The “Grace message” or the “Grace movement” has taken on quite a momentum in the Church worldwide. Several decades ago perhaps back in the early to late 90’s it was a whole different situation. Back then preaching un-compromised Grace really was almost a revolutionary and daring message to preach for any preacher. That’s because the truth of Grace sets people free. But it also upsets the Pastors who tend to use controlling tactics to keep people in their Church group. They would often begin to preach against what they mocked as the hyper-Grace message.
The Grace message is not a stand alone message as though we who preach this message found a truth in the Bible and then put the emphasis on this one topic. Comments like “your message on Grace is really powerful, but there are also other topics such as love and divine judgment”.
Well, people who say that don’t understand that Grace is the fundamental principle of the whole Gospel. All the theological topics such as “the Love of God”, “divine judgment”, “healing”, “prosperity”, “eschatology”, “soteriology” can only be correctly discerned when studying these same topics from the paradigm of the principle of Grace.
As an itinerant Preacher I could always tell when people didn’t get the significance of the Grace message I taught. They would often say something like: “thank you, I really enjoyed your message, it’s so refreshing to once again hear the simplicity of the Gospel”. Ye, they didn’t get it. The question in my mind then is what else are they listening to that takes them away from this simplicity of the Gospel of Grace?
The truth about Grace and thus the Grace message is not a newly discovered truth that all of a sudden has a widely spread enthusiasm among followers going to Grace Churches. I believe there has been a progressive move towards re-discovering this original truth in our time and generation and so it may seem like a Christian fad to many traditional Christians. Throughout Church history we moved from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism sprouting it’s Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and Evangelical branches. In the twentieth century we see the Healing Revival followed by the Charismatic movement, and the teaching revival in the Word of faith movement. And out of the Word of Faith evolved the Grace message. And as it goes with each new truth discovered, those who picked up the banner and became proponents of a new message came face to face with opposition. Not from the secular world but from the same religious group they came from. Well, of course this was true for Jesus, and the Apostles who gave their lives for what they believed.
To this day sadly many Christians are still not aware of the significance of the Grace truth. When having a conversation sneakily dropping some truth bombs they tend to not pick up on the fact that I’m speaking from a whole different paradigm. They hear a familiar verse or scripture I quote and they will happily affirm their knowledge of it. When they hear my take on the meaning of it they seem somewhat impressed and then confirm that that’s a powerful way of looking at it.
But it isn’t until they are exposed to an avalanche of Grace truth that their old paradigm is exposed and they begin to discern the difference. So teaching is required and not just a little. Especially when you consider that the un-compromised Grace message will lead anyone to the conclusion that the whole of humanity was redeemed by one man’s faith. (Jesus, the Son of God, 100% man and 100% God) Most Grace preachers I know still object to that level of Grace truth so completely concentrated it leaves no room for any divine right afforded or granted to us because of our self-effort not even our personal faith.
The message the Apostle Paul preached and taught was the purest most concentrated Grace message ever. This was the Good News, which even we ironically call the Gospel across all the different denominational and non-denominational Church groups. Oddly enough the Gospel version in many Christian groups is a far cry from the Grace message as Paul taught it.
24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
I’m sure you know that the word Gospel means Good News. So the true Gospel is the Good News of the Grace of God.
In 1995 my wife and I and our then three year old daughter moved to Mississippi where I would Pastor a Church. It was during that period I first began renewing my mind with Grace truths whilst I studied the book of Romans and Galatians word for word. I did a weekly local Christian TV show every Saturday where I could begin sharing my new found ideas. Now this was a rinky-dink little old TV Studio where every local preacher and Pastor in the area had an hour to preach with a potential coverage of about 300.000 households. Most Churches in that region of the South were Southern Baptist or Methodist or even Pentecostal Holiness Churches. By nature their doctrine is littered with self-righteousness, which by default is contra Grace.
I would teach on righteousness. Righteousness not meaning righteous acts as a lifestyle, but meaning a righteous spiritual nature because we are one with the Lord, and that this righteousness is a gift of God. I would say things like,
your faith does not get God to respond to you. Your faith is your response to what God has already done for you in Christ.
If you never go to Church again, God will love you the same anyway, but…you may not love God the same because you won’t hear the truth about His love for you.
If you never read your Bible again, ever, God still loves you the same anyway, but you may not know about His love for you if you don’t meditate on the Word to obtain that revelation knowledge.
God’s love is unconditional, because conditional love does not exist. Conditional love is all about rejection because you have to earn acceptance on the basis of your performance and your ability to satisfy the requirements. If you believe you have to earn acceptance with God, you must first believe that you are not accepted, which is rejection.
God loves you and loved you before you ever committed your first sin, and before your ever said your first prayer.
There is nothing you will ever do to make God love you any more, and there is nothing you could ever do to make Him love you any less.
Many Christian’s will say “I found God”, well He wasn’t lost. The truth is He found you.
Some will say, the Holy Spirit can’t speak to a sinner. I would say, how could He then convince the world is sin, righteousness and judgment? How could He ever convince a person who did not know Christ of their need for the revelation of redemption in Christ?
Faith is not what moves the hand of God, God has moved, and we now learn to believe it and act on it.
Well, I had loads of statements like that in my message. And they are powerful truths congruent with the principle of Grace. You can imagine many calls coming into that little old TV station from people saying how much they appreciated my message. However, they all wanted to remain anonymous, because they were probably a member of a local Southern Baptist Church.
So what is Grace?
Well, a traditional definition is the famous “unmerited favor”. It sounds very theological and most Christian’s can quote it to you. Also most Christian’s didn’t make the effort to consider this powerful definition. Unmerited means undeserved. Undeserved means you didn’t earn it. There was nothing you could ever do to deserve this favor. If you could, then it is no longer undeserved, thus it is no longer Grace.
The word “Favor” has the multiple meaning of: approval, support, or liking for someone or something, and an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual.
So Grace is undeserved approval, being liked, and having an act of kindness done on your behalf beyond what is due or usual. Give that a thought and let it shape your paradigm of the Gospel.
Let’s look at the meaning of “approval”. Giving approval is based on the belief that someone or something is good or acceptable. When God the Father said:
17 …… This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
He extended His approval to Jesus. Where all the Prophets and men and women of God in the Old testament were liked and loved by God, they still had flaws in their life. Jesus was the first perfect man and son of God. Since His resurrection we are all made perfect in Him. This is a spiritual reality, because you and I know that physically we are not perfect. Our behavior is not perfect. But the point is that we have all been made righteous with the righteousness which is of God Himself by Christ. It was a gift.
In 1994 my wife and I were in class at Rhema Bible College, in the RCA building on the campus.
Rev. Doug Jones was teaching on righteousness. There were at least several hundred students in the auditorium, because it was a session of all classes combined together. Rev Jones addressed the group and said “will every righteous person in this room please stand up”. No one stood up.
Rev Jones then expressed his indignation and began teaching righteousness according to,
2 Corinthians 5
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
He explained that Jesus was “made” sin and we were “made” the righteousness, which is of God in Christ. We are partakers of the divine nature. We didn’t work for it. We didn’t believe for it. God made us like that. That is the nature of the new creation we have been made into in Christ. This is what God says about us and by not standing up amounts to you not believing that truth. By the end of that session Rev Jones addressed the group again and said “now let every righteous person in this room please stand up”. Across the auditorium every student stood up, that’s several hundreds of them, and this realization that we were righteous in Christ resulted in great rejoicing in the room.
When God now looks at you, He says that you are His beloved son/daughter with whom He is well pleased, and there is nothing you or anyone can do anything about it. You can choose not to believe it, or ignore it, but it remains true anyhow. God extends His approval to you.
Favor can also be an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual.
So then undeserved favor is also God doing an act of kindness beyond what is due or deserved or usual for you.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
What is or rather what was this act of kindness God did for us? He saved us, He secured our eternal salvation. So undeserved favor saved us. And here Paul uses the word Grace. He is saying Grace is what saved us. Grace produced the action that saved us. Of course Grace is not an inanimate principle. The word is simply a means to codify in words the fact that God saved us through Christ’s finished work. God took action, He was strong in Christ to save us. Grace therefore was God’s ability at work in us to save us.
Bottom line then; Grace is unmerited favor. More specifically it is God’s ability at work in us to save us, to heal us, to protect us, to provide for us, to guide us and secure our eternal salvation.
But the above verse also talks about the element of faith. By Grace are you saved through faith…
Yes, but even that reference to faith was not talking about our personal faith. It was talking about Jesus who believed on our behalf. Grace, God’s ability came to save us, Jesus by His faith placed a demand on that Grace so God the Father could work in Him, raise Him form the dead, and make us a new creation in the resurrection life of Jesus. Now that’s 100% Grace, because you didn’t have any part in it. You are now just catching up with the truth and learning to believe it and live by it.
Here is a powerful principle taught by Paul who had to learn to completely depend upon God’s ability to save Him.
2 Corinthians 12
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
The word “infirmities” carries the meaning of; weakness, affliction, or sickness. In some denominations it is still taught that the infirmities Paul was referring to was an illness he suffered with. They go as far as to say he suffered from some sort of eye inflammation. I’m not going to be politically correct here and will state clearly that such an interpretation is complete rubbish. The context of Paul’s account in chapter 9 was the fact that he was afflicted with persecution by the Jews and Judaizers and some Gentiles. Wherever he went to preach the Gospel of the Grace of God he was going to be persecuted. But the afflictions he suffered were not only limited to persecutions. Remember he suffered a terrible shipwreck as well. The details of his turbulent missionary journeys is well documented in the book of Acts.
2 Corinthians 12
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
So it was clear that Paul received an abundance of revelations. Not only did he experience being transported into the third heaven, but Paul wrote more than half of the New Testament. Throughout his writings he basically outlines the fundamental principles of the Gospel from every angle and leaves no stone un-turned. Sharing such a powerful dose of revelation in his teaching and preaching was automatically going to exalt him to extraordinary status among men, which would give him more opportunity to reach even more people. God was not the one who gave him a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble, and to prevent him from falling into pride. Why would God first give him such revelation with a mission to reach as many as possible and then oppress him to put him down at the same time? In fact satan would absolutely love it if Paul was exalted above measure and consequently fall into pride, because that would spell the end and breakdown of his ministry. But there was no risk of Paul falling into pride. His message was a threat to satan so he needed to try and stop him. That’s why it was satan who send a messenger to follow Paul around and stir up persecution and all kinds of trouble to try and hinder him from being able to conduct his ministry. That’s what the word buffet implies. It is a constant repetitive beating. In this case wherever Paul went this messenger of satan was relentlessly raising opposition of all kinds. I mean even after he had just survived the shipwreck a bloody snake jumped out from the bundle of wood they put on a fire that was started on the beach where they landed. (Acts 28:3) Nevertheless, what the devil meant for evil, God turned it around for good. That’s how Grace works.
The Grace of God will always exalt the truth, it will place the revelation of the Gospel high for everyone to see. As Jesus said;
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Watching a soccer game in a stadium in the evening when it’s getting dark. Those powerful light systems are not placed under the pitch but high up so everyone can enjoy the light and watch the game.
The attacks and oppositions Paul experienced was not because he was Paul but because of the revelation of the Gospel he had. Satan tried to do everything he could to try and hinder him from getting the truth out to everyone. So you see everything going just smooth with no challenges when you are active in the Ministry is not the mark of a Ministry that is bringing a whole bunch of powerful Gospel truth to the world. But if you are setting people free with amazing Gospel truth you can guarantee there will be some opposition.
Paul learned not to depend on his own ability to get him through his afflictions. In fact he boasted about his inability to be able to do anything for God. He then learned to make himself completely dependent upon Christ in him. That’s where the power of Christ took over causing him to overcome all his trials. This was his secret key to victory over the messenger of satan. Complete dependency upon Christ.
So where the Lord replies to Paul’s prayer saying: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness”, we can see that the Lord’s Grace is in fact His strength. His strength is then described by Paul as the power of Christ. So then the words Grace, Strength and Power of Christ are used interchangeably. The way Paul was able to connect with the Power of Christ was by boasting about his constant afflictions and his inability to overcome them himself.
2 Corinthians 12
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
That word “strong” is the Greek word “dunatos” and can mean “powerful”. However, when we stick with context it is clear that this state of being powerful came from the Grace, Strength and Power of Christ on him. Therefore, when Paul acknowledged his weakness and inability to deal with the oppositions by himself, he was made powerful by the power of Christ. As Paul taught the Gospel the power of Christ caused him to overcome his afflictions. As Paul continued to preach the Gospel truth, the Grace of God exalted the light of the Gospel truth for everywhere to be heard by both Jew and Gentile across the then entire Roman Empire. As Paul held on to the Power of Christ in him, he to was ultimately exalted beyond measure. That’s what Grace does. It lifts people up. Better said, it lifts up Jesus and when you hold on to Him you will be lifted up together with Him. Paul was placed by God to become a powerful pillar for all of the Church across the known world then. And to this day we still read his letters and study his doctrine and obtain revelation of the Gospel. When I get to heaven, I will see Jesus face to face, I will see the Father face to face, wow!……..and when I get an opportunity I will sit down with Paul and ask him loads of questions.
Throughout the years involved with Churches I heard many preachers and teachers who drew inferences that when a person first comes to Christ they are a baby Christian suggesting they are still very weak in their faith. Then as they learn more of the scriptures, and pray and get involved with their local Church they will grow spiritually and eventually become stronger. This idea sounds great but it is completely the other way round. For one thing, some of the new believers have the most powerful faith and experience many amazing ways God works in their life. Why? There are many reasons, but their faith is usually based on a simple surrender to Jesus. That’s all it takes to connect to His power. As we continue in our journey of faith we are supposed to nurture this simple dependency on Christ. Growing stronger in your dependency upon your own ability to do the work of God is exactly what will hinder progress.
Faith is not about becoming stronger. It is about becoming weaker
Now this whole thing is a bit of a dichotomy: a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different. That’s why so many Christians get it wrong because they latch on to either one of the two seemingly conflicting truths. They either fall into the category of behaving with a false humility and they can’t do anything, or they are become arrogant and appear to be the strong Christian who can get anything done. Both groups are missing it.
Being weak as Paul meant it is a complete abandonment of trusting in your own ability to be righteous before God and being able to to do anything for God.
In fact nobody can do anything for God. The only one who can anything for God is God Himself.
So when we acknowledge our weakness, and learn to fully depend on Christ, then the power of Christ can work in us. God can then work through us and as He empowers us amazing things happen.
As a result you will experience victory, you will have a greater sense or self-worth, you will experience a freedom that’s out of this world. You will have a tremendous level of confidence about dealing with anything in life, because of your awareness that you are walking with God, and yes, you will feel stronger, but you know all of that amazing quality about your person comes from the power and life of Christ in you.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
A better way to interpret the above verse is, I can do all things through Christ who is my power.
Watch for Part 2