7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7–9, NKJV)
We miss the point of this passage if we conclude God sent an ailment upon Paul to restrain his arrogance (John 9:1-3). His physical limitation was an opportunity for the grace of God to be magnified. Paul admitted he had been arrogant before his conversion, but also that he had been humbled by the mercy of God he received in Christ (1 Timothy 1:13-17). His thorn in the flesh was an occasion for the power of Christ to be glorified in him. And so, Paul trusted the Lord instead of his wisdom, strength, and accomplishments (Philippians 3:1-11). Most of us will face ailments and illnesses at some point in life. These are chronic for some and short-lived for others. But every one of them is our opportunity to learn to live with our limitations and to be strengthened in the Lord. His grace is sufficient for us to endure life’s temporary trials so we may live eternally with Him (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
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).
16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:16–17, NKJV)
Pride is a most deceptive, sinister sin. It lurks in the recesses of the heart, unwilling to expose itself to the light of truth. Its character is evil, yet it portrays itself to others as confident, self-assured, even boastfully content. In fact, pride threads its way through practically every sin we commit, because its nature is thoroughly selfish. Pride focuses on “me” and what “I” deserve. It is not a giver, but a taker. Pride serves self-interests first, ahead of others. It deceives us into thinking we are more important than we really are (Galatians 6:3). The difficulty of overcoming pride is admitting it. It is a great obstacle to loving God and doing His will. Since God “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” we must “submit to God” to truly be humble and receive God’s grace (James 4:6-7). Pride will pass away along with the other evils of the world. It is eternally better to humble yourself before God, repent of your pride, and draw near to God with pure hands and a clean heart, than it is to obstinately and pridefully lose your soul forever (James 4:8-10).
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.
5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:5–6, NKJV)
Wisdom is the application of known truth, at the right time and in the right measure. It is the use of spiritual discernment, in love and knowledge, to advance the excellent things of righteousness that glorify God and approve us in His sight (Philippians 1:9-11). When we flavor our words with graciousness we walk in wisdom by making the most of our opportunities toward the lost. Like food seasoned with salt, wisdom learns when and how to answer those who are outside of Christ (as well as fellow Christians) so that our opportunity to teach and persuade others is maximized. Put simply, we have an obligation to give gracious answers to others. Wisdom knows this, and helps us speak so as to enhance, not disrupt, our chance to communicate truth to others. Unless we season our words with grace we fail to redeem our opportunity to help someone follow Jesus.
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.
Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. (Genesis 7:1, NKJV)
God called Noah and his family into the ark after Noah built the ark “according to all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22). Why was Noah allowed to enter the ark and saved from the impending flood? God said, “Because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.” Does God see your righteousness? Some would have you believe there is no righteousness ever to be seen in men and women by contorting Isaiah 64:6, “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” Was Noah’s righteousness like filthy rags? Obviously not. Nor was it self-righteousness as in the Pharisee who trusted in himself (Luke 18:9-14). His was “the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7). This is the kind of righteousness we must practice to be born of God and righteous in His sight (1 John 2:29; 3:7). God counts righteous the person who exercises obedient faith. Without such faith, there is no grace from God. Otherwise, all would have been allowed into the ark and saved from the flood. But, only the righteous are saved. Just like Noah and his family obeyed God and were saved through water, baptism “now saves us” (1 Peter 3:20-21). When you believe and obey the gospel of Christ, you will be saved and righteous – like Noah (Romans 10:10; 6:16).