Friday, July 08, 2011

Thinking about Grace, cont'd.

Grace has been on my mind a lot lately...

Grace in general, and in particular, the Grace of God as the essence of, the foundation and means of the Christian life.

More specifically, how can I convey the absolute vitality, the centrality of Grace in our lives as Christians. How can I most clearly communicate Grace as the only grounds for our relating to God, the only basis for building relationships with other Christians and the only foundation for relating to those within our own families?

As Jerry Bridges has observed: “We are brought into God's kingdom by grace; we are sanctified by grace; we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we are called to serve by grace and, finally, we are glorified by grace. The entire Christian life is lived under the reign of God's grace.”

This is what keeps running through my mind, percolating in my heart, keeping me awake at night — As I attempt to serve this church, how can I teach and demonstrate, speak and act so that Grace becomes more of an essential paradigm for living for people who have largely only known the opposite: conditional acceptance, assurance and approval; love, forgiveness and mercy that is limited or earned; relationships that are manipulated to produce 'Godly behavior'; in other words, performance-based Christianity, Legalism, and Churchianity.

I am aware that I may be over-sensitive on this topic. Still, it sometimes seems that this church is simply saturated in all that I just listed, that it is thoroughly entrenched in believers minds and hearts. So much so that whatever I say or do in an effort to re-orient the church toward Grace and Faith seems only the tiniest firefly of grace-light in a murky swamp of Legalism and Performance-based Christianity.

...I say “God's unconditional love”, they reply “God is an All-Consuming Fire!” I teach on Assurance in the Promises of God, they reply by preaching on “God's faithfulness to His Threats Fear God, or else!!” I seek to encourage relationships based on Grace and Freedom in Christ, and they reply with Conditional forgiveness and fellowship ... it's like we're speaking different languages.

Not that this is anything horribly unusual, unheard of, or even peculiar to this small Ukrainian Independent Baptist Church we're in here. It's not, sadly enough to say.

Almost 50 years ago, C.I. Scofield said that "Most of us have been reared and now live under the influence of
Galatianism. Protestant theology is for the most part thoroughly Galatianized, in that neither the Law nor Grace is given its distinct and separate place in the counsels of God, but they are mingled together in one incoherent system . The Law is no longer, as in the divine intent, a ministration of death (2 Cor.3:7), of cursing (Gal.3:10), or of conviction (Rom.3:19), because we are taught that we must try to keep it, and that by divine help we may.
Nor does Grace, on the other hand, bring us blessed deliverance from the dominion of sin, for we are kept under the law as a rule of life, despite the plain declaration of Romans 6:14 - «sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace!"

This is a malady that has afflicted the church and detracted from the glory of God's grace in Jesus Christ from its very first days, so I'm not complaining about this church being a special case.

I'm not even complaining. This is where God has us for now, and these are the questions I struggle with.

How can I most glorify Christ? How can I live out Grace in a way that is simple and comprehensible?

How can I convey this, that “Our righteousness is in Him, and our hope depends, not upon the exercise of grace in
us, but upon the fullness of Grace and Love in Him, and upon His obedience unto death. (John Newton)


Cecil said...


It is so good to hear of your struggle with the problem
of legalism in your church. Teddy and I are just where you are right now, which is so amazing. We are studying Jerry Bridges' The Discipline of Grace every morning in our devotions. We have heard some things in our church that have really made us want to leave but it has happened before in other churches. Leaving isn't the answer, I don't think. Keep close to this theme. Dr. Ryrie is also very encouraging in So Great Salvation.

I am so encouraged that you are suffering this same thing. First, because it brings you closer to me. Second, because it means you are fighting the right fight. Lord bless you. Stay very close to this truth!

All our love,


Baba Julie said...

Well stated, Will. We are praying for you in all of this. We pray that God's light and truth will shine through this darkness. We love you all very much!

Will said...

To clarify:
there is one spiritual darkness of not knowing Christ.

There is another confusion caused by the syncretism of legalism and some form of the message of 'salvation by grace through faith.' This results in spiritually clouded vision, occluding the glory of the grace of God in Christ.

In this post I am referring to the latter. =)

Anonymous said...

Will, thanks for writing! How wonderful it is that God's grace is free (really free!) in His offer of eternal life to any and all who will believe Him for it. Of course, this is justification by faith alone (really alone!), based on Christ's death and resurrection and offered as a free gift as it's a matter of His merit, not ours. And behind the offer is a God who loves every person ever born simply because it is His character to do so!

I realize you are speaking of grace in the life of a Believer, grace in the Christian life. This is a matter of sanctification, of growth as a child of God, a matter of degree. It too is a matter of grace, as we can't live a life pleasing to Him in our own strength. However, it is a matter of faith and faithfulness, and the Scriptures are clear that He desires to reward His children for their faithfulness, both in this life and the one to come. So this is a matter of meritorious reward, which He chooses to give according to His grace, and because it pleases Him to do so!

May I recommend a little book which is rich in biblical insight on the subject of the Christian life seen through the Bible's framework of grace: Six Secrets of the Christian Life (The Miracle of Walking with God), by Zane Hodges, and available through the Grace Evangelical Society (

Good job, Son--keep it up!