Scriptures and Thoughts on “Grace”

What is grace? What is so amazing about it?
11 – Hebrew
hên – favor shown by one person to another
Greek
charis – a favor or a gift of benevolent goodwill.

 12 – “The wide span of meaning that this word has then makes it imperative that one give special attention to any particular passage that he is dealing with that makes use of that word. Otherwise, he may be attributing to the writer and idea that the writer did not have in making use of that word.” – Jack Lewis

 Romans 6:23 – 13 – Grace is amazing because of its scandalous generosity, going beyond what we deserve to give us what we most need.

 What does it mean to be saved by grace?
Ephesians 2:8-9 – 14 – a gift, not a result of works, no reason to boast
Romans 11:6 – 15 – not on the basis of works
Romans 3:23-25 – 16 – Jesus paid the price on our behalf so that we could receive a gift that we could not afford

 If we are saved by grace, is right living technically necessary?
Romans 6:1-4 – 17 – A theology of grace that diminishes the seriousness of sin is flawed
Romans 6:16-18 – 18 – an understanding of grace that does not include freedom from sin is inaccurate
Romans 6:20-23 – 19 – we are saved by grace precisely because we are freed by grace from slavery to sin and its outcome, death.
Romans 8:12-13 – 20 – if you living according to the flesh you must die (spoken to saved persons)
Hebrews 10:26-27 – 21 – if we go on sinning, there no longer remains a sacrifice – yes, God’s grace is contingent upon our future actions!

 If we are saved by grace, is baptism really necessary? How would that not be “works based” salvation?
Epehsians 2:8-9 – 14 – not a result of works
Romans 11:6 – 15 – not on the basis of works
1 Peter 3:21 – 22 – baptism now saves you
Acts 2:38 – 23 – baptism is for the forgiveness of sins
How do we reconcile these passages?

John 3:5-8 – 24 – you must be born again by the spirit
Romans 6:1-4 – 17 baptism is a new birth
Titus 3:5-7 – 25 – the washing of regeneration and renewing of the holy spirit – baptism is associate with a new birth and with receiving the holy spirit

Could it be that baptism is the means by which we enter into the condition that we could not possibly earn, merit, or deserve?

Galatians 5:2-6 – 26 – Is there a difference between seeking justification through circumcision and seeking it through baptism?

Revelation 1:5 – 27 – Jesus blood takes away our sins
Revelation 7:14 – 28 – saints wash their robes in the blood of the lamb
Hebrews 9:13-14 – 29 – we are washed by Christ’s blood
Acts 22:16 – 30 – baptism is a washing away of sins

Could it be that baptism is coming into contact with Christ’s saving blood, which cleanses us in a way in which we could never cleanse ourselves, while circumcision is a denial of Christ’s blood in favor of another method of atonement altogether?

Think of the illustration of a new car that your parents buy for you, all you have to do is get a ride to the dealership and pick it up. Does this requirement of your physical action to receive the car nullify their sacrifice? Does getting a ride to the dealership, getting the keys, putting them in the ignition, etc. mean that you are trying to earn/deserve/merit the car and nullify your parents’ gift?

Christians who believe that Baptism is necessary for salvation are not trying to “save up enough good deeds” to cash them in for a ticket to heaven. After being baptized they do not feel they have earned the right to brag about some great feet they have done. They simply understand the Bible to teach that the water of baptism is the place where we receive the gift that we could never have purchased.

There is a real distinction between deserving, earning, meriting, boasting, etc. and simply accepting what has been given to you through some necessary physical act.

 When and how can I receive God’s grace?
The word grace simply means a gift or an unmerited favor.
1 Peter 3:7 – 31 – simply by being alive you are receiving grace!
Ephesians 2:8-9 – 14 – when you have faith, you receive God’s grace
Acts 4:32-33 – 32 – living as a Christian is a life full of grace
Acts 22:16 – 30 – in baptism our sins are washed away, this is by God’s grace!

 What is the concept of “irresistible grace” and is it taught by scripture?
John 6:37-40 – 33 – Jesus will keep all who the Father will give Him
Titus 3:5 – 25 – He saved us according to His mercy
Do either of these indicate that man has no say in his destiny?

Ephesians 2:1, 4-5 – 34 – we were dead, and He made us alive together with Christ
John 1:12-13 – 35 – born of the will of God, not the will of man
God’s will is certainly the deciding factor in our salvation, without His will being to save us, we would have no hope. But does that mean we are incapable of resisting Him?

Hebrews 3:14-15 – 36 – do not harden your hearts
John 3:20-21 – 37 – everyone who is evil does not come to the light, he walks in truth comes to the light
These passages seem to indicate that it is possible to resist the good news, that we have a say in the matter of whether we respond favorably.

2 Peter 3:9 – 38 – If God is not willing that any should perish, then why is the way narrow that leads to eternal life? If God’s grace is irresistible and He wants all to be saved, why will all not be saved?

 Is it possible to fall from grace? If so, how?
Galatians 5:2-6 – 26 – we fall from grace when reject it in favor of earning or meriting that which in reality we must accept humbly as God’s free gift.
Hebrews 10:26-27 – 21 – if we go on sinning, there no longer remains a sacrifice – yes, God’s grace is contingent upon our future actions!

 If grace is something that no one deserves, how is it fair that some people will benefit from it and other people will not?
Romans 6:23 – 16 – the wages (what we earn) of sin is death. It is fair any time we sin and receive death.
Matthew 20:8-16 – 40 – it is right for God to give our just wages to us, and it is His to do what He wants with the salvation that is His alone to give, and which none of us has earned. The fact that anyone will be saved at all is the part where God goes BEYOND what is fair to what is generous.

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Scriptures and Thoughts on “Wrath”

Why is God so wrathful about sin, especially when He knows we are only human?
Psalm 30:5 – 10 – “His anger is for a moment”
Romans 1:18-20 – 11- “Wrath of God… those who suppress… they are without excuse.”
Romans 2:14-16 – 12 – gentiles by instinct keep the law
Proverbs 24:12 – 13 – It is fair for him to render according to our deeds
Romans 2:6 – 14 – we are repaid according to our deeds
Galatians 6:7 – 15 – we reap what we sow
Psalm 51:4 – 16 – God is blameless in His judgments
Romans 6:23 – 17 – the wages of sin is death

Does God create people in order to be wrathful towards them?
Romans 9:17-25 – 18 – seems to sound that way
Exodus 4:21; 7:3, 13-14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 34-35; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4-5, 8, 17 – starts at slide 19 – the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and Pharaoh hardened his own heart… can both be true?  What does this mean?
2 Peter 3:9 – 23 – God wants all to come to repentance

 What is wrath? – 24
Hebrew
‘ap – anger
hēmâ, qāsap – hot displeasure, indignation

Greek
Orgē – strong indignation directed at wrongdoing, with focus on retribution
Thumos – a state of intense displeasure, anger, wrath, rage, indignation

Psalm 7:11 – 34 – God feels indignation every day

 Did God direct His wrath at Jesus on the cross?
2 Corinthians 5:21 – 25 – He was made to be sin on our behalf
Romans 5:9 – 26 – We are saved from God’s wrath by Him
Romans 3:25 – 27 – Displayed as a public propitiation
Matthew 27:46 – 28 – was Jesus really forsaken by God?
Isaiah 53 – 29  – He took our punishment
These verses speak a lot of Jesus suffering, or even of bearing our punishments, but not of God being angry with Him in the sense that we tend to think of anger…

 Does punishment for sins arise out of God’s wrath?  If so, is it appropriate for parents to punish in wrath?
Nahum 1:2-6 – 30 – God’s punishments for sin is certainly sometimes associated with His wrath
Revelation 16 – refers to seven bowls full of God’s wrath being poured out in punishment.
Romans 12:19 – 31 – God tells us not to take vengeance, but to leave that to Him, indicating that certain actions are appropriate to arise from His wrath, but not from ours
Ephesians 6:4 – 32 – Do not provoke children to wrath through discipline
Colossians 3:21 – 33 – whatever the emotional state of the parent, exasperating the child is NOT a positive outcome

 Do we see God’s wrath on display today?  If so, how?
Romans 1:18 – 11 – God’s wrath is revealed, even now, it would seem, from the verb tense
Romans 1 – 35 – much of this chapter shows God giving people over to a situation in which their sins become their punishers and their slave drivers.

 Is hell the eternal experience of God’s wrath?
Hebrews 10:26-31 – 41 – God will punish His adversaries with fury
2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 – 42 – flaming fire and retribution

 It is ever a sin simply to be angry?
James 1:20 – 7 – what does this verse mean?
Ephesians 4:26-27 – 36 – Be angry and do NOT sin
Matthew 5:22 – 37 – why does KJV say “without a cause?”
Ephesians 4:31 – 38 – put aside wrath anger and clamor
Colossians 3:8 – put away anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech

 When does anger become sinful/produce sin?
Romans 12:19 – 31 – when we take unauthorized vengeance
Ephesians 4:31 – 38 – when it results in clamor
Colossians 3:8 – 39 – when it results in malice, slander, abusive speech
When we become angry quickly – James 1:19 – 40

Was Jesus angry when he cleansed the temple?  If so, is it appropriate for us to imitate His example?
John 2:13-17 – 43 – it may depend on how we define anger.  It appears that Jesus was “consumed with zeal,” but did He have ill will for these money-changers, or did He ultimately hope for their reform?
Ephesians 4:26-27 – 36 – If there is a kind of anger that in not automatically sin, then actions motivated by it might not be either, provided they are not malicious but aimed at reform.

Are Christians Better than Other People?

One common complaint raised against Christians is that “you think you are better than everyone else.” The typical response, often offered preemptively before this objection is even raised, is that “I do not think I am better than anyone else just because I am a Christian. I am just as bad as you are. The only difference is that God looks on Christ’s righteousness instead of my sins.”

So is it true? Do Christians really think they are better than other people? And should they? Are they actually better than other people?

That depends on what you mean by “better.”

Does a Christian have more intrinsic worth in God’s eyes than a non-Christian does? The Biblical answer is “no.” We derive an objective value from being a soul created in God’s image, whether Christian or not (Genesis 1:26, Genesis 9:6, Acts 17:28).

Does God love a Christian more than a non-Christian? If love means wanting what is best for a person, and acting in their best interest, then once again, the Biblical answer is a resounding “no.” Contrary to the conclusions of some Calvinist theologians, God is “patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).”  He illustrates this love by the story of a father who runs out to welcome home his rebellious son (Luke 15:11-31). After all, Jesus died for sinners (Romans 5:8), not people who were already holier-than-thou. (Mark 2:17)

Does a Christian deserve God’s grace more than a non-Christian does? If the key word is deserve, then the answer is “no,” yet again. A Christian is not someone who has earned their salvation. It is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:23). This fact led Paul to conclude, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all” (Romans 3:9). When it comes to deserving our salvation, we are not better than anyone else.

But there is a real sense in which Christians are better than other people. Or at least, we sure ought to be.

A chief aspect of God’s work in the life of a Christian is to conform him to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). There is no reasonable way to understand the concept of “being conformed to the image of Christ,” through a process of “transformation by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:1) that does not include becoming a better person.

Ephesians 4:22-24 states it plainly: “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

If you have not become a better person since becoming a Christian, something is seriously wrong.

In conclusion: Do Christians have more intrinsic worth than others? No. Does God love Christians more than others? When love is understood as an unconditional, active desire for the wellbeing of another, clearly not.   Do Christian’s deserve to be saved more than others? No.

But do Christians behave better than others? The answer had better be “yes.” We ought to be a people unusually full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. We ought to be a people unusually forgiving, unusually meek, unusually pure and upright and gracious and harmonious. Shame on us when we are not.

May we be growing in holiness in a way unlike anything that we experienced before our conversion. May we look more like our God every day. In that sense, may we be better than we were prior to our conversion.

Security of the Believer?

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most loved and quoted Bible verses of our time. Personally, I cannot remember ever attending a high school or college graduation at which this verse was not read aloud:

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”

We know that technically the verse was spoken to Jeremiah and not to us. And we know that technically it does not promise to bless us with physical health or safety, or to protect us from difficult situations.

But we still love Jeremiah 29:11. Because we long to feel the peace and security of resting in God’s loving arms. We long for Jesus to comfort and protect us the way he wanted to comfort and protect Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37: “the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.

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Perhaps that desire for security is also behind the popular teaching of “once saved always saved,” often used to offer the Christian the false hope that a brief experience of accepting Jesus at one point in time guarantees us a spot in heaven no matter what we do afterwards.

It is not physical security that God offers, and neither is it the logic-defying proposition that we can somehow go to heaven even as we reject the God who illuminates it.

Rather, God offers us the security of knowing that no one and nothing can separate His love from those who would walk in it.

If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:31-39

As Jesus states in His message to the church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3:8, “I have put before you an open door which no one can shut.

The door of salvation is open before us, and no one and nothing will shut it. The question that remains is this: will you walk through that door, and abide inside with God?