A Lesson in Theology and Grace

Recently, two people who did not know each other and had never met crossed paths.  One man tried to give the other one a lesson in theology.  The other man, however, taught a much more valuable lesson in grace.  One left with little, the other with much.  Why?  Because theology–as valuable as it is to help us  know about God–is no comparison with grace, which is to not just know about, but to truly know God.  I would be surprised—truly surprised—to learn of anyone ever being broken by a lesson in theology.  But I would be even more surprised to learn of someone—anyone—who has truly been broken that was not broken by grace.

This is not to diminish the importance of theology and sound doctrine.  But if the blessed knowledge of God that we share with others springs from the head and not the heart, it has no life-giving force.  All of the theology of God is made alive in His grace.  We may read our Bible our entire lives and know much about God and His character.  But unless He opens our eyes and our hearts to really understand the grace He has given us in Christ, it means nothing.  But praise be to the God of ALL GLORY when He does, and when a man who was once dead is made alive in Christ.

Theology–that is, the knowledge of God–helps us better understand God’s grace, and this is good… but in and of itself, it has never saved anyone.  The grace of God, on the other hand… well, it is the only thing that saves and none have been saved–or ever will be saved–without it.

And what is the grace of God?  No, brothers and sisters.  This is the wrong question.  WHO is the grace of God?  That is the right question.  His name in Jesus.  HE is the grace of God.  And what does the gift of His grace bring?  It brings love, unity, humility.  This is His character, and to those who have been touched by His grace–to these have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  And without these gifts and fruits of His Spirit, the ministry will fail.

If you have access to an electronic searchable Bible, do a search for the “grace of God”.  It is Jesus Christ.  Everywhere you find this term, you find Christ.  And where you find Christ in these passages, you invariably find the love, the unity, and the humility of Christ at work in His body.  That’s because He is the head, and these qualities are in Him.  Consider just a few passages.  I encourage you to read each of these and really dwell on what is being said in them:

Colossians 1:3-14
3    We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9    And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:3-14)

Titus 2:11-14
11    For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)

Hebrews 12:14
14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled… (Hebrews 12:14)

The grace of God is a man.  But He is so much more than that.  He is the Son of God, and no one comes to the Father but by Him.  He is the Lamb of God, the Sacrifice… and the Lion of Judah, the Savior.  He is the Just Judge, and the Righteous Redeemer of His people.  He is Jesus Christ, and He is glory.  He is the grace of God.  And it is not nearly enough to know about Him, brothers and sisters.  Know HIM. KNOW Him.  He is the eternal word of God that will never pass away.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36)

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3 Comments

Filed under Devotions, Doctrine, Gospel, Scripture, Theology

3 responses to “A Lesson in Theology and Grace

  1. Neo Dikole

    It is encouraging indeed. I have been a disciple of Christ for more than 7 years now,going for 8. I have realised latetly how I have neglected to learn grace from Grace HIMSELF. It is untill I found my deeds fruitless. And not changing from certain character sin,that someone pointed me out to grace. As the Titus mentions, it is grace that teaches us to renouce sinful lives and live godly lives,instead. Amazing in deed

  2. Jennifer D'Angelo

    I am struggling so much with this concept of grace. I understand it in the capacity that it is God’s everlasting love for me that I cannot earn and that I do not earn through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I do not know how to apply it practically to my own life. I have done a step study through Celebrate Recovery and still don’t get it. I apparently can extend at least some grace to others but have no idea how accept it for myself. Everyone tells me that I am too hard on myself, but I cannot agree with them. I still see failure. I desire to be the Lord’s servant but don’t know how this is possible without fully comprehending Grace and thus being fully able to accept the love that Jesus is offering me or maybe it is simply unforgiveness of self. Maybe this is just my written prayer that God will help me see and understand. Living this way completely stinks, by the way. I have no doubts about Jesus or whether or not I have been saved but know that my life here on earth will never be fulfilling until I grasp this concept.

  3. P2

    Jennifer,

    Thank you for taking the time to stop and leave a comment. I have been listening to a CD by Indelible Grace lately and there is one hymn in particular on there that has struck a particular chord with me. It is a hymn written by John Newton, and it has really ministered to me this past week that I heard it as the Lord has really brought me low this last month or so. I went out searching for the words to send you and found this post from almost three years ago to the day (three days shy actually) on another blogger’s site. As I read through what John Meade wrote on his blog (http://chaosandoldnight.wordpress.com), I found what he wrote so good and appropriate that it was just easier to paste what he wrote in its entirety. I pray that these words may somehow comfort you as they have me, despite the valleys we may walk through.

    From John Meade’s post, “Newton on Inward Trials”:

    For a while and more recently, I have been thinking about John Newton’s hymn, “I asked the Lord that I might Grow.” Most people know Newton for his hymn, “Amazing Grace,” but few people have ever heard of this hymn. I must confess that I was ignorant of it until Indelible Grace resurrected it in their latest album. This hymn represents the other side of Newton. Allow this hymn to challenge your view of self and God. It seems Newton would conclude that God is not as tame as we would like Him to be, but He is good.

    I asked the Lord that I might grow
    In faith, and love, and every grace;
    Might more of His salvation know,
    And seek, more earnestly, His face.

    ’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
    And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
    But it has been in such a way,
    As almost drove me to despair.

    I hoped that in some favored hour,
    At once He’d answer my request;
    And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
    Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

    Instead of this, He made me feel
    The hidden evils of my heart;
    And let the angry pow’rs of hell
    Assault my soul in every part.

    Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
    Intent to aggravate my woe;
    Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
    Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

    Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
    Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
    “’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
    I answer prayer for grace and faith.

    These inward trials I employ,
    From self, and pride, to set thee free;
    And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
    That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

    As one can see, Newton begins the poem with a prayer. He prays a seemingly good prayer, “That I might grow in faith and love and every grace; might more of his salvation know, more earnestly seek his face.” Praying for these virtues and blessings is not wrong in itself, but Newton is about to discover a new insight into how God answers these types of prayers. Newton affirms that God taught him how to pray, and he affirms the truth that God has answered prayer for him in the past. However, God will not always answer our prayers in the way we want, “But it has been in such a way, that almost drove me to despair.” Most times, we struggle with this view of God. Could God really be like this, we might ask? Let’s keep reading.

    Notice, he hoped that God would answer his prayer “in some favoured hour.” He hoped that God’s constraining love would subdue his sins and give him rest. Newton is asking for God’s perfect work of complete sanctification to be worked in him. If God grants this prayer to Newton, Newton will still be reliant on God to work in him, but Newton will no longer be mindful of his immediate and total dependence on the Lord for every breath, every good work. Newton will be more prone to boasting if the Lord answers this prayer in exactly the way Newton desires. How does the Lord respond to this prayer?

    The middle stanza reads:

    Instead of this, He made me feel
    The hidden evils of my heart;
    And let the angry pow’rs of hell
    Assault my soul in every part.

    How many of us have experienced this? Notice that Newton attributes this work to God! God made Newton feel the hidden evils of his heart. Now, one can see why Newton did not perceive God as answering his prayer. God did not answer the prayer immediately, but rather through subjecting Newton’s soul to the angry powers of hell, he begins to answer it.

    The next stanza continues in the same vein. Newton, again, attributes these woes and inward torments to the hand of God. Furthermore, Newton perceives the Lord as frustrating his designs in prayer, and finally, God lays him low. How many of us have experienced this action of the Lord? By laying him low, the Lord completely contradicted the way Newton thought he would answer the request.

    Newton then comes to the end of his rope, “Why Lord, wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?” The Lord replies, “In this way, I answer prayer for grace and faith.” The Lord continues in the last stanza, “These inward trials I employ, from self and pride to set thee free; and break thy schemes of earthly joy, that thou may’st find thy all in me.” The Lord revealed to Newton the motivations of his heart for requesting what he did. Newton had motivations of selfish pride when he prayed for grace and faith. The Lord showed him exactly how he answers prayers for grace and FAITH. The Lord graciously brought him to the point where he needed to cry out to him in brokenness, asking, “why Lord?”

    The Lord truly answered Newton’s prayer for grace and faith, but grace and faith do not equal immediate subdued sin and rest for the Christian. Rather, the Lord answered Newton’s prayer by breaking him and graciously leading him to trust Him. This poem cuts to the heart of many issues in the Christian’s life. All too often we think, if we could just have relief from this one besetting sin, we would be more holy or we would be free to trust God more. Rather than thinking like this, we need to be asking God for broken hearts, hearts that are contrite and humble before him (Ps 51). A corollary to these requests means we need to be completely open to how God will answer these prayers. He is the sovereign Lord, and if he deems necessary, he will employ inward trials to make us more dependent on Him, to make us more like Jesus.

    Praise the Lord, that Newton was placed in a position to help us understand these inward trials that the Lord brings in our lives.

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