Grace: eighteen affirmations and denials
(by Dan Phillips)
I feel a bit like Jude (v. 3), except without the inerrant inspiration. I had a long, detailed post on another topic nearly ready. A recent development pushed that out of my mind, and pushed this subject into it.
It won't be pretty; I'll be trying to keep up with my thoughts and make them intelligible. But I reserve the right to re-post this in a shinier form at a later date.
- God's grace was given to His elect in His purposes from before times eternal (2 Timothy 1:9). It is not an afterthought.
- Grace answers the question Cur Deus homo? — it is why God the Son became a human being, lived among us, fulfilled all righteousness, died in the stead of the elect, and redeemed them (1 Corinthians 8:9). Nothing in us motivated the Incarnation.
- Grace is known in the special revelation of the Gospel (Colossians 1:6), not by natural revelation.
- Grace frees the elect to exercise saving faith (Acts 18:27). Slaves don't free themselves.
- Grace is the whole reason we are declared righteous as a free gift by grace alone, through faith alone, in and because of Christ alone (Acts 15:11; Romans 3:24; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7); it is not merely an important factor.
- Grace in Christ's death is the cause of our righteous standing before God (Galatians 2:21; 5:4). Human works play no part whatever.
- Grace is a good reason to leave sin (Romans 6:1ff). It is not a good reason to remain in sin.
- Grace frees us from the Mosaic law's condemnation (Romans 6:14). It does not "free" us from God being God, nor from all that necessarily follows from that truth.
- Grace motivates and empowers us to do more for God than we otherwise would (1 Corinthians 15:10). It isn't our license to do less or nothing for God than we otherwise would.
- Grace strengthens us for service (2 Timothy 2:1). It does not "strengthen" us for indifferent, lazy lassitude.
- Grace motivates us to speak more boldly to professed brothers in Christ (Romans 15:15). It does not motivate us to care less about God's glory or others' spiritual health.
- Put another way, grace is the motivator for speaking even unwelcome truth boldly to professed Christians (Romans 15:15). Grace is not the antithesis of such plain-speaking.
- Grace builds us up as Christians (Acts 20:32). Grace is not for the moment of salvation only.
- Grace is at home with humility (1 Peter 5:5). It is the opposite of stiff-necked, arrogant rebellion against the word and will of God.
- Grace is the sufficient, efficient, indispensable and unerring cause for practical holy living, for obeying the written word of God (Titus 2:11-12; cf. Romans 8:12-13). It isn't our "get out of obedience" card.
- Grace will not be fully experienced, realized, or known until we see Christ (1 Peter 1:13). This present consciousness of grace is not "all there is."
- Until that day, we must grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). No man can say he is "there," yet.
- It is an abominable blasphemy to use pleas of "grace" as a cloak for outrageous, amoral, immoral, licentious thinking and living (Jude 4). Grace is not a pretext for sin.
Three brief reflections:
Dispensationalism. I am unapologetically a Calvinist dispensationalist (someone tell that punk Heinrich). Having said that, it shames and confounds me that so many have cause to associate dispensationalism with antinomian, libertine licentiousness. I disown that false teaching with every fiber of my being, and it in no way grows necessarily out of the heart of the dispensational approach to Scripture.
That dispensationalists as a whole haven't roundly disowned that bastard child is as fully to our shame as the failure of Moslems to denounce all terrorism.
For whatever it's worth, count me as a denouncer.
It doesn't matter. However, anyone who thinks that abuse of the rich Biblical concept of grace is confined to dispensationalism... well, you need to get out more.
Final plea. Do this for me.
- If you're going to sin, poke God in the eye, shame His name, bring ridicule on the Gospel, and refuse to deal with your sin by repentance as God defines it — don't drag the lovely word grace into the sewer with you. Just sin, and prepare for the consequences. Well, scratch that. You can't prepare for the consequences. But at least let's not lie to ourselves and others, compound our sin, and smear the dung of our sin over the beautiful concept of grace.
- If you're going to sin and bring heartbreak, ruin, robbery, treachery, betrayal and misery into the lives of others, and then refuse to deal with your sin by repentance as God defines it — don't drag the the lovely word grace or "the Cross" into it. Grace and the cross are the antithesis of continuance in heardhearted, unrepentant sin. What we've done to others is bad enough. No need to blaspheme the saving grace of God in the bargain.
That is all.