Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Romans 5 & 6 - This Grace Was Made for Walking

To hear someone tell you that the keyword of Romans is grace is so much less than discovering it for yourself. Since God has been busy revealing grace to me everywhere I look, I should not be surprised to find it again in Paul’s famous epistle. To be honest, grace is such an overwhelming subject that I have been unable to think of one coherent thing to say about it. One facet I’ve been exploring is the concept of being “disciplined by grace.”

Last night at Awana our high school group (called Journey) was studying Romans. We’re actually on chapters 9-11, but a verse from chapter 6 caught my eye. “You are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14) I’ve studied Romans at least three full times before. Always I’ve been so focused on the first half: not under law. Legalism has been such a danger to the church that its opposite, grace, has been neglected in study.

My Bible turned to Romans 6, I scanned the short two pages (including a bit of chapter 5). There, it seems, is the whole concept of being disciplined by grace. We know that faith produces works, that anyone who is truly saved will bear fruits of righteousness (which are by Jesus Christ). This does not happen on our own, but as a result of God’s grace, the activity of the Holy Spirit in us.

Even at the end of the passage, arguably the key verse, Romans 6:23 talks about grace. In every translation I checked, I find the word “gift” in this verse. Actually the Greek is charisma, which is accurately translated as gift – BUT is a derivative of charis, grace. Charis is used several other times just in Romans 6, let alone the other 15 chapters. So I suggest that we should read gift in verse 23 as “grace-gift.” We miss so much in English. What charisma indicates is the product of grace.

In Romans 5-6 we see that grace:
  • Brings salvation. We are justified by faith, which gives us access to the grace wherein we presently stand. Romans 5:16 says that the free gift is justification of many offenses. Finally Romans 6:23 provides the contrast between the consequences for our sin: death, and the great gift we who are justified receive instead: eternal life. (See also: Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 2:11-12, Galatians 2:20-21)
  • Is the opposite of legalism. Galatians expounds this theme, and is echoed in Romans 6:14: “You are not under law, but under grace.” In Galatians I believe Paul uses “walk in the Spirit” as virtually synonymous with “under grace” in Romans. Galatians also says, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
  • Is not an excuse for licentiousness. Romans 6:1 asks the question: should we sin a lot, so that grace will abound? This is not an accurate understanding of grace. Grace is God’s power in us to walk in newness of life. Grace proves that sin does not have to control our lives anymore.
  • Enables righteousness. Throughout Romans 6 there is a taut balance between the necessity of righteousness as a product of grace and our new life through Christ and the danger of going back to the law, doing good for goodness’ sake. In between is also the horrible ground of doing no good at all, which would equally defeat the point. By grace are ye saved unto good works, which God prepared beforehand for you to walk in them.
  • Is our new master, rather than sin. The end of chapter 5 makes this point, which is then developed by chapter 6. Paul writes in 5:17 – “… much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ.” Over at the Elect Exiles, Disciplined by Grace explains Titus 2:11-12 with regards to grace. First, it brings salvation. Grace’s second activity is teaching, which is the same Greek word Paul used in Ephesians 6:4: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Thus the word means to discipline, teach, train, rear. The Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but now grace is our teacher. Romans 6:14 says, “…Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.”


Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

For refers us back to the rest of chapter 6, all about being presently, as believers, under grace.

Gift is charisma, which I discussed above.

This grace-gift is eternal life. Eternal life starts when we accept God’s grace and continues forever. It is life, not just a get out of hell free card. The grace of God gives us the life we now live in the flesh, by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. The life is through Jesus Christ, in His power, for His purposes, to His glory.

Our Lord tacked on to the end of Jesus’ name is a title of authority. The apostles recognized Jesus’ authority by calling Him Rabbi, Teacher, Master, Lord. John often referred to Jesus simply as “the Lord.” Here Paul is saying something about who Jesus is. He is our Lord, our authority. He is the Master, the giver of all good gifts. While the law came by Moses, grace and truth, John tells us, came by Jesus Christ.

We walk by faith and under grace. Faith talks about leaning not on our own wisdom, yielding control, following instantly and without explanation. Grace talks about leaning not on our own strength, praising and thanking God, obeying, but not because of rules – because we are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives, and “spiritual” gifts, and sanctifies us from sin. This washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit is as much God's work as the mercy by which we’re saved. I sigh just in re-reading this paragraph, because the words and themes are found all over the Bible, not only in Romans. How exciting!

My life reminds me that walking by grace is the path of thanksgiving and rejoicing and humility and prayer often. All those we are commanded to do. Though I am not theologically a legalist, I sometimes find those hard to do, when I am depending on my own resources to accomplish anything, rather than seeking God. When I am, how impossible not to rejoice, to say with Jeremiah, “His mercies are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness!”

To God be all glory.

7 comments:

kschaub said...

Lisa, thanks for commenting on 'Disciplined By Grace'. Your post on Romans 5 & 6 really encourages me. I'm thrilled to know that you're working through all this too.

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Exciting stuff. I can imagine how much joy Jesus is getting over teaching me! Anyway, He seems to think it very important, since He won't answer any of my other questions at present.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

kschaub said...

Hey, just wondering . . . do you have any Jerry Bridges books?

He is an old guy, but also a college minister for the Navigators. He is really good, possibly better at times than Piper and MacArthur.

If you don't have any, you should get 'The Pursuit of Holiness,' 'The Gospel for Real Life,' and 'The Discipline of Grace' first. Since you like talking about imputation and justification, read 'The Great Exchange' along with Piper's 'The Future of Justification,' which I haven't read yet. I pre-ordered it, but I'm sitting here without it, longer than many of my friends who ordered it a few days ago. What's going on?! :)

Lisa of Longbourn said...

I've got to do a picture post of the stacks of books waiting to be read, like Crystal at the Biblical Womanhood Blog. No, I don't own any Jerry Bridges books. In my short history I haven't actually read that many books on theology. A little Christian living, but not theology. I don't typically like people telling me what to think, until I do. One of those things.

I've read a whole 1.5 MacArthur books, and 1 short Piper book (gave up on, was it Desiring God, when it had like a 3-page footnote). I like what they have to say, though. And my Sunday school teacher who was leading the series on grace referred to Jerry Bridges a lot. So did CJ Mahaney in Living the Cross Centered Life.

Thanks for the recommendations, though. I really will look into it.

...And to anyone else who reads this blog and the comments, you should look into them, too! Tell me what you think. Do you have books that excite you about your faith?
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Hooray! I learned to use an HTML tag in a comment. Landmark.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Lisa of Longbourn said...

You can read The Future of Justification online, PDF: http://www.desiringgod.org/media/pdf/books_bfj/books_bfj.pdf

Thank you, Desiring God Ministries

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Bridges is old. My mom owns a copy of Pursuit of Holiness from when she was in college. I've read the title on the bookshelf a hundred times, but thought the title was so generic it might have been used twice. When I got home from a babysitting job tonight, it was sitting beside a list I copied.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn