I was asked recently by a friend how does the Gospel of Grace work. Does it mean when we preach grace, we can do whatever we want? Does it mean we don’t have standards to follow? How do I deal with my sinful nature with the Gospel of Grace.
Here is my suggested answer. I thought I will share it with you.
I would be slow to denounce the NIV while I must concede that the NIV is filled with errors. However credit much be given to NIV to “dare” to amend its errors. For a summary of the changes here is a useful link: http://donteatthefruit.com/2010/11/niv-2010the-little-changes/
The reason I put this up is also for xxxx’s concern of the “sinful nature”. As I shared with you earlier, your “sinful nature” has already been cut off: See Colossians 2: 11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
You would note the new NIV translate this as: 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh[b] was put off when you were circumcised by[c] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. For the reasons why the word “sinful nature” is changed. See the article.
It is clear here whichever translation it is clear that your sinful nature is actually done away on the cross. That is the real spiritual reality.
The unfortunate thing is that many unbelievers still think that they still have a sinful nature in them. In reality what they actually have is the mind of the sinful nature but NOT the sinful nature. Our old man was crucified on the cross.
Here are some references with regards of the mind:
Romans 7:23 (New International Version, ©2010)
23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
Romans 8:5 (New International Version, ©2010)
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
Romans 8:6 (New International Version, ©2010)
6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 12:2 (New International Version, ©2010)
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
2 Corinthians 3:14 (New International Version, ©2010)
14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.
Hence Paul asks us to put off the mind of the old man NOT the old man. The reason we sin is no longer because of our sinful nature but the mind of that nature. Paul says it in this way:
Ephesians 4:22-24 (New International Version, ©2010)
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
The old self is the mind of the flesh.
If you read the book of Galatians (in context), you would note that when Paul says living according to the “sinful nature” (or in that kind of thinking) is trying to live according to the law or trying to be righteous through it. To Paul, that is “sowing in the flesh”. If you read Galatians 6 in its context, you would see that sowing in the flesh is circumcision and that is putting confidence in the sinful nature i.e “the law”. When Paul says when our sinful nature has been “cut off”, he is saying that we are no longer under the obligation of the law.
It does not mean we don’t sin anymore. However despite that it is our default nature to go back to trying to please God according to what we can do for him i.e. human effort i.e. law. This is what I mean by the “mind” of the old man. Note that Paul says “be ye transform by the renewal of the mind” in Romans 12:1-2 and the greek word repent means “to change your mind”. What Paul is saying is this that compliance to law cannot make you right with God but rather belief in the finished work of Jesus does.
I think the problem is that we are misconceived into thinking that grace means we can do whatever we want. We are often misconceived in thinking that Paul’s wretchedness means his sinful nature is with him. Actually Paul is referring to his past life under the law. If you read Romans 7 in context, you would note Paul talks about his past life about being married to the law for life and how Jesus the death that set him free from being married to the law. What Paul is referring to is actually to his past life of trying to righteous via the law.
Actually the problem here with many Evangelical Christians is the teaching of many theologians who teach that justification and glorification are the complete work of God where as sanctification is the work of God and man. Principally they rely on the verse “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. Actually if you read 1 Corinthians 2:2-4 (New International Version, ©2010) you would note it says:
2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
You would realize that “fear and trembling” here does not mean you have to work it out. Paul is saying “it is but a demonstration of the Spirit’s power!” and not by human effort. So what Paul is saying is this “work out your salvation by the demonstration of the Spirit’s power”, sanctification is the work of God and God ALONE. The bible does not say that sanctification is the work of God and man but it does say:
2 Thessalonians 2:13 (New International Version, ©2010)
13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits[a] to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
There is an excellent piece of work on this: The book is called “transforming grace”. It is by Jerry Bridges the former director of the Navigators. He too like us thought we have to perform to be sanctified only to learn after 10 years he was wrong. Here is the link to the book:
He did a brilliant exposition on this in his 1st chapter. I guess he would be more open to this as it comes from the Navigators.
Many thus are led to think, the commandments or our effort is necessitated for us to measure up to God’s standards or for us to be God like. Paul argues in 2 Corinthians 3 that the more law you preach the duller your heart, how can a dull heart respond to God?
2 Corinthians 3:13-14 (New International Version, ©2010)
13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read (please note read this in context of the whole chapter, it refers to the 10 commandments). It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.
Dear friend, we are changed not because of the standards set by the commandments. We are changed by beholding Jesus. We are changed when the law which produces self righteousness is removed. We are changed when there is no longer any barrier between us and God. See the following:
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (The Message)
16-18Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did (Note Moses took off the veil everytime he sees God), God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.
The NIV describe this as “from glory to glory”.
The way grace sets the “standards” is not by rules but by grace. The way it is done is this: You have been forgiven of all your sins (past present future). You have been imputed with the righteousness of Jesus which is APART from the law (Romans 3:21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.) Because you have absolute forgiveness of sins and because you have absolute righteousness, YOU BECOME A PARTAKER OF THE DIVINE NATURE.
2 Peter 1:4 (New Living Translation)
4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
Note that we become partakers of his nature not by effort but by believing in God’s promises. This is clearly grace and not human effort. That is why we are to walk by faith and not by sight.
By this I mean God’s nature is in you. Christ is in you. Paul says the fullness of the Godhead is in Christ and that Christ is in you. As such the standards of God is no longer determined by law or commandments but HIS NATURE IN YOU. That is how God writes His law into your heart.
That is how grace sets me free but at the same time making me keep the standards of God. That is why Paul says “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace Romans 6:14”.
That is how grace works in my life. That is how I found freedom in Christ. That is how I apply the Gospel of Grace. Grace is not a doctrine. Grace is Jesus. It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me. It is about how I apply the Gospel of Grace, it is how the Gospel of Grace applies me nowodays. I hope that helps.