1 Timothy 1:12-13 (NKJV) 12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
Romans 1:5 (NKJV) 5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name,
Another year is upon us and I believe it can be the best year of your life to date. We face many challenges globally. Personally, we may be looking at tremendous difficulties. I believe our country is at a crossroads that we cannot ignore. It is in such times that God does marvelous things. I remember many years ago it was popular to point out that wow could stand for Wonder of Wonders. I believe this is going to be a WoW year! We will look back and see that God has done wonderful things.
As I was preparing for this year, I felt God spoke to my heart that I needed to take another look at grace. I believe he wanted me to especially look at the victory that the grace of God brings into our lives. Grace is a hot topic in the church. I think some have embraced a message that takes grace to a place that is not what the bible teaches. This is often the case when God wants to emphasize a truth in the earth.
This happened in what became the faith movement. That was a truth that changed my life. However, many took it to extremes and others rejected it because of their mistakes. Nevertheless, God wanted faith to come to the forefront in the 70’s and 80’s. At one point I realized that I needed to find the balance. I did that by going back to what the bible had to say about faith. I stopped defending my camp and I stopped accepting everything my camp said as well.
One thing that made me take another look is that I realized that we who were in the “Word of Faith” camp were ignoring some verses that did not fit our theological point of view. Once we start picking and choosing what parts of the bible we are going to believe, we have become a law unto ourselves. That always ends up badly. Certainly, there may be different interpretations of some verses. When you have to skip some altogether, that is a problem.
I decided to look again without preconceived ideas. When I did, the revelation that remained was stronger than ever. Some things that I thought were true, I had to adjust to fit what the bible said. Some things I simply had to admit were wrong. In the end, my revelation of strong faith in the Word of God was better and more balanced. I am going to do the same with the revelation of grace. I hope you will come with me.
If you do, do not expect me to be an apologist for what is being taught today. Do not expect me to attack what is being taught today. I am going to do my best to find out for myself what the bible says. I expect much of what I believe will be strengthened. I also expect that some of what I thought the bible said about grace will change. Either way I know that God is leading me to a greater victory of grace in my life and in yours as well.
Any study of grace must look at the life of Paul. Paul understood grace because he needed it so badly. Paul never forgot where he came from. In today’s verses we see some important things about Paul’s understanding of grace. The first thing he does is give thanks to God for enabling him to be a minister of the gospel.
One of the aspects of grace that is often overlooked in the current debate is that grace implies enabling by God. Grace is God’s favor, but it is God’s favor that enables. Paul realized that all he was and all he could do was given him by God. The vehicle that gave him this ability was Grace (Ephesians 2:8.) He never considered his power to be of himself. It was all a manifestation of the grace of God at work in his life.
What he says next was something that we in the faith movement might have called a negative confession. Today, it seems that those in the grace movement might agree. Paul points out what he was, and it was not pretty. Look at the words he uses to describe himself. He was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man. Why would Paul say these things if understood the grace of God? I believe it is because remembering what he was caused him to appreciate and understand how much the grace of God had done. Grace did not make him deserving of what was given to him.
He makes it very plain at the end of this verse. He obtained mercy because he did it in ignorance. Mercy, which is not getting what we do deserve, opens the way for grace which is getting what we do not deserve. Paul obtained mercy for blasphemy, persecuting the church and being insolent. As a result he received forgiveness and powerful ministry by grace. He never forgot the former which made him appreciate that latter. We must do the same.
I am not saying that we should walk around saying that we are no good sinners saved by grace. I do believe we need to remember that we were sinners who received mercy and grace through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and not by anything we did. Grace makes us the righteous of God in Christ. That is what I am. That is what I confess over my life. However, I never forget that I did not deserve this gift and neither did Paul.
In his letter to the Roman church, he makes it clear that he received both grace and apostleship together. The one cannot be separated from the other. Whatever we are, we are by grace. This applies to our legal state of forgiveness before God. It also applies to all we are and all we have. It is all undeserved. It is all God’s mercy making God’s grace available.
I want to point out something else. He says here that he obtained both grace and apostleship, “for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.” One might say, “I thought Paul taught grace instead of law. Obedience sounds like it might be talking about law.” Paul is not talking about obeying a law. He is taking about obeying the faith. That faith flows from his relationship to Jesus.
Paul taught throughout his writings about living according to that relationship. If I want the power of grace to work in my life I need to walk in obedience to the relationship I have by faith in Jesus. Jesus lived according to certain standards. There were things he did and there were things he did not do. He made it clear that walking according to the love of God would keep us in line with that standard.
Paul added another aspect of the love walk in Galatians.
Galatians 5:16-18 (NKJV) 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Paul does not say to obey the law, but he does say that we must walk in the spirit. What does that mean. Simply put, it means to walk with our spirit in control of our behavior. Our spirit is our inner man, that part of us that was born again in the image and likeness of God. Later in this chapter he tells us what it looks like when we let the flesh be in control (Galatians 5:19-26.) I wish I could say that Christians never let the behaviors listed here manifest in their lives but we all know that if we allow our flesh to rule, we do.
How does all this relate to grace? Is Paul saying we must walk in the law after all. We will consider those questions tomorrow.