Sunday, November 1, 2009

Grace alone? What is grace anyway?

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Ephesian 2:8-10

There is a belief in the "Christian community" that says that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. The reasoning comes from the above stated scripture. They say that if we are saved by grace through faith, then we can add nothing to that and play no part in the salvational process. Of course, the actual ending of their argument is ignored. If we have absolutely nothing to do with the process of our salvation, then nothing is required of us- everybody is saved already!

The real crux of the matter is this, however: What is grace? When asked this question the vast majority will respond that grace is "God's unmerited favor". Is that the true definition? Greek word for grace means, "the divine influence on the heart, and it's reflection in the life, including gratitude".

Does this mean "unmerited favor"? No. God is a gentleman and does not force his will upon anyone's life. Indeed, the scriptures declare that "it is not God's will that any should perish...", yet we know from scripture that the majority of people will go to hell. So what does the definition of Grace really mean?

First, it says that grace is "the divine influence on the heart". Jesus said that no man can come to him except the spirit first draws them. God sees us in our fallen state. He sees all of our sins that keep us separate from him. Yet, he loves us anyway! Thanks to his sacrifice on calvary, the door is wide open for us to be in relationship with him! He loves us so much that he begins to try and draw us out of the world and into his will for our lives. No one comes to God on their own, God drew them out. He whispers his love for us in the little things in our lives. He reaches into our hidden desires and dreams and tries to open our eyes to new possibilities. He taps us on the shoulder while we're trapped in prisons of our own making, and tells us that he loves us and is willing to set us free!

Yet, the definition of Grace does not stop there. It goes on to say that God's influence must be "reflected" in our lives. If Grace is the "unmerited favor of God" and we are saved by grace alone, then there is nothing else required of us. But, since grace is a process that begins with God influencing us, but that influence also has to be reflected in our lives, then we DO play a part in our salvation. Salvation then becomes a choice. It is up to us as to whether we are willing to accept that divine influence and allow him to work in our lives! If we do, then his influence will be reflected in our lives for the whole world to see.

For the record, "Unmerited favor" or, put another way, "favor from God that we do not deserve", is MERCY, not grace. Grace is a partnership between us and God. It is God working in our life and our submission and obedience to his will for us. His mercy caused him to go to calvary to pay for our sins. His grace gives us access to the blood that he shed. Mercy opens the door for the divine partnership of grace!

This is why, on the day of Pentecost, on the birthday of the church, the Apostles did not tell the multitudes that all they had to do was "believe in Jesus" and their sins would be forgiven. No, when the crowd asked "what shall we do?", the answer was "Repent, be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38)

What does the divine partnership of grace have to do with Acts 2:38?

First of all, noone would even ask the question "What shall I do to be saved", unless God had influenced their heart and convicted them of their sins- drawing them with his love to the possibility of a right relationship with God.

Next, they (and we) were told that we must repent. What is repentance? It is a spiritual ACTION on our part. It is our first response to the call of God in our lives. We see ourselves as sinners. We see the cross and all that Jesus did to pay for OUR sins. It is an emotional and spiritual response. It is a letting go of our own will and excepting and submitting to the will of God. It is, in short, a complete turning from our sinful ways and turning to God in COMPLETE surrender. This is part of our portion of the divine partnership of grace.

Further, they (and we) are told to "be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (washing away) of your sins." Again, the partnership of grace is displayed. We submit to him in baptism and repentance, he does his part by applying the blood to our lives and washing away our sins.

Finally, they (and we) were told that we would "receive the gift of the Holy Ghost". Again grace is displayed. We submit to God and open our hearts to him, he infills us with his spirit.

One more thought. The proponents of the false "grace alone" theory point to John 3:16 as the plan of salvation. They say that "whosoever" believeth in him WILL not (actually says SHOULD not- it's not a guarantee!) perish but WILL have everlasting life. The Greek for Believeth here means "to have entrust ones spiritual well being to Christ." However, in John 2:23-25, a group of people "believe on Jesus" (same Greek word for believe). We are told that Jesus did not commit himself to them! Newsflash! If Jesus doesn't commit himself to you, you're NOT saved! Yet, in John 3:16, we're told we must believe and these people in John 2 did- but they were not saved. What are we missing here? Is this a contradiction? No.

John 3:3-5 says that we must be born again of the water and of the spirit. Look again at Acts 2:38. We must Repent of our sins, be baptized in Jesus name (born of the water) and receive the Holy Ghost (born of the spirit).

His mercy opens the door for his grace. His grace is a partnership with him that allows him to work in our lives and clean us up. It is a process that is activated and freely given at our biblical new birth (Acts 2:38) and continues, if we allow it, until we die. Grace is a lifetime commitment, not a one time event. God bless you all.