Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Word #7 Grace
A few notes / paraphrases from this excellent chapter in Packer's book:
Grace is God's undeserved favour and unmerited love. Grace implies there is no antecedent bond and no censure if such favour is not granted. God is obligated to no one. God chose out of love - unconditionally, spontaneously, selectively, unevoked and undeserved. It also encompasses the notion of God's resolute loyalty to those he chose. Rightly understood, grace is the entirety of New Testament theology.
Grace is a particular divine gift to be accepted, a gift to service, a gift of privilege and the outworking of God's favour in man's transformation of life. Grace astounded the New Testament writers especially given the depravity of man and the costliness of the the grace at Calvary. It is the union with the person of Jesus, crucified and risen, and by the virtue of his atonement that men know grace.
Where grace exists, it reigns! (Rm 5:21)
I spent a fair bit of time trying to wrap my head around this one. Grace reigns overwhelmingly victorious, dominates, prevails, may be contested but never defeated - never!, for time and eternity, the glorious, all powerful, unstoppable, desire of God.
A few elegant words on legalism and antinomianism by Packer:
Legalism frustrates grace by seeking righteousness through works of law and religion, viewing these as parts of our acceptance with God alongside the merits of Christ.
The antinomian is so mesmerized with grace as to lose sight of the law as a rule of life. Since Christians are discharged from the law, not under the law, with eternal forgiveness already in their possession, it no longer matters what kind of lives they live.
Both proceed from the same false assumption, that the one and only purpose of law-keeping is to gain righteousness with God.
The moral law expresses the will of God for man as man. It was never meant as a method of salvation. Grace establishes the law as a rule of conduct.
Lastly, some of the privileges of living under grace:
1. Freedom from the hopeless necessity of trying to commend yourself to God by perfect law-keeping. Now he lives by being forgiven, and so is free at every point in his life to fail (and inevitably he does in fact again and again) - and, having failed, to pick himself up where he fell, to seek and find God's pardon, and to start again.
Without grace we would not get up and not try again.
The Christian's experience of daily failures, along with the inside knowledge of his own false motives and his tally of shameful memories, make him constantly want to claim for himself Paul's end-of-life self-description 'the foremost of sinners'; daily, however his shortcomings are forgiven and his joy is restored. One reason why as Jesus taught we must be ready to forgive our fellow-Christians countless times is that our own life with God is a matter of being forgiven countless times, too.
2. Freedom from sin's dominion
Not only is righteousness possible and prescribed for Christians, but it is also a fact that no Christian can go on sinning like before, for union with Christ has now changed his nature so that now his heart desires righteousness as before it desired sin, and only obedience to God can satisfy his deepest inner craving.
3. Freedom from fear.
Fear of the unknown, of meeting God, of being destroyed by hostile forces or horrific experiences of one sort or another. He knows that nothing can separate him from the love of God in Christ, nor dash him form his saviour's hand, and nothing can happen to him which is not for his long-term good, making him more like Jesus and bringing him ultimately closer to his God. So when fears flood his soul, as they do the soul of every normal person from time to time, he drives them back by reminding himself of these things. And how can fear stand in the face of that?