Thursday, March 20, 2014

Grace Abused

GRACE. We hear the word. We sing of its amazingness. We speak of its fullness and its riches. Yes, it is a beautiful word. But how often do you stop to ponder its depth? If you stop to think about it, the word has been at the heart of countless debates and it has undergone attack after attack from those who wish to use it to cater to their own ideas. Why?

First, we need to understand what grace is. We’ve all heard of people trying to get in someone’s good graces. When it comes to God, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Grace is not something we can earn nor is it something we can ever work toward. Scripture makes it clear that God decides to whom He will be gracious and show compassion (Exodus 33:19; Romans 9:15). Does this
mean people should fear for their life? Should we all live in terror at the thought of our destruction looming over us with nothing we can do about it? To this I would say yes and no. Yes, it is true that our very existence is held in God’s hands. He could easily destroy the entire earth as you are reading this. Job understood that it is the Lord who gives and the Lord who takes away (Job 1:21). While it is true that he feared the Lord, it was a reverent fear and not a fear based in terror or dread. Whereas he understood His awesome power and might, he also understood that his God is a gracious God who is full of compassion (Nehemiah 9:31). So again I say to fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28) but always remember that God is with us and He will strengthen us (Isaiah 41:10). He is our help in time of need (Psalm 46:1).

Many have tried to twist grace in various ways throughout history. Some have stated that there is a prevenient grace that God has applied to all without exception. Their reasoning for this ultimately boils down to the idea that God desires the salvation of each individual person. In an effort to maintain the doctrine of the fall of man, they state that God gives a measure of grace to each person so that they now possess the ability to choose God of their own free will. Unfortunately, this goes against the very teaching of man’s depravity and deadness in sin. Not to mention it’s found nowhere in Scripture. Furthermore, if God truly showed grace to each and every person, how is there still room to be gracious to whom He will be gracious? The response is that there are varying degrees of grace. I can’t argue this point. After all, Scripture does show examples of God being extraordinarily gracious to some more so than others. However, when referring to salvation, we simply cannot make a solid case for this claim. God will be gracious to whom He will be gracious and He will show compassion to whom He will show compassion. However, we must always remember that God is good and worthy of our praise.

Another way in which grace has come under attack is in the form of abuse. There are many out there who readily see grace as inexhaustible yet seem to be making every attempt to tap the bottom of the barrel. They say salvation is the free gift of God that is given by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8). They say nobody can snatch us out of the Father’s hand (John 10:28-29). While these two statements are very profound and very biblical, we must be careful not to cross into the realm of hyper grace. Such people come in varying degrees ranging from those who believe they can live like the devil to those who claim nothing they do really matters. After all, if God is sovereign and His grace is sufficiently given out to all whom He decrees to give it to, can our actions really affect anything? Thankfully, just as God’s Word is clear on the nature of grace, it is equally clear on how we are to live with grace. Paul battled much of the same assaults in his day. There is truly nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Just as there are now, there were then people claiming they could sin with no ill effects so long as they were covered by grace. Unfortunately, they were missing the entire point! Paul states it plainly when he says, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!” (Romans 6:1-2a).

We are to cherish the biblical teachings of grace, not because we are to abuse it but because it should humble us. Romans 5:6 tells us Christ died for those who were helpless. In verse 8, it goes on to say that God demonstrated His love toward us. He graciously gave his Son as the atoning sacrifice for those whom He chose to show compassion. Let us never forget this. Apart from the perfect work of Christ, his death on the cross, and his defeat of death in the resurrection, there is no newness of life. Apart from God’s grace in orchestrating this act of mercy, there is nothing but death. However, in His grace, He lavishes His love upon us that we could be called sons of God (1 John 3:1). Why would we ever desire to abuse such a gift?

Romans 6:5-7
For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

~ Travis W. Rogers

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