if we didn’t get complaints that we’d gone too far and said too much, then we probably haven’t really preached the Gospel of grace.
When you start teaching grace, the biggest complaint you get is that what you are teaching will lead to people being given a license to sin. They are afraid that if we do not make sure that people understand the rules and the law that they will start sinning and not caring about living a life pleasing to God. However I believe that is a fear and not a reality. The reality is that if we will truly teach the message of the gospel of grace, that instead of people being given a license to sin, they will appreciate the unfailing love of God and that appreciation for what He truly did for them will motivate them from within to walk away from those things that cause His heart pain.
What is the Gospel?
The Apostle Paul is very adamant about keeping the gospel that was being taught pure. In fact he even states that if anyone preaches a different gospel, including him and his ministry team, that God’s curse should fall on them. Gal. 1:8
Only One Gospel
6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
Now, for most of us, because of our religious upbringing and the way the word gospel is used in our society, it comes with definitions and connotations that are not correct in the way Paul was using the word. The word gospel simply means good news. The Greek word for gospel is Euaggelizo. It is always used announcing news that will be received with gladness. In the Old Testament it was used in conjunction with bringing good news of the Messiah’s coming. In the New Testament it was used in conjunction with the news of God’s kingdom and what He had done through Jesus concerning our salvation.
This brings up an interesting point. Most of what we hear today as “gospel preaching” is not good news. The reason it is not good news is because it is only a partial gospel. Every human being on this earth knows that they are a sinner. They know that they have missed the mark, have made mistakes, and are not as good as they should be. Most “gospel preaching” focuses on this fact. What they do not focus on is that Jesus took care of the sin problem. They are not given the solution. That solution is the message of the gospel of grace. It is the good news concerning the grace of God.
What is Grace?
We have all kinds of definitions of what grace means. Some of us that didn’t really grow up in Christian families think of the word grace as something you say at the dinner table. Those that come from Catholic traditions or other mainline churches might think of the word grace and think of the sacraments or other things that are bestowed upon them from a priest. The word grace simply means God’s unmerited favor or His undeserved pleasure. The Greek word for grace is Charis. Let me share with you the definition.
that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech, good will, loving-kindness, favour of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
It is grace and only grace that causes God to look upon us with joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, grace of speech, good will, loving-kindness, and favor. That is the message that people need to hear. That is a message that is good news (the gospel) to them.
The Apostle Paul said it this way.
But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
As you can see, the Apostle Paul was fully aware of how sinful he had been. He is transparent about it. However his focus was not on his sinfulness, but his focus was on what had been revealed to him by Jesus concerning the grace of God shown towards him. In fact he was willing to place his life on the line for this good news. He was willing to go against anyone and only be a God pleaser rather than a man pleaser in his conviction that this good news of grace was in fact truth.
Why Do We Struggle With the Message of the Gospel of Grace?
There are 2 main reasons why we struggle with the message of the gospel of grace. They are both human and natural but that does not mean that they are correct. The reason we struggle so is because the message of grace is contrary to human wisdom. Gal 1:11 and because it takes faith to believe that a relationship with Jesus and having the living Christ live within a person will actually produce a “Christian” over trying to control them with fear and works of the law.
The gospel of grace is contrary to human reason
Human reasoning says that when you do something wrong, the person you wronged will be angry and displeased with you. We get this from every aspect of our society. Whether it is within the family unit, within our school system that uses a grading system to evaluate performance, to our workplaces which promotes the achievers and demotes or fires the underachievers, to our judicial system, no matter where you go in our society, human wisdom bases our standing in society by performance. That is when we relate to God and His grace; we still try to infuse works or achievement into that grace. Some will even teach that grace only covers what we are incapable of doing but we have to “do good works” to reach up to the point that God’s grace comes into effect.
Human reason teaches that works is evidence of grace, while Paul teaches that works are “fruit” of grace. (Galatians 5:22) One is looked upon as proof, the other is looked upon as a natural byproduct of who you are. One is based on performance and “living up” or achieving, the other just comes because it is a natural process.
It takes faith to believe in grace
We as natural men and especially those of us that have been influenced by the age of reason and western culture and civilization struggle with believing that grace alone will produce true Christians. We give grace mental assent in our heads, but we still try to live out the Christian life based on performance, evidence, and what we can experience with our 5 natural senses. Since we cannot see the heart, see Christ living on the inside of a person, hear His voice speaking to their heart, and feel the touch of God leading them, we revert back to a works based religion that controls people with laws and fears. This is what was happening to the church in Galatia. Men were already trying to get them to revert back to an outward based religion rather than having faith that an inward based faith would produce outward change. This is caused by people not actually having faith that….
- Christ is truly alive and will come and live in the hearts of men and women.
- When Christ does come and live in the hearts of men and women that His relationship with them will actually change their behavior
- The grace of God is truly real and available not just for other people or just sinners, but is available and applied to every person who has accepted the free gift of grace offered by our Heavenly Father through that relationship with Jesus, including themselves.
So I ask the question of myself and everyone who reads this article. Where does your faith lie? Does it lie in your ability to perform? Does it lie in your own sense of holiness? Or does it lie in the message of the gospel of the grace of God?