5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Romans 11:5–6, NKJV)
Just as God gathered a remnant of His people back to Jerusalem after their Babylonian captivity and exile, He is now gathering a remnant for salvation “according to the election of grace.” Here, and throughout the book of Romans, grace (which is heard in the truth of the gospel, Colossians 1:5-6) is set in contrast to law keeping law (the law of Moses) as the means of justification (Romans 3:21-26). Grace is not obtained through law-keeping, for if one keeps the law (without sin), then his reward is a debt earned, not a gift given (Romans 4:1-8; Ephesians 2:8-9). So, how does God execute “the election of grace?” God elected (chose) to save sinners in Christ (Ephesians 1:4-6). Through the blood of Christ, God makes forgiveness of sins available “according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). God calls sinners out of sin into salvation by the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). Faith obeys God and obtains grace, just like Abraham and his faith (Romans 4:16; James 2:21-24). We are saved “by grace through faith,” not by earning grace, but with a faith that takes God at His word and does what He says. Christians do that, and stand in the “true grace of God” (1 Peter 5:12).
37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:37–40, NKJV)
We have had a lot of wind storms where I live this winter, and another warning was just issued. When the storms of life billow up around us we may be like the disciples of Jesus. Frightened, we may question whether God knows and whether He cares. Jesus calming the storm assures us He does. In fact, if we are willing to learn the lesson, Jesus teaches us fear results from a lack of faith in Him. The Lord said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6) We know there will be storms in life, but we trust the Lord will see us safely through them all. Instead of being hindered by fear, boldly continue to rely on the Lord. His will prevails, as do all those who commit themselves to doing His will (Matthew 6:10; 7:21). “…for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:24–25, NKJV)
The law of which Paul speaks in today’s passage is the Law of Moses (Galatians 3:17-23). A fundamental purpose of the law given to Israel at Sinai was to tutor Israel to bring them to Christ. Just as a tutor was the guardian in a household who was responsible for the care and discipline of the children, the law was responsible for disciplining Israel about sin while emphasizing their need for redemption. However, the law of Moses could not save the lost (Hebrews 10:1-4). It was never designed to be man’s way of salvation (Galatians 3:21-22; Romans 3:20). When “faith” came, that is, when the gospel was preached, the need for the tutor – the Law of Moses – ended. No one is under the Law of Moses today. We are all under the gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Hebrews 1:1-2). Every attempt to bind any portion of the Law of Moses on folks today fails to respect the saving power of the gospel. The Law of Moses could never save sinners, and it still cannot do so. Only the gospel of Christ has the power to save the lost (Romans 1:16-17).
2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. 4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:2–4, NKJV)
This striking contrast between martyred Stephen and persecutor Saul paints a picture of the faithfulness of the early church and the forces of opposition faced by the disciples (Acts 7:54-8:1). Saul would eventually be converted and learn about suffering for the Lord (Acts 9:16; 2 Corinthians 4:8-12). When we start to focus on the advances of evil around us and the pressures of its influences and actions upon our lives and those we love, remember these faithful brethren (as well as those presently suffering for their faith). When they were pressed, they pressed onward and upward. When threatened in an effort to silence them, they remained vocal, going “everywhere preaching the word.” When pursued by enemies of the faith, they pursued peace and holiness (Hebrews 12:14). Let us take to heart the apostle’s exhortation, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Philippians 3:17). May we follow their worthy examples and remain true to the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1, NKJV)
Christ delivers sinners from the “body of death” produced by sin (Romans 7:24-25). Those who are “in Christ Jesus” escape sin’s condemnation.. Therefore, it is crucial to be “in Christ Jesus,” otherwise, we are still wretched, lost in sin and under its sentence of eternal death (Romans 7:24; 6:23). Scripture says plainly that baptism puts the sinner into Christ (where there is no condemnation): “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). We become children of God through the gospel (“faith,” Galatians 1:11, 23; 3:2, 23-25). The gospel commands water baptism for the remission of sins (no condemnation, Acts 2:38; 10:48). Once we are saved “in Christ Jesus” we must walk (live) “according to the Spirit.” In Christ, Christians live by the guidance of the Spirit of God, not by the impulses of the flesh. The Spirit guides us through the truth He revealed to the apostles and inspired them to speak and write (John 16:12-14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 14:37; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Christians choose to walk according to the Spirit by following the word of God. Make that the way you live your life and escape sin’s sentence of eternal death.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30, NKJV)
This is an enlightening statement about the nature of faith that pleases God. We must remember the inspired scribe had earlier stated, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). We cannot please God without the kind of faith by which the walls of Jericho fell. (And, when we do, we have earned nothing; we have put our faith in God to save us in His Son.) The historical account of Jericho is in Joshua 6, where the Lord said to Joshua, “See! I have given Jericho into your hand” (Joshua 6:2, 16). God’s grace was on full display as He gave the city as a gift to Israel. Still, Israel did not receive this gift from God until they had encircled Jericho for seven days as the Lord the way God commanded. They obeyed God by faith, and the walls fell (Joshua 6:12-20). This is how God saves sinners today “by grace…through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9). God is the Giver of salvation to all who believe the Son. And, we learn in Hebrews 11:30 that our belief pleases God when we obey His word (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21). To be saved, one must obey Jesus, who commands sinners to believe, to confession faith, to repent and to be baptized (John 8:24; Romans 10:9-10; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30; 2:37-38; 22:16). Sinners who obey God are saved by grace because their faith pleases God.
13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:13–14, NKJV)
The sacrificial quality of love is unsurpassed. It is this love that prompted the death of Jesus and provided the world our only means of redemption (Romans 5:8-10; 1 John 4:8-10). The question for us to ponder is whether we have the love it takes to be a friend of Jesus. We hear much about needing Jesus as our friend. True, and He has shown the measure of His loving friendship by His death. Now, do we show the measure of our friendship to Him? We are not His friends when we disobey Him. It is quite ironic that many who speak loud and long about being friends with Jesus refuse His clear commands. For example, many reject His command to believe and be baptized to be saved in Mark 16:16, and yet claim friendship with Him. How can that be? Indeed, they say any necessary obedience nullifies God’s grace. If true, then we cannot be a friend to Jesus without denying His word and His grace! Our plea is to return to the simple harmony of gospel of salvation by grace, through faith. Salvation is an unearned, yet conditional gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). God receives sinners when we fear God and work righteousness; the gift is thus received (Acts 10:34-35). Are you a friend to Jesus? That is answered “yes” when you obey Him in faith.