Hello, everybody! We hope you have gotten a good start this new year! Please feel free to browse the previous articles. Since we are talking about the Bible – God’s love letter to you – you should find that most of the content on these pages remains relevant to living life to the fullest measure even after a couple of years!
This new year, we pray that you would really study the Bible – like your life really depended on doing so. If you knew that by studying the Bible you would essentially tap into God’s infinite store of wisdom and thereby gain understanding that would enable you to live life with more rest and peace, wouldn’t you find the time – no, wouldn’t you make sure you have a good chunk of time blocked out each day for reading God’s Word? If you haven’t done this, you don’t know what you are missing!
So, you owe it to yourself – if you don’t already have one – to get yourself a good study Bible; such as Zondervan’s “NASB Study Bible”. A good study Bible has notes that help explain almost every verse. Another good study Bible (King James version) is “Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible” by Dake Publishing.
The concept in both of the above study Bibles is that the Bible is self-consistent and self-explanatory. This is important because the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. So, in order to keep from straying into deception, we need to increase our knowledge and understanding of God’s Word. If we are faithful in this, God is able to teach us His will for our lives through His Holy Spirit that indwells us. When we are careful to follow the truth of God’s Word, He will bless us beyond our understanding.
An example of a deception that is being debated today is that of “Hyper/Extreme Grace”. Extreme Grace is basically the idea that once we pray the “prayer of faith” accepting Jesus Christ the Son of God as our Lord and Savior, we are free to live our lives however we would like; even if this means spending the rest of our lives in the deepest mires of immorality we can imagine.
However, if we would diligently search our Bibles for God’s thoughts on the subject, we would find that God’s Word commands us to live holy lives free from immorality. This can be seen in Jesus’ teachings in the Gospel books (the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John); as well as, in the other books of the New Testament.
A major part of Jesus’ teachings can be found in what is commonly called “The Sermon on the Mount” which can be read from Matthew chapters 5 – 7. Matthew 5:7 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Verse 16 says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Verse 20 says, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Here, the scribes and Pharisees were the teachers of religious law in that day.
Reading further in verses 21 – 47, Jesus teaches how we are to have a higher standard than what the Old Testament laws taught. Here, Jesus’ examples include: Calling someone a fool carries consequences as severe as committing murder; Lusting after someone carries consequences as severe as committing adultery; The consequences of sin is hell so it is better to cut off a part of the body that might be used in committing that sin in order to enter heaven than to have the whole body thrown in hell; If someone wants to take advantage of us, offer them more than they asked for and we are to love those who hate us.
In the last verse of chapter 5 (verse 48), Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. From these passages, it seems pretty clear that Jesus’ teachings contradict the “Extreme Grace” message and this is really just scratching the surface. But, how might the Extreme Grace deception come about?
Deceptions such as Extreme Grace can be avoided by looking carefully at God’s Word. A good rule in Bible interpretation is to always look at the verse in question in the context where it appears. Our studies must be based on the belief that God’s Word is perfect (inerrant) and consistent; since this is also God’s character. Therefore, a verse must agree with its contexts; such as, the chapter where the verse is found; as well as, the book of the Bible where it is found; as well as, with all the other books of the Bible.
Admittedly, such a thorough study of God’s Word takes time, but we will find that we are blessed abundantly for our efforts. Jesus promised in John 8:31-32 that “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Proponents of Extreme Grace like to cite the Ephesians 2:8-9 passage where the apostle Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” However, if we continue reading, Paul gives the motivation in verse 10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Then Paul goes on to explain that in Christ Jesus we have been reconciled to God through the cross.
After going on to describe, in chapter 3, the mystery God revealed to him that the Gentiles are to be “partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (verse 6)”, he begins chapter 4 with, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” In verse 14 and 15, he tells us, “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; by speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”
He then both encourages and warns us beginning in verse 17, “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.”
Then beginning in verse 22, he exhorts us, “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Paul then elaborates beginning in verse 25, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor … be angry, and yet do not sin … he who steals must steal no longer … let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth … do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God … let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice … be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other.”
Paul then begins chapter 5 with, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God … But, immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you … there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting. In verse 5, he adds a stern warning, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Doesn’t this sound like there are some conditions for God’s grace?
Then beginning in verse 8, Paul prompts us further, “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.”
Jesus warns us in similar manner in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Jesus warns further in verse 21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”
Jesus’ closing passage reads in verse 24, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” And in verse 26, “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” Here, Jesus is emphasizing the importance of following Him in obedience to His teaching.
So, by putting the Ephesians 2:8-9 passage in context, we might find that the confusion may be in the “not by works” part. From the above, the meaning of the word “works” apparently does not include righteous, godly living. Notes to Ephesians 2:9 in NASB Study Bible state, “One cannot earn salvation by the ‘works of the law’ (Rom 3:20-28) – a legalistic approach to salvation (or sanctification).
Finally, we encourage you to continue building your faith by visiting web sites; such as, www.SidRoth.org. Author Becky Dvorak has been Sid Roth’s guest where she talked about experiences with her husband as missionaries in Guatamala. She ministers in a healing anointing and teaches how we can do the same. She has authored several books; such as, “Conquering the Spirit of Death” published last year. According to Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
We hope you found the above discussion helpful, thought provoking and even uplifting. Until next time, we pray that God’s blessings would be on your lives as you commit to live for Him each day.