The Beauty of Grace
Through the divine lens and work of grace, the righteousness of Christ is credited, imputed, or transferred to the believer and that is an amazing concept. Grace and righteousness belong to God, and through His Son, He allows humanity to be embraced by them. This scriptural reality brings greater clarity to the words of Paul, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Thus the concept of righteousness cannot be claimed out of human merit or works; it is all made possible through the providential and sacrificial work of Christ.
When exploring the concept of grace and its connecting components from a New Testament vantage-point, context and audience must be considered, for the purpose of textual harmonization. Concerning grace, passages from the Roman epistle are designed to make unequivocally distinct, the difference between the divine work of Christ and the ritualistic works of Mosaic Law. Whether the saints of the church at Rome were Jewish or Gentile, clearly they faced the issue and seduction of Old Testament Law creeping into the New Testament church. Through such a concept, there were those who wanted to mix, justify, and qualify their New Testament Christian status with what they did physically. One example of such was the practice of circumcision; certain former Old Testament Law-practicing Christians viewed themselves as more Christian if they were circumcised. Do you feel you are more Christian than another? Because of the notion of hyper-Christianity amongst certain Jewish Christians, an intentional paradigm shifting principle was illustrated by Paul. For example, he helped them come to terms with the fact that Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised (Romans 4:10b). Similarly, the work and epistle of James must be handled contextually, because his approach to faith and works was not based upon works of human merit or Mosaic Law. Without understanding that premise, the messages of Paul and James appear contradictory. Theological clarity is found when the differentiation of the works of both writers are discussed and assessed.
According to Romans 3:27 there is a law of faith that trumps a law of works. Christians are justified (able to stand before the presence of God) because of the work, sacrifice, and ransom paid by Christ. That is the only way one can be considered justified. Christ is the justifier of those who believe. The emphatic contextual premise is that belief in Christ is enough for Christians, without adding mechanical works of Mosaic Law or any form of human merit. In no way does this excuse a Christian from working in His kingdom, but at the same time a Christian is to never develop a mentality that allows him/her to believe they can work their way into heaven. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
In assessing the concept of grace, it is clearly and purely the work of God, through the deific effort of Christ at Calvary. In correlation to grace, no amount of human piety and output can save us, inclusive of the process of keeping religious practices, as exemplified by the apostles and New Testament scripture (baptism included). Baptism alone has no power to save. In response to God granting salvation to us and covering us with His grace, we are motivated to practice His commands because of the gift of justification. In churches of Christ, considerable time has been expended discussing practices of worship, but worship is simply a privilege and byproduct that comes with the covering of grace. A Christian exuberantly worships God out of a thankful response because of the underserved grace provided by God, yet, the praxis of worship does not justify a Christian.
Churches of Christ have been accused of having a works related approach to salvation, the gospel of Christ, and biblical hermeneutics. Although this position is not qualitatively true, we must be careful that there is no subliminal truth to the assertion. Grace is God’s initial love-move toward us and its embrace requires belief and faith in God (Acts 2:37-38). Human deeds do not give us a right to God’s grace or His justification. Faith and belief in God, not works, is the spark that God requires for His grace to move over our lives. Beware of the subtle notion that worship service attendance, communion every Sunday, prayer, Bible study, fasting, prayer, etc., can justify and entitle a person to receive God’s grace. It simply cannot be true. We are saved by grace through faith when the righteousness of Christ is credited to a human who believes in-faith and repents. Remember the beauty of God’s grace. You are the clay In the Potter’s Hands. God has paved a way to save and comfort you today!