31-07-16 THE POWER OF GRACE
THE POWER OF GRACE
By John Aldworth
2 Tim. 1:8-11: … be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. But now is made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ who hath abolished death and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
We are saved by grace, kept by grace and it is grace that will ‘lead me home’, as the good old hymn says. But are we really and truly living by grace in the meantime? We all face the risk of taking grace for granted, especially when things seem to be going well. When there is such a good outcome in the affairs of life we tend to mistakenly conclude is the result of our own efforts to do things well and not that of continuing prayer for and trust in God for his grace.
Unless we make it a daily, hourly or even more frequent practice to ask for, and thank God for, his grace, and to witness to others that the grace of Christ Jesus is the power that works in our lives we are in danger of beginning to live by another principle – that of our own works. When I’m in town looking for a hard to find parking space and I remember to thank God for his grace almost invariably I quickly find one. And in the battle to stand for truth it is God’s grace that makes the difference. We can do all we can with our own abilities but only grace can give the victory.
And the thing to grasp here is that God does want us to know victory. Eph. 6:13 tells us:
... take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
To ‘withstand’ here means to stand against any thought or practice that would deny the power of God’s grace as the very essence and source of our present life. It is why the Apostle Paul urged Timothy to ‘be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim. 2:1). To ‘stand’ having ‘done all’, means that having trusted God’s grace to be victorious we simply stand fast and confidently await the outcome. And, if we persist in standing that victory does indeed come.
Witness to that is the imprisoned Apostle Paul’s triumph in Rome in having his bonds (and the gospel) made manifest ‘in all the palace and in all other places’ (Phil. 1:13) and also ‘preaching to all the Gentiles’ and being ‘delivered out of the mouth of the lion (Nero) at his trial (2. Tim. 4:17).
To ‘stand’ also means that we ‘continue’ to trust, walk in and live by the power and salvation of grace. As Timothy was told (2 Tim. 3:14): ‘Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and has been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them’.
We were those who were (Col. 1:21-23) ‘sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled (us) in the body of his flesh to present (us) holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight, if (we) continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye have heard and which was preached to every creature under heaven, whereof I Paul am made a minister’.
It should not be hard to continue in his wonderful grace which saved and called us yet for many of us often it seems it is. Perhaps we forget just how all powerful, all sufficient God’s grace actually is. Let us consider the following verse:
2 Tim. 1:8-9: … be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
This verse teaches the important truth that by grace God saved us before He called us. This means He had already saved us before we made any move towards seeking Him. In fact the only reason we responded at all to his call was because in his grace He had already saved us. Neither our salvation nor our calling resulted from anything we did – it was all done by his grace.
Notice too that long before we drew a single breath our salvation and calling were given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. What then is the world? In a word it is enmity against God (James 4:4). When did it begin? Why, back there in the Garden of Eden when the serpent which is the devil tempted Eve and Adam to forsake living by the grace of God and live by the deathly ‘knowledge of good and evil’ instead.
But now, right now you and I as grace-saved believers have a calling that pre-dates Satan’s world which so vehemently hates God, Christ Jesus, his word the Bible and most of all his grace. This calling is the very purpose of God for us now. It is a free gift – for ‘grace’ literally means a free gift – to make us anew as the grace-formed and living-by-grace creatures that God from the first intended to mankind to be.
Let me put it another way. You see, before Adam sinned and fell choosing evil rather than good thus forfeiting his standing in holiness and grace, God preserved this calling, wiith its power of grace as the principle to live by, in the person of his Son.
At this time ‘before the world began’ God also ‘purposed in Himself’ (Eph. 1:9) to give this power of grace to those He would later baptise into the death and resurrection of His Son, thus saving them and calling them with this ‘holy calling’. So that now we are saved by the power of grace given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began’.
Christ Jesus is, of course, the beloved Son of God. But more than that He is the man declared to be God (Rom. 1:4). He is the only man to have so pleased God that He called Him ‘his beloved Son’. Full of grace and truth, He made Himself known to his Jewish people as ‘the Son of man’, meaning that He would be the first flesh and blood man since Adam to walk and live by the power of the grace of God alone.
And that, what’s more, He would secure the same high privelege to those whom later the Father would save by quickening them ‘together with Christ (by grace are ye saved)’ (Eph. 2: 5). For this reason He is not only the man born of Mary but also ‘the man Christ Jesus’ the only mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
But why in 2 Tim. 1:9 is He presented to us as Christ Jesus evidently living ‘before the world began’ when He had yet to live a holy life, die, be resurrected and ascend to glory? The answer is that, unlike us, God is not bound by time. He operates in and from eternity breaking into time in actions which have eternal, that is, everlasting effect. That is why eternal life was promised by God ‘who cannot lie … before the world began’ (Titus 1:2). It is why we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:40. It is why the Apostle Peter told Jewish believers they:
‘… were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold from your vain conversation received from your fathers but with precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world but was manifest for you in these last times.’
It is also why names were written ‘in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ (Rev. 13:8). You see, Christ not only died for all men who would live after his death but also for those who lived before. In fact God instituted salvation by grace through faith in the death of his Son before Adam sinned and brought death into the world (Rom. 5:18).
However, it is only in the dispensation of the grace of God and the mystery that the fullness of that which ‘from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God’ (Eph. 3:9) is made known. It is that man was originally created ‘by Jesus Christ’ (Eph. 3:9) to live by grace not by works. And that now, since it was revealed through the Apostle Paul, God is now through Christ making grace-saved believers once again creatures that live entirely by God’s grace just as it was ‘in the beginning’ before Adam fell.
God, you see, designed man right from the start to live, breath, stand and be holy by grace and grace alone. This in total contrast to the present world which is ‘born in sin and shaped in iniquity’ from its birth just as we are from ours. (Ps.51:5).
Grace then is the very hallmark of man as God at the first created Him to be. We know this because Jesus Christ as man is ‘full of grace and truth ‘just as He was before the world began and, as such, He is God’s beloved Son. The Apostle John says of Him (John 1: 14):
And the Word was made 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.
What did the apostles see when Jesus walked and talked with them? They saw in Jesus man holy as he was before the Fall. And now you and I, as called grace-saved believers, are being told that in Christ we are being made into the same image as He (Christ) who created us (Col. 3:10).
This is why we were ‘chosen in Him before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4), and this is why we have been made to see the ‘fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 3:9).
Note carefully here that this a both pre-Fall creation that because it has been preserved by God in Christ Jesus becomes a present reality for believers in grace. Proof of that is that the Creator of ‘all things’ mentioned here is ‘the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim. 2:5). That is, Christ here is in view as He was in glory before the world began.
Now you recall the Lord prayed prior to his death for God to give Him back the glory He had with the Father in the ‘beginning’ (John 17:5). It was to this end that He said (John 12:23) ‘The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified’. So, it is as the man who was ‘made sin for us’ (2 Cor. 5:21) that He has been glorified as God the Creator of the new creation which is ‘created in righteousness and true holiness’ (Eph. 4:24).
The completion of this new creation in you and I is described as ‘His (God’s) promise in Christ by the gospel’ (Eph. 3:6). ot only is this ‘completion’ all of grace, it is also (re)created in grace and the very gospel (good news) of it is preached only in grace by the Apostle Paul who was especially empowered by grace to do so. Thus in Eph. 7-9 we read:
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.
To be continued