Turning the Grace

Grace may be the most important word in the Christian Faith. We’re saved by grace (Ep 2:8) and we stand in grace. (Ro 5:2) If we get this foundational concept wrong, we may call our theology Christian, but it may still be foreign to God, and leave us with false hope.

God exhorts us to earnestly contend for the authentic, apostolic faith (Jud 3) because false teachers promote a counterfeit Christianity by changing the definition of grace, turning it into permission to indulge, essentially denying God’s nature. (vs 4)

Grace is commonly defined to be the unmerited favor of God, the idea that we may freely enjoy the blessings of God without deserving them. Since those who receive Christ are forgiven and loved by God unconditionally, the claim is that we’re free to sin against God on purpose, that even if we sin deliberately, God will never be angry or disappointed in us: He’s taken care of our sin in Christ. In other words, defining grace this way means we can receive all the benefits of salvation merely by receiving Christ as Savior, and that receiving Him as Lord is optional.

This teaching on grace effectively turns it into a type of open-ended leniency, permission to pursue our own interests, passions, and lusts. This is what Jude calls turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, exposing those who promote this as ungodly, denying the Lordship of Christ. (Jud 4)

Routinely overlooking the willful, wrongful behavior of those we love is unhealthy at best. Claiming God is this way, and that we should be too, is foolish. God simply isn’t like this; He cares very deeply how we act, being grieved and angered by all intentional sin (He 10:26-27) This is clear in the Word, proof of His love. (Re 3:19)

The problem with the common definition of grace is that it fails to account for the miracle of the new birth, and the transforming dynamic inherent in grace. Grace isn’t freedom to sin, it’s freedom from sin (Ro 6:14); grace is God providing us a new nature (2Co 5:17) that’s inclined to obey Him. (1Pe 1:2)

Let no one deceive us (1Jn 3:7): those in Christ have received Him as He truly is, as both Savior and Lord. (Jn 1:12) Those who carelessly and willfully disobey Him as a manner of life don’t yet know Him. (1Jn 3:9)

The relentless assaults of false teachers require us to earnestly contend for the basics of godly faith as we engage each other to fight the good fight and lay hold on eternal life. (1Ti 6:12) God’s Word is unmistakably clear: those who don’t love Jesus Christ don’t belong to Him (1Co 16:22), and all who aren’t trying their best to honor and obey Him don’t love Him. (Jn 14:23)

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God Is Able

Life is suffering, and suffering is hard; apart from God’s restraining grace, pain and hardship often produce bitterness. (He 12:15) Fear that we’ll become resentful in our suffering is to doubt God will give us grace to overcome.

God is certainly able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jud 1:24); He’s able to make all grace abound toward us, so that we’ll glorify Him in every circumstance of life. (2Co 9:8)

This motivates us to pray for ourselves (Ps 119:25) and for each other (1Th 5:23), encouraging one another in the midst of suffering (He 12:12-13), that patience will have her perfect work in us (Ja 1:4), and that God will perfect us  — establishing, strengthening and settling us. (1Pe 5:10)

Believers are saved by hope (Ro 8:24), delivered from worry and despair by our confident expectation that, in the midst of suffering, God will strengthen us to the praise of His Glory (Ep 1:12): this is what He’s chosen us for, and predestinated us unto. (Ep 1:11) We’re His workmanship, created by Him in Christ unto good works, in which God has predetermined us to walk. (Ep 2:10)

Once we understand the purpose of suffering, that God’s design is to glorify Himself in us through it, we rejoice in tribulation (Ro 5:3), knowing that the trying of our faith works patience. (Ja 1:2-3) Patiently enduring trial enables us to experience God’s faithfulness, and such experience produces hope. (Ro 5:4) God is faithful to sanctify us, and He will do it. (1Th 5:24)

Look for His smile in and through suffering; it’s only in being willing to die for Christ that we may experience the power of His resurrection. (Php 3:10)

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The Election of Grace

Unconditional election is the teaching that God chooses (elects) who will be justified (saved) by and through grace (divine enablement) (Ro 11:5), independently of human works or merit (unconditionally). (Ro 11:6) This is predestination, a pre-choosing of our destiny (Ep 1:5) before the world began (Ep 1:4) based on God’s own will (Ja 1:18), not based on free will. (Jn 1:12-13)

Since Man is desperately wicked (Total Depravity) (Je 17:9), he only does good by the irresistible grace of God. (Ro 9:19) Man is unable to even consider doing anything good without God’s aid (2Co 3:5); without Him we can do nothing good. (Jn 15:5)

While infallibly saving only a few, God mysteriously offers salvation to all (1Pe 4:9), inviting all to come to Him and be saved (1Ti 2:4), refusing no one who repents and turns to Him. (Is 55:7) Yet no depraved soul will ever come to God (Ro 3:11) unless He first moves in them to do so. (Jn 6:65) This is implied in Man’s nature when left to himself (Ro 1:20-21); it isn’t God’s fault. (Ro 3:4)

God forces no one against their will; He allows the wicked to sin according to His purpose (1Pe 2:8), while irresistibly and graciously working in and through His elect to will and to do good as it pleases Him (Php 2:13), guiding and forming our will so that we seek Him, believe on Him, obey Him and follow Him. (Ro 8:29-30)

All the Father ordains to come to Christ will come to Him and be saved eternally. (Jn 6:37) Our election, salvation, and sanctification are all ultimately due entirely to God, not ourselves. (1Co 1:30-31)

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