Tag Archives: grace

Baptism: Are We Saved By Works? — Jon Mitchell

The Scriptures clearly teach that baptism is something one must do in order to be saved and have sins forgiven (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).  Yet many disagree with this for several reasons.  One such objection stems from a very understandable line of thought, mainly this.  The Bible says we are not saved by works in Ephesians 2:8-9.  Baptism is a work.  Therefore, baptism is not necessary for salvation.

Certainly baptism is something one does, and therefore is a “work.”  However, is it a work of merit (by which one earns salvation)…or is it a work of faith (by which one receives salvation)?  Furthermore, who is the one doing the work?  Is it the man or woman who submits to being immersed…or is it God who forgives and regenerates them through the blood of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit?

In answering these legitimate questions, it must first be pointed out that there are different kinds of works.  There are works of merit which are done to earn something.  Those who have done such works believe they deserve something; they believe they will be saved because they did good deeds and went to church, or read their Bibles, or something to that effect.  Yet all the good we might do cannot outweigh even one sin (James 2:10).  That’s why we need God’s grace and our faith in order to be saved (Rom. 3:27-28; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:4-5).

There are also works of faith which are done to receive something.  Those who do works of faith believe that they deserve nothing because they understand that their obedience does not earn or merit their salvation.  They know their salvation rests upon God’s grace and mercy, not because God owes them anything.

This is why works of faith could also be called works of God.  In fact, Jesus calls faith exactly that (John 6:28-29).  Other works of faith which God commands are repentance (Acts 17:30) and confession (Rom. 10:9-10).  Jesus Himself will specifically state on the day of judgment that those who enter Heaven do so because of the benevolent deeds done by them in their lives, while those condemned to hell are in that terrible state because of the lack of benevolent deeds done in their lives (Matt. 25:31-46).

To those who say one does not have to be baptized in order to be saved because baptism is a work, I ask this.  Does one have to have faith in order to be saved?  Jesus said so (John 3:16; Mark 16:16).  Does faith require works, something done by you?  Yes (James 2:14-26).  Does one have to repent of sins in order to be saved?  Jesus said so (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30).  Is repentance a work, a deed done by you?  Yes.  Does one have to confess their faith in Christ before men in order to be saved?  Jesus said so (Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10).  Is confession a work, an action done by you?  Yes.  Does one have to do good to all men at every opportunity in order to go to heaven?  Jesus thinks so (Matt. 25:31-46; Gal. 6:10).  Are benevolent deeds works, deeds done by you?  Yes.

So what’s the difference between obeying God’s commands to have faith, repent of sins, confess one’s faith before men, and do good to all men at every opportunity in order to be saved…and obeying God’s command to be baptized in order to be saved?  To ask is to answer.  Would one say that one does not have to have faith, repent of sins, confess faith, and do good to others in order to go to heaven?  Such notions blatantly contradict what the Bible teaches.  Yet if faith, repentance, confession, and doing good are required of us in order to be saved…why not baptism also, since it also is commanded by God?

What’s hard for some to understand is that even though works such as faith, repentance, confession and benevolent deeds are commanded by God, they are not meritorious works; we do not earn salvation through them (Luke 17:10).  Instead, they are works God has ordained we do in order to receive His salvation.  When all is said and done, salvation is still by God’s grace and mercy.

Baptism, therefore, is a work of faith.  It requires faith (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36-37), and is an act of faith by which one receives (not earns) forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  Through it one receives (not earns) union with Christ in His death and is raised with Him to a new life (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27).  The fact that baptism is not a work of merit is emphasized by Paul when he wrote that God saves us “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:4-5).  This alludes to baptism, especially when we compare this phrase to John 3:5, 23 and Acts 8:36-39 and 10:47-48.  Yet Paul still says that baptism does not save us by “works of righteousness” (i.e., works of merit).  God does not owe us salvation because we were baptized.

Baptism, like faith, repentance, confession and benevolent deeds, is simply an act of faith by which we receive salvation.  This is so because baptism involves the working of God (Col. 2:11-13).  God does the work, not us!  It’s God who makes us alive through baptism, praise His name!

 

That’s Why It’s Called Grace – Neil Richey

The following was recounted about two popular denominational preachers of the 19th century and recorded in a 1983 issue of Moody Monthly:

Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker both had churches in London in the 19th century. On one occasion, Parker commented on the poor condition of children admitted to Spurgeon’s orphanage. It was reported to Spurgeon however, that Parker had criticized the orphanage itself. Spurgeon blasted Parker the next week from the pulpit. The attack was printed in the newspapers and became the talk of the town. People flocked to Parker’s church the next Sunday to hear his rebuttal. “I understand Dr. Spurgeon is not in his pulpit today, and this is the Sunday they use to take an offering for the orphanage. I suggest we take a love offering here instead.” The crowd was delighted. The ushers had to empty the collection plates 3 times. Later that week there was a knock at Parker’s study. It was Spurgeon. “You know Parker, you have practiced grace on me. You have given me not what I deserved, you have given me what I needed. [http://tinyurl.com/4g6pms]

Grace is more than a free gift bestowed upon man by God. Grace is a gift that we can and should extend to our fellow citizens, neighbors, brethren, and especially our own family.

I must say, there have been times when my words toward the ones I love most have been anything but gracious, and there have been times when I’ve had to gather the family around and say, “I’m sorry.” You may be thinking the same thing about yourself.

Having just completed a discussion on relationships, including family relationships, the apostle Paul opens Colossians 4 with “. . . Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:5).

In the heat of the moment when your heart is flooded with emotions, instead of speaking unkindly to the one you love and thinking to yourself that your words for that person were provoked and deserved, remember what Paul just said.

Pause and think of a way to return kindness for unkindness–that’s why they call it grace!

http://www.neilrichey.com

The Grace of Giving — Bill Young

Man is lost and the way of salvation is revealed in the New Testament. The New Testament shows the lost how to get into Christ. It also shows the one that is in Christ how he is to live. The New Testament is a complete guide. It instructs in all things that have to do with life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). In order to enjoy salvation, one must follow all of the New Testament—not just part of it. It is necessary for an individual to accept the whole counsel of God. This has been the church’s plea to the world. However, it is necessary to ask, “Does the church really believe this plea?”

The church has given careful attention to Acts 2. It has defended the truth presented in that chapter on every hand—even in debate. It is clear that baptism to the penitent believer is for the remission of sins. Speaking of debates, however, would there be any preachers willing to sign a proposition requiring one to defend the practice of giving based upon 2 Corinthians 8 and 9? If not, why not? Is it any more important to practice the truth of Acts 2 than the truths of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9? In these chapters, Paul holds up the churches of Macedonia as a model in the practice of giving. If one must follow the model presented in Acts 2 in order to be saved, would one argue that it is unnecessary to follow the model in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 on giving? Why does it seem that members of the church accept the example of baptism in Acts 2, but not the example of giving in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9?

In 2 Corinthians 8, there are two examples of giving. One is right and the other is wrong. The Macedonians demonstrate the right principles and are the right kind of example in giving. The Corinthians demonstrate the wrong principles and are the wrong kind of example in giving. The church condemns the religious world for neglecting to preach the truth on Acts 2:38, but is the church any better when it neglects to preach the giving found in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9? Perhaps Paul’s words in Romans 2:21 would be right to remember at this point, “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?”

The reader is asked to consider another example. The church at Troas is a biblical example for partaking of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. Members of the church insist that this example must be followed. Just as Troas was an example of meeting weekly on the first day of the week to observe the Lord’s Supper, so were the churches of Macedonia an example of giving for Corinth to follow. If the churches of Macedonia were examples for Corinth to follow, one might wonder why members of the church today do not place as much emphasis on following the example of Macedonia when it comes to giving. When the church comes to a point where it places as much emphasis on following the example of the Macedonian churches in giving as it has with Troas in partaking of the Lord’s Supper, a new day will dawn in the church. After all, what method of reasoning has led the church to teach others that they must follow the example of Troas in Acts 20:7 while not believing that it necessary to teach others to follow the example of the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8?

The fact of the matter is that the only right view of any subject is God’s view of it. This is true not only of baptism and the Lord’s Supper but also of giving. The sincere soul is as interested in God’s view of giving as he or she is of any other subject. Second Peter 1:5-10 is often referred to as the Christian “graces” in which the Christian is urged to “add” each item to his or her faith. Paul told the Corinthians some very similar matters and then added something significant in light of the current discussion, “Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also” (2 Cor. 8:7). This “grace also” is the grace of giving.

Consider the Bible’s inspiration in describing giving. In 2 Corinthians 8-9, giving is called a grace five times—one time “the grace of God;” one time the “exceeding grace of God.” How do these words compare with what the average member of the church calls it? The church talks about calling Bible things by Bible names and doing Bible things in Bible ways because such is a biblical concept (1 Pet. 4:11). It should be no different in regard to giving.

The two chapters of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 show that giving is a grace. Giving is the proof of what God’s grace has done for us. It is natural for individuals to think of self instead of others. However, Christianity makes one over (2 Cor. 5:17). A Christian’s giving tells how good a job was done. In other words, giving is a measure of what becoming a Christian has done for each member of the church.

The solution to the contribution problem is not more money in one’s pockets but more grace in the Christian’s heart. The churches of Macedonia are an example of this fact. Becoming a Christian had done something for the Macedonians. How did Paul know? He looked at their contributions and had the evidence (2 Cor. 8:1-2). The Macedonians were poor (2 Cor. 8:2), but their poverty did notexcuse them from doing something. In fact, the Macedonians surpassed Paul’s expectations in giving (2 Cor. 8:5). This fact showed Paul expected them to at least give something. Even though a Christian may not have much, this is not an excuse for failing to give. The grace of God in the heart of a Christian makes it a privilege to give—not a duty. After all, the Macedonians asked to be included in this opportunity of giving.

Giving measures the debt of the Christian’s devotions and consecrations (2 Cor. 8:5). The Macedonians first of all gave themselves. The proof that they had given themselves was the first contribution. When Abraham gave Isaac, it showed the depth of his devotion and consecration. When God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, it was not Isaac that God wanted, but Abraham. The passing of the contribution basket is not just a call for money, it is a call for Christians to give themselves. Does a Christian want to know how devoted he or she is to the Lord? The Christian needs to look at his or her giving. What about giving when one must be away from his or her home congregation? Does he or she make up the giving when back home? After all, the work continues whether one is there or not.

Finally, it should be remembered that the love of Christ is the foundation of the Christian’s hope as well as the pattern of giving (2 Cor. 8:9). A Christian cannot accept the love of Christ as the foundation of his or her hope unless the Christian is willing to accept His life as a pattern of giving. Paul charged Timothy to give those who are rich certain reminders about giving (1 Tim. 6:17-19). When it comes to giving, needless to say, the whole counsel of God must be preached (Acts 20:27).

In conclusion, God’s grace is the foundation of liberality. An appreciation of God’s grace produced liberality in the churches of Macedonia. Here is where the church today must begin to remedy the lack of liberality.       

candyman1102@bellsouth.net

Grace, Faith, Law, and Works — Roy Knight

Four men were standing in front of a stove having a heated discussion on how the egg in the frying pan was being cooked. The first man said, “Obviously it’s the element under the pan that provides the heat which cooks the egg.” The second man said, “Surely you jest. The egg is being cooked because I turned the knob that turned the element on.” The third man said, “You are both wrong. It’s the stove that cooked the egg.” The fourth man said, “No, it’s the electricity that cooked the egg. If the stove was not hooked up to the outlet nothing could be cooked.”

Now Christian, let me ask you, “What cooked the egg?” Would you argue on the side of any of these men or would you come up with your own thoughts? To argue for any one of their positions would be utterly foolish. Why is that? Because it took all four to heat the egg: The heated element, the knob, the stove and the electricity. These all worked together to get the job done.

As silly as this illustration may be, why is it that we fall into the same trap when it comes to faith, grace, law and works? Why is it that we will get red in the face and bent out of sorts advancing one over the other when all four are essential to our salvation?

Let us define these terms beginning with “grace.” The most common definition for grace is God’s unmerited favor towards a sinful people. Proponents of the grace side will go to Ephesians 2:5 and quote, “by grace you have been saved” (NKJV). “Faith” defined would be a trust in God that He is able to provide all of our needs. Those who will take faith’s side will go to Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him….” “Law” may be defined as the system of rules that God has set up to govern our lives. Still, those who look keenly at the importance of law and rules will look at John 14:15, If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Finally, there are works. Works are simply anything we may do to seek to fulfill God’s will. Those who champion the importance of works will go to James 2:24, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” For which side would one argue? To argue for any of them as the stand alone source of salvation is silly. All four play a part in salvation.

One may say, “Well, God’s grace came first!” And with that I would not argue. The question is not which came first but which ones play a part in salvation. All four do. All four wheels are important when driving a car. To drive with three or less would be disastrous.

Others may say, “Well, John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” People use this verse to advance several false doctrines. First, there is the view that there was no grace or truth under the Old Covenant. The second view is that there is no law under the New Covenant in which we live today.

Was there grace under the Old Covenant? Is there no law under the New Covenant? What about all four: grace, faith, law and works? Let us see. Let us go back to Noah. Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” There is grace. Genesis 6:14-15a says, “Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. And this is how you shall make it….” There is law—God’s instructions. Genesis 6:22 says, “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” This verse encompasses both Noah’s faith and his works in building the ark. These four are again seen in Hebrews 11:7, “By faith (faith) Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen (grace), moved with godly fear, prepared an ark (law and works) for the saving of his household….” Law is seen in that Noah prepared the ark according to God’s pattern.

Are all four, (grace, faith, law and works) seen under the New Covenant? Actually, one sees all four anytime one becomes a Christian. For example, consider the conversion of the 3,000 on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. First, one sees God’s grace—God’s reaching down to an underserving humanity in the peaching of the gospel. Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation….” God did not have to open up a means of salvation to us, but He did. Faith is seen when the multitude cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do,” (Acts 2:37). They knew they were dependent upon God for their salvation and that they needed to do something. Law is seen when Peter told them what they must do, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). If they did not follow God’s law, they would not have their sins remitted or washed away. Works is understood in their being baptized. Acts 2:41 says, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

In conclusion, church leaders studying these topics need to take a balanced approach. To favor one position over another leads into false doctrine. On the one hand, to fall into the “grace only” or “faith only” camps, which many have done, will lead the congregation into denominationalism. On the other hand, taking the “works only” stance will lead good brethren into legalism. To argue one over the other shows an immaturity in God’s word and shows a pride that is not built upon God’s wisdom. To do so is about as palatable as eating a plate of cold eggs.

rknight@homesc.com

The Grace That Brings Salvation – T. J. Bolen

Grace is an all-encompassing idea to help folks understand that God is the origin of salvation and has provided the means by which one remains in a proper relationship with Him. Grace is without question one of the most familiar words from the Scriptures. Grace is the most common translation of the Greek word charis. This term is found 154 times in the New Testament—100 of which occur in Paul’s letters. It is also translated as: favor, credit, and thankfulness (NASB). Grace is commonly defined as “unmerited favor.” While this definition is certainly accurate, it is only one possible use of this term.

In Luke 1:30, Mary the mother of Jesus was said to have found “favor with God.” Jesus grew in “favor with God and men” (Luke 6:52). In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he teaches the church that God credits the followers of Jesus with righteousness even though they, of their own accord, are unrighteous. Therefore, righteousness is not earned. It is granted to Christians by God. In demonstrating this point, Paul taught that Abraham, even as faithful of a man as he was, did not earn his righteousness. On this matter, Romans 4:16 reads, “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” Abraham is a spiritual ancestor to Christians. Christians must trust in God just as Abraham did. This fact, Paul states, is according to grace. In this verse, the familiar concept of grace as something given by God can be seen.

Another use of charis is found in Colossians 3:16 where Christians are commanded to sing with “thankfulness in our hearts.” From these passages it can be said grace is: something to possess, something to grow in, given by God, and the source of thankfulness.

In addition to the ideas above, and all the others one could extract from the study of this term in the New Testament, one must also know that grace is a need for all of humanity. Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” From this verse and the three which follow, Paul informs Titus on a number of important facts regarding grace.

The first fact is that grace “has appeared.” Jesus had already “appeared” on earth and His teachings could certainly be described by what is written in Titus 2:12-14. However, Paul spoke to Titus of another item in 3:4 which had “appeared.” In this verse, he said the kindness of God had “appeared.” Even though it sounds plausible, Paul does not seem to be using the term “grace” in Titus 2:11 metaphorically for Jesus. When Paul wants to speak of the Savior he identifies Jesus in some way by a familiar name or title as seen in 2:13.

Second, knowing that grace “has appeared,” the reader is told that it was “bringing salvation to all men.” In this “appearance,” grace has made it possible for anyone to be saved. No one is excluded if he or she is willing to live by the standards of grace. This is a welcomed message for all of humanity. It is easy to see why this message would have been an especially welcomed message for the people of Crete. Paul quoted and agreed with a Cretan poet who said “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12-13). The grace provided through Christ will bring anyone near to God regardless of how far they may find themselves.

Although no one can earn salvation or provide grace for themselves, obedience is required to benefit from all which God has made available. Inherent to obedience is action. There are works which must be done. Ephesians 2:8-10 teaches that people are saved by grace—not because of works—but because it is a gift. However, a gift must be opened to be of any benefit. The text in Ephesians also says that Christians are “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Created here is not speaking of human life. It is in reference to the beginning of the Christian life. It is clear from the Scriptures that people must do something in order to receive and keep the blessing of grace.

Returning to Titus 2, Paul told Titus in verses 12-14 what he needed to preach regarding the grace that appeared. Summing up these verses, Paul says that Christians are waiting for the return of Christ, the one who purified them, while being zealous for good deeds. Grace is not something merely given just to be given. It is a “cause” and the Christian life is the “effect.” Considering some thoughts on the apostle Paul and a few items mentioned in the text of Titus, one can form some ideas on the “effects” of grace in the life of a follower of Jesus.

Christians know, or at least should know, what it means to be beneficiaries of grace. The church has been tasked with spreading the gospel. Since grace has been made available to all men and not just to the church, the church is required to make the message by which people can have grace known. This fact is an often overlooked requirement for many in the Kingdom of Christ. Because of grace, the church must share the message that brings grace.

Paul displays in his writings the hope and the continued obedience Christians ought to have in waiting for the return of Christ as well as the longing to be with Christ. In Titus 2:13, he writes, because of grace, they were “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” The Christian’s hope is one of the “effects” of grace.

In Paul’s letter to Titus, “good deeds” were to be the result of Titus’ teaching. It could also be said that good deeds were a result of grace in the life of the redeemed. Those to whom Titus preached were to be ready for (3:1) and engaged in (3:8, 14) good deeds. Beneficiaries of grace desire to do good deeds knowing that they were not saved “on the basis of their good deeds” (3:5). Titus was told to be an example of good deeds (2:7). For those who did not care for the grace of God, their deeds made their motives obvious (1:16).

Grace itself was a teacher as seen from 2:12, “instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” The life lived by an individual following the commands in this verse is in great opposition to that of the typical Cretan found in 1:12. This fact is one of the fundamental ideas required in being the people God would have Christians to be since Christians are to be very distinct from the world in beliefs, morals, and conduct.

Grace is not a light subject when considering its far reaching consequences. It has a place in all things Christian. John Justin, a preacher once known and respected by this writer who has since gone to be with the Lord, truly understood grace. During one of his classes, he told of a time when he was instructed not to preach on grace. To prepare for his sermon after receiving those instructions, he wrote GRACE in large capital letters in the upper left corner of a chalkboard and proceeded to fill the board with various biblical terms in smaller letters until the board was full. After he got up to preach the sermon, he erased GRACE and informed the congregation he had been instructed to not preach on grace. Following that announcement, he erased the rest of the board and sat down. Such was the entirety of his sermon that morning.

Yes, grace is unmerited favor from God for man. However, a closer look at the New Testament shows just how much is involved in that favor. It is a heaping of continual blessings for those united in Christ. May Christians constantly be mindful of the blessings they have because of grace as well as the works they are to be doing because of grace. May they also especially be mindful of those who do not have grace. God did not give grace for those who are Christians already. He gave “the grace of God” that “has appeared bringing salvation to all men.”

teejaybolen@gmail.com

Editorial: The Theme of Grace (October, 2015) – Spencer Strickland, Associate Editor

To say that appreciation describes this writer’s sentiment in being afforded the opportunity to edit this month’s issue of the Carolina Messenger would be inadequate. Many good brethren have written for this paper over the years and have contributed greatly to its success. The former editor and the current one have set a standard in this paper that makes it a challenge for anyone to try to emulate. Therefore, this writer considers it a great privilege to have the opportunity to edit the Messenger for the month of October. This issue is offered to the reader in hopes that it will both encourage and challenge as is, no doubt, always the hope.

The theme of this particular month’s paper is grace. A few years ago, this writer heard a preacher address the charge, that some in the brotherhood make, that the church of Christ has “rediscovered” grace. The preacher rightly disagreed with the notion that the Lord’s church had “forgotten” about grace, and, thus, needed to “rediscover” it. In truth, faithful congregations of the body of Christ have sought to denounce the denominational concept of “grace.” “Grace” is sometimes used in denominations as a license to permit just about any practice that is contrary to the pattern found in the New Testament. Furthermore, “grace” is also sometimes used by denominationally-minded brethren to add something to worship that God never authorized. This year, a congregation in Tennessee decided to add another worship service to their line-up where instrumental music would accompany their singing. The other two worship services, offered to their members, would remain acapella. When the announcement was made to the congregation to add this instrumental service, the congregation was reminded that it had always been a “grace-filled” church. Needless to say, there is much misunderstanding among folks regarding grace as the Bible defines it.

Discussing grace with other Christians often begins with defining it using the well-known definition of “unmerited favor.” In other words, God showed favor or kindness towards man by sending His Son to die on the cross for the sins of the world. At the same time, this favor or kindness was undeserved or unmerited by the objects of that favor or kindness—namely, humankind. While it is true that humankind did nothing to deserve that favor or kindness, that fact is only one side of the coin. What about the fact that humankind’s merits had deserved something? What about the point that man had been diligently working towards earning something from God and deserved God to pay out those wages? Paul indicated what man had been working for and the rightful wages that man deserved, “For the wages of sin is death . . .” (Rom. 6:23a). The rest of that verse, however, speaks to God’s grace, “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23b). This year, at Polishing the Pulpit, Kirk Brothers pointed to a definition of grace given by Jack Cottrell that might be helpful in succinctly defining grace while being consistent with the Bible. Cottrell was said to define grace as, “Favor bestowed when wrath is owed.” As Kirk Brothers went on to explain, “The word grace . . . means more than . . . I got something I didn’t deserve. . . .  The word grace, as defined by God, actually means I got the opposite of what I deserved. It’s not that I got a gift I didn’t work for; it’s that I deserved to die and I got to live.” These words do not sound like a new discovery in the life of this brother in Christ. If one can understand the concept presented by Paul in Romans 6:23 then one can understand the Bible’s definition of grace.

At the same time, understanding the Bible’s definition of grace is not sufficient if an individual wishes to benefit from God’s grace. This issue of the Messenger speaks to that point as one especially considers the articles written by Bolen and Knight. The Bible communicates to the reader that grace involves a great many things pertaining to the life of the Christian. A Christian that understands and appreciates the grace of God realizes that it does something for the Christian. For instance, the grace of God is involved in a Christian’s death to sin. Paul, in writing to the Romans, says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2). These words are especially timely in light of the aforementioned “grace-filled” congregations guilty of committing sin by adding things to their worship that God never authorized. Grace does not excuse sin. Grace involves death to sin.

Additionally, as Paul indicates to Titus, grace plays an active role in the everyday life of the Christian. After receiving salvation through grace (Titus 2:11), grace instructs the Christian in the matter of his or her lifestyle. First of all, grace is involved in teaching a fundamental requirement of one that claims to follow Christ—that requirement being self-denial. Paul writes that grace is involved in “teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts . . .” (Titus 2:12a). “Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts” is, no doubt, tied to the requirement that Jesus presented to his disciples, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Selfishness produces the pursuit of “ungodliness” and “worldly lusts.” Self-denial, which the Bible ties to God’s grace, abandons those things.

Second, according to Titus 2:12, grace is involved in teaching one how to live in a deliberate and positive way before the world. Grace teaches one to live “soberly” or in a self-controlled manner. Grace teaches one to live “righteously,” which is a description of one who desires to do what is right, as defined by God’s word, regardless of what everyone else does. Grace teaches one to live “godly,” or in such a way as to be pleasing to God (cf. John 8:29). Furthermore, grace teaches one to live this way—in the only place one can live—“in this present world.” Obviously, if Christians choose to live this way, they will not be popular with worldly-minded people or denominationally-minded brethren. This way—the biblical way—of understanding grace is quite different than the load of goods that the “church of Christ has rediscovered grace” crowd is trying to sell folks. Sadly, those folks appear to be more interested in catering to the wants and desires of certain people rather than the wants and desires of God.

Third, according to Titus 2:13, grace produces hope in the life of the Christian. Due to God’s saving grace, the Christian is said to be “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” In this life, the Christian is given the hope of eternal life in prospect. After the judgment day, eternal life will be realized for every faithful Christian. As a matter of fact, Paul began his letter to Titus by speaking of that hope when he says, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).

Paul’s words to Titus indicate that God’s grace saves (Titus 2:11), instructs (Titus 2:12), and brings hope (Titus 2:13). Those facts would seem to communicate a great deal more than the generic sense in which “grace” is often presented by denominations and unfaithful congregations of the Lord’s church. Somehow, grace to them is more undefinable and difficult to grasp. This position conveniently opens up a door of opportunity to help them misapply “grace” and use it to supposedly justify introducing unscriptural practices into worship. If anyone questions this justification and misapplication, they can simply say, “We have rediscovered grace” or “we are a grace-filled church.” If an opportunity to help those individuals that are misunderstanding God’s biblical concept of grace happens to arise, then such opportunity should be utilized for the sake of their souls and the souls of those they are influencing. Any departure in the Lord’s church from the “doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9) should cause the hearts of brethren to weep. Jesus loves his church and desires for her to be spotless, wrinkleless, blemish-less, and holy if he is going to acknowledge her as his bride (Eph. 5:27).

In addition to all of these matters relating to the grace of God, as well as the ones discussed in the articles by Bolen, Knight, and Richey, the reader is encouraged to take note of Bill Young’s article concerning “The Grace of Giving.” Special attention is given in that article to the way that God’s grace affects and should affect every Christian’s attitude towards giving. When an individual sits down with the word of God and really wants to learn about God’s grace, it is truly amazing to think about how God’s grace affects every aspect of the Christian life.

Finally, this writer would like to encourage the reader to think about how God’s grace works together with faith, law, and works. Knight’s article gives some excellent illustrations and communicates some important truths about how each of these biblical concepts must be present to accomplish God’s will in the life of the Christian. Grace cannot be discussed in isolation any more than the other three concepts. That truth is an important point to show folks that need to be reached with the saving message of the Gospel of Christ. May it be every Christian’s desire to share the message of God’s amazing grace with the lost in the way that God intended.

Spencer

The High Cost of “Cheap” Grace – David Bragg

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense! Unmerited Favor! Every major branch of “Christianity” believes in it. Countless minions blindly trust it. Sadly the day will dawn to the sad realization that few accurately understood it. So what is grace?

The Definition of Grace

 Translated from the Greek word charis, grace describes a display of favor, especially from God to man. Grace is the tender heart of God through which the plan of salvation was extended to an unworthy humanity. The gospel is, Paul argued, offered by grace and is accepted by faith (Ephesians 2:8).  While the denominational world is deeply divided by what Paul wrote next (“gift of God,” “not of works”), his words effectively capture the essence of grace. It is a gift for which no explanation can be given but that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It is His gracious heart.

How does one personally access God’s grace? Paul’s answer is, “through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). From the very beginning of Christianity the gospel message was preached and the recipients of God’s grace were instructed to “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Throughout the remainder of the New Testament believers marched through the portal of grace by simple obedience in baptism (Acts 16:22; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21). It is in baptism that obedient faith embraces divine grace resulting in the confidence of salvation (1 John 5:13). Those who thus obey and faithfully live in Christ claim God’s divine offer of salvation and are vested with grace’s confidence to access the very presence of God (Hebrews 4:16).

Denominations Have Misapplied Grace

Centuries ago Chinese rulers constructed their famous wall. It was built high and thick to discourage invaders. Yet during the first hundred years of its existence China was invaded several times. Their enemies didn’t go to the trouble of climbing across or breaking through, they just simply bribed the gatekeepers.1 Those gatekeepers are like the trusted religious leaders who “sold out” those they professed to protect by offering them a cheap substitute to God’s amazing grace.

The best way to pervert the divine plan of salvation is to redefine grace. This was accomplished within Roman Catholic theology by their identification of two classes of grace: sanctifying (involved in conversion) and actual (individual divine intervention).2 Of course, the Roman Church claims power to restore the loss of even the sanctifying grace provided the fallen Catholic complies with the specified ordinances and the directives of the Catholic priests.

Grace was further adulterated by Martin Luther and John Calvin in what would become known as the Reformation Movement, leaving a lasting influence on doctrine of total depravity, the belief in original sin, the idea was advanced that mankind is unable to contribute anything to their salvation. They asserted that God’s grace was extended to only a preselected portion of the human race, those predestined by God.3 This new doctrine was contrary to the inspired teaching of Paul (Titus 2:11). True grace is available to all.

This redefined “grace” becomes a kind of “Get Out of Jail Free” card for spiritual security. Religious leaders insist that grace’s sole purpose is to protect the believer. Sit back. Relax. Let grace drive you straight to Heaven without any effort on your behalf. “After all, isn’t grace ‘the gift of God,’” they say pointing to Ephesians 2:8-9 as they decry “works salvation.”

It is obvious that no amount of obedience will ever be sufficient to earn one’s way into heaven (Ephesians 2:9). If such were possible Christ’s sacrifice on the cross would have been unnecessary. Grace is a divine gift that must be accepted by a living faith of active obedience (James 2:21-26). It may also be lost (Galatians 5:4). Many who object to the requirement of “works” in accessing God’s grace mainly object to the one “work” most clearly identified with salvation in the New Testament, baptism (although the one doing the baptizing is the one actually “working”).

 How Has Their Definition Influenced the Church?

While it may be tempting to resist the idea that the perversion of God’s grace by others has any impact within the church, it is nevertheless a fact. Consider this partial list of controversies that have rocked the Lord’s church in recent decades:

  • Instrumental music.
  • Marriage-Divorce-Remarriage.
  • The Unity Movement.
  • The New Hermeneutic.
  • Female leadership roles.
  • The necessity of baptism for salvation.

Each of these cases mimic the abuse of grace perpetrated by the denominational world. What pattern have they followed? Simply this: the best way to pervert the divine plan of salvation is to redefine grace. The easiest course for anyone seeking to do what the Bible specifically forbids is to embrace this denominational tactic. In their hands the inspired guidelines become simply “love letters,” the divine pattern is drained of its power, and even the clear boundaries between the New Testament church and the denominational world come crumbling down.

God’s true grace does not grant freedom for anyone to live their lives as they wish while still claiming grace’s protection. Grace in fact does the exact opposite. It “teaches” believers to live righteous lives (Titus 2:11-13). Grace is a spiritual “safety net” below the obedient believer, a safeguard for active faith when the inevitable falls occur (1 John 2:1-2). However, those who have grown complacent through a misunderstanding of grace will tend to use it as a hammock! Grace is not an excuse for complacency but an incentive to grow. It offers hope to sinners (Romans 5:1-2). It gives power to prayers (Hebrews 4:16). It draws Christians close to the very heart of God.

In the end “cheap” grace doesn’t save, it costs!

 

Endnotes:
1Pulpit Helps, No Security in High Walls. (Date unknown).

2 CatholicCulture.org, s.v. “Actual Grace,” http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=31646
3 While the word predestination does appear in the New Testament, Paul utilized it to describe all those who would be saved through the New Testament church, a predestined “class” rather than individual predestination.

David Bragg is the Associate Minister at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC