Thursday, November 19, 2015
Why do some fear grace? Does that sound like a strange question? Perhaps, but some are afraid it will eradicate any need for faithfulness. Others fear obedience! Why? They feel it will negate grace. It is true that some use grace to excuse their sinful lifestyle (Romans 6:1). It is also true that some believe they are their own savior due to their perfected obedience (Ephesians 2:9). Both positions are false.
Most know the story of Abraham and his relationship with God. Does it show a relationship between grace and an obedient faith?
“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).
Both Paul and James refer to this event in their writings (Romans 4:3, 9, 21-22; Galatians 3:6; and James 2:23). Paul’s correction for Jewish Christians is that Abraham was justified by faith without obeying the works of the law. Why? Because he was justified before the law was given. He didn’t need the law to be justified by God (Galatians 2:16). His faith was sufficient. Paul shows Gentile believers that obedience to the Law of Moses is not essential to their salvation. In fact, if they believe obedience to the Law is essential, they lose that needed grace through that false response (Galatians 5:3-4).
James is showing what perfects or completes faith. He too uses Abraham’s justification by faith from Genesis 15:6. However, he does not illustrate his point with circumcision as Paul did, because he is making a different point. Circumcision was not essential for one’s faith to be credited with righteousness. James’ illustration is Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son Isaac, which completes or perfects his faith, showing the difference between his and what the demons had (James 2:19). His kind justifies; the demon’s kind did not.
Was Abraham’s obedience to God’s needed (Genesis 22:1-2, 12)? It did not matter that there was a twenty-five year gap between his faith being credited with righteousness in Genesis 15:9 and his continued obedience in 22:1-2, 12. Abraham’s continued faith passed the tests on that occasion as it did twenty-five years earlier, proving his faith wasn’t the kind demonstrated by the demons (Genesis 22:1-2, 12; James 2:21-24).
Paul connects grace with Abraham’s kind of faith in Ephesians 2:8-10. It is not salvation by grace alone, nor by faith only. It is salvation by grace through faith. If one depends upon the kind of faith demonstrated by the demons, his reward will be the same as theirs! If he follows in Abraham’s footsteps, he will manifest his kind!
“Abraham is an ancestor of Jews, the circumcised. Not only of them, he is also an ancestor to people who follow the example of the faith which Abraham, our ancestor, had while he was not circumcised. . .This is why it is by faith, so that it will be a gift – to confirm the promise that God made to every descendant, not only for the Jew but also for the non-Jew who has the same kind of faith that Abraham had” (Romans 4:12, 16 IEB).