Friday, April 18, 2008

Grace Defined

We left off talking about who the twelfth apostle was after Judas betrayed the Lord and hung himself. As you know, the remaining eleven got together, under Peter’s leadership, and choose a young man by the name of Matthias to take Judas’ place. Some have suggested that this was a mistake on their parts and that had they been patient, God would have added Paul to the twelve in His own timing. I’m not prepared to say that because I believe that they acted in the will of God.

However, Paul was indeed an apostle because he met the requirements that were laid down in Acts 1:21-22 when it says, “Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” By the way, these are the only requirements ever given in the New Testament for an apostle. I, like many, do not believe that the office of “apostle” is open today. I believe that the function is the modern day missionary, but the office is no longer available because no one alive today could possibly meet the requirements.

Notice, v.3, “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,” The word grace appears seven times in these six chapters. It is the main point of the book. Salvation is by grace, not the law. Its definition is unmerited favor. It can be a pretty hard thing to define. He loves you, even when you're unlovable. He offers salvation to you, even though you could never afford it, and you'll never deserve it.
Grace is not only defined, but it is seen in the Bible. It says in Acts 11:20-23, “And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.”

Grace is that free gift which is given to people who do not deserve it. Each of us was - or still is - an enemy of God and yet God has chosen to love us anyway. We just do not know that kind of love. It is spoke of in Isaiah 64:6 when it says, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Wow! He has taken away our sin! That is grace!

You see, our sin disqualified us from being friends of God. Our sin only ensures us of an eternal destiny apart from God. Notice what Paul told the Romans in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”; in Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”; and in Romans 5:10, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty of our sins. His death opened up an avenue of reconciliation for us to God. Peter said in his epistle, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,” (1 Peter 3:18).

Every one of us is a picture of God's grace. Just think of your past for a moment. Of some of us the world said, “They're worthless. There's nothing lovable about them. They are trash - the dregs of the earth." But God showed grace on us in that “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

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