One of the most misunderstood subjects in the Bible is about the grace of God. Apostle Paul declares that “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
by dr doug mamvura
That is a tremendous statement, but it has lost a lot of its power today because the word gospel just like grace, has become just a religious cliché that people use to apply to anything having to do with the Christian religion. Some people think grace is that short prayer you make just before a meal. Some indulge in sin because “they are now living under the dispensation of grace”. Others believe that grace gives people “licence to sin”. When one gets the true revelation of the grace of God, it is impossible to stay the same.
It is the grace of God that makes the gospel, specifically good news. In Acts 20:24 we see again Apostle Paul saying: “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.”
In the above verse, Paul uses the words gospel and grace of God interchangeably. Let me make a radical statement here. If a person is not preaching the grace of God, (this literally means unearned, undeserved, unmerited favour), and aren’t preaching that you receive all God has and everything Jesus purchased for us on an unearned, undeserved basis, they aren’t preaching the true gospel. This same point is made again in Galatians 1:6, where Paul says: “I am amazed that you are so soon removed from the grace of God unto another gospel.” He is again using the term “grace” interchangeably with the word gospel. So, the word gospel is literally referring to the grace of God.
The book of Romans is a masterpiece on the subject of grace which is normally misrepresented in most of our churches today. Most preachers are preaching a performance-based gospel instead of the gospel of grace based on the finished work of Christ. Congregants are told that “unless you pay your tithes and live a proper life, God will never move in your life”. This is not the gospel Paul preached. While these preachers highlight some of the elements of the gospel, the fact that Jesus died for our sins, they also put qualifications that people have to do, so they are able to appropriate the benefits of the finished work of Christ.
As a matter of fact, four different times after Paul made these great statements about the grace of God, how God offers us a relationship with Him, and all those benefits free of charge, he says, “Now what am I saying? Am I saying you can continue in sin so grace may abound? God forbid.” The point is that when Paul preached the gospel, a constant question came up, “Are you saying that you can just live in sin, and God will still do these things?” No, that wasn’t what he was saying, but if you aren’t preaching the grace of God and talking about Him loving you independent of your performance, to the degree that someone asks you the question, “Are you saying I can just live in sin?”, then you aren’t preaching the same gospel Apostle Paul preached. I have been accused of the same thing and for me this confirms that, I am preaching the same gospel as Apostle Paul.
The truth is that the modern-day Christian church is again saying some of these elements of the gospel that Jesus died for our sins, but tacking onto it that God only answers your prayers proportional to your goodness and holiness. That is wrong. That is not the gospel.
We need to have a true revelation of the grace of God and its impact in our daily walk with the Lord.
Paul told the church in Rome that where sin abounds so much more does the grace of God. It isn’t the depth or amount of sin that is the problem in the world, but failing to see grace is far greater and more powerful than any amount of sin.
“Moreover, the law entered that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20).
Paul was writing to Jewish Christians who had mistakenly thought that faith in Christ alone was not enough to produce justification. They thought one also had to fulfil a minimum standard of holiness by complying with certain commands of the Old Testament law. That’s what occasioned Paul’s whole teaching on justification by faith.
Paul had so conclusively proven justification by faith in Christ alone that he knew the legalistic Jews were wondering, “So, what was the purpose of the law?” He stated that purpose in this verse. The law was given to make sin increase, or super-abound.
The purpose of the law was not to strengthen us in our battle against sin, but to strengthen sin in its battle against us. Sin had already beaten us; we didn’t know it. The law brought that realisation to us so that we would quit trusting in ourselves and call out to God for salvation.
So, the law made sin and all its devastating effects abound, but God’s grace abounded even more. The law gave sin so much dominion against us that the grace of God is the only way out.
Paul also teaches that the knowledge and experience of God’s grace in our lives gives us the power to resist sin. This is contrary to the school of thought which says grace “gives people licence to sin”, as if one needs a licence to sin.
“It teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12).
When you study Paul’s life, you realise what he wrote to Titus wasn’t theory but the truth he personally lived out. He writes Timothy and tells him he (Paul) had been the worst of all sinners.
“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’— and I am the worst of them all” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Probably one of the most overlooked New Testament passages in my view is Paul’s testimony about his salvation experience. We all know what happened to him on the road to Damascus in Acts Chapter 9, but Paul gives us his understanding of that day, as he shares with Titus.
“For we too once were foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various sinful desires and pleasures, spending and wasting our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour and His love for mankind appeared [in human form as the man, Jesus Christ], He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we have done, but because of His own compassion and mercy, by the cleansing of the new birth (spiritual transformation, regeneration) and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out richly upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that we would be justified [made free of the guilt of sin] by His [compassionate, undeserved] grace, and that we would be [acknowledged as acceptable to Him and] made heirs of eternal life [actually experiencing it] according to our hope (His guarantee)” (Titus 3:3-7, AMP).
Here is the amazing part: God pours out His love, kindness, and mercy on someone controlled by his lust and hate and who is a murderer.
Paul didn’t repent first to get God to love Him. He repented because he experienced God’s love, mercy, and kindness while he was a killer, filled with and driven by lust and hatred. No one knows better than Paul the power of God’s grace. Maybe sin isn’t the problem after all. Maybe the church world is suffering from ignorance about the power available in God’s grace?
Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @dougmamvura