Tag Archives: Grace

Free eBook Deal: All is Grace by Brennan Manning


All is Grace by Brennan Manning Cover

All Is Grace Brennan Manning

Free eBook Deal: God Can’t Sleep


In this follow-up to his acclaimed debut, True Religion, Palmer Chinchen helps believers develop a God-centered response to suffering.

As Christians, we often act as if the right beliefs and behavior will allow us to avoid the darkness of pain. Yet everyone is touched by loneliness, heartbreak, and losing loved ones. And when pain happens, it can seem as if God is asleep, indifferent to our struggles.

In God Can’t Sleep, Chinchen tackles challenging questions: Where is God when life hurts? How long will I stay in darkness? When the world is so full of bad people, why do I have to suffer? Readers will be encouraged to embrace a Savior who is always awake, and inspire them to carry His light to a hurting world.

DOWNLOAD:

God Can’t Sleep: Waiting for Daylight On Life’s Dark Nights [Kindle Edition]

God Can’t Sleep: Waiting for Daylight on Life’s Dark Nights [iBook Edition]

Sabbatum Excerpt: A Grace-Awakened Approach to Mission by George Verwer


There is such a need for this grace-awakened, big-hearted approach in mission work. There are so many areas where a lack of grace causes hurt and tension and positively hinders the work of God across the globe. So often our fellowship as Christians seems to be based more on minor areas in which we are like-minded, than on the real basics of the gospel and the clear doctrines of the Christian faith which are so amazing and on which we should be more united…

I think of all the people who have been rejected, to some degree, because they did not fit in with someone else’s expectations – because they were not Baptists or Anglicans or because they did not speak in tongues, or did not come up to the mark on any one of a hundred possible issues, which may or may not be of genuine importance. Many have felt rejection and hurt because they were not received by those who emphasized the gifts of the Spirit, simply because they did not have the same understanding of those gifts. The reverse is also true. Those who emphasize the gifts of the Spirit have felt rejected by members of the body who didn’t.

What makes this problem even more complex is that so often preachers emphasize these smaller issues from the pulpit, affecting how their congregations think and how they evaluate other people and their beliefs. It seems to me that our behavior often testifies that these little issues are more important to us than the unity and reality that we have in Jesus Christ by the new birth through His Holy Spirit. We lack grace in this area.


George Verwer, Out of the Comfort Zone: Grace, Vision, Action! (Authentic Publishing: Colorado Springs, CO, 2000), 5-6.

 

Grace for both, Found and Lost!


Ujjwal Rai
Ujjwal Rai

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

Once I was lost for 3 hours in Kathmandu which is the capital city of Nepal. It isn’t even as crazily busiest as most other capital cities around the world. Since this incident, I rather shut my mouth from blurting before people that I was once lost when they talk about their first visit in the city. I reckon that to be pretty embarrassing to admit. Subsequently it can also raise a question at my basic knowledge of the city thus may jeopardize my whole identity as a knowledgeable or well-informed person. For this reason, I always discover different ways to get by in order to hide the story of being lost. I may feel what I am supposedly feeling inside but people may continually respect and accept me. This is my very propensity, and I am pretty convinced that I am not alone doing this!

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When a person says, “I have never been lost,” it must either mean that (s)he must have already been under Him and expected to constantly grow in the grace or totally deceived by his own lies and desperately in need of His grace.

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The Bible plainly affirms that the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Yes, Jesus came to seek and save the lost, but as a matter of fact, “I have never been lost. Why then should I need him?”, says my deceitful heart. And maybe so does yours. The real problem is not to comprehend Jesus’ coming, but rather admitting that I am the lost. When a person says, “I have never been lost,” it must either mean that (s)he must have already been under Him and expected to constantly grow in the grace or totally deceived by his own lies and desperately in need of His grace. Honestly, being in the state of deception is not equated with being in the state of found.

Well, It is not bad at all to feel found because God has created us with the feeling of found, not with the lost. The feeling of found, however, can be experienced in its intended way and at fullness only in Him. Sin has separated us from God in such a way that we will never take the initiation to search Him to be found. Moreover, Paul says in Romans 10:3 that people have established their own ways to make them feel found without God. But their hearts know that he has, by any means or performance, not been found but the false sense of being found is merely an ostentation. His pretension of being found is an idle endeavor to convince self that he was never lost in the first place to be found later. Sadly, this erroneous thought reflected my own thinking too.

Conversely, the Son of Man – the title Luke borrowed from Daniel 7:13-14 for Jesus in his Gospel- helps us to understand who Christ indeed is. Despite his grandeur majesty, he chose to stoop down to us in order to help us see that we are not what we claim to be but a guilt-ridden creatures who have utterly fallen through. He also invited us to trust in him, because he is only our hope who alone can fix our broken fellowship with God. His agonizing outburst with excruciating pain: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), was on our behalf so that we may be eternally found in Him!

All of us need the Son of Man whether we claim to be lost or found. Here is question for you and me: Do I want to knowingly believe in my false claim in order to feel found or do I want to believe in Christ so that I might be found in Him not only for this life but also for the life yet to come? If you are already found by his grace, are you seeking to grow even more in his grace or again discovering Christian ways of feeling found?

The author is a M.Div student in Calvin Theological Seminary. You may follow him in his Facebook page

Galatians 2:11-21-Justified by Grace through Faith


In this passage from Galatians 2:11-21- Paul presents his biblical and theological argument in response of Peter’s unacceptable behavior. Peter, the one who God had chosen to share the gospel to a gentile, Cornelius (cf. Acts 15) was behaving in a way that was against the true gospel. Earlier, Peter was eating with the Gentiles but as soon as the Judaizers or circumcision group arrived; he snuck out from the gentile group and joined the latter group. This behavior also led Barnabas astray.

Paul was astonished at his hypocrisy and opposes him though Peter was a senior apostle. Paul says that Peter was not adhering to the true gospel, and though he was a Jew did not behave like one and so was unqualified to ask Gentiles to live like the Jews. Paul then presents his argument. Certainly Paul and Peter were Jews by nature and not ‘sinners from among the Gentiles’ (v. 15b). Gentiles were called sinners because they were believed to be born outside the Law, yet Paul added that Jews like Gentiles were saved or justified by faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of the Law. By writing this, Paul does not mean to suggest that Jesus was a promoter of sin since Jesus had made possible for Gentiles, the people outside the Law to come to faith without the Law. Paul absolutely does not want people to think this way.

Paul declares himself dead to the Law and he states that the new life he had was through faith in Christ. His old life had been crucified on the Cross with Jesus Christ. So he found himself justified by faith through grace and not through the works of the Law. If it were through the works of the Law, he believed that Jesus’ grace was nullified and that Jesus died in vain.

The main point of this passage is that people are justified by faith in Jesus through grace and not by the works of the Law or living by a set of moral rules or even doing good deeds. It is only by faith through grace that we are justified.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Since the time of Adam, God had instructed people to offer sacrifices. However, these sacrifices had never fulfilled the full atonement of people’s sins. The sacrifice of animals was actually pointing to Christ, the perfect sacrifice that had yet to come. Nonetheless, God always looked at the heart of those who offered sacrifices. When Abraham was willing to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice, God declared him righteous because of his faith. In the story of Cain and Abel, though both of them brought offerings to God, only Abel’s sacrifice was accepted because it was in his heart to offer God the best of his labor. Indeed, people in the past had been following works righteousness to please God or earn merit from Him. Yet God was only pleased when people worshipped Him whole-heartedly. The Hebrews and Jews were adherent to the Mosaic Law and based their righteousness through fulfilling such laws. It is thus interesting to note that God had secured His faithful few, the remnants those people who worshipped Him with all their hearts, souls, and minds. At the time Jesus was born, the believing remnants were Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zacharias, Anna, Simeon and many unknown names to us. They lived their lives believing that the Old Testament was the divinely-revealed Word. They kept the prescribed standard of the Old Covenant but at the same time put their trust only in the Holy One and not merely in their keeping of the ceremonies and standards (MacArthur, 47).

When Jesus was born, there were many Israelites who perverted and added to the Old Testament revelation. They also based their righteousness through their own goodness and accomplishments. “Most Jewish leaders, epitomized by the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, proudly believed their religious works placed them in God’s special favor and gained them forgiveness for their sins” ( MacArthur, 47). Judaizers arose from this vast group of legalistic Jews; they claimed to be followers of Christ but observed works righteousness and prescribed circumcision to the Gentiles and follow the Mosaic Law before they could be saved. This teaching certainly contradicted the Old Testament teaching where people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, the godly judges, kings, prophets, and other godly figures from the Old Testament were saved or “gained approval through faith” (cf. Heb. 11:1-39).

The Judaizers were thus “not teaching the Old Testament doctrine but the cardinal doctrine of Satan, that a person can by his own goodness and works gain favor with God” (MacArthur, 47). This is the very reason why Paul referred to Judaizers as “dogs, evil workers…the false circumcision” (Phil 3:2). If the Judaizers were to compare their Jewish heritage with Paul, they would be of no match to him because he had been a zealous Jew himself before his dramatic conversion. In Phil. 3:5-9 he stated how he counted his impeccable keeping of the Law to be rubbish in comparison to the righteousness that comes form God on the basis of faith.

Certainly, the Judaizers had a corrupt view of the Messiah. “As circumcised, ceremonial Jews they were convinced they already had the full favor of God and were spiritually and morally acceptable to Him just as they were” (MacArthur, 48). They did not even view the Messiah as one who would forgive their sins because they did not believe theirs sins required such a sacrifice. Paul was afraid that Peter’s, a Jewish- Christian, behavior of following the Judaizers would corrupt the view of justification before the Gentile-Christian and hence jumps on to confront Peter with the true gospel: justification through faith in Christ and not observing the Law.

LITERARY CONTEXT

Paul and Barnabas worked among the Gentiles and had shared the true gospel. Soon after they were gone, Judaizers told some members of the Galatian Church that Paul was a self-proclaimed apostle who had no divine commission. In response to this, Paul wrote the letter to the Galatian Christians. The opening verse of the letter of Galatians identifies Paul as the author. It certainly is an unchallenged Pauline autobiography. Many false teachers and Judaizers had infiltrated the churches in the area of Antioch who spread the rumor that Paul was not a true apostle and that his teachings were not credible. Thus in the preceding verses, Paul explained his appointment as apostle from Jesus himself, and his acceptance as one from the preeminent apostles like James, Peter and Barnabas. It is no wonder then that Paul spoke with unrelenting authority when he confronted Peter. Once again, Paul defends his doctrine of justification through faith and introduces the whole theme of his letter in verse 16.

2:11-14 – Paul rebukes Peter in Antioch.

2:15-16—Theme verses

  1. Justification: It is that gracious act of God whereby God declares the sinner to be just or righteous on the basis of the work of Christ on the cross (imputation), which the sinner receives with a believing heart (Kroeze).
  2. Salvation is by faith in Christ and not by observing the “law.”

2:17-18— Paul reemphasizes that justification is through faith in Christ. However, people are not to indulge in sin just because there is no need of observing the Law anymore. Paul taught this gospel and if he departed from his own teaching, he would be considered a transgressor.

2:19-21— Paul declares that the Mosaic Law does not justify his sins anymore, but his faith in Christ alone. His past life was crucified when he put his faith in Christ. The new life was due to Christ who lived in him. If he were to consider his observance of the Law to justify his sins, Paul lamented then that Christ died in vain.

GRAMMATICAL ISSUES

The passage accounts the confrontation that Paul has with Peter. At the same time, Paul conveys his theological message not only to Peter but eventually to the Galatians. Hence, the grammatical changes have to be observed. The ‘we’ in vv. 15-17 includes Paul with the Jewish Christians and particularly to Peter. In vs. 18 when he changes to ‘I’- a first person singular form, it is in a generalized sense referring to Peter and Jewish Christians who act like him. He does this so that the focus is removed from the confrontation at Antioch and points to character of the fundamental principle. In the latter verses 19-21, the ‘I’ is Paul’s own position and not shared. It is also interesting to note where Paul’s personal confessions with first person singular are not limited to just him. They exemplify the circumstance of every Christian. In the passage there are pronouns where ‘we’ exclusively makes sense only to Jewish Christians but there are also places in verses like v. 16 where ‘we’ applies to both Jewish and Gentile Christians.

Commentator Ebeling points out that;
“these observations on the grammatical and semantic subject already pave the way for an understanding of how this section is organized. The argumentation begins with the Jewish Christian agreement (vv. 15-16). It then indicates the critical point of disagreement (vv. 17-18) and goes on to describe the sublation of the Jewish Christian agreement in the universal Christian truth of the gospel (vv. 19-20). The concluding sentence (v.21) may be read by itself or in connection with the last subsection” (120, Ebeling).

The crucial idea or phrase of the passage ‘justification’ is “mentioned in a General, Personal, and Universal statement referring to the past, present and future” (Kroeze). The way Paul uses this artful structure to hammer one of the most important doctrines in the Bible.

THEOLOGICAL ISSUES

The verses in the passage are actually working up toward Paul’s main thesis of the entire epistle of Galatians which is vs. 3:11, “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for the righteous man shall live by faith.”

Since the progression of humanity, we see a pattern their nature to please God one way or the other. Adam and Eve were living in the Garden of Eden without a structured set of laws. All that God wanted from them was that they would trust God and simply keep His only command- not to eat from the tree of knowledge. Indeed, God only wanted that simple faith from them that they would trust Him. However, Satan tempted them into believing that there was something beyond simply trusting God. We could say that since then people have inherited this idea of doing something on their own. Yet God in his sovereignty and grace plan has always saved the few who put their faith in the only true God. Through this line of faith we see the Messiah eventually come.

In the past people who walked faithfully with God were considered righteous in the sight of God. Noah, Abraham, Abel are some examples of people from the Old Testament who put their entire trust in God alone and did not walk in the path to fulfill their fleshly inclinations. Even after bringing the Hebrews out of slavery and out of the wilderness, they did not worship the Lord who delivered them. Again, in his grace plan God gave the Ten Commandments to people through Moses so that whoever kept the commands would be put right with God. God also gave instructions about offering sacrifices to him. The offering of a lamb was offered to God and the sins of the one who laid a hand on that lamb were atoned. By the end of the Old Testament, there were an accumulation of all kinds of laws: the Mosaic Law, ceremonial laws, and circumcision. When God set those laws, they were in fact only pointing toward man’s incapacity to keep them. God was pointing toward the perfect sacrifice that would atone for human’s sins.

Paul was one of those believers of the Law. After his conversion he deserted his previous set of beliefs. As a former zealot (Phil. 3:5) Paul could not have been any more familiar than the Old Covenant. When he received revelation from Jesus on his way to Damascus, then the true gospel became clear to him. He saw the Old Testament with the spectacle of the true gospel. Nowhere in the Torah or in his forefathers did he see that they were saved by works of the Law. In fact Paul refers to Gen. 12:3, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” This was the gospel preached to Abraham beforehand which preceded the Mosaic Law. Hence, whoever has faith is a descendant of Abraham and has been declared righteous.

The Law was given through the agency of a mediator to reveal people’s sins. When Christ the seed of the promise came, the mediated message was nullified forever. In Christ was the fulfillment of the promise that was made to Abraham that all nations would be blessed. Thus, there is salvation for every person who comes to Christ in faith. They do not have to be a Jew and observer of the Law.

BIBLICAL ISSUES

The Bible emphasizes faith in Christ as the ruling factor for salvation. In the Scripture ‘righteousness by faith through grace’ is a requirement broached again and again. Rom. 1:17 says, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’.” Habakkuk. 2:4 says, “The righteous shall live by faith; Hebrew. 10:38 states, “But my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” These verses in the Scripture support Paul’s doctrine of justification through faith.

APPLICATION

The writer’s purpose in writing this passage is to warn people who call themselves Christians to know the scripture in its truest sense. We cannot read and apply the Word of God in the manner of cherry picking. The Bible is coherent and whole in its nature. Just as Paul understood the true gospel in light of the Old Testament and did not overlook God’s intention when God said, “The righteous shall live by faith,” we ought to know the Word of God as it was intended. Paul has successfully rendered to us the true gospel by way of presenting his argument analytically and critically.

The passage contains universal truth in that no one can deny the fact that justification was through faith in Christ and will always be so. It was true with our forefathers; is true with us and will be forever. There has not been a time in the history of mankind when people have not tried to go their own way departing from God.  The truth of the passage is still applicable to us and thus contextual. Though we do not see people observing the Law in churches in this day and age, we do witness an underlying belief that they have to do good works to please God. People who are religiously doing good deeds not as a worship or gratitude to God are similar to Judaizers. They have put their faith in deeds. They have departed from the reality that God covets the heart that fully trusts in His grace.

I thus believe that even if my deeds are meant for good, if I have not put my full faith in Christ, I have failed to worship God. If I have based my happiness in the achievements and deeds of my life, I have grieved God’s heart. He tells me that I should totally rely on Him and have faith in Christ alone; this fact itself is the most gratifying truth of my life. Even in my relationships, more than becoming a people pleaser or a queen of hospitality, my life should convey the message that these qualities do not justify me before God. Nothing that I have done or could do can ever earn that merit for me. I should live a life that tells people that our life begins from the work done by Christ; we cannot add to or subtract from that done deal.

I used to be part of a Christian student group through whom I came to know the Lord. In the beginning everything seemed so cool. The group looked happy, closely-knit and on fire for the Lord. Gradually, I lost interest in this group. I sat through a class with that group in which the speaker kept drilling into us that Christians must share the gospel, they must live a godly life and pursue people who do not know the love of Christ. Sitting through that class I felt like a victim- one who got trapped in their schemes of converting people to Christianity. I stopped hanging out with them and did not even attend their group activities. Though I was not familiar with Paul or even his doctrine of justification through faith, I happened to join another group that was doing a study on the book of Galatians. I joined that group merely for exploration. The more they talked about justification not by works of the Law, the more I associated my former group’s actions to the Law. They were simply following the Law, as Christians they had to share the gospel. It seemed that their evangelistic activities were like observing set of law that they applied on me. Once I attended the workshop, the onus was also put on me that I needed to start evangelizing too.
These are the mistakes that our leaders can make at times. Inadvertently, just as Peter’s actions led Gentile-Christians astray, our Christian friends can lead us astray. Their immature behavior can hurt our new found faith. When we share the love of Christ with someone and walk them through this new life, our first priority should be to nurture them in faith and not to push too hard on doing the works. In our ministries as well, we have to focus on teaching that we are justified in the eyes of God through faith not through works. Our constant mission trips, mercy programs in the churches should not convey to them that they are earning favor before God. Let it be known that justification is only through faith, their heart before God matters and the rest will follow.

I stand in confidence knowing that justification is only through faith. I do not have to evangelize and do not have to do good works. Today if we as Christians do them to reflect the character and love of Jesus, these may please God but will not add to any greater favor for us. Just as Paul has mentioned over and over again, justification is by faith through grace, we should simply have faith and let the works of grace lead us to doing good works and not good works earning grace for us.