The Grace of God Pastor A.W. Weckeman – December 2014
Two Facets of God’s Grace
In the Bible there are two primary definitions of grace; the first meaning relates to the “saving grace of God”, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men…” (Titus 2:11).
Grace in the form of unmerited favor, mercy, freedom from sin. Saving grace is a gift, whereby Christ’s righteousness is applied to the undeserving sinner; a perfect picture of God’s unconditional love.
“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.” (Eph.2:8-9).
“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” (Rom.3:24)
“He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps.103:10-12).
Upon conviction of guilt the sinner repents, calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, he doesn’t ask for help to get saved. There isn’t anything on the sinner’s part which he can do to be saved…it is all God’s grace and power.
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost…” (Titus 3:5)
“…when he [Jesus] had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Heb.1:3b).
Nor, after salvation does the sinner ask the Lord to help him stay saved…those who have been “born again” are “kept by the power of God” (1 Peter 1:5).
The same holds true regarding the spiritual understanding necessary to serve and please the Lord. We are just as dependent upon divine illumination to comprehend spiritual reality after salvation as we were before. Even as the sinner has no means, of his own, to gain or retain salvation, he is equally powerless to maintain a godly life. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3); which brings us to the second aspect of God’s grace:
The sanctifying grace of God: the illuminating power of God essential to sanctification and service. There is an indivisible union between God’s grace and His power. It is wholly “by the grace of God”, derived from our position “in Christ”, that we are transformed and empowered.
As followers of Christ we are commanded to “walk in newness of life” (Rom.6:4) to “put off concerning the former conversation [manner of living] the old man…and put ye on the new man (Eph. 4:22-23). God commands “…as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation…” (1 Peter 1:15). BUT HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? How can such weak creatures residing in sin-prone flesh ever hope to obey the Lord in these things?
The apostle Paul’s prayer for the saints at Ephesus provides the answer: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of WISDOM and REVELATION in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your UNDERSTANDING being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints…” (Eph. 1:17-18) [Emphasis added] Keep in mind Paul’s prayer is for those who are ALREADY SAVED…indwelt with the Holy Spirit! He’s praying for additional spiritual revelation…” “Spiritual understanding” “wisdom that is from above” “supernatural enlightenment” all which illuminate the deeper teachings necessary to transform the life of the believer.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor.15:10).
“Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power” (Eph. 3:7).
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…” (Eph.3:20).
If human intellect, zeal, and natural ability are the moving forces responsible for living a holy life pleasing unto God then the apostle Paul, a man of great intellect, a former “Pharisee of Pharisees’ a zealous Jewish scholar, would have possessed the necessary knowledge and ability to accomplish God’s will in his life.
Yet, it is quite evident from the preceding scripture that Paul’s service to the Lord relied NOT on human abilities, wisdom or knowledge. Paul had learned firsthand the futility of attempting to serve God in the flesh:
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Rom.7:18)
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My GRACE is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [Emphasis added]
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Cor. 12:7-10)
Our outward conduct and manner of living, what the Bible refers to as our walk, is predicated upon our inward rest in Christ…learned reliance upon the indwelling power of the Person within “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col.1:27).
“Too many of us are caught acting as Christians. The life of many Christians today is largely a pretense. They live a “spiritual” life, talk a “spiritual” language, adopt “spiritual” attitudes, but they are doing the whole thing themselves.”
“The moment we see that fact we shall end our struggling and cast away our pretense. Nothing is so hurtful to the life of a Christian as acting; nothing so blessed as when our outward efforts cease and our attitudes become natural…when our words, our prayers, our very life, all become a spontaneous and unforced expression of life within.” Nee
When we cease trying to live the Christian life in our own strength and begin relying on Christ’s presence within, the spiritual struggle between two diverse natures outlined in Romans chapter six; that which had been seen “through a glass darkly” becomes clear.
The dual reality of John’s words in 1 John 3:14 is unveiled, “…we have passed from death unto life” …our walk has come up to our position “in Christ”
Our death “in Christ” takes on a double meaning; not only crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20) in a spiritual sense but dead in our own ability to effectually love, serve and obey God.
“Without me ye can do nothing”
Suddenly the Saviour’s exhortation, “Abide in me” (John 15:1-5) are liberating words; no longer a duty but desire. A work for God is replaced with a work of God; the burden to do something God never intended us to do is lifted from our shoulders.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:4-5).
“Abide” means to remain, stay, dwell or rest. Abiding in Christ describes an inner rest, a dependency which produces outward strength not of our own.
Victory from Defeat
If we are willing to see it, every defeat contains a step toward victory. The fact that spiritual realities are revealed by paradox is evidenced by the truth that defeat is actually preparation for victory; continual defeat leads to dependency which unleashes the power of God necessary for victory.
No one lives and enjoys the sweetness of victory more than those who have known the bitterness of disappointment and defeat.
As long as we abide in Christ and rely on our position therein we can be assured of the power necessary to “walk worthy” of Him. The minute we revert to our own devices and abilities…attempt to depend on our own strength and knowledge we quench the Spirit and become powerless!
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil.2:12-13).
Notice the words “work out” not work for; God has to put something in before it can work its way out. In reality “God puts into us all things He wants out of us.”
For the born again believer, there is no meaning, purpose or peace in a life lived independently of God’s leading. The Christian’s personal relationship with the Lord and the resultant sensitivity to the indwelling presence of Christ is the believer’s source of spiritual vitality. “Before I can speak openly for Him to others with real power I must first be habitually alone with Him in silence” Outside this vital lifeline, growth and fruit are impossible. “…be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim.2:1)
Salvation, service, and worship must be all of God’s grace; otherwise, God doesn’t deserve all the glory. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” Our attitude should be, give me the grace and I’ll give you the glory!
“There are three ways to do God’s work. We can plan and do our best; we can plan and ask God to bless our plan, or we can ask Christ to show us His plan and obey Him.” James Hudson Taylor