Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Great Grace: Grace Works
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33 NKJV
We are continuing our study of His great Grace. As of late, we have been examining the role of works in light of Grace and the Finished Work. What place do works have in this New Covenant?
When it comes to works, two extremes sadly are all we really see. It is either Grace plus works equals reception of salvation, Divine favor, peace, wholeness and God's love. Or it is Grace means no work of any kind. Just do nothing. Even prayer or reading the Scriptures are self-effort or performance and legalism.
Grace is amazing. Grace is good news. It is the glad news that unworthy, lost, spiritually dead humanity has been offered a completely free gift of new life, acceptance, right standing, and peace. Grace doesn't need mankind to add to it to make it seem more appealing.
Frequently, I proclaim the good news that we are accepted by His work, not ours. We are blessed because He is faithful not because we are. We receive favor, peace and all other benefits of this redemption because He is good not because we are. This is the good news Gospel.
So then what do we do with Paul, the Apostle of Grace words in Philippians?
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; Philippians 2:12 NKJV
This passage has been used to frighten saints that if they don't work right they will forfeit their salvation. That they will lose it if they aren't found faithful. That God will test them and see them wanting and their fruit not developed. He will then be so displeased He will toss them aside. Is this the right image? Is this what Paul is conveying?
Certainly not! Remember Jesus words. He declared He would never cast us out. He said we are forever secure in His hands and the hands of the Father. This passage isn't about scaring the Saints into believing we will lose our salvation. In Him, we are eternally secure!
What Paul didn't say is work for your salvation in fear and trembling. He didn't say work out someone else's salvation with fear. This is the nagging of a parent or spouse or friend, the doom, and gloom preaching with its pointed finger. We will never see fruit produced by scaring folk into right living or nagging them and constantly reminding them how much they are always missing it.
Has Paul the Apostle of Grace abandoned the message of Grace in exchange of a mixed message of performance and achievement? Paul is consistent with his message throughout the Epistles. What then is he teaching?
I would like you to read this passage in full context. That is the only way we can fully grasp what Paul is actually saying. Philippians 2:1-15.
In full context, what is evident? Paul is addressing our outward walk. It can't mean work to achieve the blessing or favor. It is also clear that he isn't saying work for your salvation or work to maintain it. He says work out your salvation. Clearly, if it's "your salvation" then you obviously possess it and there is no indication that it is in jeopardy to be lost.
Paul is telling us to be who we are in Christ. It is not a performance based relationship. Now, this may surprise you but this phrase "work out" in the Greek means to perform, to accomplish, to achieve. To do that in which something results. Now we can't change this definition. And we can't alter the Grace Gospel. So how does this fit?
It may sound cliche, but this is the only way I can say it. It is to work out of you what has already been worked into you. This Grace has already been given. We have the very life and nature of God within us. We are perfectly remade, righteous and holy. In other words, cooperate with God and bear the fruit of this recreated heart. Now to do this we are going to have to give diligence.
This isn't performance and self-effort. This is being who He already made us. How then do we give all diligence to bear fruit? It is by devoting our time to renew our minds with His Word. It is by spending time in His presence in sweet communion and fulfilling fellowship via prayer and praise and worship and adoration of our good and loving Father. In a nutshell, it's changing our thinking from the fleshy way this World thinks and the wrong thinking inspired by the enemy.
I must emphasize, this is not the toiling, the striving, the "hamster wheel" burn out inducing self-efforts of religious duty. This is a relationship with our Father. His Grace produces an empowerment. Live in and operate out of this Grace. Spending time with the Father, reading His Word, choosing love over strife and bitterness, saying no to the flesh (that old thinking from our old nature), isn't burdensome nor is it legalistic bondage. It is the fruitful new life in Christ.
A brief note about the phrase "with fear and trembling". Is Paul teaching we need to be fearful of God? Should we be living in insecurity? No this is reverential awe of a Holy God and King who so loved us He gave His own Son. It is honoring the free gift.
In the Greek to tremble carries with it the idea of knowing the reality that, "If there is a way, I can and probably will screw this up, falter and fail. I can't do this on my own." This fear and trembling are a reverential honor of realizing our shortcomings and inability to save ourselves and putting all our trust and confidence in His faithfulness and keeping power. It is a holy awe of His Grace! Don't make light of Grace. Without Him, we could never overcome or produce any fruit, no matter the amount of discipline and diligence we possess and exercise.
In summation, Paul is wanting us to bear fruit so we can be a bright light to a Lost World. God wants us to be the light in a darkened World. This is why bearing fruit is so vital. God wants to reach the lost. As wicked as sometimes men are, God sees them as lost and desires for them to come and receive the free gift of Grace. So let's give all diligence to bearing the fruit we already have within so we can be a beacon of hope for this World.
image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net