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Bible verses about Grace
(From Forerunner Commentary)

We could easily think of integrity ("righteously" in NKJV) strictly in terms of law and pursue it no further. But when we see how this word is translated elsewhere, we add a dimension that helps us better understand how we should act toward our fellowman.

In Luke 23:41 and I Thessalonians 2:10, the same word is rendered "justly," meaning right, proper, or fair. This is the adverbial form of the Greek dikaios, meaning "to be conformed to that which is right," which Plato said is inseparably bound to the word translated "sober" above. A person who is dikaios neither selfishly nor forgetfully transgresses the bounds of what is right. He gives everyone his due.

To Christianity, this translates into "my duty is my right." This concept branches out into areas of life like civility, consideration, concern, and respect and has little or nothing to do with what we normally consider as "law." I Corinthians 13:4-7 is a clear example of such instruction.

The grace of God obligates us to these duties in our relationships with others. To conform to them fulfills what Paul means by living with integrity in Titus 2:12. It encompasses keeping the commandments, of course, but it also involves such virtues as probity, honesty, goodness, irreproachability, fairness, nobility, and being just and sensitive to another's needs, including giving correction in kindness and mercy (Galatians 6:1-2).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

To say that grace is simply "a gift" is to fall woefully short of exhausting its meaning. In fact, the English word "grace" is not even derived from charis, the Greek word used in the Bible. Instead, it comes from the Latin gratia, which in turn comes from gratus, meaning "beloved" or "pleasing." Grace, according Webster's New World Dictionary closely follows the Latin definition. It means "beauty or charm of form, composition, movement or expression; an attractive quality, feature or manner; goodwill, favor."

Each of these usages shows "grace" to have a fairly close relationship to the secular use of charis. In secular Greek, a good wine and a fine choice of words are examples of charis. People have charis when they are delicate, tactful, or artful. In this way, people or things win the charis (favor) of others by having charis (charm). Another use of charis was as thanks for favors bestowed; this has survived in English as the term used of the prayer of thanksgiving before a meal: grace.

Charis was basically used in secular Greek in an aesthetic sense, but it also had an ethical side. The New Testament writers drew upon this usage to formulate part of the biblical grace to which we are accustomed. In secular Greek charis could also, but not as frequently, be used to indicate kindness, generosity, and helpfulness. Thus, even in secular usage, charis connotes a benevolence that shows favor to inferiors.

Charis needed one more sense to be ready for biblical use. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia makes this interesting comment:

It may be added that in later Greek charis also had the sense of force or power. It could be a spell, or demonic force, affecting human life with supernatural influences. In Euripides, it was a power from the underworld that could convey the virtues of a dead hero to his living family or followers. This sense, too, though set in a new context, was used in the NT: grace became the power of God to enable Christians to live the new life in Christ. ("Grace," vol. 2, p. 548)

It is easy to see why charis took on the implication of power. Charming people of beautiful form, people of tact and artful speech, people with kind, generous, benevolent, and helpful personalities are people of influence—and influence is power. Such a power can extend even beyond the grave. But even so, biblical grace is much more because its foundation and source are in God.

It would be incorrect to say that the biblical grace has no connection to its secular usage. However, it takes on a vastly greater dimension in two areas: 1) It is the single most important aspect of our spiritual and eternal salvation, and 2) God's giving of it to us is completely and totally unmerited. Even though the grace of God is the foundation for good works, the good works, by themselves, do not and cannot earn us grace.

While most of the New Testament writers use "grace" at some point, Paul makes the greatest use of it. It can almost be said to be his word. The seven other writers together use the word fifty-one times, but Paul alone uses it 101 times. Essentially, his usage of grace has given us its unique biblical application.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amazing Grace


 

Christ's death on the stake thus becomes the instrument which enables God to give us grace. But do not be misled into thinking that grace is without cost. Nothing could be further from the truth! It could easily be the most expensive gift you will ever receive. Not only did grace cost the life of Jesus of Nazareth, but it also costs us our lives if we are to receive it!

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? . . . Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. . . . And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:3, 11, 18)

Recall again Peter's words in I Peter 2:24: "Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed." Upon giving us grace, God expects us to give the rest of our lives in obedience to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amazing Grace


 

Very likely, the degree of our appreciation of grace and the gospel of the Kingdom of God stands in direct proportion to our understanding and abhorrence of sin. It has been said that the beauty of a pearl cannot be appreciated when there is no conception of the filth of a pigsty. Only against the inky blackness of the night sky do stars sparkle brilliantly. Thus, it is only against the ugly background of sin and judgment that the beauty of God's grace and His gospel shine.

Not until we clearly see that sin has battered, bruised, and driven us to despair will we even begin to admit our need. Not until we grasp that sin has arrested, imprisoned, condemned, and killed us will we reach out to Christ for justification and life. Sin is not a joke. We need not be morbid about it, but we should certainly check for it often within ourselves to avoid its deceptive, life-destroying bondage.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

The biblical examples of divine justice may anger or offend us. At the very least, they are sometimes confounding in the face of what we have learned about a merciful and patient God of love. Perhaps we have difficulty because we do not understand the linkage between four vital, biblical concepts: holiness, justice, sin, and grace.

We may not grasp the seriousness of holiness by failing to see the purity God requires; we may have an unbalanced perspective of justice; we may misunderstand the deadliness of sin; and we may see little need for grace for ourselves. The stories of Nadab and Abihu, Uzza, and Ananias and Sapphira are clearly not examples of divine mercy.

Before we can understand divine mercy, we must first understand the seriousness of sin and the necessity of divine justice. Divine justice is linked to righteousness: God's justice is according to righteousness. Evil justice in God does not exist because His every judgment is according to His righteousness, for there is absolutely no unrighteousness in Him. The justice of God is always an expression of His perfect, righteous, holy character.

Biblically, justice refers to "conformity to a rule or norm." If life and salvation were a game, we would say that God plays by the rules. He sets them and never deviates from them. The norm of justice is His own holy character. What God does is always consistent with who and what He is. His righteousness is absolutely pure; there is no shadow of turning in Him (James 1:17). He is utterly incapable of an unholy, unrighteous act. We call people "crooks" because they are crooked. God is absolutely "straight." Genesis 18:23-25 speaks of this very issue:

And Abraham came near and said, "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

Never did a man ask a more rhetorical question. Abraham had no idea how far such an act was from God. There was never even the most remote possibility that God would kill the innocent along with the guilty! For God to do that, He would have to cease being holy and righteous—He would have to stop being God! God is the Supreme Judge of all the earth. As man's sordid histories show, if He is unjust, there is no hope that justice will ever prevail.

We know human judges can be corrupt, take bribes, and be partial. God, though, is never corrupt, cannot be bribed, refuses to show partiality, never acts out of ignorance, has every fact necessary for judgment, and never makes mistakes. Nadab, Abihu, Uzza, Saul, and Ananias and Sapphira all got what they deserved. There is no injustice with God.

God's justice is never divorced from His righteousness. He never condemns the innocent; never clears the guilty; never punishes with undue severity; never fails to reward righteousness. His justice is perfect justice.

What Abraham fails to address in his question is sin. Mankind utterly fails to appreciate the seriousness of sin. God's Word clearly states that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and that sin is the transgression of God's law (I John 3:4, KJV). From the beginning in the Garden of Eden, God proclaims to mankind in the persons of Adam and Eve, ". . . in the day that you eat of it [sin], you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17).

He does not say they would die immediately, but die they did. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We have all earned this judgment by the way we live. Is God unjust because He warns Adam and Eve? No, the problem is that man in his pride thinks he deserves better.

However, God does not always act with justice—sometimes He acts with mercy. Mercy is not justice, but neither is it injustice, since injustice violates righteousness. Mercy manifests kindness and grace, doing no violence to righteousness. We may see non-justice in God, which is mercy, but we never see injustice in Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

The grace of God does not involve just the forgiving of sin. Forgiveness is not the only unearned and unmerited gift that He has given us. Grace, in actuality, reaches into every aspect of the salvation process, and everything - everything - is given. All we do is respond to God's gifts.

Grace denotes God's benevolence in giving of Himself in some way to bring about our salvation. We really limit its biblical application if we think of it only as the unearned pardon of sin. It is much, much more.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

Genesis 2:17

When we read in Genesis 2:17, do we not subconsciously read into it, "Yes, but He does not really mean that. He means we will eventually die"? We soften it, expecting that God will not carry through with what He literally says.

The Keil-Delitzsch Commentary says about this verse, "That in the day that you eat thereof you shall die." It means as soon as he ate, he would die. The Keil-Delitzsch is a very conservative commentary. The Interpreter's Bible Commentary, which is one of the most liberal commentaries, says, "Death would follow immediately!" From one of the most conservative commentaries, Keil-Delitzsch, to one of the most liberal, The Interpreter's Bible Commentary, they agree the verse says that when they touched that tree, thus showing the intent of their heart, they would die.

In the beginning, at creation, all sin is deemed as worthy of death. Every sin is a capital offense. In creation, God was not obligated in any way to give life to you or me. Life is a gift that puts us under obligation, and that obligation is stated, or at least implied very strongly, right when man is being created. God gave life to man and put him under the obligation of being the image-bearer of God (Genesis 1:26). That is why we were created.

In chapter 2, we are further obligated by God's command to take of the Tree of Life, and not the other tree. The implication there is that only God knows how we are to live in order to fill our obligation to be the image-bearer of God. We have to learn that the root of sin lies in the desire of men to live their lives in self-centered independence from God. This is what keeps us from being the image-bearers of God that He intended us to be. If we deviate from this, have we not broken our obligation to God? If we deviate from this—if we go from the path, if we miss the mark—we have sinned. We have broken our obligation to mirror and reflect the holiness of God.

Implied by the name “Tree of Life,” God is telling us that we do not intrinsically possess the kind of life that God has, and that if we want that kind of life, it must be added. It is added through what the Tree of Life symbolized. What if we do not meet our obligations? We forfeit the gift of life when we sin.

Is God unfair if something is so clearly stated? Do we see why He commands us to choose life? He sets before us two different ways. He commands us to go in a certain direction, because if we go in the other direction we have broken our obligation to be image-bearers, and then He is not obligated any longer after that to continue our lives. He is under no obligation to continue the life that He gave to us as a gift. God is not acting unfairly nor with injustice, for the commands are very clear.

When the penalty was stated to Adam and Eve, did God say, "If you sin, some day you will die"? No. The penalty is clearly stated to be instant death, just as suddenly as it fell on Nadab and Abihu, and on Ananias and Sapphira, and Uzza.

Let us look at this realistically and let us not try to soften what God very clearly and literally says. He meant the death penalty in the fullest sense of the word. The only reason they lived was because it was right at that point that God extended grace. God was no longer obligated to continue their life.

They had broken His Word, deviated from the path, and the just thing for God to have done would have been to kill them just as He did Uzza. That is not what He did though. Instead, He gave them mercy, and He gave them grace. There is a saying, "Justice delayed is justice denied," but not always so. In this case with Adam and Eve, the full measure of justice was delayed for grace to have time to work.

We need to be thinking of this in relation to ourselves, because He is establishing a pattern. Justice was delayed so grace would have time to work. In this case, the delay of justice was not the denial of justice, but the establishing of mercy and grace. So right at the very beginning of the Book, in its third chapter, grace is introduced.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Genesis 18:23-25

Is God fair in His dealings with man? Consider this: Has God warned man what He is going to earn in the way of a death penalty if he sinned? Consider this list. In Exodus 21, we are warned that striking or cursing parents will result in death. In Leviticus 19, He says that if you desecrate a sacrifice, you are going to die. In Leviticus 24, He said that if you murder somebody, you are going to die. In Exodus 21, He says that if you kidnap somebody, you are going to die. In Leviticus 20, He says if you sacrifice a child in the fire, you are going to die. In Leviticus 24, He says If you take My name in vain—if you curse Me, if your use blasphemous statements about Me—you are going to die.

In Exodus 35, He issues the death penalty for breaking the Sabbath. In Leviticus 20, He issues the death penalty for consulting mediums. In Leviticus 20, He says that if you are practicing homosexuality, you are going to die. In Leviticus 20, if you practice incest, you are going to die. In Exodus 22, if you practice bestiality, you are going to die. In Deuteronomy 22, He says that if you rape somebody, you are going to die. In Deuteronomy 13, if you give a false prophecy, you are going to die.

In Exodus 22, if you practice sorcery, you are going to die. In Exodus 22, if you sacrifice to a false god, you are going to die. In Leviticus, if you commit adultery, you are going to die. In Numbers 4, if you desecrate a holy thing, you are going to die. In Numbers 16, if you disagree with God's judgment, you are going to die. In Leviticus 21, if you are a priest's daughter and you play the harlot, you are going to die.

I have only given you a partial list. God has clearly made known the penalty to mankind. Is God acting fairly? The penalty for some of these offenses really sounds harsh to modern minds. Death for a false prophecy? Death for committing adultery? Death for bestiality or homosexuality? All of these penalties are given in the Old Testament. By contrast, there is no corresponding list of penalties in the New Testament, which misleads some who are close to being biblically illiterate into thinking that they prefer the God of the New Testament to the God of the Old Testament. But the God of the New Testament is exactly the same Being as the God of the Old Testament; He says, "I change not" (Malachi 3:6). "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

Those of us who are living under the New Covenant need to begin to think seriously about the way we conduct our lives, and especially in reference to our own relationship with God. We cannot deny that the New Testament list of capital offenses would appear to be a dramatic reduction from the Old. What we fail to consider is that the Old Testament list above is a massive reduction from what appears at the beginning of the Book, as in Genesis 18. The list, mainly out of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, represents an astonishing measure of grace from how things began.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Leviticus 5:15-16

Whenever a sin caused loss to the one sinned against, restitution had to be made to him for his loss according to a valuation made by the priest. An additional one-fifth was added to the evaluation to compensate the plaintiff for any costs involved in recovering his loss. This process contains a valuable, spiritual lesson.

Suppose a person stole something from another worth a hundred dollars. He would then appear before the priest with his offering (a ram without blemish), as well as a hundred dollars. However, an additional twenty more dollars (one-fifth) would go to the victim to cover any mental anguish or attorney's or private detective's fees. This is what would have happened physically. However, we should consider this spiritually because this principle has application to us today. We are similarly under His government.

When we break His law, we are indebted to Him. The penalty of breaking His law is death. If we pay the penalty, we die, ending our indebtedness, but it also ends our potential, stops our growth, and perhaps—God forbid—keeps us from entering God's Kingdom. That would be the total end of everything! However, upon repentance, God permits us to claim the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sin. He allows the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to substitute for us.

However, in doing so, He now has a claim on us He did not have before we made use of Christ's sacrifice (symbolically, the unblemished ram). Before, He had a claim only on our obedience, but now He also has a claim on our life because He has spared us the death penalty. God not only forgives our sin, but He also clears us of guilt and then gives us the wherewithal to keep His law in the future. God adds grace, that is, gifts, as this is generally what "grace" means.

In Romans 5:20, Paul puts it this way: "Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more." When God forgives our sins at the beginning of our conversion, He does not simply wipe sins away. He also invites us into communion with Him, gives us His Spirit to enable obedience, promises to provide all our needs, and adds everlasting life on top of all this! In other words, God sets the example of going above and beyond what is merely required of Him.

God expects us to follow His example in our relationships with each other. The twenty-percent payment over and above what was literally owed represents the way we are to act toward men in general. In answer to the disciples' request to increase their faith, Jesus clearly instructs them to go above and beyond what was required (Luke 17:5, 9-10).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins His ministry espousing this very principle:

You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. And if any man wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. (Matthew 5:38-42)

He crowns his teaching on this principle in verses 43-44: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." He says we must be quick to forgive. He did that very thing hanging on the stake in behalf of the very ones who were killing Him! That is going above and beyond even in the midst of great personal pain and stress when one would most likely have his mind focused on himself. At the very least, we should have a mind to extend grace even before our enemies want it.

In concluding instructions on loving our enemies, Jesus makes an arresting statement on the attitude and conduct by which His disciples are to live:

And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much aback. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:34-38)

Even as God lives by grace, we too are to learn to implement it into our lives. If we want to super-abound, we must learn to give grace. We are to go above and beyond mere requirement because it will support developing the mind of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings


 

1 Kings 19:10-18

Possibly in the same cave where Moses saw God (Exodus 33:17-23; 34:4-7), Elijah finally vocalized to God why he had fled to the wilderness: In his zeal he felt alone, rejected, and ineffective (verse 10). By God's blunt response, it seems that He had decided that Elijah needed a quick and effective dose of reality.

In the tremendously powerful wind, earthquake, and fire, God showed that though He causes or allows great works that destroy, punish, or expose the ungodly, His greatest work is elsewhere. He was in the "still small voice" (verse 12). He does His most astounding and effective work in the background, working His salvation in (Psalm 74:12), and giving His gifts, His grace, to His people (Ephesians 4:7). In a sense, He told Elijah He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).

Undaunted, though humbled, Elijah still insisted that he was alone, rejected, and ineffective (verse 14). Almost curtly, God gave the prophet something to do, though nothing on the scale of his former work (verses 15-17). But before He sent Elijah away, God reminded him that in his self-absorption he had forgotten all the other people with whom He had been working. "Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him" (verse 18).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elijah's Dose of Reality


 

Job 25:2-4

All of us sin, so who can escape the condemnation of Him who sees all and knows all? There is no vindication, no exoneration, before God. If He so desired, He could name all of our sins, and if He determined to execute justice, no one could call Him into account. If we are not impressed with God's gift of grace after considering that, then there is something wrong with us.

Justification is the declaration of righteousness. God simply declares us innocent and righteous. He does this legally on the basis of Christ's priceless sacrifice.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

Ecclesiastes 8:11

Human nature is so tricky that it can deceive even one who is converted into taking the grace of God for granted. Human nature has the tendency to pull a person further and further into sin. If God does not execute His wrath and justice immediately against such a person, and instead gives him grace, He allows that person an opportunity to continue to live longer so that grace can work in his life and lead him to repentance. "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Isaiah 40:28

Though God's normal activity involves far more mercy than justice, we have to operate with the understanding, the conviction, that God owes us nothing. He knows exactly what is happening. If He allows a tower to fall on our heads this afternoon, we cannot claim any injustice on God's part. He has already given us so much mercy that it is beyond our understanding.

All of us receive injustices from the hand of men, and we do not deal anywhere near as fairly with each other as we should. We want everything in our dealings with others to go favorably for us, for that is what we feel is fair. Israel is saying a similar thing here.

One thing is certain, however: None of us has ever received the slightest injustice from the hand of God. As we grow in understanding and humility, we begin to see that we have received an overwhelming abundance of grace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Amos 7:7-9

A major proof of false religion is that it cannot validate its effectiveness before the witness of man, but God can and does validate the true religion. He produces evidence of His righteousness, power, purpose, and way in many forms. God has performed miracles, signs, and wonders in the sight of thousands of witnesses.

Without objective assurance from time to time, we would be living in a world of religious make-believe. God sometimes validates Himself before man by advertising His power through an undeniable occurrence like Jesus' resurrection (I Corinthians 15:1-8). Men have verified the truths of God through observation and experimentation (I Kings 18:30-39). Man is thus without excuse (Romans 1:18-25).

On occasion, God also verifies our personal relationship with Him by immediately answering a prayer or miraculously saving us from harm. On the other hand, if He needs to get our attention, He will shake us awake by allowing a test or trial to warn us that the relationship is degenerating. Because we are assured that God is with us, the testing is good. It keeps us from sinking into complacency and pride, both of which will separate us from Him.

This is what God is addressing in the principle of the plumb line. Amos understood that God was using it to test the spirituality, morality, and genuineness of the people against the standard. The test answers the question, "Are they really God's people?" God wants to know if they are exhibiting His characteristics.

This idea of a spiritual standard of measure transferred directly into the New Testament church. God uses similar imagery, a measuring rod, in Revelation 11:1. To the Laodicean church (Revelation 3:14-22), God uses fire to refer to a test instead of a plumb line.

As we can see from these examples, the end-time church will be tested. How are we going to build? What will the test reveal about our Christian growth (I Corinthians 3:9-16)? We are commanded to grow "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). From this we see that the plumb line is God's revelation of Himself as the standard.

At first, God's revelation of Himself was direct, visible, and personal, but later, as Israel grew, He revealed Himself more verbally through the prophets. They recorded His revelation for all time and all people, and we read it today in our Bibles.

God's law is the primary vehicle He uses to reveal His nature; it defines how He lives. If we want to be in His Kingdom and live as He does, we must obey His law, but obeying God's law in no way minimizes grace. God revealed Himself to Israel first as Redeemer and then as Lawgiver. He freed His people from their slavery in Egypt before He gave them the standard of His law. Grace precedes law. God gives grace first, but He does not leave His people ignorant of the life that pleases Him, which is revealed in His law.

The plumb line combines grace and law, and God will test us against both. If we rely on His grace without law, or on His law without grace, we will not pass the test. If either is abused, we will not measure up to the standard.

Leviticus 19 shows that the revelation of the law is important because it is a verbal description of God's nature. Our God is a holy God (verse 2), and He expects His representatives to be holy also. But how do we become holy?

After God redeems us from sin and extends to us His Spirit and grace—His free, unmerited election, He expects us to follow His instructions. The remainder of Leviticus 19 fills in the details—we become holy by doing these things. These actions reflect God's nature. Since God is holy, His law is holy, and if we follow His holy law, we can—with the indwelling of His Holy Spirit—grow to be holy like our holy God.

God chose Israel and extended the offer for a relationship with Him, to walk and fellowship with Him. After Israel's rejection of it, He has now extended this offer to those He has specifically called and chosen (John 6:44; I Corinthians 1:26-29).

God loves His people and gives them redemption, grace. He expects it will result in obedience to His law, the reflection of His nature, so on occasion, He holds a plumb line against them to check their progress. But when He sees that they have rejected His way of life, He has no choice but to try to guide them to repentance—by any means necessary.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Jonah 4:2

God's patience delays His wrath, allowing time for good to occur. We should also note the other qualities patience is combined with here and in Exodus 34:6. In combination with patience, the qualities of grace, mercy, lovingkindness, goodness, and truth allow God to work with people so they can remain alive and eventually transform into His image. If God struck out at people just as short-fused humans frequently do, no one would be alive today. Jonah, in a typically human reaction, wanted God to wipe the sinners of Nineveh, Israel's enemy, off the face of the earth!

Nineveh was undoubtedly just as full of sinners as Israel. But God, bearing patiently with them in their ignorance, sent Jonah to proclaim His warning message to them: Destruction would fall on them in forty days. They, however, believed the message, proclaimed a fast, prayed mightily to God, repented, and turned from their evil ways. Their repentance may not have been Davidic, but under the circumstances God was pleased.

II Peter 3:9 affirms that God still operates in the same manner:

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Romans 2:3-6 discusses the same theme on a more personal basis, warning us that we should not abuse God's patience by viewing it as inattention, indulgence or mere tolerance. Solomon warns of the same perversity of nature that reveals itself in those lacking faith (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13). Clearly, God's patience is exercised so He can work on the situation and produce repentance. All too frequently, though, His goodness and patience are abused through stubbornness or neglect. Be assured, God is aware, and there comes a time when His patience is exhausted and His judgment falls if the change God expected does not occur.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

Matthew 7:11

God's gracious gifts are just that—gracious. They are unearned and unmerited by us who have willingly sinned against Him, desecrated His beautiful creation and either ignored or neglected His awesome purpose. Despite this, His gifts of life are nonetheless unforced, an abundant manifestation of His kind nature. He does not return evil for evil; He does not bear grudges, burn with resentment, or plot to get even. Rather, He freely gives even to evil doers while He patiently works toward the completion of His purpose!

It has always been this way. Despite the Israelites' manifold sins after their rescue from Egypt, He continued to provide food, water, and protection all the way into the Promised Land. Once in the land, they continued their provocations for about another seven hundred years before He finally drove them into captivity. All the while He provided for them so abundantly that Israel became a very wealthy, albeit ungrateful, nation.

Psalm 78:37-39 records this of Israel's relationship with God:

For their heart was not steadfast with Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant. But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath; for He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness


 

Matthew 9:27-30

With an attitude of humility (Proverbs 15:33), the blind men seek Jesus' mercy in healing, giving Him praise and honor. We have no merits for any blessing from God. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, these things are given by grace, not because of anything we are or have done.

The blind men not only honor Christ in their request, but also humble themselves. They do not ask Him to be just to them, for all have sinned and deserve death (Romans 3:23), but in their humility they ask for mercy. Had they asked for justice, they would have been asking for their "rights." Demanding rights is an arrogant approach, the opposite of humility. In emphasizing rights, a person ignores his responsibilities.

Another positive characteristic the blind men exemplify is that they continue to follow Christ until they receive an answer to their request—they persevere. In spite of the crowds, they keep following Him along the road, and when He stops and enters a house, they do not give up but go into the house after Him. When we do not receive an answer to a prayer the first few times we ask, we often quit praying and sometimes indirectly accuse God of failing to act on our behalf. However, delay in answering prayer is not necessarily denial. It may be to test our faith and strengthen it.

If we desire blessings from God, we have to persevere in pursuing them. God does not usually give special blessings to those who seek them half-heartedly. As parents, we use the same method with our own children. We sometimes delay our response until we know whether they are truly sincere in their request, and until we determine how important it is to them and how hard they are willing to work for it.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing Two Blind Men (Part One)


 

Matthew 18:28-30

The heartlessness of the forgiven man—along with his utter disregard of his obligation to emulate the gracious example of his king—is sin. Compared to our offenses against God, the offenses that our brethren commit against us are small and insignificant. Since God has forgiven us so much, we ought to forgive each other of anything, large or small (Matthew 6:15). Grace bestowed puts the receiver under obligation to manifest the same grace to others. Even though a person receives forgiveness, it does not guarantee that he will be a better person, as this deceived world generally believes today (as seen in how ineffective leniency on murderers, rapists, and thieves is.)

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant


 

Matthew 23:23

Why is mercy so weighty? Those who teach "grace only" apart from the law do not even see a need for mercy, since, to them, grace cancels any need for mercy. By their definition, mercy is automatic once they are "saved"! In theory, they can breeze through a "happy, happy, joy, joy" life with no fear of eternal consequences.

If that were true, why did Christ not make "grace" one of the weighty matters and leave out mercy? The Pharisees believed in keeping the law perfectly and being saved as a result. Modern Christianity teaches the law is done away, and all they need is saving grace, given when they "accept the Lord." Neither of these opposing approaches will work!

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 3): Mercy


 

Mark 1:41

Christ moved with compassion on behalf of a person who, from the world's viewpoint, was repulsive and undesirable, totally unappealing in any situation. Jesus did not cleanse him because he was nice-looking or wealthy. Similarly, God does not choose to call us into His church due to our good works, beauty, or money; in us is nothing spiritually appealing. Spiritually, we are like the leper was physically—repulsive and undesirable in terms of holiness. We can thank God that His grace "brings salvation" (Titus 2:11) and "by grace we are saved" (Ephesians 2:8). God does not call us to salvation because of what we are but because of what He is. According to His mercy, God decides on whom to have compassion (Psalm 86:15; Romans 9:15-16).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Leper (Part Three)


 

Luke 1:77-79

No salvation is possible without forgiveness. Our Father cannot forgive our sins on the grounds of justice, and therefore He does so through His tender mercy. He has made Himself our God by giving us grace—undeserved favor. He passes by the transgressions of His people because He delights in mercy. He is so full of pity that He delays to condemn us in our guilt, but looks with loving concern upon us to see how He can turn away His wrath and restore us to favor.

Micah 7:18 adds, "Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy." God is love, and love is kind, but perhaps our approach to His forgiveness has been prosaically legal. The Scriptures reveal that God does kindness with intensity of will and readiness of mind. He forgives with all His heart because He delights in mercy! He says, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies." God's nature works to give mercy, not punish; to create beauty, not destroy; to save, not lose.

Can we not see a lesson in this? Are we anywhere near God's image in this? How many of us, fellowshipping among God's people, are hiding resentment and bearing the seeds of bitterness against a brother because of some offense—or carrying a grudge, or filled with envy, or communicating gossip? Are these things acts of kindness? Does a forgiving spirit that delights in mercy enter into acts that destroy a brother's reputation and widen existing divisions?

One other phrase in Luke 1:78 shows the kind and tender nature of our God: "He visited us." God did not merely pity us from a distance, nor did He allow His compassion for us to remain as an unresolved, inactive feeling. David writes in Psalm 8:4, "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" But God did just that!

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed he does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-18)

God has not merely pitied us from a distance, but He has entered into life, our life, on our level. The Creator stooped from His high and pure abode as glorious God, and veiled His divinity for an abode of animated clay. He assumed our nature, was tempted in all things like us, took our sicknesses, and bore our infirmities for the express purpose of being a merciful and faithful High Priest. He did not enter into our world and yet maintain a status superior to us. He truly walked in our shoes and still went about doing good.

Christ, Paul adds in Galatians 1:4, "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." Who knows how many individual acts of kindness—from the conception of the plan to its fulfillment—are contained within this simple statement?

This is the heart of God's nature. He generously and mercifully gives that others might benefit. Now, because of what He did, this nature is growing in us. By His Spirit He has taken His abode in us to enable us to work out our salvation, and as we yield, our lives are changing, gradually conforming to His image. He dwells in us despite all our provocations, stubbornness, neglect, and rebellions. How often we must disappoint Him, and yet as our High Priest and Intercessor, He stands ever ready to serve us with yet more kindness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness


 

Luke 14:25-33

Christ could not have made our obligation any clearer, yet after receiving forgiveness, so many are forgetful and blasé about this responsibility! Family ties are the strongest of bonds, but our loyalty to Christ must supersede them. Beyond that, we must have the humble devotion to bear any burden He deems necessary for our good, the corporate good, or as a witness as part of this way. From our perspective, we can hardly deem God's gift to be free!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Luke 14:25-27

Is being a disciple of Christ free to us? These verses say that we have to give up everything! That is not cheap! Moreover, He mentions this in the context of things that are normally the most dear to us of all—our flesh-and-blood relatives! There is no greater price a human being can pay than to give up his family, and yes, his own life! That is not cheap! That is not free!

Grace is the most costly thing that has ever been given. It was costly in terms of the life of the very Creator—the God who made everything! And in return, to receive that grace, He demands that we give up our lives. It is not cheap. It is not free.

Then, how can people say it is free? Christ could not have made the cost of our obligation any clearer than He does here. No relationship ties are stronger than blood ties. The saying, "Blood is thicker than water," originated in the Church of England, meaning that blood ties are stronger than the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the water. The English Church recognized that family ties would pull people away from the truth of God. They are that powerful! Grace is not free, not cheap, by any stretch of the imagination!

Jesus then tells us that, in addition, we have to humbly bear any burden that comes upon us as a result of our discipleship, as a result of having received such forgiveness. Sometimes that cost can be very great. His statement is sweeping in terms of its consequences.

Free does not mean "cheap" but that God freely gave it. He was under no constraint. There was no obligation on His part to do what He did. He owes us absolutely nothing for what we have done. Grace is an aspect of His love that has no motive but itself. "God so loved the world that He gave. . ." (John 3:16).

Looking at history, is there anything lovable about mankind? Look at what humanity has done to this earth! Look at what men have done to one another! In the name of "God," men have blown one another to smithereens! If someone did to our property and to our family as we have treated God's property and family, we would have a terribly difficult time extending love. In fact, we might be totally unable to do it! We lack love of that depth. But God freely gives grace, though He is under no obligation whatsoever.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Titus 2:11-14


 

John 1:14-17

Notice in verse 14 that Jesus is described as "full of grace"—suggesting lovingkindness and benevolent gifts—"and truth." Then, verse 16 says that from that fullness of grace we receive grace. In other words, it is from our relationship with Him that we receive many beneficent gifts toward salvation.

Other Bibles translate the phrase "grace for grace" as "grace on grace" or "grace upon grace." In a paraphrase, it may be rendered as "blessing after blessing." The phrase pictures grace as if it were objects being stacked one on top of another or endlessly linked as if side by side.

As we have seen, our calling is an act of God's grace, a gifting completely apart from any merit on our part. We tend to think of grace primarily in regard to justification and the forgiveness of sin, but that is far, far too limiting. John is showing us that our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is a connection that supplies us with a continuous flow of grace, blessings, gifts, favor, powers, forgiveness, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, healings, protection, and more through God's loving concern.

He is not supplying our every desire but our every need as His spiritual creation of each of us moves toward His conclusion. Again, remember that, for this truth to be more fully appreciated, it must be understood that He does not owe us one tiny jot or tittle of it. Just as surely as the manna physically appeared to the unconverted Israelites every morning in the wilderness and the cloud was in the sky by day and a pillar of fire by night, God is supplying our every need in relation to His salvation and purpose.

It is all freely given toward His glorification and His purpose of creating us to fill a position, a place in His Kingdom. The apostles used charis ("grace") in many other situations, but they applied it most especially to mean the powers given by God to meet our spiritual needs.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace


 

John 1:17

What did Jesus Christ establish to be taught in the churches? What He brought - in what we consider to be the New Testament era - is not at all contradictory or fundamentally different from what the Old Testament teaches. His message is complementary, completing the teaching of the Old Testament, rounding out and finishing God's revelation to mankind.

The word "but" in verse 17 has been inserted by the translators. In those Bibles that use the convention, it is in italics, which shows that it is a word added by the translators to clarify what they believe is the sense. Why did they choose "but"? The translators' fundamental belief is that Jesus came to change what was taught by Moses. However, if they had put together what the rest of the New Testament says, Jesus came and added to and completed what Moses and the other prophets preached. There is a better word to insert there: "and." Thus, "For the law was given through Moses and grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." They are complementary, not contradictory. Perhaps the word "supplementary" would better explain it, thought what Jesus brought is both complementary and supplementary.

"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). Consider a candy jar, which is filled only an inch. That represents what Moses taught, the law. But Jesus filled the rest of the candy jar full! Jesus brought the spirit of the law. He filled to the full the revelation of God.

What Moses taught in the law is the law of the Kingdom of God. It cannot be separated from the gospel of the Kingdom of God that Jesus brought because the Kingdom of God needs law to function. God's Kingdom is a real entity. It is designed to function, and it will only function through law and, of course, grace, as they work together.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Itching Ears


 

Romans 2:4

Paul's statement assumes the people to whom he is writing know better than they are doing, and therefore, they had better repent. But whether we repent in ignorance or in knowledge, it is God's goodness, a gift of God, the grace of God, that leads to repentance. Whether it happens at our initial conversion, or whether we are later brought to repentance over some specific fault of which we need to repent to continue growing, God is on the job. He is leading, guiding, showing us where we need to change. He is probably even affecting our feelings about what we are doing so that there will be the motivation, the empowerment, and therefore the responsibility, the right, and the power to repent. God is the Great Educator, and at the same time, He is a parent chastening, disciplining, training His children.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 5)


 

Romans 3:19-21

Some ministers would like us to believe that justification and salvation by grace through faith just suddenly appeared when the Son of God lived and died in the first century. They imply that God changed His approach to saving men—that He was either losing the battle to Satan, or the way He had given man was just too hard. It also implies that men under the Old Covenant were saved by keeping the law.

Once a person has sinned, they are under the penalty of the law, and their righteousness is not sufficient to justify them before God. Since all have sinned, the whole world is guilty before God. It takes a righteousness apart from lawkeeping to do this.

Then Paul says that this righteousness is revealed in the Old Testament Law and Prophets! The teaching has been there all along, all through the centuries from Moses to Christ and down to our time! God never changed His course. In the first century, He only openly revealed the means, Christ, through whom would come the righteousness that will justify one before God.

Men have always been justified and saved by grace through faith. People who were saved during Old Testament times looked forward in faith to this being accomplished. We look backward at it as a promise and as fulfilled prophecy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God a False Minister?


 

Romans 3:31

In his writings, Paul uses these terms—faith, grace, and justification—interchangeably. He uses one word here, another there, depending on which nuance he wants to bring to the fore, so that we get a complete picture of what is happening. Here, he is talking about faith, and within the subject of justification, he says, "No, faith in the blood of Jesus Christ establishes the law!" not "does away with" it. Faith in no way invalidates God's law. None of it!

Notice that your Bible very likely reads "the law." However, it does not say that in the Greek; the definite article does not precede "law" either time it appears in this verse. The Interlinear Bible, which is a literal translation, reads: "Law then do we nullify through faith? Not let it be! But law do we establish." Establish means "cause to stand, confirm."

One might argue, "What difference does the lack of an article make?" In this case, if it read "the law," Paul would have been referring to either the entire Pentateuch or to a specific law. But writing it as he did, he means law in general as a legal argument. Any law! Man's law, God's law, the Ten Commandments, the sacrifices—everything is included under that blanket statement. He says, "Faith establishes law." It remains for other passages to tell us about a specific law or body of laws that might be set aside. So, then, faith—used here in connection with grace and justification—establishes law. It does NOT do away with it; such an interpretation is the exact opposite of what is written!

When a person is justified, it is for the very reason that he is out of alignment with what he is being measured against. So after justification, the standard is not just thrown away! Indeed, the standard becomes more important than ever because we do not want to get out of alignment ever again. We need the law's guidance to help us in what we must do and to warn us when we are veering from the way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 4)


 

Romans 5:1-2

One can justifiably say that this expression of God's faithfulness is the pivot upon which turns His whole purpose for humanity. God calls and then through His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). I John 1:9 then adds, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Since Christ has come and died that we might be pardoned and cleansed, God's faithfulness is part of His grace. He would not be faithful to His promises, His past acts in Christ's works, or His calling that has sounded in our ears unless, when we obeyed the call and confessed, He allowed us to enter into the full possession of His pardoning grace. In other words, our forgiveness and cleansing, the receiving of favor from Him, is a product of His faithfulness.

God's faithfulness in these areas has far-reaching, practical ramifications for us. That God is faithful means that His character is unchangingly consistent. The unalterable structure of the universe consists of both justice and forgiveness. God never acts in contradiction of Himself, and in all experiences we may depend on Him to be unalterably just and forgiving toward us. Because He is faithful, He can be the central and most important object of our faith. Could we trust a god if we were never sure what he would do?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Romans 5:6

Without strength means "powerless." Before our justification by Christ's sacrifice, we had no way to appeal to God for vindication. In our guilt, we could not stand before Him, just as Job and Bildad said. God had all the cards in His favor. We were powerless before Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

Romans 5:20-21

Grace reigns supreme over law, sin, and death. Because God is gracious and the supreme sovereign over His creation, and because He is supreme over law as its Giver and can resurrect whom He chooses, grace is His to give freely as He pleases. Grace is supreme over the others because God has willed it so and gives it to whomsoever He chooses.

Because grace is a gift, it can neither be demanded nor earned (it can, however, be requested). Therefore salvation must be by grace. Because of this, even the greatest sinner is not beyond the reach of His mercy. Conversely, because salvation is by grace, all boasting is likewise excluded.

For example, Isaac receives grace, but Ishmael is cast out with his mother. Jacob receives the inheritance and blessing, but Esau is in reality cursed. God chooses to have Christ born in the tiny town of Bethlehem, not at the Temple or even in the capital city, Jerusalem. He could have sent angels to announce His Son's birth in every capital of every nation on earth, or at least to announce it to the religious leaders among the Jews. Instead, He chooses to invite common shepherds and foreign magi for that peculiar honor.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Three


 

Romans 6:13-14

Why should sin not have any dominion over us? Because we are under grace! Contrary to what these people were saying—that grace does away with law—Paul is saying that the very fact that we are under grace is what nails us to the floor, that we must obey the law! Why? Because grace makes us so obligated that we had better obey God. Our own acts, our conduct, have brought upon us the need for grace, and the fact that God has given it obligates us to keep His law.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

Romans 6:14-15

What does it mean to be "under the law"? The apostle Paul says that we are "not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). "Sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4, KJV), and every human being who has ever lived—except Jesus Christ—has sinned (Romans 3:23). Once the knowledge of the law comes, there is no excuse, and the law condemns all who break it to eternal death. Paul personifies the law as the instrument that points the finger of condemnation at each of us: "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Romans 7:9). Therefore, to be "under the law" means to be "under the condemnation of the law."

The phrase "under the law" is also used in Romans 3:19; I Corinthians 9:20-21; Galatians 3:23; 4:4-5; 4:21; 4:18.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was Jesus Christ Born Under the Law?


 

Romans 6:15

The apostle clearly shows that a Christian is to live a certain kind of life—a godly one, of course—in the teeth of the attacks of human nature, sin, the world, and Satan. The very reason we are to obey is because of God's grace. Why? Because of the grace of God, a person can, for the first time in his life, make the right choices. That is what obligates us. Before that, he was the servant of sin, in bondage to Satan, but now he is free.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

Romans 6:23

God could see—in His wisdom He knew—that man would sin. Because the wages of sin is death, how could God extricate man from this dilemma? How would He continue His purpose?

There is an interesting aspect to this when we consider the word "wages." The apostle uses this term because in his day they did things in much the same way as we do. One does not work for a person for a lifetime and then receive his wages, but rather he works a specified period of time—a week, two weeks, a month—and receives his wages on a regular basis. Today, it is common to receive wages every two weeks.

This should give us a better understanding of this verse. Since a wage is something that we earn and the wages of sin is death, the apostle—and therefore God—is telling us is that we will receive these wages—the penalty of sin—not just at the end of our lives. The penalty of sin is meted out on a regular, just as wages are. In other words, we will be affected by the penalties of sin all the time. It is what we are earning.

God looks at these things in an interesting way. We can begin to see the scope of what God is doing, with Passover opening up a new avenue. Salvation is not something that we receive at the end of our life. Actually, it is something that begins whenever we accept the blood of Jesus Christ. Whenever we begin on the process of salvation, of true freedom, we begin to receive salvation on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. In other words, our liberty, our freedom, is progressive. Like the penalties of sin, freedom or salvation does not come all at once.

It is not that we earn it—please do not misunderstand. It is something given. Grace is a gift of God, and it is not something that happens only once but constantly. God is always giving because it is His nature, His way. He is giving us of His life constantly. Christ says, "I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly." God wants us to begin to receive His salvation right here and now by living the abundant life. It is a wonderful concept.

We need to expand our thinking in regard to Passover because the solution to God's "predicament" regarding human sin begins immediately upon our acceptance of the blood of Jesus Christ. Salvation is much bigger in scope, involving far more than just the end of the process.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

Romans 9:4

God chose Abraham, and his family after him, to receive promises, while reserving the prerogative to deny grace to others. This means, then, that individuals, at their will, cannot marshal faith toward God!

Charles Whitaker
Servant of God, Act II: God's Gift of Faith


 

Romans 12:1-2

Paul's exhortation is especially interesting in light of what precedes it. Chapter 11 concludes a lengthy dissertation on the doctrinal foundation of Christianity, showing the central importance of faith and grace. Instruction in the practical aspect of Christianity begins with chapter 12. The two sections are linked by the word "therefore." By this, Paul demonstrates that Christian living is inseparably bound to Christian belief. Faith without works is dead, and works without the correct belief system is vanity. Wrong thinking cannot lead to right doing.

If a person drinks in the spirit of Paul's doctrinal teaching in the first eleven chapters, he will present his body a living sacrifice and renew the spirit of his mind. Thus, outwardly and inwardly he will be on his way toward God's ideal for human conduct. All the virtues produced from this change will begin to grow and manifest themselves in his life. Self-surrender and its companion, self-control, are inseparable parts of this command.

Paul uses the metaphor of sacrifice throughout verse 1 to reinforce both similarities with and contrasts between Israel's Old Covenant sacrificial system and the Christian's sacrifice of His life in service to God. "Present" is a technical expression from the sacrificial terminology. Under the Old Covenant, the offerer's gift was presented to God and became His property. Similarly, the gift of our life is set apart for God's use as He determines. When we are bought with a price, we belong to ourselves no longer.

The Old Covenant sacrifices produced a sweet smell that God declares in Leviticus 1:17; 2:2; and 3:5 to be a fragrant aroma in His nostrils. In the same way, the gift of our life is "acceptable to God." Then Paul says that giving our lives in this way is "reasonable," that is, of sound judgment, moderate, sensible, or as many modern translations say, rational or spiritual. The outward acts of a son of God spring logically from what has changed in the inner man. His mind is being renewed, and he is thus controlling himself to live according to God's will rather than in conformity to the insanity of this world.

The last word in verse 1, "service," is as important as any, for within this context it describes the service, not of a domestic slave, but of a priest in complete self-surrender performing his duties before God's altar (I Peter 2:5). It means that we must, first of all, be priests by our inward consecration and then we must lay our outward life on the altar in God's service. This is what our works accomplish.

Almost from the beginning of the Bible, sacrifice is one of the great keywords of God's way. God clearly alludes to Christ's sacrifice in Genesis 3, and the first sacrifices occur in Genesis 4. The principle of sacrifice is then woven into the fabric of virtually every book until beginning with Christ, the Founder of Christianity, it becomes perhaps the master-word for the outward life of His followers.

Sacrifices are inherently costly to the giver, or there is no real sacrifice in the offering. David explains in II Samuel 24:24, "Then the king said to Araunah, 'No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.'" Jesus amplifies this principle with a statement of far reaching day-to-day consequences: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). What could be more costly than a person giving his life in service by living a way of the very highest of standards that his mind and body do not by nature and habit want to live? It requires a decision that will from time to time bring intense pressure upon him to control himself against strong drives to go in an entirely different direction. But he must control himself if he is to work in the service of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control


 

1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Nobody will ever come before God and say, "I did it by the strength of my own hands." Though this person may have faith and a strong will, he is certainly not perfect. Many times, when the Israelites' faith broke down, God had to intervene in some way to save them. Whether it is Israel at the Red Sea or Israel out in the wilderness, time and again He had to intervene and spare them, even in times when they showed a measure of faith.

Since man's creation, humans have been exalting themselves against God by choosing to do things their own way. However, there is only one way that works eternally, and every human being will be led to see his weaknesses and know that it is by grace that we are saved. This realization does wonders to a person's feelings about himself, making humility possible. This, in turn, makes it possible for him to yield to God, which makes it possible for him to deal with other human beings, not with a high hand or as a master to a slave, but as a friend—as an understanding brother or sister who has gone through similar experiences and seen their own failures, and who can commiserate, sympathize, show compassion and mercy, encourage, and inspire the one who has failed.

God will work in each person and will do it in such a way that he will come to realize that merely knowing the truth—and even believing the truth and acting on it—are not enough. God must save them by grace.

This is not to say that works are unimportant. They are vital to maintaining and developing a relationship with God. They are important in building character, and in this sense, without works we will have a difficult time being saved. If nothing else, doing good works shows that a relationship exists between a person and God. So works are important to earning rewards, to building character, to providing a witness for God, but they still will not save us of and by themselves because, since we are imperfect, they are also terribly flawed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 1:26

Grace eliminates for us the possibility of any boasting or any self-glory. Regardless of our material accomplishments—no matter how many doctorate degrees we may have, how much money we may have accumulated, or how many good deeds we may have done—no one can boast before God because, as verse 30 says, we are "of Him." Here is the key to understanding this. In spiritual terms, all that we have accomplished has been done only because of what He gave.

If we want to go back that far, it all began when He gave us life. In terms of spiritual life, we have to go back only as far as His calling. We would not have accomplished anything that we have accomplished spiritually—for instance, kept the Sabbath and the holy days—except that God called us and made us understand His truth. He led us to repentance. He impressed the importance of doing what He revealed on our minds so that we would do them, and so forth. The unilateral acts of God begin to pile up—grace upon grace. God is with us in this entire process.

What we have spiritually is only possible because we are "of Him," that is, because of what we have been given. This particular phrase—we are "of Him"—is describing a personal attachment. It is as if we are part of a living body, which we are, since the church is a living, spiritual organism. The picture that is in the apostle Paul's mind is that we are directly connected to Him, even as the toe is attached to the foot, which is in turn connected to the ankle and then to the leg. All of this is connected, and it receives its strength, life, existence, growth, repair, etc. because it is part of the body. So are we connected to God and receive all these things.

What does the toe have to boast for playing its role in the body? Even so, nobody can boast before God because of grace. We have what we have spiritually only because He has given it.

Further, if our spiritual lives and growth are going to continue, we can do this only within this same environment. If the toe is cut from the body, it begins to die immediately. A degeneration begins to occur immediately. We can apply the same analogy to our spiritual life.

So, there is no bragging, no boasting, before God for anything that we have spiritually. We have it because of our personal attachment to the living Jesus Christ.

Why is this important? Because it puts the relationship with God and fellow man into its proper perspective. Many theologians insist that what they derive from the Bible and from their own experiences in life, is that carnally, the underlying drive or motivation in all relationships is self-assertion, that is, the desire for recognition, pride. We want to be known for what we have done. "I have accomplished this." "I built that." "This is my place." "This is my spouse." The self basks in the glow of the fact that he exists and has and does things. It is a drive to be recognized, noticed, praised, rewarded, and even submitted to, because of who one is and what he feels he has done.

This has horrible ramifications for the relationship with God. Jesus' own counsel to His apostles—and His advice extends to us—is to go in the exact opposite direction and make ourselves of no reputation (as He did; Philippians 2:5-8). He says, "Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4). A child is of no value to society because he produces nothing, cannot do anything of value, and in a way, is nothing more than a parasite, as some cultures see children.

Notice, though, that Jesus says that becoming like a little child is the way to real power—in the Kingdom of God. It is the way to gain the right kind of recognition and promotion—the kind that God would give us by grace, not what we have earned on our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

1 Corinthians 3:9-10

If God places us within an office in the church—as an elder or a deacon—it must be looked upon as a blessing that is a responsibility, not a reward! It is given for God's purposes. Paul even had his office as apostle because it was given to him. It is implied that all the powers to perform it were also given. He used them to lay the foundation.

Everybody else is the same way. The important thing is that each one of us must use our gifts to build. Paul says, "Be careful how you build." The foundation that was laid is Jesus Christ. When we begin to expand on it, it consists of the apostles and the prophets as well—the things that they wrote and the examples that they set. Everybody is to build on the same foundation! God gives everybody the gifts to enable them to do so.

To some, God gives gifts to be apostles; to others, He gives gifts to be an evangelist, pastor, teacher, or whatever. They are given, though, and every time God gives an office, He gives all that is needed for the person to fulfill that office—including overcoming sin.

The Bible consistently teaches that an office is not a place from which to exercise power, but a position from which to exercise service. The authority is certainly there, since God gives it. He always gives the authority to go with the office, but having it means that the elder or deacon must also have the right perspective on how to use the office God has given him. The office is given, not earned.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

2 Corinthians 6:1

In other words, "Do not receive the grace of God to no purpose." That is what vanity is. It has no purpose, no contact with reality. God is reality, and the Kingdom of God is reality. The law of God is reality because it is truth, and truth, by definition, is reality.

Again, Paul's appeal is, "Do something!" What are we to do? He replies, "Cooperate with God! Truly work with Him to accomplish His will in your life." Jesus says, "Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?" He is the One who says in Luke 16:29-31 that, if we want to know how to avoid the Lake of Fire, look to Moses and the prophets. This is why Paul says in II Corinthians 5:20, "Be reconciled to God through the repenting of sin. Quit breaking His law."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

Galatians 2:3

The account of Acts 15 shows that it is not necessary for salvation for Christians to be physically circumcised. Salvation is by grace through faith, and faith without works is dead. We cannot "work" or "earn" our way into the Kingdom of God. The privilege to be a part of the eternal Kingdom is one that God bestows according to His will. Nothing we can do will make God indebted to us or require Him to do something for us, such as grant us admission into His Kingdom.

But at the same time, if we are within the salvation process, we must show forth works, or fruits, that demonstrate our repentance, our attitude, and our desire to live by the rules of His Kingdom. We must live now in the same way that we will be living for eternity—by the laws of God's Kingdom. Our works do not save us; they demonstrate that we are being saved.

Under the Old Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances were primarily physical, and the spiritual aspects were implied. Under the New Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances are primarily spiritual, and the physical aspects are implied. For example, there is no record of Christ ever performing an animal sacrifice, even though the Old Testament requires one in the morning and in the evening. Under the New Covenant, the physical rite is not required, yet the basic law is still there, and is thus manifested in morning and evening prayer, a sacrifice of our time and energy.

In the same regard, the council of Acts 15 shows that circumcision is not one of the works that is required to demonstrate the salvation/sanctification process. When considering eternity and the spiritual bodies that we will have at that time, circumcision is almost insignificant. What is truly important is whether or not the heart has been circumcised. The physical rite was a reminder to the children of Israel that they were separate and distinct, but even in this God was looking for a change of heart so much more so than a modification of the flesh.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 2:17-21

Justification is clearly an act of God's grace, because what we deserve from what we have earned—from what we have done, the conduct of our lives—is death. There is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:1). Since justification, then, cannot be claimed as a right because we have sinned, it must be received as a gift. That fact that it is given makes it an act of grace.

It is not our hanging on to Christ (that is, the keeping of the law) that saves us, but rather Christ hanging on to us. That is, it is not what we do, but it is what He does continuously as acts of grace that saves us, because we deserve death. If we can earn salvation through law-keeping, Paul is saying in verse 21, "then Christ died in vain." If we can earn salvation through law-keeping, then Christ's sinless life and agonizing death were not necessary, because we can do it ourselves.

Justification is not vindication or exoneration. Both of those words connote that a person was right all along, but the true facts were hidden from those who were doing the judging. In some cases with men, vindication is possible because people are judged unrighteously. Their judges are not using righteous judgment.

But God never judges unrighteously! He knows all the facts. He knows our heart. He knows everything about us in every situation that we have ever been in, so He cannot vindicate us because we are not clear of guilt. He cannot exonerate us because we are not innocent. Justification is more than that. It is setting us right or calling us righteous though righteousness does not exist in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

Ephesians 2:8-9

When we first turn to Ephesians 2:8-9, the first thing we notice is that we are confronted with a whole list of spiritual-sounding words: grace, saved, faith, gift, works. Even those of us who have been in God's church for many years and who may clearly understand each of these words individually, are slowed down in our comprehension of these verses when faced with such terms presented one after the other.

So let us take a very brief Greek lesson. Please take the time to study these words in more detail. Here are the key terms contained in this scripture in English and Greek, the Strong's Concordance reference number, and, to make the meanings clearer, other English terms translated in the New Testament from the same Greek words:

  • Grace (#5485): charis (khar'-ece). Also translated as favor, thanks, thank, pleasure.
  • Saved (#4982): sozo (sode'-zo). Also translated as make whole, heal, be whole.
  • Faith (#4102): pistis. Also translated as assurance, believe, belief, those who believe, fidelity.
  • Gift (#1435): doron. Also translated as present, offering.
  • Works (#2041): ergon. Also translated as deed, doing, labor.

We have just learned that ergon is the original Greek for the English word "works." It does not appear to be a very difficult, ambiguous, or confusing term. But what do the many people and churches who claim that works are not required perceive "works" to be?

Opinions vary. One group perceives works to mean the whole law in general. A second group perceives works as specific portions of God's law, which they look upon as being "Jewish" or "Old Covenant," or that they are just not willing to keep and teach. A third group, amazingly enough in their rejection of it, perceives this term as meaning works of charity in general!

Individuals or groups who choose to substitute the word "law" for the word "works" in Ephesians 2:8-9, and who thus say that New Testament Christians do not have to keep God's law, do not appear to mean it totally and literally. Instead, most of them reserve the right to choose which parts of the law they wish to keep ("You shall not kill," "You shall not steal," etc.) and those that they do not wish to keep ("Remember the Sabbath," holy days, tithing, clean and unclean meats, etc.). God has nowhere given authority to His people to be selective in these matters, thus this stance toward the law is inconsistent and even hypocritical.

The church of God has always agreed one hundred percent with those who say that salvation is a gift, and that a Christian cannot earn salvation by charitable works or by obedience to God's law. However, obedience is a condition we must meet before God will give us His free gift of salvation. New Testament evidence is overwhelming on the matter. Here are just a few verses:

· And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit, which God has given to those who obey him. (Acts 5:32)

· He who says, "I know him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (I John 2:4)

· So He said to [the rich young ruler], "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:17)

· If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 2:8-9, does not say that works are not required at all. The purpose of his statement is to show that works do not save us, but that grace and faith do! In fact, the very next verse, verse 10, shows that God calls members of His church for the very purpose of performing good works: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

The apostle's language is very clear. God desires us to walk in good works, and He has prepared our spiritual educational process so that we will learn to do them. Doing good works in the name of Jesus Christ is a major part of the purpose for the life of each true Christian. We cannot truly be Christians without them!

Staff
Faith Without Works


 

Ephesians 2:8

Adam Clarke comments that the word "it" in "it is the gift of God" can be more accurately translated "this." But "it" and "faith" are of different genders. In the Greek language, as in many others, the gender of the pronoun has to match the gender of its antecedent. The antecedent, then, cannot possibly be "faith" because "it" is neuter and "faith" is feminine. "It" must refer to another neuter word, the word "saved." Faith indeed is a gift of God, but it cannot be proved so by this verse.

Faith is produced by the grace of God given to us. God's grace empowers us to believe. The power to believe and the act of believing are two very different things. Without the power to believe, no one has ever believed with the kind of belief that is necessary for salvation, but once a person has that power, once he is enabled, once the grace, the gift, has been given to him, then the act of faith is the person's own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 5)


 

Ephesians 2:8-10

Notice first how this chapter begins: He has made us alive (Ephesians 2:1). Paul makes sure that we understand that it is God who gives what we spiritually possess. As for verse 8, it does not matter whether we believe that the pronoun "it" refers to grace or faith; both are gifts of God.

Grace is God's kindness to us, shown or demonstrated by His revealing Himself to us. It might help to think of this in reference to God revealing Himself to Moses in the burning bush before He sent him to Egypt. If God did not freely purpose on the strength of His own sovereign will to reveal Himself, neither Moses nor we would ever find Him. If a person cannot find God on his own, how could he possibly have faith in Him? Satan has deceived us so well that men have only the foggiest idea of what to look for.

Faith—with God as its object—begins and continues as part of His gift of kindness. The gift includes His calling, the granting of repentance, the sacrifice of Christ for our forgiveness, and His giving of His Spirit. It is a complete package of many individual gifts. The gospel is the medium that provides knowledge of the objects of the faith He gives, that is, what we believe and trust in. Paul, perceiving these gifts as a package, uses "grace" as its label. In verses 9-10, he advances to the logical "next step" in God's purpose.

Our works in no way jump-start the process of justification, sanctification, and glorification. All our works, beginning with repentance and continuing through our period of sanctification, depend directly on the freely given kindness and faith God provides. Our God-ordained good works are the result of our response to the gift of faith that God gives. Works, then, are the external evidence of the unseen, internal faith that motivates them. A person could not do them unless God had given the gift of faith beforehand. Good works follow, they do not precede.

II Corinthians 5:17-18 confirms this: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." This corroborates that it is God working in the person. His work is termed a "new creation." Since nothing new creates itself, we are the workmanship of another. We are God's workmanship. In sum, because of what God does, we cooperate and produce works that He ordains.

The apostle Paul adds to our understanding in Philippians 2:12-13: "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." He is not saying that we should work in order to obtain salvation. These verses indicate the continuing use of something one already possesses. They suggest carrying something to its logical conclusion, which is for us to live lives worthy of the gospel, doing the works God ordained, as in Ephesians 2:10.

In Romans 9:9-19, Paul, using Jacob and Esau's pre-birth circumstances as a foundation, provides a clear illustration to show that from beginning to end, the whole salvation process depends upon God's involvement. Jacob, representing those called into the church, received God's love in the form of gifts designed to prepare him for the Kingdom of God. From Esau, representing the uncalled, God has simply withheld His love for the time being.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

Ephesians 2:11-13

Paul here reminds us of our indebtedness to God. Earlier, he had laid the groundwork for a proper sense of obligation and commitment to Christ by stating a few undeniable facts: That we conducted our lives according to the course of this world, according to Satan's will (verse 2); that we fulfilled the desires of the flesh and the mind (verse 3); and because of disobedience we were as good as dead (verses 1, 5). Through no merit of our own but by God's grace alone, He through Jesus Christ rescues us from this.

In those who understand this deeply and personally, this creates an exquisite sense of indebtedness, devotion, and longing to honor Him. It accounts for the sorrow we feel each time we are aware of falling short of fully pleasing Him. This is not bad; it is good because it motivates those who have this in balance to intensify their devotion and redirect their efforts along the right path.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Ephesians 4:2-3

With admonitions like these, we step into the intimate personal relationships within a congregation or family. They show that unity depends more upon the exercise of the members' moral qualities than the structure of the institution. Paul shows in Ephesians that the life we are called to live is characterized by five qualities: humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, and love, the last of which embraces the preceding four and is the crown of all virtues. Each of these qualities enables us to act in mercy and live at peace. God's Spirit empowers us to use these qualities to overcome the ill will and the bitter, passionate rages that lead to clamorous slander, destroying reputations.

Such ill will and rage hardly promote kindness, compassion, and acting in grace toward each other. "Acting in grace" is an acceptable translation of the Greek word, charizomai, rendered "forgiving" in Ephesians 4:32. Acting in grace catches the essence of how God has acted toward us and our sin against Him. And because He has forgiven us, we are commanded to forgive each other (Colossians 3:13).

Mercy begins with the way we feel about or toward each other and moves toward merciful acts. God loves us and has an outgoing concern for us. If God so loves us, then we ought to love each other (I John 4:11). Thus, we are bound to forbear with one another and act kindly, in mercy. Anybody focused on himself as the center of the universe will have a difficult time thinking kindly of others, and unity will be difficult, if not impossible. It is no wonder, then, why so much divorce occurs, as well as division in other areas of life. A focus on the self does not allow much room for humble, kind, and compassionate thoughts of service for others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

Philippians 2:9

Jesus is not against greatness or having power, but He wants it to be given by God. God will give it to those who are in harmony with His law, His government, and His way of life. Unity with Him begins with the right attitude toward Him, toward others, and toward the self.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

Philippians 3:12-14

The word picture in Philippians 3:12-14 is of men straining to win a foot race. The Christian life is especially like the longer races where the runner must sustain a winning frame of mind over a longer period of time. We cannot run our race like the hare of the "Tortoise and the Hare" fable, in which the hare took a nap during the race.

Paul illustrates that after having received God's grace, our responsibility is to return full effort to God in striving to perfection in moral, ethical, and spiritual areas. He did not see the struggle against sin, fear, and doubt as being accomplished by God alone. The apostle is here urging his erring brothers to follow his example in persistently concentrating on our common goal.

Life for us now consists of discarding wrong attitudes and habits accumulated in the past. In modern, psychological terms, we must lose our baggage. For us, the past is dead, buried in the waters of baptism. With that behind us, we must diligently make unwavering progress in putting out the leaven of sin, growing in God's love, producing the fruit of God's Spirit, moving toward the Kingdom of God, and putting on Christ's perfection, His image in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Colossians 2:11-15

In verses 11 through 14, Paul shows how Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins and now our past sins, brought about by conforming to the ways, practices, and philosophies of this world, are completely blotted out and nailed to His cross. He reminds them that Christ has completely conquered all of the evil spirits who continue to rule this present, evil world and who inspire the pagan philosophies that had so influenced the Colossian society: "Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it" (verse 15).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Are the Sabbath and Holy Days Done Away?


 

Colossians 2:14

In their struggle to find a New Testament scripture that supports their misconception that God's law is "done away," antinomians point to Colossians 2:14 to "prove" that Christ nailed the law of God to the cross. Proponents of such a teaching say that the "handwriting of requirements [ordinances, KJV]" refers to the law "that was against us." They further claim that Christ "took it out of the way" or abolished the law.

The phrase "handwriting of requirements" is translated from the Greek phrase cheirographon tois dogmasin. Cheirographon means anything written by hand, but can more specifically apply to a legal document, bond, or note of debt. Dogmasin refers to decrees, laws, or ordinances, and in this context means a body of beliefs or practices that have become the guidelines governing a person's conduct or way of life.

What Paul is saying is that, by His death, Christ has justified us—brought us into alignment with His Law—and wiped out the note of guilt or debt that we owed as a result of our sins. Before repentance, our lives had been governed by the standards and values of this present, evil world—the "decrees, laws and ordinances" of the society in which we lived. After repentance and acceptance of Christ, we embark on a new way of life and live by God's standards and values. Consequently, God wipes out the debt we acquired as a result of our sins and imputes righteousness to us.

Also notice that the phrase "handwriting of requirements" restates the phrase immediately before it. "Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us" parallels "having forgiven you all trespasses." Thus, Paul could not be referring to the law itself but rather to the record of our transgression of that law—sin!

The last sentence in verse 14 reads: "And He has taken it out of the way..." In this sentence, the word "it" is a singular pronoun and refers back to the singular word "handwriting." "Requirements" could not be its antecedent because "requirements" is plural. So, some kind of handwriting—a note, a record, or a citation—was affixed to the cross.

Historically, only two objects were nailed to the stake of crucifixion: 1) the condemned person and 2) an inscription naming the crimes for which he was being punished. Thus, when Jesus was crucified, only His body and Pilate's inscription ("This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews"; see Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19) were nailed to the cross. Normally, the inscription would be more accusative, saying something like, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, who rebelled against Caesar." Pilate's complimentary inscription replaced the customary note or record of guilt—the "handwriting of requirements" that would have been found nailed to the crosses of the two malefactors crucified with Him.

Just before He died, when the Father forsook Him (Matthew 27:46), our sins were symbolically nailed to the cross in His body. "Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed" (I Peter 2:24). At the time of His crucifixion, Jesus Christ became sin for us. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21). Our note of debt that we owed God as a result of our sins is what was "taken out of the way" and "nailed . . . to the cross."

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was God's Law Nailed to the Cross?


 

Colossians 3:1-17

Notice how many active words Paul uses in Colossians 3:1-17 to describe what a Christian must be doing:

  • "Seek those things which are above" (verse 1).
  • "Set your mind on things above" (verse 2).
  • "Put to death your members" (verse 5).
  • "Put off all these" (verse 8).
  • "Do not lie to one another" (verse 9).
  • "Put on tender mercies" (verse 12).
  • "Bearing with one another, and forgiving" (verse 13).
  • "Put on love" (verse 14).
  • "Let the peace of God rule . . . and be thankful" (verse 15).
  • "Let the word of Christ dwell in you" (verse 16).
  • "Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (verse 17).

Paul makes sure we understand that we must actively participate in order to grow. When God talks about growth, He means increasing in His attributes, the qualities that will conform us to His image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Colossians 4:6

He is speaking specifically of answering those in the world, but should we not be even more gracious to those in our family?

The Greek word Paul uses, translated "grace," is charis, which means "graciousness, of manner or act, especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life." Matthew Henry's commentary says, "Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, makes it savory and keeps it from corrupting."

The words that come from our mouths reflect upon us more than any other facet of our lives. When we gossip, are those words seasoned? Are they "savory" to the ears of others? When we speak in a hurtful manner to our family, both physical and spiritual, are those words "seasoned"?

Think of it this way: If we are living sacrifices, and if the altar is God's table, what kind of dinner-table conversation would be appropriate while sharing a meal with God? Revelation 3:20 tells us that we will have the chance to dine with Christ. If we live our lives as living sacrifices, then we are always before the altar of God. Our actions, especially our speech, should always be done as if we are carrying on conversations at the table with Christ.

Mike Ford
Salt


 

Titus 2:11-14

Titus 2:11-14 describes this obligation thrust upon us as a result of receiving God's grace. These verses are jam-packed with instruction about our Christian responsibilities. Having grown up in this Protestant-dominated society, we have heard much about God's "free grace." Though God's grace is freely given, by no stretch of Scripture can we properly label it as free! No gift has ever been so costly! It cost Christ His life! And because grace obligates us to give our life as a living sacrifice completely set apart to God (Romans 12:1), it has also cost us ours.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Titus 2:11-12

Paul writes that grace - self-motivated, condescending, reconciling, tender and forgiving mercy - has "appeared." How has grace appeared to bring salvation? In the context of Titus 2, in its broadest sense, it has appeared in the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The gospel includes the message of our great hope, the promise of Christ's return, Jesus' perfect life, and His death for the forgiveness of our sins.

The Greeks used "appeared" in their literature to describe the sun's light bursting out from the heavens onto the darkened earth. Its feminine form is used in other places to describe Christ's first and second comings. When used in the passive voice, it means "to show openly" or "shine light upon" with the sense of suddenness and unexpectedness. This is part of the sense here since we do not normally expect grace to reveal or teach us anything.

Grace, however, has a clear message that has much to do with our responsibility and growth. "Teaching" in Titus 2:12 is the Greek word paideuo, also translated as "chastens" in Hebrews 12:6. It is used in the sense of schooling, training, or disciplining. In the context of educating a child, it describes activity directed toward moral and spiritual development and influencing conscious will and action. In religious matters, paideuo means chastising to educate one to conform to divine truth. It includes instruction, as in a classroom; drilling, as in "practice, practice, practice"; and chastisement, as in spanking or rebuking to bring about correction.

God's grace teaches us by putting us under obligation negatively - to quit sinning - and positively - to grow and produce fruit. The Moffatt translation clarifies this obligation by defining the terms in more modern language. "For the grace of God has appeared to save all men, and it schools us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions and to live a life of self-mastery, of integrity, and of piety in this present world." These are the areas toward which we must turn our attention to fulfill our duty to Christ. Moffatt retains the positive and negative aspects in his version: first, the negative renouncing of "irreligion and worldly passions," then the positive living of a life of "self-mastery, integrity, and piety."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Titus 2:11

What appears in the following verses is what grace teaches us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 2)


 

Titus 2:11-15

Grace penetrates a person's life in the same way that light penetrates darkness. It does not just appear to offset darkness, but rather it penetrates it and disperses it. That is what grace does for a human being. It enters into a person's life, penetrates it, and begins dynamically to produce things.

This is what John 1 is about. God came to the earth in the flesh, and He penetrated humanity. The grace of God appeared to man in the person of Jesus Christ. It can be translated that God's grace made its appearance bringing salvation.

Grace can rescue man from the greatest possible evil. What could that possibly be? The greatest possible evil that anybody can face is God's curse. Men can curse us, but if God curses us, we have had it. That curse is the penalty of sin. But God counterbalances that, and more, by giving us grace.

Here, grace is shown as the power that teaches, trains, disciplines, guides, and leads us. It does not force us. In other places, it is shown as counseling, comforting, encouraging, admonishing, guiding, convicting, rewarding, even restraining. It teaches us that we must deny immorality, exhorting us to give ourselves over to self-mastery, that is, to controlling ourselves. We must devote ourselves to integrity and loyalty to God right here and now, while expectantly and patiently looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection from the dead to glory.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

Titus 2:11-14

Remember that Paul uses "grace" as a collective term to encompass many aspects of God's freely given kindnesses. To the astute, grace is a gift that teaches its recipients. These verses show what it teaches:

1. It teaches how and in what attitude we must conduct our lives—that is, righteously and godly.

2. It teaches us to live in anticipation of Christ's return.

3. It teaches us about iniquity and redemption.

4. It teaches that we must zealously do good works.

Ephesians 2:8-10 states that salvation is by grace through faith, and that these two lead to good works. Grace and faith are the very foundations of salvation, and with the privilege of having access to God, we also have a responsibility: to perform the good works God ordained beforehand for us to do. Can we honestly avoid the fact that God requires works?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)


 

Titus 2:11-15

This passage on grace will take us in a somewhat different direction, but one important to our understanding. Paul sometimes uses "grace" as a broad catchall term to declare the way God acts toward His converted but still occasionally sinful children. In every case, whether referring to a singular gift or a continuing package of gifts that result in salvation, grace must always be perceived as unearned. Here, "grace" is used as a kind of shorthand for the entire ministry of Jesus Christ through which we are given salvation.

Notice that Paul exclaims, "Grace has appeared," just as the manna, cloud, and fire appeared to illustrate God's faithful presence to the Israelites through the entirety of their pilgrimage. Thus God is shown freely providing them with guidance, daily sustenance, and security. Recall that in John 14:18 that Jesus says in relation to giving the Spirit of truth, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." Paul is implying in Titus 2 that Jesus is following the pattern that He established with Israel for the church's benefit.

Paul also describes Jesus Christ as the personification of grace, salvation, redemption, teaching, hope, and the instruction and inspiration to live godly lives of overcoming and good works. All of these are shown as aspects of one huge gift that is continuously flowing in our lives.

Even as Paul describes Jesus as the personification of grace, he also uses Him as a synonym for grace and all of its powers and benefits, as though Christ exemplified all aspects of grace rolled up in one package. In this way, we can more easily identify and understand it and its meaning to us. Notice further what Jesus—grace—is doing: It is teaching us. Teaching represents the empowerment of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, inspiration, and discernment regarding our responsibilities. It also helps us to identify the subtleties of Satan's devious, anti-God systems.

We should not make the mistake of thinking of grace as an entity; it is not a "thing" God dispenses. "Grace" is a term that represents the freeness of God's personal, patient, and concerned generosity—His blessings and saving acts that are continuously flowing on our behalf to assist us along the way.

God's saving work in us is not merely an extending of life to everlasting life. It is a creative labor on His part, forming us into the image of Jesus Christ, that requires our freely given cooperation for it to succeed. One of our major problems in fulfilling this responsibility by faith is to think about Him consistently, seeking for and acknowledging His benefits, and then returning thanks and praise to Him for His forgiving, patient generosity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace (Part Two)


 

Titus 2:13

The thrust of Paul's exhortation is to encourage us to quit looking back with longing to the world and our former lives and to live in the present with our minds focused with eager and active expectation on our Savior's return. If we are doing these things, we are preparing for that future great event. Eagerly anticipating the imminent fulfillment of our earnest desire for Christ's return motivates us to modify our conduct in the present evil world.

If we do not have this glorious hope in us, we will very likely just drift around, squandering our time in useless, trivial, but perhaps exciting carnal pursuits. We will fail to use the grace of God toward growing in His image and producing fruit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Hebrews 4:14-16

If justification saved us, why would there be any need to hold fast? to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy after that? Justification does not mean salvation. It is, indeed, a step in that direction, but it is not a property of justification to bestow salvation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 4)


 

Hebrews 11:5-7

The objection people have regarding Hebrews 11:5-7 is that the mention of works and reward in the same breath suggests legalism and working for salvation. Is that so, or is it a misconception on their part? The latter. They misunderstand the salvation process because they do not allow the Bible to interpret itself.

God says in Genesis 15:1, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward." His encouragement applies to us as well as to him. God Himself is the reward of those who seek Him. "Those who seek Him" is limited to those God invites to approach Him and who believe enough to take advantage of the opportunity and thus stir themselves up to draw near. The invitation itself is an aspect of God's grace.

Romans 4:4 makes it clear that earning access to God is impossible because it would put God in man's debt. No, access to Him is the result of freely given grace. The pairing of grace and reward is no more inconsistent than God's almighty sovereignty and man's responsibility being linked, or Jesus being both our Lord and our Servant. There would be no reward if God did not first give grace.

Another pairing we need to consider is found in Colossians 3:23-24: "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." Is not salvation a free gift? Yes, but as servants of Christ, we work, and our reward is eternal entrance into God's Kingdom. Add to this the idea found in Isaiah 55:1, that we are to "buy . . . without money." Salvation, then, is both a gift and a reward.

It should be clear that, in terms of salvation, gifts and works are nothing more than opposite sides of the same coin. Both are involved in the same process—salvation—but they are seen from different perspectives.

One thing is certain: There will be no lazy, neglectful people in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 25:26-30). Why? Because God is preparing us for living with Him eternally, so we must be created in the character image of Him and His Son, or we absolutely will not fit in. We would live in absolute, eternal misery. Jesus stresses that diligent work is part of His character when He says in John 5:17, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." Creators work!

Luke 13:24 adds strength to this point: "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able." The Greek word translated "strive" is actually the source of the English word "agonize." In addition, Jesus urges us in John 6:27 to labor "for the food which endures to everlasting life." God chooses to reward such strenuous efforts, not because they earn us a place in His presence, but because He deems it fitting to recognize and bless them. The Bible shows salvation as a reward, not because people earn it, but because God wants to emphasize the character of those who will be in His Kingdom and encourage others to be like them. The citizens of that Kingdom are workers like the Father and Son.

A second reason why reward and salvation are linked is because salvation, like payment for a person's labor, comes after the job is finished. Among the apostles, nobody worked harder for God than Paul did. At the end of his life, he writes:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (II Timothy 4:7-8)

Just as wages for work performed are paid after a job is done, God's major blessings are not given completely until our course is finished.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)


 

Hebrews 11:5-8

Hebrews 11:5-8 clearly teaches that God chooses to bless with rewards those who by faith choose to cooperate with Him in His spiritual creation. Abel, Enoch, and Noah are proofs of this fact. Thus, three major factors are linked in the spiritual creation process leading to salvation: grace, works, and rewards.

We can watch this unfold in Noah's experience with God. This is of particular importance to us living in the end time because both Jesus and Peter state that the end time would bear a similarity to Noah's day. Peter specifically shows in II Peter 2:5-6 that the Flood is a strong witness against the doctrine of uniformitarianism, the idea that earth's history has passed without variation through the ages:

. . . and [God] did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly. . . .

If God is the Savior and Rewarder of those who obey Him, then the opposite must be true: that He is the Punisher of those who despise Him. The Flood and Sodom are witnesses of this truth. Not all things have continued as they always have. The godly lived; the ungodly died. Despite what men say and think, God moved to punish mankind's sins in the days of Noah. That punishment came in the form of the Flood, which wiped out all land-based mammal and bird life except for Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark.

Genesis 6:8 reveals the beginning of Noah's salvation. It began in God's mind. It was absolutely unearned, being an act of God's kindness. This is step one.

Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah believed God's warning. This, combined with God's grace, becomes the foundation for Noah's reaction. Noah's belief is step two.

Next comes the effect of this combination: Internally, Noah "moved with fear." He was motivated—he felt an urge—due to his deep respect for God. The external effect was that he built the ark. This is step three.

The consequences of his foundation of grace and faith plus the impulse to move with fear comprise step four. He and his house were saved from the Flood, the world was condemned by his witness, and he became an heir of the righteousness that is by faith.

Did Noah's works save him? The answer is both yes and no. Consider: If Noah, not believing, had failed to prepare the ark, would he not have perished in the Flood along with everyone else? Certainly. Did his own efforts in building the ark, then, save him from the Deluge? No, they did not, because we have not yet considered all the parts God played in this scenario. He did far more than just warn Noah to build an ark.

Philippians 4:19 promises, "God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." This does not at all mean that we can do anything we want to, and that God will take up the slack. It means that God will supply all our needs within the project He has us working on.

Genesis 6:13-16; 7:14-16; 8:1; and other verses show God's oversight, guidance, and providence. Genesis 8:1 is especially important: "Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided."

"Remembered" indicates His special attention during the entire project, but it especially focuses on the time following the shutting of the door when those in the ark were helpless before the overwhelming onslaught of water. Huge torrents of water gushed from the earth, as well as fell from the heavens. This must have created huge waves. There is no indication that the ark had mast, sail, rudder, or wheel for navigation. Nevertheless, God was with them from beginning to end, giving them His special attention to preserve them and see His purpose accomplished.

This illustrates God working in them both to will and to do as they cooperated in their human, weak ways. This combination of God's grace and human cooperation produced their salvation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)


 

Hebrews 11:6-7

Noah accomplished a significant witness, persevering for a very long time under horrific conditions. His witness was of sterling quality and worthy of emulation.

These two verses appear quite innocuous. We read them and consider their teaching a matter of course regarding Christian life and salvation. However, for this world's Christianity, they pose a dilemma for those more deeply aware of the intricacies of Christian responsibility.

Calvinist theologian Arthur Pink (1886-1952) says in his exposition of this passage, "The verses which are now to engage our attention are by no means free of difficulty, especially unto those who have sat under a ministry which has failed to preserve the balance between Divine grace and Divine righteousness." Why would he say this? These two verses, almost single-handedly, nearly destroy one of the most treasured teachings of this world's Christianity—the Doctrine of Eternal Security, the "once saved, always saved" or "no works required" doctrine.

Note the end of the quotation: Some ministries have "failed to preserve the balance between Divine grace and Divine righteousness." Preachers who fail to maintain this balance strongly emphasize God's favor while neglecting or ignoring His claims on our lives—our duties and responsibilities to Him—because He owns us! We are His slaves!

To any thinking person, these verses severely undercut those preachers' claims that appear to guarantee grace, that is, to assure salvation. How? Verse 6 clearly states that God rewards those who live by faith, and verse 7 illustrates that, in Noah's case, the reward was that Noah and his house were saved because of what they did.

What did Noah do that was so important to his and his family's salvation? His works produced the ark, the means of escaping death from the Flood. Noah's works were rewarded. Where, then, is grace?

Note that I wrote that these verses "nearly destroy" this concept, not "totally destroy." They do not contain the entire story, but they are very troublesome, to say the least, to those of the no-works stripe. If they do not bother a nominal Christian, he is clearly ignoring what the verses really say, that a person's works play a large part in his salvation. What would have happened to Noah and his family had they convinced themselves that, since God had given Noah grace, no ark needed to be built because God would save them anyway?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)


 

2 Peter 1:5-10

This passage builds on the implication of grace, that is, the gifts of God alluded to in the previous verses. Grace both enables or empowers us and makes demands on us by putting us under obligation. Titus 2:11-12 tells us that the grace of God teaches us that "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly." Receiving the grace of God puts us under obligation to respond.

Peter is teaching that the grace of God demands diligence or effort. Verse 5 reads, "giving all diligence [effort]." In addition, it is helpful to understand that Peter is saying in the word translated as "add" that we are to bring this diligence, this effort, alongside or in cooperation with what God has already given. God freely extends His grace, but it obligates us to respond. We are then to do our part in cooperating with what He has given to us—and He inspired Peter to tell us to do it diligently and with a great deal of effort.

We ministers almost constantly speak of growth. Yet, notice where Peter begins his list of traits we are to become fruitful in: He writes, "Add to your faith." "Add" is woefully mistranslated into the English. Yes, it can mean "add," but it is actually much more expansive than that. "Generously supplement" is a more literally correct rendering, which brings it into harmony with "diligence." In other words, make great effort to supplement your faith generously.

Peter sees faith as the starting point for all the other qualities or attributes. He does not mean to imply in any way that faith is elementary, but rather that it is fundamental or foundational—that the other things will not exist as aspects of godliness without faith undergirding them. In the Greek, it is written as though each one of these qualities flows from the previous ones. We could also say that faith is like the central or dominant theme in a symphony, and the other qualities amplify or embellish it.

How much and what we accomplish depend on where we begin. Peter is showing us that there is a divine order for growth, and it begins with faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 5)


 

Jude 1:3-4

The mystery of lawlessness was already working (II Thessalonians 2:7). The false church appropriated the true church's central figure—its savior, Jesus Christ—but rejected the law of God and turned His grace into license (Jude 4; see Titus 1:16). By rejecting the law of God and inserting pagan beliefs, they really also rejected the central figure, Christ, as well, which is very interesting to consider. A dichotomy is produced. They accept the name of Christ, the central figure, the great hero, then turn right around and reject His law. It is double-mindedness, and yet people fall for it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)


 

Find more Bible verses about Grace:
Grace {Torrey's}
 




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