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The God of All Grace
By David A. DePra
But the God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet 5:5-11)
I want to look at a phrase from this passage written by the apostle Peter: The God of all grace. That is quite a statement about God. And in that statement, especially in the context of this passage, we see much Truth Ė not only about God, but also about US.
Grace has been rightly defined as, "the unmerited favor of God." But once we see that God is, "the God of all grace," we see that grace isnít merely a THING that God dishes out once in a while. Rather, GRACE defines God Himself. He is the God of all grace Ė that is, grace is the nature of God.
Now, what this tells us is pretty amazing. It tells us that God ALWAYS has the attitude of unmerited favor towards every one of us. Always. In other words, God is not subject to moods Ė in a good mood one day, and in a bad mood the next. But more importantly, God does not change His heart towards us Ė from grace to something else Ė based on our conduct. No. Godís attitude is always GRACE Ė no matter what our attitude is, and no matter our conduct.
This is where the red flags go up in some peopleís minds. They say, "Well, if Godís attitude is always that of grace towards us, then we can sin because grace abounds!" Christians have always had a problem with the Truth of grace. Some have no trouble believing we are saved, "by grace through faith," but then AFTER we are saved, they have much trouble believing that it is possible to live by the same Truth. So having been saved, "by grace through faith," many live, "by faith in their works."
The fact is, if I have seen the grace of God, and have been brought to the place where I actually embrace it, then the result IN ME is not going to be that, "I sin because grace abounds." Never. Indeed, if I am using the grace of God as a license to sin then it is evidence that I have never seen grace or embraced it. What I have probably done is developed a self-serving religion which preaches the DOCTRINE of grace, but which is likely the result of having never been converted to begin with.
Actually, Paul asked the very question: "Shall we continue in sin because grace abounds?" (see Romans 6:1) If you read his teaching, especially in context, you will see that there is never a question in the mind of Paul as to whether grace DOES abound. No. Grace does abound Ė even when we sin. That is precisely why he asks the question Ė shall we continue IN sin because grace abounds? In short, Paul is saying, "Grace always abounds because grace is never based on our works. Therefore grace abounds when we obey, and grace abounds when we sin. But Ė are we to deliberately continue in sin BECAUSE grace abounds?"
Paul answers his own question: "God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Rom. 6:2) Now take note: WHY does Paul say we ought not, "continue in sin because grace abounds?" Does he say, "because God will punish us if we do?" No. Does he say that we should not continue in sin because grace abounds, "because grace really wonít abound?" No. Paul gives an answer that you donít often hear preached. He says, "God forbid that we continue in sin because grace abounds! Why? Because HE THAT IS DEAD TO SIN must no longer live IN sin."
Get that. According to Paul, you and I are DEAD TO SIN Ė that is, we have been set free from the power of sin. We have NOT been set free from the presence of sin, or from the possibility of sin. But because we have been, "planted together," with Christ in His death and resurrection, (see Rom. 6:5), we are DEAD to the power of sin. This is the primary teaching of Romans 6 through 8. Thus, we do not have to sin. This is WHY we ought not, "continue in sin because grace abounds."
Actually, there are a number of Truths attached to this answer Paul gives. First of all, we should not continue in sin Ė because we are freed from the power of sin. To continue IN sin because we know grace abounds is equal to turning our back on freedom from the power of sin, and making a license out of grace. No. As God opens our eyes to the Truth of our freedom from sin Ė and it is a process Ė we must move forward into freedom.
But there is another reason why we must not continue in sin because we know grace abounds even if we sin. Think about it. When you came to Christ, what did you do about sin? Well, you renounced it. You repented of sin. You committed yourself to a journey that would take you OUT of bondage to sin, to the place of freedom FROM sin. How then, could you turn around and, "continue in sin because grace abounds?"
Paul is, of course, not talking about sins that, shall we say, we cannot help right now. No. He talks about those in Romans 7. We will always be beset with sins that seem to get the best of us. But this does not mean that we resign ourselves to bondage to them. No. That would be the sin of unbelief. Rather, we are to hand ourselves over to God that He might do whatever it takes to bring us to freedom. If we don't, even though we may not be able to help our sin, we ARE, "sinning because grace abounds." We are saying, "God tells me I am dead to sin, and free from itís power. But I sure donít seem to be free of itís power. So I guess Iíll just continue in this sin, because after all, Godís grace abounds."
What we see in this is that FAITH in the Cross of Jesus Christ is something we must continue to live in all of our lives. When God brings to our consciousness various sin, and bondages, and shows us our need for freedom, we must put our faith in the power of the Cross, and hand ourselves over to Him, as I said, for whatever it takes to get free. The alternative to this would be to REFUSE TO BELIEVE that the Cross is sufficient, and to settle for bondage.
These kinds of choices really do make or break our Christian life. If God has shown me that I am living in sin Ė or that I am been walking in an attitude of sin or unbelief Ė all He asks me to do, and all I can do, is give MYSELF TO HIM. This doesnít mean that if I can obey Him on some point that I should not. No, I must obey in everyway that I have the power to obey. I must not make provision for the flesh, and I must remove myself from ungodly situations. But sin is found in the heart Ė it is of my flesh. Sometimes having done all, I can still be gripped by it. For those areas, I need to hand myself over to Him Ė and I must do this by placing all of my faith in the Cross of Jesus Christ, and in the power of His resurrection.
So are we to, "continue in sin because we know grace abounds?" God forbid. We must not. Why? Because through Christ we are dead to sin. Therefore HOW can we Ė if we really believe and WANT to be free from sin Ė how can we continue to live in sin without turning ourselves wholeheartedly to God for the freedom Christ has won?
Well, we are really talking here about law and grace, arenít we? However, in order to get a firm grasp upon the Truth that God is THE GOD OF ALL GRACE, we needed to get it firmly established that despite the fact that God ALWAYS has an attitude of grace towards us, that this is not a license to sin. An no one who has truly received the grace of God will deliberately turn grace into license.
The Finality of the Redemption
The grace of God is based on a great Truth: The finality of the Redemption. It is because it cost Christ everything, that grace is free. It is because IT IS FINISHED in Christ, that we donít have to finish it. It is because, in Christ, we are dead to sin, that we can walk in freedom from sin. Without the finality of the Cross, there could be no real grace of God for us.
What this means is that instead of continually asking God to forgive us, we ought to continually walk in the Truth that we ARE forgiven. Really, this is why we are to CONFESS sin Ė not to GET forgiven, but to confess that, in Christ, we ARE forgiven.
Think about it. If you are NOT forgiven until you confess a sin, then until you confess it, you are an, "unforgiven Christian." But there is no such thing. In fact, if you are a Christian, you GOT THAT WAY by becoming fully forgiven for all sin. In short, Christians are not merely people whose sins are forgiven. Rather, we are FORGIVEN PEOPLE. And in Christ, there is no way to become eternally UNFORGIVEN.
But some Christians wonít believe this. Some still think that if I say that forgiveness for all sin is totally finished and in place for me, that this will mean that I will sin because I know forgiveness abounds. So we are back to the same argument again. But the real Truth is, if I have truly embraced the forgiveness of God Ė which is what it means to embrace the grace of God Ė then it is ONLY BECAUSE I SEE IT IS MY ONLY HOPE. It is only because I see my need, am repenting, and want to get free. Therefore, I am not going to use forgiveness as a license. Rather, it is going to be my passport to freedom.
If Christianity were merely a religion, or a list of doctrines to believe in, this would not be so. In that case, people would sin because they know grace abounds Ė indeed, if I am doing that, it is only because my Christianity is nothing more than a religion to me, or a list of teachings. But REAL Christianity is CHRIST IN ME. It is a radical conversion and a new birth. It is a passing from death to life. It is a deliverance out of sin into life. Thus, the heart attitude of one who has seen the Truth will NOT be to sin because grace abounds. Rather, it will be to continually desire freedom from sin, and to want to know Jesus Christ.
Have we realized that forgiveness is finished? It sure is. The forgiveness of God for sin is as finished and as complete as is the DEATH OF JESUS that paid for it! Wrap your mind around that Truth. God has finished doing all the forgiving He is going to do Ė and His forgiveness is complete for YOU. The call upon you, if you are not saved, is to repent of NOT receiving His forgiveness, and then TO receive it. And the call upon you, if you are saved, is to repent of not believing this Truth, and then for you to begin believing.
Right now, you and I are as forgiven in Christ Ė if we have received Him Ė we are as forgiven in Christ as we are ever going to be. Christ is done dying, and so God is done forgiving. We need to believe Ė and then, of course, IF we believe, we need to begin walking in obedience to this Truth.
The God of all grace has accomplished the justification of His grace through His Son Jesus Christ. Because Christ paid for all, God can freely give all Ė to us.
I want to make mention of one teaching that is spreading more and more through the Body of Christ today Ė that of generational curses. It is a prime example of how Christian teaching can completely deny the finality of the Cross, and lead many astray into unbelief. Through this teaching, we are told that if somewhere in our ancestry Satan has been given a legal right to curse our family, that today WE might still be under that curse. We are likewise being told that if anyone in our ancestry ever involved themselves with the occult, that WE might still be under the effects of that sin. Furthermore, this teaching has been expanded to account for almost all of the hang-ups, fears, personality deficiencies, and emotional problems that Christians have. Christians are being told that many of their problems are attributable to a generational curse, and that the only solution is through a deliverance session.
Let me say it straight: This teaching is error. Especially for Christians. I realize that there are problems in each one of us that can be traced to our upbringing, our environment, and even to some of those things I mentioned above. But everyone of us were born IN ADAM! What would we expect to come out of THAT creation Ė out of THAT, "generation?" I guarantee you that there is NOTHING in Adam that is good. But I also guarantee you that, "generation of Adam," has, in fact, been pronounced completely dead IN CHRIST. So, for a Christian, if you are a new creation, you are no longer in Adam, but in Christ. And if you are IN CHRIST, you are a new creation. Old things have passed away, and all things are become new. (see II Cor. 5:17) That includes any supposed, "generational curse." It was cut off by the Cross when you died in Christ and were raised in Him.
So why do some Christians continue to be plagued by what seems to be, "generational curses?" And why do some go for deliverance, and seem to get it? Well, for the same reason that Christians continue in sin, even though they are dead to sin, and for the same reason that some go for prayer to be delivered from those sins. Sorry Ė it is because WE DO NOT BELIEVE.
Read Romans 6. Indeed, read the New Testament. The work of Jesus Christ on the Cross was for ALL SIN. And that work is FINISHED. Thus, you donít have even one sin, nor is there anything about your old man in Adam, that was not put upon Jesus on the Cross. Paul says, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin." (Rom 6:6-7) This is not maybe, perhaps, or something that is, "out there," for us to achieve. No. This is the finality of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
What this means is that once you discover a sin in your life, you donít need to be delivered. What you need is to SEE and BELIEVE that you have already been delivered by the Cross. What? Do we think that the moment we see our sin that Jesus somehow gets back up on the Cross and dies all over again for that sin? No. He already died for it Ė we just didnít see the sin, or perhaps didnít see that He did die for it. But now we do. So what do we do at that point? Ask for deliverance? No. Ask that God may open our eyes all the more to the Truth of the Cross and the fact that we HAVE BEEN delivered!
If you want to be delivered Ė Iíll tell you how to pray. Pray that God would show you the Truth of the finality of the Redemption. Then you will see that you always were delivered Ė but you were blind to it. Or you were too set in your sin and self-will to be able to see it. Either way, God has NO deliverance to offer you other than the complete deliverance that was obtained through His Son Ė two-thousand years ago.
What is remarkable about this, "generational curse," teaching is that if you go to someone because you think you need to be delivered, they will probably plead the Blood of Jesus for you. In other words, they will appeal to the very power that has always been there! And if you begin to put your faith in the Blood, you may experience some freedom. But it is not because Christ has delivered you NOW in a way that was not possible before. Rather, it is because you may have had your eyes opened to your unbelief Ė and now you see that the Cross has cut off everything of the old creation.
In short, our problem is never a generational curse. We donít need deliverance from a generational curse. We need deliverance from UNBELIEF. We donít see, and we donít believe. And this would not be the case if people were teaching the finality of the Cross.
Now, if, as you have read everything written to this point, you have noticed something, you are not alone. Most Christians would agree with everything Iíve said so far Ė they would agree that it is Biblical, and that it is fundamental Christian doctrine. If you donít believe that, then you need to get that straight. You wonít get far otherwise. But even if you do agree with the teaching thus far, you may be able to testify to the fact that often these Truths do not seem to work in practical living.
What do I mean by that? Well, for example, the Bible says that there is NO condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That is also the result of the finality of the Cross, and the result of the finality of Godís forgiveness for all sin. But even if you believe that verse Ė have it memorized and know the doctrine Ė the question is whether you continue to live under condemnation? If you do, then there is something wrong, isnít there?
What is wrong is that you donít believe. That is the problem Ė I guarantee it. But wait. You DO believe. You agree with the Truth. But there is still something wrong. Condemnation seems to have itís way with you Ė at least often enough to be a big problem. Why?
Here we see that there is a big difference between agreeing with the Truth, and being constituted for the Truth. It is the difference between reading an epistle, and BEING ONE. It is the difference between learning about the Truth, and knowing the Truth. It is the difference between living in the doctrine of Godís grace Ė the difference between that Ė and having the grace of God live in ME.
If you are a Christian, Christ is in you. That is WHY you are a Christian, have eternal life, and possess any Truth at all. Christ is in you. But are you constituted or constructed in a way that is compatible with Christ? Do you just automatically function in harmony with Him? Well, I think we know that the answer is NO Ė even if we want to be. In fact, much of the NT is teaching on the fact that the natural man is at enmity with God, that the flesh wars against the Spirit, and that we are all in a process of growing in Christ.
But what does it really mean, "to grow in Christ?" This is so vital to see. Often we think that it means that God wants to decorate us with Jesus Ė to sort of ADD TO US the character of Christ Ė i.e., make us better people. Others think that God wants to, "release the greatness that is in us." You hear a lot about that today. Still others think that God wants to instill in us such a sense of self-hatred and depression about ourselves that we somehow pop out of that condition as selfless human beings. And then finally, there are those who think that the way to grow in Christ is by lining up a big list of Bible principles and following them. Nope. Wrong on all counts.
The way to, "grow in Christ," is FIRST, by being reduced in our SELF. But while this may seem quite negative at times, and the way we react to it may seem to make us MORE focused on ourselves, it is not negative, nor is it self-centered. It is really deliverance from a terrible blindness and condition. The NORMAL condition for which God made man was that he be God-centered. The ABNORMAL condition, in Adam, is that man be SELF centered. But because we are born in Adam, what is abnormal to God will seem normal to us. And what is normal to God will seem abnormal to us. Thus, if we donít understand what God is doing with us, we may think that what is happening to us is BAD. After all, reduction and depletion, and the work of the Cross will not please the SELF life. It will crucify it. And yet, it is through this work that we will come to the place where we will experience the freedom that Christ has already one for us.
Much Christian teaching today is saying that God wants to enhance SELF. The gospel of self-esteem, and the gospel of, "your best life now," is everywhere. And it sells. Millions love it because, to them, it is NORMAL. It gives the SELF want it wants. And because the Truth of the Cross Ė the fact that it is a positive deliverance from all that ails us Ė is not taught, so many are being deceived by this modern version of the old doctrine of Satan.
But man does need to be reduced and depleted of SELF. Why? So that we might freely receive what God has freely given. Does that surprise you? Well, it is true. The fact is, the most difficult thing in this world for even a child of God is for us to get to the place where we just believe God and freely receive what He has always been holding out to us.
Why is that difficult for us? Unbelief. First of all, we donít really believe we are so bad that we need a free gift. We may not put it that way, but it is true. Therefore, we come to God on another basis Ė or we donít come at all, because we donít think we deserve to. Either way, we will not get far in seeing and embracing the grace of God.
You see, grace is totally free. But if I am not constituted for the free grace of God, it will have little impact in my life. I wonít even see it. Iíll be too busy trying to earn it, or too busy thinking Iíve failed to earn it. I simply WONíT BELIEVE Ė I wonít believe that it is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Grace is not a THING Ė it is not a THING God gives us. So what is grace? Well, grace I, well Ė grace is God. He is the God of all grace. Thus, rather than say God gives us a THING called grace, we need to see that God gives us HIMSELF.
Grace is a relationship word. God embodies all grace. Thus, if we are in a relationship with God, His attitude towards us is eternally that of unmerited favor Ė of grace. But once we recognize that grace speaks of a relationship with God, it begins to tell us more about the problem we have seeing grace, and it tells us much about the solution.
Notice: I am in a relationship with One whose continual attitude towards me is unmerited favor. But obviously, only unto HIS ends, and unto my benefit. Godís unmerited favor towards me could hardly include Him giving me license to sin, or affirming ungodliness. No. Godís unmerited favor is FAVOR as defined by God Ė unto life, Truth, completeness in Christ, and unto all that will further His eternal purposes for me. But suppose I am not geared to that? Suppose Iím completely BLIND to it? Actually, we donít need to suppose. We are totally unfit for Godís unmerited favor. This is what is wrong with us.
So what is the solution? Well, if we are unfit for God, the solution is to make us fit for God. But this requires that we begin to see the Truth. And then walk in it.
What Truth? Well, if we are talking about the grace of God, and our need to come into harmony with the God of all grace, then we are going to have to see TWO things with regards to grace: First, our complete inability to earn it. Second, Godís complete willingness to give it.
The first need, to see that we cannot earn grace, is why we need to be reduced. You and I still think that we have something to offer God. Or that God wants us to have something. So God has to reduce us to the point where we KNOW we cannot merit Godís unmerited favor!
I once knew a guy who said that he would not ask God to forgive him for his sins because his sins were so bad. Some Christian people thought that this was a good thing! Good grief. The fact is, we never stand aloof from the forgiveness of God because we think our sins are so bad. We stand aloof because we donít see how bad they really are! For if we really saw our sins as they are, we would see how bad WE are, and how needy WE are. And we would see that our only hope is the free gift of Godís grace in Jesus Christ.
Iíve also known many Christians who simply coast through life, comfortable with themselves, who go to church, believe in Bible doctrine, and who are nice to everyone. But they have no apparent sense of need. They believe in the doctrine of grace, even profess it, but donít really believe that they are so bad that they need grace.
If there is one thing we all need to see it is this: We donít simply need grace because of some terrible SINS we have committed. No. We need the grace of God because we have been BORN IN ADAM Ė born in sin. Jesus came to die FOR sin. But He also died to deliver us from SIN ITSELF.
What this means is that even if you have never committed any really evil sins, you still need the deliverance of the Cross. Why? Because in Adam, you have NO LIFE in you Ė for that you must come to the Cross, and then be raised to newness of life.
There is an entire separate teaching here, but we must see that we come to Christ Ė not just for forgiveness for sin Ė but for LIFE. And that LIFE comes only if we embrace the Cross that was the death of our old man of sin, and are raised in Him.
But the point is this: Whether I am guilty of great sins, or am merely guilty of being comfortable in Adam, I am not going to embrace the grace of God unless I am brought to see my condition of utter helplessness. You cannot embrace a free gift Ė and value it Ė unless you see you have nothing to merit it. Thus, God must reduce us to where we will embrace it.
If I set up a booth on Main Street USA, and began to hand out $100 bills, free of charge, everyone would line up -- including those who didnít need the money. But in the end, who would value the free gift? Those who desperately DID need the money. Those who did not need it would take the gift, but it would have little value to them. It is like this with the grace of God Ė grace is always offered. But until we are desperate enough, we wonít value it very much. Grace will be of no effect, or impact to us.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Gal 5:4)
What we see here is that The God of all grace is the eternal constant. He never changes. His eternal heart towards us is grace. But if we arenít desperate enough, we may know the doctrine of grace, and say it is free, and even say we take it. But we wonít value it. We CANíT value it. So how can we walk very far in a relationship with The God of all grace? We wonít be on the right basis.
So much of the Christian life is a matter of God adjusting us down to where He can freely give to us what He wants to freely give us. He cannot give it to us before that, because we would not value it, not know it, or we would take ownership over it to our own hurt. WE must change Ė and be made fit for God.
So how does God deal with us so that we will value His grace? One way is to convict us on increasing levels of sin and unbelief. This is why when we are moving on with God it may seem that we are getting WORSE, and not better. It may be that we are simply seeing what God has always seen about ourselves, and our sense of self-righteousness is being shattered. But the goal is to establish us in GRACE Ė and to set us free from faith in ourselves.
Another way is to show us how good God really is. I think this happens parallel to our seeing our helplessness. The Bible says that Godís goodness leads us to repentance. This shows the two sides to the same coin. We must see that God is love, good, and The God of all grace. But if we see that, we are going to see how BAD we are. This isnít to keep us in a state of depression, but we MUST see how bad we are, or how needy we are, because that happens to be the TRUTH about us! It isnít a lie or a game. We really are void of all life and Truth without Christ! But if we do see how good God is, and how bad we are, the IF we respond to God Ė and that is the big IF Ė then we will repent.
I believe that the biggest source of tears when we stand before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ will be when we see how much we did not believe. We simply did not believe His grace could be that free, or that He could possibly love us that much. Instead, we chose to believe our senses, our understanding, and our perception Ė we choose to believe our interpretation of life and of circumstances, instead of God. We will see that the problem was never with God, and it was always with us. We will see that God was trying to get us to where we would just let Him be God Ė The God of all grace.
The reason I think this will happen when we stand before Christ is that it often happens NOW when we stand before Christ and come into a greater knowledge of the Truth. Time and time again it turns out that we simply did not believe. And in the end, we are even humbled because we have been convicted of that sin.
In the end, God really is The God of all grace. He is that with regards to our salvation, but He is that in our relationship with Him. The victory is won, forgiveness is final, and we are complete in Christ. This is all the product of grace. But we now must believe and obey.
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