Grace and Right Behavior

Matthew 5:17-20 (NKJV) 17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

As we look objectively at what the bible says about the grace of God, we have learned a number of things. Grace was part of the original creation. Revelations 13:8 tells us that the Lamb of God, Jesus, was slain from the foundations of the world. God knew all that would happen when he created. He knew man would rebel and he pre-programed a solution before Adam was ever created.

We learned that sin broke the connection between God and man. Man was created as God’s child for fellowship with him. Sin made that impossible. The penalty for man’s sin was eternal separation. This is not the penalty for individual sins. It is the necessary consequence of being separated from God in the spirit. Man’s nature had changed. God could not and would not allow that contamination into his eternity.

The only solution was for him to come to earth as a human being. This was accomplished by the virgin birth. Jesus was born of a completely human mother. He was not born of a human father. The seed that fertilized the egg in Mary’s womb was the word of God. He was completely human. However, he was not born with the sin nature that was passed to all humanity by the seed of Adam. The method of his conception meant that he was also fully God.

Colossians 2:9 (NKJV) 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

For the 3 and ½ years of Jesus’ earthly ministry he demonstrated to the world who God the Father really. He healed the sick, cast out demons and dealt with people in a way that the Pharisees, who knew the law could not understand. He said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” What he showed to the people was the grace of God.

When we consider the Bible, we must do so in light of what Jesus revealed in those 3 and ½ years. When we interpret the Old Testament, we must do it in the same way. If we want to understand what grace really is to us, we must read again and again the accounts of Jesus life. Everything he did was demonstrating grace. Everything he said was revealing grace. Everything.

I was talking with someone some time ago who had taken to a particular interpretation of Grace. He seemed to be saying that standards of holiness and righteousness were no longer relevant. Jesus had paid for all sin. What grace meant to him was there was no need for repentance. We simply needed to believe that we were right with God and that was enough.

I asked him about the words of Jesus in Matthew 5.

His answer was that Jesus was speaking to those people but not to us today because we are saved and have partaken of grace. That is not possible. Every word Jesus spoke was a revelation of the Grace of God. The sermon on the mount is not just for those listening in that day. Jesus said building our lives on these sayings would cause us to build “houses” on an unshakeable rock. No interpretation of the Bible would eliminate the teaching of Matthew 5-7 from the lives of believers today.

I do not believe this man wanted to sin. I believe he had fought very hard to do the right things early in his Christian walk. He failed just as all of us will fail if we try to deal with our flesh by the discipline of the flesh. He took grace to mean he could stop trying to fight sin. There is a truth in that statement but not how I think he was interpreting it.

Grace is not meant to do away with the Law. It is meant to be a way for us to fulfill the law and the prophets. It would be impossible for our righteousness to surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees according to the law. Nevertheless, the words of Jesus remain. Our righteousness must exceed theirs.

We might say that righteousness refers to our position in Christ once we are saved. That is true. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that we were made the righteousness of God. The context of this statement implies that I did not make myself righteous. God did that when Jesus died for my sins. I partook of that righteousness when I received his sacrifice personally. However, that is not all that the word means. In Vines Expository Dictionary of Greek Words, we read this definition.

“Dikaiosynē (the Greek word translated righteousness) is found in the sayings of the Lord Jesus, (a) of whatever is right or just in itself, whatever conforms to the revealed will of God, Matt. 5:6, 10, 20; John 16:8, 10; (b) whatever has been appointed by God to be acknowledged and obeyed by man. Matt. 3:15; Matt. 21:32;

We see clearly by this definition that righteousness includes doing what God defines as right. In the rest of this chapter Jesus reveals a level of righteous behavior the scribes and Pharisees could never have imagined possible. He equates anger without cause, calling someone worthless or a fool with murder. He says if we look at a woman and lust for here we have already committed adultery. The list goes on and on. He makes the statements “You have heard it said” and “but I say to you” many times.

By the time we finish reading this chapter we are left with the conclusion that what Jesus is asking of us is impossible. However, he did not say you should try to live this way. He said we must live this way. Some would say, “Grace understands that we can’t live like that. If we commit adultery either inwardly or outwardly, it is already paid for. We must just believe that, and everything is fine.” Jesus did not say anything like that. He says we must live this way, period. How can we?

We live this way by Grace. Grace does not just cover sin. Grace destroys the power of sin. If we see grace as a way that sinful behavior can be made all right, we will never overcome the things that we need to. We will never fulfill the righteousness spoken of in the words of Jesus in Matthew 5.

It is true that all sin is paid for by the blood of Jesus. We will look at how that works in another post. It is not true that Grace excuses ungodly or sinful behavior. Every New Testament writer including Paul makes this very clear. The problem is that we cannot seem to separate righteous behavior based on the Law from righteous behavior born of grace. We cannot keep the law in the flesh so some choose to assume we do not have to. That is wrong.

What does grace offer me as a Christian? It offers me the ability to be overcome sinful behavior from the inside out not the outside in. The revelation Jesus wants us to see in Matthew 5 is that we can access something that will so revolutionize our lives that we will walk at a level of holiness that the Law could never accomplish. It does not make sin “OK.” It destroys its power to control us until it becomes irrelevant to our lives. Temptation becomes something we overcome by virtue of God’s life at work in us not by discipline of our flesh alone. This is the Grace of God at work in the believer.

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A Life in Demonstration of Grace

Acts 10:38 (NKJV) 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

In our last post we examined the birth of aspects of his nature. God is both absolute justice and absolute love. Justice demanded payment for sin. Love would not allow the Father to abandon his children. The solution was for God to become flesh. In Mary’s body he became part of Adam’s race but because he was born of the seed of the Word of God, he had no sin nature. He became the perfect mediator between God and man.

1 Timothy 2:5 (NKJV) 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,

It was through his death, burial and resurrection that he fulfilled the role of mediator, so what was the purpose of Jesus’ public ministry. He spent that time showing the world what God was really like.

The Jews of that day were typified by the scribes and Pharisees. They knew the law better than any other human beings in the world. They understood all its requirements, sacrifices and consequences. They were zealous to guard the Law and the traditions of the Jewish fathers. What they did not understand was the true nature of God.

The law was never a manifestation of God’s wrath. It was always a manifestation of God’s mercy and grace. In fall man became sin. He could not help but sin. The law was a system by which God could maintain at least a limited relationship with man. Without the law man had no approach to God.

Ephesians 2:12 (NKJV) 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (and it’s law) and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Although the Law was always God’s mercy and grace, Israel never really understood that. All they saw were the rules, regulations, requirements and punishments. They did not understand that the purpose of the law was fellowship, albeit in a limited sense. As a result, they saw the God of Israel as harsh and unyielding. Paul said concerning them that they understood the letter of the law, which kills, but had no idea about the spirit of the law which gives life.

Israel was the only revelation of God the rest of the world had to look at. When Jesus came, he came as the incarnation of mercy and grace. He came to show the world, starting with Israel, who God really was. That is why when Peter described the ministry of Jesus to the gentiles in Cornelius’ house he said what is written in today’s verse. Jesus went about doing good. He healed, physically, emotionally and spiritually, all those who were oppressed by the devil.

Jesus reveals his purpose to Nicodemus in John chapter 3.

John 3:17 (NKJV) 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

I believe that it is important to remember that the Bible teaches us that we should walk according to standards of behavior that are befitting those who are the heirs of salvation. However, I also believe we need to start with the truth Jesus came to reveal. He did not come to condemn but to save. Who was he called to save?

John 3:16 (NKJV) 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

He did not come to save the righteousness. He came to save an unrighteous world who did not deserve it. He came as a manifestation of undeserved favor or grace. In his ministry, that is what he showed to the world. He did it by destroying the works of the one who had bound man to begin with, Satan.

Space will not permit us to give many examples of how he did this, but we can list a few. We know he healed the sick. There is a saying in America that says, “If you have your health you have everything.” There is very little more important than health. Jesus healed multitudes and he healed individuals.

He provided for the physical needs of people. On more than one occasion he fed thousands who had followed him into wilderness, using supernatural power. In Matthew chapter six he tells us the that Father loves us more than birds or flowers and if he takes care of them he will take care of us.

When he met the woman at the well in John 4, how did he minister to her. He did not excuse her sin, but neither did he condemn her. She was a sinner and she deserved punishment, but he never talked about what she deserved. He simply revealed what God was offering her; undeserved favor and a new life.

The Gadarene demoniac was violent and vulgar. Surely, he deserved to be locked up. I do not know if he destroyed property, but it seems likely. Why did Jesus fail to tell him to make restitution? All he did was set him free from the power of the enemy by casting out 1000 demons that had controlled his life.

In the same chapter, Mark 5, we see Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue who came to Jesus for the life of his daughter. Was he a good man? Often the rulers were harsh and unforgiving. We do not know, and Jesus does not ask. He simply raises his daughter from the dead.

The woman with the issue of blood is there as well. She was in a condition considered unclean by Jewish law and custom. She should not have been in the crowd following Jesus, but she knew he was the manifestation of the grace of God. She pressed through until she touched the hem of his garment. Jesus did not rebuke her. Jesus just healed her.

There are many more but let me share one that is very typical. We know the story. There was a woman caught in the act of committing adultery. They brought her to Jesus trying to trap him. What she deserved according to the Holy Law was to be stoned to death. Jesus never denied that fact. He simply gave direction to her accusers. The one who had no sin must cast the first stone. They all left.

John 8:10-11 (NKJV) 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

Jesus did not excuse her. He showed mercy by seeing to it that she did not get what she deserved and gave her life back to her. That was grace. Then he exhorts her to sin no more.

In this we see the foundation of all Jesus brings to the world. He brings mercy to save us from what we deserve. He brings grace to give what we do not deserve but he also reveals to us that we must turn away from sin if grace is to have its full affect.

Where are you beginning in your witness? It should be with grace. That is what Jesus brought to the world. Upon what foundation are you building your walk with God. Sin is unacceptable because it is contrary to the grace we have received. However, sin is not defeated by Law. Jesus defeated sin by making grace know to the world. So must we.

Grace Born in a Manger

Luke 1:34-35 (NKJV) 34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

In our last post we watched as sin entered into man’s nature. The result was a separation between God and his children. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23.) Death in a spiritual sense is not just ceasing to exist. Death is a condition of separation from God’s life. Eventually it resulted in the death of Adam’s and Eve’s body as well. This condition is eternal. Unless something changed man would be eternally separated from God. That is what he deserved and that is what he would have received. However, God had another plan.

Let us lay out the problem God has after the fall. God created man to be his family. That is the reason for all of the physical creation. He wants to share his life with his children. For this love to be real he must give man a choice. Man made the choice to sin and was cut off from the life of God. This is an eternal choice. Once it is made it cannot be unmade. Because everything must reproduce after its own kind, man’s offspring will carry the same seed of death in them with which Adam was affected by the fall.

God is an absolutely just being. He cannot simply overlook sin. He cannot just forgive man. That is not justice. If man can be forgiven without payment, why is it impossible for Satan to be forgiven? Man must pay the price for his sin. Man will pay the price. The problem is that the price is death. Physical death is the inevitable result of the fall. Man’s body will ultimately fail. However, that is not the price. That is simply a symptom of the disease.

The price is eternal separation from God. Physical death, though not the price itself is the threshold beyond which eternal separation becomes certain. Once man leaves time and enters eternity nothing can change. Man will pay the price, but he will pay it forever.

The other difficulty is that no one else can pay the price for him. It must be a man. Not in the sense of gender but in the sense of humanity. God cannot pay it. That would not be justice. Only a flesh and blood human being can pay the price of separation from God. It seems that God has no choice but to condemn his children to eternal separation from himself. Satan has won. God’s plan for a family is defeated. The best solution to this problem would be to destroy humanity now so that only Adam and Eve suffer the consequences of their sin. That is what they deserve. That is pure justice. However, God is not just absolute justice. He is also absolute love.

It is just as much against God’s nature to leave his family helpless as it is to forego justice. Man deserves the penalty for sin. God has every right to “wash his hands” of man’s future. Nevertheless, at this point the three elements of the love of God go into motion.

God is a God of compassion. He identifies with man’s condition. Compassion moves him to mercy. Mercy is God withholding what is deserved. Man deserves justice and will have it if that is what he chooses. Mercy seeks to find a way for man to avoid the eternal consequence of sin while remaining within the bounds of justice.

If man fulfills the need of justice, he will be eternally separated from God. What if a man could be born who was not of the seed of Adam. What if there could be a human being who did not carry sin. The “seed” is carried in the human male. The seed fertilizes an egg in the human female. The body is formed in the womb. It is made up of the DNA of both father and mother, but the body is formed in the female. What if there could be a human being born whose DNA did not carry the human male component?

Many “enlightened” Christian scholars have come to view the Virgin Birth of Jesus as part of Christian mythology. Surely, we cannot believe that something like that could happen. We live in the twenty-first century. We know where babies come from. If we believe the bible, we understand that the virgin birth is the only solution the mercy of God can use to satisfy God’s absolute nature of both justice and love.

A descendant of Adam must pay the price. Once a descendant of Adam pays the price they will be eternally separated from God. However, the sin nature is passed on in the seed of Adam. The virgin birth is the result of a human female conceiving through the energy of a different seed.

John 1:1 (NKJV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 (NKJV) 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

How did the word become flesh? We read how in today’s scripture. The Holy Spirit come upon a virgin woman and she conceived by the power of God. What was the seed that produced this conception? I believe we can get a little more insight by reading about our own “new birth.”

1 Peter 1:23 (NKJV) 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,

The seed that entered Mary’s womb was the Word of God. The child that was born of that conception was Mercy incarnate. All of humanity deserved to be separated from God because of the nature Adam brought into the earth through sin. God’s compassion would not let that be the final word. Mercy said there is another way.

What was Jesus? Because he was the son of Mary he was fully human. He was born of Adam’s race. Because he had no human father he did not carry the curse of spiritual death. He is called that last Adam by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:45. His body is completely human but without the curse of death.

Not only is he a human free of death, but he is something else. The Word was with God and the Word was God. He was not only man. He was also God.

Colossians 2:9 (NKJV) 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily

What is it that Mercy provided for God’s family? Mercy provided a being who, as man, could rightfully pay the price. However, because he did not carry the stain of sin he did not owe the payment. Because he was also God we see that what Mercy did was choose to pay the price himself. God chose to create knowing what man would do. Man chose to rebel and become separated from God for eternity. God chose to take on flesh and pay the price for man’s rebellion himself.

The result is that mercy has made it possible for man to escape what he deserves. He must choose to accept God’s mercy and grace. He must receive this grace by faith. Grace is getting what you do not deserve. Jesus is the vehicle by which grace became available to man. The only way for man to escape what he deserves and obtain what he did not deserve is to receive the sacrifice of Jesus by faith (Ephesians 2:8.)

What was born in the manger. What came forth from Mary’s womb. Mercy and grace came forth. After the process of redemption was complete all of humanity had could choose again. Adam chose death. We have the right to choose life. That is Grace.

The Origins of Grace: Declaration

Genesis 3:15 (NKJV) 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

(Once again there has been a break in my posting. We just concluded our annual Unity Through Fellowship leadership conference. This conference was begun by Dr. B. J. Pruitt more than 40 years ago and our church, Living Word Christian Center in Greene, NY, decided to reinstitute it 5 years ago. Our focus is on leaders in the body of Christ coming to know one another on a personal level. As we partake of fellowship together, we find that differences become less important and our relationship in Christ more important. We would like you consider joining us February 20-22, 2019 for our next conference.)

We have been looking at the origins of grace from the book of Genesis. There is a great deal of discussion about the grace of God in the church right now. Some of it has been contentious. I believe that there have been some conclusions about grace that are not faithful to what the bible really teaches. I felt that this year the Lord wanted me to look at grace in the Word of God with as few preconceived ideas as possible.

We ended the last post by quoting Genesis 3:15. We have found that God created man for fellowship. In the process of creation he included a mechanism that would give man a choice as to whether he would love and obey God, or rebel and be separated from God. Just as God knew he would, man chose rebellion. Man deserved to be eternally separated from God. God had every right to destroy man and start all over again. He did not do that. That is mercy.

Instead, God gave man what he did not deserve. He began a process that would redeem man and give him the choice to restore relationship with the Father by taking upon himself the punishment for sin. They did not deserve this gift. They were guilty of sin. By undertaking a plan to redeem man God was providing grace or underserved favor.

Grace was not an afterthought. Mercy and grace were built into the plan from the beginning.

Revelation 13:8 (NKJV) 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Mercy is God’s choice not to give man what he deserves. It is not a choice made after man sinned. It is not a choice God made when he sent Jesus. It is not a choice he makes when we decide to receive it. This choice was made before God began to create. It was made from the foundation of the world. In Genesis 3:15 we see God choose mercy over judgement and we see how God is going to make grace available. Both were in God’s plan from the beginning.

In Genesis 3:15 we see that God is not going to leave man in his sinful state. In subsequent verses he must tell Adam and Eve what their choice has done. He reveals that all of creation is cursed because of their choice. He tells each of them how sin will change their lives. This is not a curse by God. This is the curse of sin. Behavior has consequences and man must understand that. Nevertheless, before he tells them any of that, he sets mercy and grace in motion.

The first thing he tells the devil is that he is going to put enmity between him and the woman. Woman was not created as an inferior to man. She was created as a helper to man. Sin caused her to be lowered to a place of servitude and property. There was another reason for woman’s post fall condition.

Satan knew that God’s children would come from the body of women. He hated them for being the channel of creation. However, God put this hatred there because he had a plan. He was going to use woman in a way that no one could have imagined. The enmity between Satan and women would ensure that women maintained a kind of spirituality that would cause one specific woman to be ready when the time of mercy and grace came.

Then he says something impossible. He says he will put hatred between the woman’s seed and Satan’s seed. Neither of them has “seed” in the context of children. Who is Satan’s seed. The seed that will create humanity from the fall onward will have a spiritual genetic flaw called spiritual death. Adam’s rebellion caused him to be immediately separated from God and eternal life. It eventually caused the failure of his physical body. This flaw was passed to all those born of Adam. His seed was eternally contaminated by the nature of Satan, sin. Therefore, all who were born from that day on were the “seed of Satan.”

What of the seed of woman? This statement is even more impossible from the human standpoint. Woman has no seed! Woman carries the other half of the creative equation. She carries the “egg” that is fertilized by the seed. That is why in most cultures the family line comes through the male. In most royal houses if no male is born to the King, the line of succession ends. This is God’s way of incorporating into society that woman has no seed. Who, then, is the seed of woman?

When God was ready to put the plan of redemption into motion he sent an angel to a virgin girl. In Isaiah 7:14 God reveals something.

Isaiah 7:14 (NKJV) 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Notice he does not say “a virgin shall conceive.” He points through history to a specific woman through whom he is going to do something extraordinary. In Luke chapter 1, we find out who this woman is.

Luke 1:30-31 (NKJV) 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.

How could a woman have a seed? Who was this seed? A woman who conceives with no male human involved could be said to have a seed. A human being born this way would be the seed of that woman. Jesus is the seed of woman prophesied by God himself in Genesis 3:15.

God is revealing the special hatred that the seed of Satan, all those born by the natural order after the fall, would have for the one who would be born without the nature of sin. Jesus the Messiah.

Finally, God tells the devil what he is going to do. His words seem to be trivial if you do not understand that they are Hebrew idioms. An idiom is a saying that says one thing be has an understood meaning in the language being spoken. In English we may say “I will lend you a hand.” That does not mean I am going to remove one of my hands and give it to my neighbor. It means I am going to help.

In Hebrew to bruise the heal means to cause a minor injury. Satan is going to cause Jesus a minor injury. To bruise the head means to take away the Lordship of a ruler. Jesus is going to take away from Satan what he has won in the fall. He is going to give man what he does not deserve. He is going to make grace available for all of humanity. In our next post we will see how grace came to the world in the form of a baby.

The Origins of Grace: The Fall

Genesis 3:22-24 (NKJV) 22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”– 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

In our last two posts we have looked at the creation of man in some detail. To understand grace, we must understand its origin. Why was it necessary for God to bring grace into the creation? We have set a stage that is marked by a beautiful harmony. God created a world where his family could live. He is able to fellowship with them. They are different from all other created things just as he is different from everything in any world.

God is a spirit. He lives in and rules over a realm or dimension called the world of the spirit. The God of creation is all powerful, all knowing, everywhere present and unchangeable. There can be only one such being. He had created angels, beings who were also part of the world of the spirit. They were created as servants of God. They were not in the same class as God. For one thing, although they had the capacity to make a choice, they did not have the right of choice.

When some of them, led by Lucifer the leader of heavenly worship, did choose, there could be no redemption for them. Their choice brought a contamination to heaven that could not be tolerated. God had to create a place of separation for them. That place is called hell. It was created to hold the devil and his angels so that the contamination of sin would not affect the spiritual world (Matthew 25:41.)

God’s desire for a family caused him to create another place. A place that was separate from the world of the spirit. A limited place in which he could put man, a being whose life flowed from the spirit world but who existed in the limited, physical world. He wanted a family to love him. Because man existed in the physical world, God could give him the divine right of choice. Without choice there can be no love. Man was given both the capacity and the right to choose to either love God or not.

God put two things into the physical realm that would create the atmosphere of choice for man. He put two trees in the Garden. One representing the choice to love God and the other the choice to rebel against God. He put something else in the Garden. More accurately he put someone else in the Garden.

Isaiah 14:12 (NKJV) 12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!

Here we see that Lucifer also known as Satan was “cut down to the ground.” We see that in the Garden of Eden there is a being who has the power of speech. He is not man but a serpent. Satan is often seen as a serpent.

Revelation 12:9 (NKJV) 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

In this verse we see Satan called the serpent of old. God put a tempter in the Garden. If man was going to choose to love God, he had to make sure there was no question that he would make the choice. In Genesis 3 the drama God knew would happen plays out. You can read the scriptural account later but let me summarize.

Satan temps the woman to eat from the forbidden tree. He could not make her eat. She had to choose to eat. In Timothy we see that she was deceived but Adam was not (1 Timothy 2:13.) We sometimes think Adam was off somewhere else in the Garden during Eve’s temptation. He was not. Genesis 3:6 says that she gave the fruit to her husband who was with her. Adam now had to choose. Until he ate of the fruit nothing happened. He was the head of the woman. He could have chosen to remain loyal to God, his Father. We cannot know what would have happened to them if he had.

He knew that Eve had eaten. He knew that he loved her as “flesh of his flesh.” It is my opinion that he believed God’s promise concerning the “Tree of the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” would come to pass in her life. She was going to die. He could not bear to lose her, so as he looked at the fruit she had eaten he made an informed decision. He chose her over God. When he ate their eyes were opened.

This set-in motion a number of things. God came looking for them in the cool of the day. He is God. He knew where they were, but they had to take responsibility for what they had done. He pronounces several consequences for their choice. Man will no longer rule the earth. He will have to fight it for survival. Woman will no longer be man’s “helper” designed to share in his dominion over creation. Instead, she became his servant. Her desire would be for him, but childbearing would be in pain. This was not God’s original plan. It was a result of choosing sin and self will over submission to God.

Let us not forget the main curse associated with eating from the forbidden tree. The Hebrew says, “The day you eat from it, in dying you shall surely die.” Adam and Eve did not die physically for many years after they ate from the tree. However, there is no indication they would ever die before they ate of it. Adam and Eve were eternal beings.

There is an interesting fact about the human body. All the cells in our bodies are renewed every seven years. With each renewal cycle there is a flaw that grows. That flaw is what we call aging. I do not believe that flaw was in the original design. Man was designed to physically live forever. He was to be a spirit being who would live eternally in a physical body. They were to be God’s eternal family. When they sinned, something was introduced that caused them to begin to deteriorate. That something is called death. More specifically it is called spiritual death or separation from the source of man’s life, God himself.

Spirit beings cannot cease to exist. Man’s spirit would not cease to exist once his body died. However, since he would pass into the spirit world separated from God by his own choosing, he would suffer the same fate as Satan and his angels. He would spend eternity as a spirit being separated from God. The bible calls his future home Gehenna or the lake of fire.

All of this is what man deserves. He chose Eve over God. Adam knew the consequences but disobeyed anyway. God knew that he would. He was prepared for it. He had a plan in place to get his family back. Man did not deserve this from God. Man deserved to be left to his fate. God had every right to destroy what he had created but he did not. Man deserved eternal separation. That is not what God planned to allow.

God was moved with compassion for his family. He told Satan and all creation that he was going to give man what he did not deserve; a way out. He was going to redeem him from his choices and give him new choices. The act of redemption was mercy. The fact that Adam’s descendants would be offered what they did not deserve was grace. In today’s verse we see God’s mercy to preserve them until he did something about their situation.

Grace was not introduced in the New Testament. It was part of the original design. God planned for man’s fall when he created him. He was ready to put the plan of redemption into motion even before the fall of man. He makes a declaration to Satan that sets the course of history. In this declaration he declares both mercy and grace. Read it now and we will discuss it next time.

Genesis 3:15 (NKJV) 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

The Origins of Grace 2

Genesis 2:7 (NKJV) 7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

The story of the Bible is the story of the separation and reunification of a Father and his family. In our last post we saw that God created a physical universe. We focused on the fact that there are two realities that exist. There is the visible world of the natural and the invisible world of the spirit.

God is a spirit (John 4:24 KJV.) His realm of existence is a place called the spirit. If we are going to accept the truth of the Bible, we must also accept that this higher realm or reality exists. We live in the visible world of the natural. According to Genesis the natural was created by the physical. According to Paul in 2 Corinthians 4, the visible is temporary and the invisible is eternal. The visible is is subject to the invisible.

There is an important change in God’s method of creation when he came to man. God spoke the rest of creation into existence already alive. As far as we can see, the birds came forth flying, the fish swimming and the cows mooing. In today’s verse we see that God formed man’s body. The Hebrew word implies squeezing together like molding clay. To me this involves great love and care.

In Genesis 2:19 God uses the same word to describe his creation of the animals. What Genesis 2:19 does not include is the next step in man’s creation. The body that God lovingly formed for man was not alive. Again, everything else seemed to come forth alive. Their source of life was the physical creation. This was not the case with man. The body of Adam was dead. Then God does something very important. It says he breathed into man the breath of life and only then did man become a living soul.

There are many interpretations of what God breathed into man. One thing that can not be disputed is that whatever he breathed into him was the source of his life. It was then that he became a living soul. I believe that God breathed a spirit into the man. He took something from his own life and with that he gave man’s body life.

Let me be clear. I do not believe man was, is or ever will be God. There is only one God. The bible is clear on that point. What I do believe is that man is different from every other thing that God created. In Genesis 1:26 God said let us make man in our image. He did not say that about birds, dogs or even monkeys. He said that about man alone. Man is different from everything else in creation. How is he different and why is he different?

The why is simple. God wanted a family. He had created spirit beings, but they had no right of free will. They could not choose to love God. When 1/3 of them chose not to love and obey God they had to be removed from Heaven. Hell was created for them. Why was that necessary? They were part of the eternal realm of the spirit. Sin and rebellion cannot be allowed to contaminate that world. There could be no redemption for them. To be God’s family and to love him as he so desired, man had to be different.

God created a limited, physical world that exists outside of the world of the spirit. The beings who were created as part of that world were not spirit beings. The creator world could affect the created world but not the other way around. Sin in the natural world could not contaminate the spiritual world. God wanted a family who would chose to love him. Love without choice is not love. Giving a spirit being in the spirit world the right to chose created a situation God was not willing to allow.

The purpose of the physical reality was to allow God to put man in a place where, when he sinned as God knew he would, he would not contaminate the world of the spirit. He would only contaminate the world of the physical. Since the spirit world, the creator world, is higher than the physical world, God would be able to change that world and save the man from his sin.

What is man? Man is a spirit being just as God is a spirit being. He body is made out of the dust of the earth just as any other part of the physical creation. He is physical. He was given dominion by God in the physical universe. He has a right to that dominion because he is part of it and because God gave it to him. However, he is also a spirit being. Though his body is physical, the source of his life is the world of the spirit. I believe man is a spirit being in a physical body. Man is the only one who is both.

In a spiritual sense man has God’s DNA. That does not make him God, but it makes him different from every other physical creation. He is in God’s image. Genesis 1:25 is a statement of a law that God placed into the earth.

Genesis 1:25 (NKJV) 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

God made everything “according to it’s kind.” When things reproduce they would reproduce according to their kind. Cows would not reproduce horses. Fruits would not reproduce vegetables. When Adam reproduced he would reproduce after his “kind.” He would reproduce spirit beings in physical bodies. The bodies would be a product of the human physical DNA. The inner man from which the species “man” drew life would be created by God. Each and every human that would be born would have a spirit created by God. Each would be unique and each would be a child of God.

Let me set the stage as it is at this point of creation. God has created a being that is a part of the physical world. He draws his life from the spiritual world. He is unlike anything in either world. He is God’s child. God adds to the family by taking something from Adam and creating another being like him. This being was female. She was called woman.

God did not desire a world of children in the way Adam and Eve were. He wanted his children to share in creation with him. When the man, Adam, joined physically with the woman, Eve, something wonderful happened. Their physical DNA mingled and produced a physical child. Their Spiritual DNA which came from God produced a spiritual child of God. The creation of God’s family was set in motion.

In the beginning, God and his family were joined in the spirit. Genesis 3 it says God came to walk with man in the cool of the day. I do not know if God took a form man could see and walked with him. What I do know is that man’s connection to his Father God was not just on a physical level. He was joined to God in the spirit. Their connection flowed from the world God lived not from the one he created.

For man to love God in the way God desired he had to have a choice. God placed two trees in the Garden. He gave man free access to the tree of life. I do not have space to speculate on the nature of that tree. Suffice it to say it was a connection to God’s life. He also placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The fruit of this tree they were forbidden to eat.

Why did God place the second tree in the garden? The answer is choice. If man chose to eat of the tree of life, there were only blessings. There was no curse associated with it. If he chose to eat of the second tree, there was a curse. God says that in the day you eat of it you will die. In the Hebrew it says “in dying you will surely die.

Again[BK1] , I am sure you are wondering what all of this has to do with grace. What happens next is the whole reason for grace. To understand grace, we must understand why it was needed. We will continue to explore tomorrow.


[BK1]

The Origins of Grace

Genesis 2:7 (NKJV) 7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

(Once again, we have been traveling and as a result I have not had time to do any posting. Let’s get back to our discussion of Grace.)

We are looking at the bible doctrine of grace to sort out some of the confusion that seems to be in the church today about this topic. Grace is vital to Christianity. Salvation without a reliance on grace is impossible. That said, we must understand that grace is not a license to behave any way we like. Christianity is a relationship and relationships have parameters that are required for them to exist and thrive.

There is a confusion concerning the difference between law and grace. Some say that law is about behavior and grace makes the law, and for some, behavior irrelevant. God gave us 10 powerful commandments that reveal his nature and character to us. We are still required to live by them. Christianity has not changed that.

What we do find in Paul’s writings is that there is a better way than outward law to keep them. They were written on our hearts when we were born again. We keep them from the inside out not the outside in.

It is very difficult for me to look at any bible truth without starting in the book of Genesis. Every doctrine has its beginnings there. Genesis means beginnings. Grace began in Genesis. More to the point, the need for grace came into the human experience in Genesis.

To understand any of this we must know why God created man in the first place. God wanted a family. He had the spirit realm and the creatures he made to occupy it. There were angels to fill many functions in God’s world. However, the nature of their creation meant that they were servants of God. They were spirit beings like him. They were part of the same reality or existence. Nevertheless, they were not really like God. They were not his family. If there was another like him, he would not be the God revealed to us in the bible. To have a family God had to do something completely different.

In Genesis 1 we read about the creation of the physical universe. One of the things that we must accept by faith is the fact of creation. Hebrews 11:3 tells us so.

Hebrews 11:3 (NKJV) 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

I do not believe we will ever find definitive evidence of creation in the natural. Hebrews 11:6 tells us it is impossible to please God without faith. Natural evidence would eliminate faith from the equation. We have no proof or evidence of creation except our faith (Hebrews 11:1.) Nevertheless, we must accept Genesis 1 as true. If it is not, nothing in the bible makes sense.

God exists in another realm. Today we might use the term dimension to explain where God lives. I do not think that picture is really an accurate description of the world of the spirit, but it will do. Modern film and literature is full of alternate realities. Man instinctively knows that there is another reality beyond the one in which he lives. I believe that “other reality” is the realm of the spirit and I believe it is the world of God.

To have a family God created another “reality.” We call it the physical universe or the natural world. It is the only one we can see, hear and feel. The scientific community generally accepts the natural world as real and everything else as imagination, myth or foolishness. If we are going to understand bible grace we must accept the truth of Hebrews 11:3. God made this world out of a world we cannot see. Which world is more real? I submit that the creator world is more real than the created world. Look at Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV) 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

For the Apostle Paul, the things he endures in this “visible” world are only light afflictions. In Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians 12 we read lists of things that happened to Paul. In the book of Acts we see many of them written in story form. To me they do not appear to be “light afflictions.” I would not want anything in the list! Paul seems to have a very different perspective. Verse 18 tells us why.

He speaks of two levels of experience. That which is seen and that which is not seen. That which is seen is temporary or subject to change. That which is unseen is eternal. Therefore, the unseen is more real and more enduring than the seen. Paul understands that something is happening in a place he cannot see while he is dealing with what he can see. That is the place God lives. It is the invisible world of the spirit.

I believe the spiritual world and the physical world exist in the same place. God created the physical as a home for his family. Since he created the physical world he can affect it. Control it and change it. He gave it to man.

Genesis 1:26 (NKJV) 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

God’s family became the controlling force in the earth by the Word of God and man’s connection with God. When man fell, he gave that control to Satan because of sin. God’s Word is always eternal. As creator he has the right to destroy what he made and start again. However, God is love. He would not abandon his family. He undertook a plan to bring them back to himself. This plan involved a legal intrusion of the spiritual world in to the physical.

Galatians 4:4-5 (NKJV) 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

When the time was right, God himself came to the earth. He came as the “incarnation” or physical manifestation of the invisible God. Jesus was not born of a physical human male. He did have a physical mother through whom he received a physical body just like yours and mine. However, he was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35.) Jesus was the Son of Man but also the Son of God. He was human but also divine. He was of the invisible world of the Spirit but also of the visible world of the natural. He was the bridge, the mediator between God and man.

How does this relate to grace? Grace is unmerited or undeserved favor. Favor from whom and to whom. It implies a greater favoring a lesser. Who is the greater. Where is the greater one? Who is the lesser and where is he or she?

Of course, we know that the greater one is God and the lesser is man. However, that implies two worlds. For many Christians this is obvious. For many more this is a farfetched and strange ides. They accept Christianity as a religion and a philosophy. That kind of Christianity does not really need grace. A reality that believes in an invisible creator God and an eternal world needs grace. A man who is separated from the world he was actually created to interact with as the child of God but from which he is separated by sin, needs grace.