not call you slaves.....but I have called you friends." This perfect friendship does not measure the service completed nor expect payment in return. It is without thought of gain or reward. Paul said in Romans 7:6, "But now we are delivered from the law....that we should serve in THE NEWNESS OF THE SPIRIT, and not in the oldness of the letter." (referring the Mosaic Law). To Paul this newness of the spirit had real meaning. He said in Acts 20:24, "But none of these things (bonds and afflictions that awaited him at Jerusalem) move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received from the Lord Jesus, to preach the gospel of the grace of God." Service under grace must be voluntary. No one should tell you what you have to do for God. As you learn the Word of God consistently God Himself, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit using the Word of God you have learned will lead you into the service He desires for you. Everything the believer has, was freely given to him by God because of the grace plan. Therefore, anything the believer does in the realm of Christian service, must be done from his own free will without the coercion of anyone else.

Christian service is not only to be voluntary and joyful and motivated by love; but it must be "as unto Christ" to be acceptable to God. II Corinthians 5:15, "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." I Corinthians 10:31, "....whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Christian service is not only good works done unto the Lord Jesus Christ, but they are NOT done unto men. Colossians 3:23-24, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, NOT FOR MEN.....it is the Lord Christ you are serving." This makes it very clear that every detail of a believer's work, whether it be learning the Word, or something to benefit others, or even working for an employer, should always be done as unto Christ.

Therefore, true Christian service is any activity that is done in the filling of the Holy Spirit, with the application of the Word of God. The greater the knowledge of the Word, the greater the service will be. Which means, that true Christian service becomes more effective as one grows and advances spiritually.

COMPARISON OF GOD'S WAYS AND MAN'S WAYS

Isaiah 55:8 says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord." Under grace God does everything apart from human merit and any thought of repayment. He cannot offer His blessings as an inducement, nor His judgments as a threat to encourage godly living. Therefore, under grace God first reminds us of what He has done in grace; then on the basis of that, He appeals for a life in harmony with that which He has done.

Man's ways are not God's ways. Man still clings to the idea that benefits always come because of good conduct and losses always come because of bad conduct. Natural man always feels that he must contribute something to earn God's favor. This concept is not only non-Biblical, but it is non-Christian. Now these concepts do apply under establishment. We are rewarded and recompensed for the work that we do in the human realm, but these principles do not in any way transfer over into the spiritual realm under grace. In grace, everything is just the opposite.

Under the Law God promised blessings on conditions of obedience and threatened cursing for all disobedience to the law. (Deuteronomy 28). It is very important that God's order under grace not be confused with that under law. It often is. Romans 6:14 tells us, "You are not under law, but under grace."

God appeals for godly living because of His own work of grace. Yet most believers reject God's appeals on grace, and lower themselves to an inferior standard (man's ways), such as morality, ethics, religious standards, or even health standards.

When God's grace appeals are rejected, it is natural for man's legalistic appeals to be accepted. For example, When God's grace is rejected, the zeal and self-sacrifice of other Christians is used many times as an appeal to get us to be more zealous and self-sacrificing. The lives of other Christians should have no bearing as to what I should be doing as a Christian. Everyone is different, and everyone has a different responsibility before the Lord.

When God's grace is rejected, touching stories are often used to appeal to us to do certain things, such as giving more money, or getting more involved in church activities. Stories of the needs of the heathen, or stories of great physical suffering are used to stir the emotions and cause individuals to get involved. All of this is totally wrong. People start doing things for all the wrong reasons. You don't do things just because your emotions are stirred, you do things because the Spirit of God uses the Word of God, and convinces you to do certain things.

When God's grace is rejected, the needs of the local church and the denomination is often used to appeal for more money or more service.

When God's grace is rejected, your own self-respect is used as a reason for Christian service. The response, if any, easily becomes the fulfillment of a duty or the attainment of some great ideal, but it is not Christian service.

When God's grace is rejected, the eloquence and persuasive powers of a speaker or the enthusiasm of an occasion may move some people to action, but the motivation may be wrong.

God's appeals for godly living are only valid when based on His own arguments. No one has the right to ask someone else to do what God asks, and offer inferior arguments than God does. Such as asking Christians to live a clean moral life in order to be godly or spiritual. God's standards for life under grace are so high that it is impossible to appeal for them on the basis of human and moral thinking without distracting from the high requirements. God's own arguments are necessary to hold the appeals up to God's standards. Appeals for godly living based on human arguments always lower God's standards. By rejecting God's grace teachings, standards for godly living are brought down from the divine level to the lower level of human concepts.

Human commands for godly living are entirely negative. They are nothing more than a condemnation of certain vices, sins, and certain manners of living. The condemnation of vices, sins, and certain styles of living apart from grace tends to encourage a feeling of self-righteousness, or a "holier than thou" attitude in those who reform and in those who are not guilty of those certain vices, or sins, and it encourages a spirit of despair in those who repeatedly fail through personal weaknesses. Therefore, such condemnation emphasizes dependence upon self instead of dependence upon God.

God is greatly concerned about keeping the lives of believers away from worldly things. But His approach to the problem is far different from man's approach. There are two methods that the Lord uses to draw the thinking of the believer away from the present world:

(1). Through the teaching of His Word He brings out the greatness, the stability, and the attractiveness of things above.

(2). Through the teaching of His Word He declares the unstable, and temporary nature of things of the earth.

When believers find happiness and stability in the things of God, there is no need to condemn the temporary pleasures of the world. In this manner teaching is mainly positive, not negative.

God always bases His appeals to godly living upon some great fundamental principle, and relates individual acts to it. While man usually deals with individual acts by themselves, apart from any basic principle. The legalistic point of view always considers specific offenses, and brings about restrictive regulations. To leave out the basic principles upon which all teachings of grace are based and to consider specific precepts by themselves is to miss the unique nature of grace teachings and to substitute ethical teachings in their place.

GRACE AND THE CHRISTIAN WALK

Ephesians 4:1, "As a prisoner of the Lord, I therefore urge you to WALK (live your life) worthy of the calling you have received." This appeal is for our earthly life to be in full harmony with our exalted position in Christ. This is NOT an appeal to live in a way so to gain this high position. That is impossible, because the position is so high that it cannot possibly be earned, not even by a perfect life, if that were possible. This exalted position belongs to the believer only because of God's calling, and the individual's positive response of faith. It is a gift of God's grace, and our exalted position is unalterable. Romans 11:29, "....the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable."

Children born into a royal family are taught the protocol of royalty, because they are royalty by birth. They honor their king and their country only as they follow the royal protocol. They are forbidden to do many things which other children do. The average child cannot be urged to live as a prince, because he does not hold that position. The royal position (in Christ), is the basis for the appeal to learn and follow spiritual royal protocol. Ephesians 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." This identifies our calling as being SPIRITUAL and relates it to HEAVENLY THINGS. Walking worthy then, must be of a spiritual order. On a heavenly level. This is much more than just a fine moral life. Ephesians 1:4, "He (God) has chosen us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." This position, which is in His presence, is that of a son. Ephesians 1:5, "For God has predestined us unto the adoption of children (sons) through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." God has determined according to the good pleasure of His will, that all believers in Jesus Christ shall be His sons. This is a family relationship, a position higher than that of any other created being. All of this is because the believer is accepted of God in His beloved Son. EXAMPLE, When a son brings home a bride; even though she was previously unknown and a stranger, she is accepted into the family because of her union with the son.

Ephesians 2:4-5, tells us how God has done all this. "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ, (by grace you are saved): And has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." God has done everything because of His great mercy, which is grace in action. No human merit is acceptable to God. It was "when we were spiritually dead, in trespasses and sins." Even more, He has "made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." The very same place where God sat Christ when He raised Him from the dead. This position is "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come."

What is one of God's reasons for all this? Ephesians 2:7, "That in the ages to come he might show the EXCEEDING RICHES OF HIS GRACE in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." Just think of it! Throughout all eternity we will be the objects of the "exceeding riches" of God's grace. What a fantastic eternity! What a fantastic position! What a fantastic salvation! It is infinite in its glory, and infinite in its duration.

In Ephesians 2:12, 13, 19 & 22, believers are reminded that in the time past they "were without Christ, being aliens....and strangers....having no hope, and without God in the world." But now in Christ Jesus they are made high (in their position) by the work of Christ (vs 13). They are therefore now "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." (vs 19). And in the Lord they "are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (vs 20). Because of what God has done for us, every believer should walk worthy. The question is, "Does your life live up to your position?" Or, "Is your life worthy of your position?" We walk worthy only when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and are positive to Bible teaching. It is only after describing the believer's exalted position, and because of it that the appeal for a worthy walk is made. And this worthy walk is not expressed in actions or deeds, but in the thinking and the attitude of the believer. Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed, by the renewing of your mind." Philippians 2:5, "Let this mind (thinking) be in you, which was in Christ Jesus." II Corinthians 10:5, "We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Only when the thinking is correct, will the actions be correct.

Our relationship with others is a part of our worthy walk. All relationships with others should be conducted as though they were with the Lord. Ephesians 5:22, "Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands AS UNTO THE LORD." Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives EVEN AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH and gave himself for it." Ephesians 6:7-9, "Slaves, serve your masters with good will, doing service AS TO THE LORD, and not to men." And masters were to be kind to their slaves. The Bible never tells believers to try to change society or the laws of their country. The Bible commands all believers to obey all laws without questions. Romans 13:1-7, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, (who follow the law) but for those who do wrong, (those who break the law). Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right (follow the laws of the land) and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, (if you break the laws of the land) be afraid, for he does not bear the sword (of justice) for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath (of judgment and justice) to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (on the law breaker). Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." The believer who is walking (living his life) worthy of his calling is living a life that is on a greater and higher level than that governed by simple moral standards. It is a life on the divine level. Only the power and the grace of God can accomplish this.

CONTINUED IN PART 4 OF THE BIBLICAL TEACHING OF GRACE

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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.