INTRODUCTION: This devotional series is based on J.I. Packer’s classic work, Knowing God. There is no greater quest, no more important activity, nothing that should be a higher priority than getting to know God. Too many Christians know about God without making their time with him personal. These devotionals are designed to challenge you to ask questions of yourself, bring these questions before God, make you think, and transform your relationship with God. My prayer is that your study will overflow in emotion, in touching your heart, in connecting with God, and sharing your relationship with others. The book consists of 22 Chapters, thus this series last 22 days. Dig in!
Reflections on Chapter 13: The Grace of God
Despite our churches’ best efforts to teach us, do we really believe in grace? God’s teaching about grace stands against our tendency to defend our own perceived innocence, conceit, success, and obligation.
1. Perceived innocence vs. the true moral desert of man. Grace presupposes man’s moral decadence, contrasting strongly with the high opinion most men carry of themselves today. Feeling guilty is considered a mental illness. Even our glaring sins rarely degrade our perception that we are basically a “good person.” Few acknowledge that they are rebels against God’s cause.
2. Conceit vs. the justice of God. Turning a blind eye has become common thinking, even in parenting. Our secret hope is that God will do the same. Conceit and arrogance prohibit belief in a God who will hold us to even the most basic standard of justice.
3. Success vs. the spiritual impotence of man. Just as Carnegie implored men in “How to win Friends and Influence People” to put men in a position where they cannot decently say “no,” people today believe they can somehow put God in that position. We connive to portray our success rather than starting from a position where we acknowledge our spiritual impotence.
4. Obligation vs. the sovereign freedom of God. Modern religion maintains the belief that somehow God feels obliged to love and help us. God somehow depends on us for having someone to worship him
I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? (Ps 50:9-13)
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17:24-25).
Grace awards us merit when we deserve demerit to bring us salvation.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Tit 2:11)
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Eph 2:5).
Packer sets forth three connections of grace:
1. Grace pardons our sins. The gospel centers on justification, describing theses dramatic transitions:
• The guilty soul has been proclaimed innocent (Ephesians 2:3-8)
• The enemy (Romans 5:10) is now adopted as a son (Romans 8:15-23)
• The criminal on death row is not only pardoned but then proclaimed Prince
2. Grace reveals God’s motive behind the plan of salvation. Grace propels God’s eternal plan of saving humanity – what he envisioned from time eternal and the plan that he continues to work today. The best explanation comes in Ephesians 1:3-2:10, essentially one (run-on) paragraph in the original text. God blessed us in the heavenly realms in Christ to: adopt us as sons (1:4ff), forgive our sins (1:7ff), glorify Christ (1:11ff), seal us with the Spirit (1:13ff), and regenerate us sinners (1:19, 2:7).
· Grace, mercy, love, and kindness motivate God (1:5,7,9,11)
· The riches of his grace appear to us to make known “the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (1:9-10)
3. Grace seals our salvation. We are able to have confidence in our salvation because it is guaranteed by grace, not by our goodness.
· Our salvation is sealed by the spirit:
When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:13-14)
· No outside force has the power to take away our salvation:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:36-38).
Ultimately, our belief in grace is shown by our reaction to it. Grace is not an intellectual exercise to comprehend a doctrine but rather an internalization that radically transforms our thinking and our lives. Knowing God’s grace justifies us before him, serves as our primary motivation, and carries us through even when we fall.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Cor 15:10)
Note: Packer teaches a form of “once saved, always saved” that is consistent with the Calvinist teaching of predestination and “the perseverance of saints.” For an alternative view on this teaching, please read any of the following:
1. Douglas Jacoby’s article, “Once Saved, Always Saved”
2. Dr. John Oakes answer, “Is Once Saved, Always Saved consistent with biblical teaching?”
3. F. Lagard Smith’s book, Troubling Questions for Calvinists