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Empowering Grace Blog

"The importance of grace, part 2"

Let’s start by looking at Eph 2:8-9 — “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that (salvation is) not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” 

A great way to perceive grace is with the words PROVISION, ABILITY and HELP. God’s grace is His boundless provision; His unlimited ability; His all-powerful help to do things in our lives. 

We were saved by grace, because we believed in Jesus Christ and what He did for us. Grace is God’s part in salvation, and faith is our part — these 2 must go together. Most of us understand this simple concept of Eph 2:8-9 in one coming to Christ, but somehow, for our daily living as believers, we think that God’s simple kingdom-process changes, and we must mix in a little law from the Old Testament with His grace. What this belief-system has done is produce believers who compete with each other because of their denominations; try to outdo one another because of their “specialized” talents and abilities; and the list goes on and on until we, as the Body, have split into multiple thousands of parts. What has happened is that people are derailed from the simplicity of Eph 2:8-9, which is living by faith in God’s grace.

Paul was adamantly against the division of the Body. This is what Paul addressed in a few of his letters. This is what was happening to the church in Galatia. Leadership called “Judaizers” came to that church after Paul’s departure, and started perverting the simple message of grace — the gospel of Jesus Christ — by adding a mixture of traditions from the Jewish religion. Think about that. Here was a Gentile church, who knew nothing about the Jewish culture or its religion, who were being taught to mix Moses in with Christ (Maybe not 613 commandments and rules, but the Big 10 for sure.) This kind of message was toxic, and it was troubling the whole group (These Judaizers, by proclaiming their religious message, was producing trouble in this church — sound familiar?) Elsewhere in this letter, Paul said to them, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump”, Gal 5:9. Just a little of the law, Paul said, messes the whole “gospel-batch” up! This is because the law demands one’s effort, as grace inspires our faith and rest in Christ. So, mixing works and faith together for Christian living is like mixing fuel and water for our vehicles — they just don’t go together!

Last time, we covered Gal 1, and now we advance to chapter 2 (If you would like to see that lesson, click HERE). Here in chapter 2, Paul is continuing to tell these precious believers in Galatia about how the Lord dynamically changed him from a murderer to an asset of God’s kingdom, and how he received the message of the gospel (If you recall in chapter 1, he didn’t immediately confer with anyone about what the Lord was showing him about the gospel of grace to the Gentiles. But now in chapter 2, we see what he did next). Verses 1-5 — “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), 5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” Paul, evidently, wanted the Lord to teach him the gospel of Christ before he went to Jerusalem and communicated to them what he received (I guess it was because Paul, who was the chief of Pharisees before he came to Christ, had to UNLEARN the old ways of worship of the law, in order to learn the new way of worship of grace, and plus, he didn’t want to be influenced by the Jewish brethren; who, at the time, were mixing some Old Covenant law in with New Covenant grace, see Acts 15:28-29). Now, Paul is letting them know that the Lord showed him it was time for him to go and communicate to the leadership in Jerusalem the gospel of grace and the kind of calling that the Lord had given him (It was preaching the gospel to the Gentiles; which people, the Jews, by tradition, despised). 

Just an important side note. This event described here in Gal 2, took place in Acts 15:1-2, which shows the reason why Paul, Barnabas and Timothy went to Jerusalem. In Acts 10:9-16, we see where the Lord showed Peter a vision; explaining to him that He wasn’t partial towards nationalities. It was through this vision that Peter went to a Gentile household and preached the gospel, and saw God change them into His children. With great excitement, he told his fellow Apostles of what happened, see Acts 11:1-18. Because the Lord had prepared Peter to hear the gospel of grace and the kind of ministry Paul had to the Gentiles, he reminded his fellow Apostles of what took place in Joppa. I don’t know if they had received Paul if the Lord hadn’t prepared the hearts of Peter and the other Apostles through that vision and experience.

Picking it up in v.11, we see something interesting. Peter had come from Jerusalem to the Greek city of Antioch, where Paul noticed him bringing Jewish traditions into the Gentile assembly (Realize that these Jewish traditions were their culture). Paul says that even his ministry partner Barnabas (who was also from the Jewish culture), was carried away by Peter’s hypocrisy. Paul, knowing the damage this was causing, opposed him to his face before the entire assembly. So, can you see the boldness and the audacity that Paul displayed in preserving the purity of the message of grace? 

Looking at v.18-19 — “18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.” Paul says that the true gospel declares that he died to the law that he might live to God; so, instead of rebuilding the law, he tears it down. Paul then says in v.20 — “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” This statement is the crux of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of grace. These truths are not something that Paul had to earn or merit by his outstanding performance, but it was the truth of what happened inside him the moment he came to Christ. These gospel truths are not only facts about Paul, but for every believer in Christ (and not just a select few of us either)! Because we are in Christ, Christ is living His life in us, and the life which we now live in this world is by faith in Jesus!

Paul’s point here is that we have been crucified with Christ, and because of that fact, we are dead to the law (rule-based religion), so that we might rest in the finished work of Christ, and rely on the ability of His grace. 

Then we come to v.21 — “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” This tells us that we can either choose the rule-based living of the law to oversee our actions and behaviors, or the grace-based living of faith to govern our actions and behaviors. What a surpassing advantage we have in life as we let God work His favors in our lives!!!


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