Monday, May 24, 2010

Grace Teaching Us

By J. Strombeck

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works." Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

In the above passage, the teaching work of grace is emphasized. In the original text the meaning is: "to train up a child, to chasten, to instruct, to teach." The same word in Hebrews 12:6, 7,10 is translated by some form of the word chasten.

Thus when grace teaches, it does more than impart knowledge as an instructor. It teaches in the sense that wise parents train and discipline children. This must first of all be in love, and not by threatenings. It is done by pointing out that which is good and helpful and warning against that which is wrong and destructive.

It may mean withholding things that are greatly desired; but it also means giving encouragement, both by word and by actual help, in difficult times and in failures. Moreover, it includes chastening when necessary and this, as in Hebrews 12:6, may partake of the nature of scourging. But it never means forsaking the child.

All impartation of spiritual truth, all instruction, all reproof, all admonition, all exhortation, and all chastening are elements of the discipline by grace.

There is a false idea, a prevalent one, that God's law teaches men how to live godly lives. Does not the law set forth high standards of moral living that man may know how to live pleasing unto God? Not only unsaved men hold this view, but a vast majority of believers, in a greater or less degree, consent to it. This view is not in harmony with the passage under consideration.

Certainly, unsaved men are not taught righteousness by the law. If that were the purpose of the law, then it would have been one of the most colossal failures of all of God's economy, for it is said that by the law every mouth is stopped and all the world is guilty before God (Rom. 3:19). Not one man has learned godliness by the precepts of the law.

But was not the Mosaic Law given to God's people, Israel, to teach them the conduct He required of them? True, but in giving the law God also with it provided sacrifices as a ground for extending mercy when they broke the law. This proves that God knew that the law could not so teach righteousness as to produce godly living.

Two errors had crept into the Galatian church. The one of these was that the justified believer is made perfect by keeping the law. Had this contention been true, it might rightly be said that the law is the teacher of godliness, but Paul in contending against this error wrote:

"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Gal. 3:24, 25).

Notice, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ. In other words, it is by the law and the failure to fulfill its demands that man is brought to Christ, who is the source of grace. When that has been done there is no further need for the law as a schoolmaster.

Another statement definitely affirms that the law is not a teacher of godliness. It is:

"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14).

By inference he who is under the law is dominated or ruled by sin. From this it is clear that while God in the law sets forth standards of life for man, the law was not expected to produce righteousness in the lives of men. The reason is that the law merely tells men what they must do. Then it is left to man, entirely in his own strength, to do that which the law demands.

Because of man's sinful nature this is impossible. That is why the law cannot be a means of producing godliness in man. This is confirmed by the words: "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh..." (Rom. 8:3).

It is therefore fundamental to recognize that all teaching of righteous living, to be effective, must not be grounded in law, but in grace. Any appeal for godliness not related to grace is based on a false premise.

To reject the law as a teacher is not to say that there are no standards set for Christian conduct. Grace also sets standards but these are on a much higher plane. Those of the law are on a high human plane; those of grace on a divine plane.

Furthermore, grace supplies that which is needed to live according to these ideals. Of the Holy Spirit, who is a gift of God's grace, Jesus said: "He will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). He is not merely a signpost that points to high ideals. He is a divine Person dwelling in the believer to guide into "all truth." This is something entirely unknown to the law.

Jesus said: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). He came "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

The grace which came by Him gives spiritual life; also, by teaching, it makes that life more abundant. Paul wrote to the Philippians: "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you ... being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:3, 6).

The beginning of the work was saved by grace; the performance of it is disciplined by grace. God never saves a person and then leaves him to himself to finish the good work. He Himself perfects that which He has begun. Grace is just as important, it is just as much needed, and is equally provided for both [beginning and finishing].

How wonderful it is to know that the same grace, the same loving-kindness of God, which sent His Son to the cross and brought salvation, also disciplines and perfects that life which is born of God!

Source: Excerpts from J. Strombeck, Disciplined by Grace (Chicago: Moody Press)

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