Recently the heartbeat of this blog has transitioned, again. There are 17 posts in my drafts box with topics ranging from the Prosperity gospel, a range of studies on Fundamentalism, Cults, and more on the United Pentecostal Church history and heresy. Yet they continue to exist as drafts because my attention has turned from what is wrong within Christendom to what is beautiful within Christendom!
Those two things, unfortunately, collide constantly – but rather than disputing what is false on the premise that it is false, protecting what is true by its own right – proves some things as false and is a much more uplifting study! And in recent weeks, Grace has been at the forefront of my heart, mind, and soul. The True Touch of Grace.
Grace is an inescapable word when teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) to the Epistles, grace is the purest English word we have to succinctly define what Christ did for humanity in his redemption of an unworthy people. Grace – defined easily and by most, is unmerited favor or in other words, getting a gift when you clearly don’t deserve anything good.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8, NIV
Some of the most incredible Grace Awakenings (that’s what I call a soul set free from Fundamental Legalism) I have seen, and the stories that have been shared with me revolved around the epiphany that the God of our Faith, Jesus Christ, gave himself for our redemption, before we had ever done any good deeds or anything worthy of his sacrifice, and that constantly begging and striving for salvation is not what the message of hope was about, but that it was a free gift of God!
The phrase ‘while we were yet sinners’ indicates our life prior to redemption, faith, and obedience to Christ. It refers to our life and existence before we had a knowledge of the truth and knew who Jesus was and what He would do. It was in that state of worldliness, ignorance, and sin that He chose to bleed, to be bruised for our transgressions and to die as a ransom payment for our lives, for our eternal souls.
The Benediction of Grace
It is hard to escape Grace when reading the Scriptures – Paul’s opening benediction in most of his writings includes the blessing of grace. In Romans 1, Paul says, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul speaks again to the saints of Christ and says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is repeated in Galatians 1, Ephesians 1, Philippians 1, Colossians 1, 1 Thessalonians 1, 2 Thessalonians 1, 1 Timothy 1, 2 Timothy 1, Titus 1, and Philemon 1.
The cycle is broken in Hebrews and this is one of the reasons many scholars do not believe the book to be authored by the Apostle Paul, as the others are attributed. Yet the word grace is found 7 (6 verses) times in the Old Testament (ESV) and 124 times in the New Testament.
What is Grace?
This is a million-dollar question because it is a central pillar to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the center of the Gospel – I would argue to say Jesus IS the Gospel – for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:16) But Grace is the pillar on which the Gospel stands.
So far as I can tell, in the New Testament, where we find the word Grace, it was always the same Greek word used – and this is important because many different words can be translated into the same English word – but in the culture when Scripture was written, different words were used to paint the context of the narrative. It seems here the narrative did not change from use to use.
χάρις or, charis, which is pronounced, khar’-ece.
The word χάρις is given the definition of as being a favour, or a gift, a liberality, and a pleasure. In fact, we often hear Grace defined in Christian circles, old and new, as Unmerited Favor. And in all the contexts in which it is used, that seems to be very apropos.
For instance, when Paul speaks of grace, he declares it to be a free gift, one in which we don’t deserve because we are sinners who can’t reach the finish line of righteousness nor can we compare to the glory of God. Yet, God justifies us anyway – and not because of our actions and works, our struggles and beggings, but through Jesus Christ alone. Through Grace, alone.
since all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God, and are being justified [declared free of the guilt of sin, made acceptable to God, and granted eternal life] as a gift by His [precious, undeserved] grace, through the redemption [the payment for our sin] which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, ~ Romans 3:23-24, AMP
This is such a powerful testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his infinite love for us, (John 3:16) so it is appalling to me now, as it must be to God – the affront and perversion of the Gospel that some have created who declare that this is not so – that this Grace as defined above is what they label sloppy agape or easy believism. That is isn’t so easy as that.
These people always come to you with a stance that may sound like, “Yes, Grace is Free, but to earn it there are some things you gotta do!” Of course, that very sentence is simply an oxymoron and contradictory both to itself and to Scripture.
The very next verse in Romans clears the waters of exactly what Grace is;
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. ~ Romans 3:25, ESV
One religious system attempts to explain Ephesians 2:8-10 this way;
“For it is by grace (God’s favor) you have been saved, through faith (in action)—and this is not from yourselves, (The law of Moses, but you still have Sacraments to Obey first) it is the gift of God, (Given to you after you satisfy His demands for this gift) — not by works (Again, this is the Law of Moses, our sacraments must be done in order to attain Grace), so that no one can boast.”
That, of course, is a paraphrased example of Fundamental and Legalistic systems that declare there are steps one must take in order to qualify for grace. This is nothing new – it is the heart of Roman Catholicism that will say “Yes, Grace is the free gift of God! But if one does not respond properly to grace by observing the sacraments, they forfeit or make null that grace.”
The Sweet Touch of Grace
Paul’s writings infuriate the mind of those who want to stain the Gospel with their sacraments and works. Paul’s writings declare acts of Grace that we sometimes cannot comprehend. We try, futilely, to use human reasonings of ‘fairness’ and ‘justice’ when speaking of God and His demands, yet, being a Just God, and a Righteous God, he declares us free from the guilt of His Justice System by the righteousness of One Man – the Man Jesus Christ!
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ Romans 5:18-21, ESV
And look – I’m going to be bold – any Christian, Brother or Sister, who declares to you that Grace is not what Scripture says it is, that Grace isn’t free, that Grace requires you do some things to get it, that Grace is only applied to you after you do X, then Y, and then Z, in the right order, with the right words spoken at just the right time, repeated enough times – is teaching you a false gospel and according to Scripture, are false brethren.
That is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. That is a false Gospel. It is not the truth of Scripture. And the error is this constant human need to put the cart before the horse, because Scripture clearly demands things of us as followers of Christ. It clearly commands us to follow Him, to obey Him, to serve one another, to live a Holy, and peaceable life.
The problem with the false gospel narrative that slanders Grace is that they put those things in front of Grace and say, If, and When, you do these things, then, and only then, and only so long as you continue doing those things, will you receive Ephesians 2:8-10 Grace.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
How can I be so bold to say such a thing? Because Scripture does;
But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. ~ Galatians 2:4-5, NASB
Paul didn’t give those false gospel teachers the time of day – so why should we? This isn’t sloppy agape, this is the verbatim Word of God as illuminated and inspired to the writes of the New Testament. Put your faith in Christ, and you’ll be saved! The grace of God is a gift offered to you without a carrot at the end of the stick!
Jesus Christ – our propitiation, paid the penalty of our sin – it is our solemn duty to place our faith in Him, accept the generous and free Gift of Salvation and then take that Joy to the World!
(Act 16:30) Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
(Act 16:31) And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”