Friday, March 3, 2017

Grace, Faith and Glory, Part 2

And here's Part 2 of Robert's article "Grace, Faith and Glory."  I personally found this article very convicting: it's all too easy to allow "grace" to mean "don't worry about it." These articles have brought to my own conscience that we are to walk worthy of the calling. Thank you, Robert, for your contributions here and in various comment sections!

Romans 1:17 ‘for righteousness of God is revealed therein, on the principle of faith, to faith: according as it is written, but the just shall live by faith’.

As we read Romans chapter one, we are looking over the shoulder of Paul and viewing his notes on what he intended to preach when he arrived at Rome. This is the standard for all gospel preaching:
  • The Son of God
  • The power of God
  • The righteousness of God
  • The wrath of God
The gospel reveals that God is no longer demanding righteousness from men: God provides His righteousness through the death of His Son. The law said, ‘do’: God says, ‘it is done’. And should someone say, I could not maintain such a life, I would always make mistakes and let God down, there is also given to us the power of God. The gospel brings the power of resurrection (v.4) and the power of creation (v.20) into a believer’s life. God gives us a new life and a new world in which to enjoy it!

Defining faith is difficult. Paul speaks about the ‘obedience of faith’ (v.5). When revelation is given to man, there are objections made immediately by his sinful nature. John 6 is the greatest demonstration of this – note the expressions, ‘Jesus said to them’; ‘they said to Him’. The heart of man always opposes Divine revelation. All who received the righteousness of God came to a point in their experience where they obeyed the truth that was being revealed to them. Faith then is the end of all internal argument, all debate and discussion.

The starting point for us all was the process of God revealing His word, then for a time we argued against it, or could not understand it, until we were brought by His grace and His Spirit to see that it was the truth and we obeyed and believed. This is the principle of faith to faith. So, the pathway of the believer is really a repetition of that first experience with God. He continues to reveal His truth to us and we find ourselves making objections and excuses as to why we do not need to obey. Then, the grace of God empowers us to see that not only is this the truth but that we can accept this truth and live it out by His grace. Faith to faith remains the governing principle of our lives – ‘the just shall live by faith’ (v.17).

The quotation from Habakkuk is not exact. He wrote, ‘but the just shall live by his faith’, for faith in his day was a very lonely experience. It was not meant to be for us. Paul was looking forward to visiting Rome and meeting the saints ‘that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.’ (v.12) Satan has long understood that the mutual faith of saints needs to be attacked and he brings us into isolation wherever he can. Paul was given an ‘abundance of revelations’ but he recognised that the faith was far too vast for one individual to enjoy. We need each other in the pathway of faith.

Ephesians 3:17,18 ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height’.


HandWrittenWord said...

Great observation regarding Habakkuk 2:4. There is also a clause in this verse before the part that Paul quoted. The full verse is:

Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him;
but the just shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4)

The life of faith is the antithesis of the life of pride.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
that no flesh should glory in His presence.
But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God -- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption -- that, as it is written,
"He who glories, let him glory in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

How indescribably grateful I am that God in His grace has chosen me, seeing as how, in the natural, I am most definitely neither wise nor mighty nor noble...

Susan said...

I am also grateful to be His by 'grace' through 'faith' and for the fellowship found here.
I believe the Lord brings some of us into isolation for a time then in His prefect way and time provides genuine fellowship.

Robert said...

HandWrittenWord - a brother used to say to me, 'not many' but it does not say 'not any'. JND, Lady Powerscourt, GV Wigram and others were wise and noble people who proved a great blessing. Yet, as you say, all advances in spirituality are linked with humility. It is the opening thought of Matthew 18.

Susan - John 6 begins with 5000 men and ends with 11. True fellowship is reached when people ask, Lord to whom shall we go?

Susan said...

Robert - You are a very wise man.
James 3:17

HandWrittenWord said...

Robert -

Regarding "not many" vs. "not any", I totally agree, of course. My closing statement above was speaking strictly for myself!

More generally, illustrating the natural/spiritual, law/grace dichotomy:

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells... (Romans 7:14)

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)

The centurion Cornelius, prior to his conversion, was described as a "devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always." (Acts 10:2)

Matthew the tax collector (for example), prior to his conversion, would not have been described in any such fashion as Cornelius. And I most certainly would not have been! Thus I repeat:

How indescribably grateful I am that God in His grace has chosen me...

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

On the topic of faith, here's a question...

Is it our responsibility to exercise faith and believe in God? To put it simply, is faith a 'work' which we do?

My thoughts:

1. Scripture speaks of God enabling us to believe (John 6:44), but I believe it requires our personal engagement. God's drawing can either be embraced or rejected.

2. John 6:28-29 suggest that 'faith' is a 'work' in some sense, but certainly not a work of the law.

What do you think?

Robert said...

Without anticipating Mark's reply, I dont think that faith is ever described as a work.

My view of John 6:29 is that the Lord is opening up the discussion by throwing back to the Jews their own words. They asked about what they could do and he effectively replied, believe. But as the discussion continues, it is revealed that they do not believe (v.36). Then the fundamental problem is explained - no man can come unto me except the Father which hath sent me draw him. Man has responsibility to believe but inability to come to Christ apart from the work of the Father (v.44) and the Spirit (v.63)

Susan said...

Thank you Robert for your comment while waiting to hear from Mark.
Faith is a gift from God

"Ephesians 2:8-9. 'For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.'

"Now as to the passage in Ephesians 2, it is very simple. What is said of the neuter is this: the adversaries of this truth say the [Greek] "that" cannot agree with "faith," because the latter is feminine; but in the same way it cannot agree with "grace" because it is [also] feminine. Then they say, "It is true, but it agrees with the whole thing, salvation; but this has [makes] no sense. "By grace ye are saved through faith, and that (this salvation) not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Certainly salvation by grace is not of ourselves, otherwise it would not be grace--impossible to suppose that grace is of myself, so that in this case "and that" has no meaning. But it may well be supposed that faith is of ourselves, as you say; therefore when he has said that it is by faith he adds, "and that, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." In short, by true faith we have life; we are children of God; but this is so because we are born of the Spirit, who works in us, and produces faith when we are begotten of God by His own will. To be begotten of God is by His operation, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit; but seeing that it is by the word, and by means of faith (the Spirit gives to the word the divine power which produces life, as the incorruptible seed of the living God enduring forever), the word of God becomes the revelation of His Son in us, and Christ thus received is our life."

JND 1879. Letters, Vol. 2, page 480.

Robert said...

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Hence they misapply the Lord's exhortation, "Work not for the food that perisheth, but for the food that abideth unto life eternal," and infer their own capacity to do something acceptable to God. "They said therefore to Him, What should we do that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He sent." Jesus is the object of faith. To believe on Him is the only work for a sinful man, if it is to be called a work. It is truly God's work, for man trusts it not, and refuses to confide in Him for eternal life. He would rather trust to his own wretched performance, or his own miserable experience-anything rather than to Jesus only. But God will not allow men to mix up self with Jesus, whether it be a fancied good self or a confessedly evil self. It is the Son of man Whom the Father sealed, and Him only can He accept as the ground of the sinner's approach to God, Him only does He command as the food that abides to life eternal.

Wm Kelly Exposition of the Gospel of John

Susan said...

Hebrews 12:2 says Christ is the author and perfecter of faith

clumsy ox said...

I'm sorry to take so long to reply: I've been out sick and entirely useless for several days.

Romans and Galatians both contrast "works" and "faith". Romans 4:5 in particular says God justifies the one who "does not work, but believes". That seems pretty conclusively to indicate faith is in a different category from works.

The passage in John 6 is particularly interesting: it certainly clarifies that eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking His blood are not meant to be taken literally: those would be works, but Christ here insists the only "work" that pleases God is believing.

I do notice that we keep treating faith like a work, though. I have no idea how many gospel messages I've heard where people are urged to believe: certainly that's using the language of works, treating faith like it's something people must do to earn forgiveness. Interestingly, that seems most common among people who believe in free will and insist that faith is absolutely not a work.

It seems to me what Romans 4:5 describes is someone who hears God's word and says, "OK". It's not really what the person believes, but Whom the person believes. God offers justification to anyone who simply believes Him.

Now, I do believe that even faith is a work of God in our hearts. I do believe that faith is the result of new birth, not the other way around. But those discussions cloud an otherwise very simple issue: God freely forgives anyone who simply believes Him.

So no, I don't believe faith is a work, but we seem to want to treat it that way. We just can't accept that we have nothing to offer God.

Susan said...

Great to hear from you, Mark. Hope you're feeling better soon!
You said " I do believe that faith is the result of new birth, not the other way around."

I believe what Huebner says:
"Arminians will say that faith is first, meaning a human faith, not a divinely implanted faith. The Calvinist will say that regeneration precedes faith. Neither is true. God implants both faith and a new nature simultaneously--through the instrumentality of His Word used by the Spirit of God acting on the person." RAH

HandWrittenWord said...

In His Word God speaks the Truth. He speaks only the Truth.

Jesus our Lord said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

In His Word God speaks the Truth. He speaks only the Truth.
Those who are granted eyes to see and ears to hear AGREE WITH HIM...

Therefore I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way. (Psalm 119:128)

I agree with Him. How can I not?

Robert said...

HandWrittenWord - Those who are granted eyes to see and ears to hear AGREE WITH HIM. To me this is the heart of the matter.

Mark - it seems to me that present day evangelism has taken up 'believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved' as pattern for addressing all men. These words were spoken to a man who had just survived an earthquake and been prevented from comitting suicide! Surely the norm of evangelism is to see the Lord open the hearts of people, like Lydia.

The work of seeking the lost, like the work of saving them, is in reality a Divine undertaking. It is distinctly stated that the Son of Man is come to seek. Thus, He is again pictured in the Parable of the Lost Sheep: " When He hath found it. He layeth it upon His shoulders, rejoicing." It is the 'goodness of God that leadeth to repentance',and the whole undertaking of finding lost men is but 'the power of God unto salvation'; for no human effort or service can be effectual apart from the power of God. Seeking the lost is more than a mere attempt to locate unsaved men, for they are present on every hand. The term 'seeking the lost', therefore, suggests a Divine preparation of the unsaved that will bring them into adjustment with the necessary conditions of salvation.

True Evangelism by Lewis Sperry Chafer

Susan said...

Like Lydia, God opens our heart to respond to the Gospel!
Grace and saving faith all proceed from God.

What amazing "grace, faith and glory"!

HandWrittenWord said...

Robert - "Seeking the lost is more than a mere attempt to locate unsaved men, for they are present on every hand. The term 'seeking the lost', therefore, suggests a Divine preparation of the unsaved that will bring them into adjustment with the necessary conditions of salvation."

Great insight from Chafer! Thanks for the quote.

It it written in the prophets, "And they shall all be taught of God." Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. (John 6:45)

Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, "it was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.
For so the Lord has commanded us:
'I have set you to be a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'"
Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:47-48)

Susan said...

"While faith must be divinely inwrought, it is ever increasing as the knowledge of God and experience in His fellowship advances." L. S. Chafer