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Understanding the meaning of grace

Some preachers teach people that they can live by the grace of God alone. This is a misrepresentation of the truth and a travesty of religion.
Understandably, most of these teachings are sourced from the teachings of Apostle Paul and have at times been misunderstood. A lot of Paul’s gospels depended on the religious inclinations of his audience. He applied different teachings to different groups of people.

Sundayword BY PROSPER TINGINI

Paul explains the variations of his teachings very vividly and in a simple manner for everyone to understand. In 1 Corinthians 9: 19-23, he reveals to us the reasons why he deviates from one kind of teaching to another: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win more (followers). To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law-though not being myself under the law-that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law — not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ — that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

Although all his teachings centred on Jesus Christ, they sometimes varied according to the religious backgrounds of his targeted listeners. To the Jews, he would want to be seen to be in line with the law. To the Gentiles (non-Jews) or the Romans, he would preach differently and not want them to be burdened by the yoke of the law, hence he introduced to them the word “grace”. His main mission was to make known Jesus Christ, by making it known to them that he was crucified for also their sins. Jesus Christ was his priority.

Let’s go back to the beginning of Paul’s assigned mission, after the Holy Spirit “forcibly converted him to Christianity”. Immediately after he was blinded by the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:1-9), Christ appeared to a disciple named Ananias to go and restore Paul’s sight with these words: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and Kings and the sons of Israel, for I will show him how much he should suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16). Prior to this he was known as Saul and had tormented Christian followers in a ruthless manner. Jesus Christ had to come to the rescue of his Christian followers by forcefully removing Saul from the battleground, by capturing him and converting him into “an instrument of Christ” so that in the process he would suffer in the same way as he had induced suffering on the Christians. Never deviating from Jesus Christ, the discord and commotion caused by his teachings was the foretold persecution prescription for Paul’s fate.

Grace is God’s goodwill or a divine favour. It could also be translated to mean a gift or blessing from God the Father or from the Lord Jesus Christ. In that sense, grace is not an entitlement for everybody, but only given to some chosen individuals. To then give it a blanket approach for everyone in its application would be a misrepresentation of the truth. Jesus Christ chose Paul for a specific purpose, even though he had committed acts of cruelty against the Christians. He became a “chosen instrument of Christ”, through the grace of Christ. He was also destined to be persecuted in the same manner he had done to Christians. His “judgement” was prescribed in advance.

Paul rightly explains that grace is a gift. In Romans 3:23, he says: “Since all have sinned and fell short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiration (to make amends for) by his blood, to be received by faith”. In this instance it is those with the faith in Jesus Christ who are to receive the gift of his grace. It will not apply to everyone regardless of their faith.

Writing to the Romans, he asks and answers: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound (overflow)? By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2). He rightly teaches that we cannot freely indulge in sin on the assumption that the grace of God will save us. That would be a misrepresentation of grace. The Romans were not under the laws of Moses and the disciples of Christ had agreed that they should not compel them to be under the law. They only had to live by faith.
It was the decision of the disciples, including Paul, that had freed the Gentiles from the law, not God or Christ (Acts 15:19-21). Paul reasoned that sin was caused by not adhering to the law, hence the law was the cause of sin. In Romans 7:7, he again asks and answers himself: “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin.”

The most often quoted verse used as if to cancel sin and the law and replace it with the grace of the Lord is found in Romans 6:14. Paul writes to the Romans: “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace.” This verse is the main source used by the new generation of preachers who misunderstood that scripture altogether. The disciples of Christ had all agreed in a meeting to exclude or release the gentiles (non-Jews) from the law. The implication was that they were therefore not under the law. Since Paul had reasoned in his individual capacity that the cause of sin was the law, he then believed that those outside of the law, like the Romans, but being believers of Christ and of faith, could therefore live by the grace of God and through faith alone. In verse 15, he again asks and answers himself: “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” He answers his own question. What Paul really meant was that people who did not know the law could be excused from the law. The Lord would then have the prerogative to apply his grace, based on one’s faith.

The Bible carries all of God’s laws. If you then throw away the law which you have read and have knowledge of, then you are deliberately putting yourself outside the law of God the Father and outside the sphere of Christ, His Son. Grace alone only applies to those who have lived altogether outside the knowledge of the law. These are the people Paul was talking about. In James 4:17 the apostle writes: “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Prosper Tingini is the president of the Children of God Missionary Assembly. Registration in progress for those who wish to undertake Bible Studies or train as ministers of religion. Contact 0771 260 195 or email: ptingini@gmail.com

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