24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. (Acts 20:24–25, NKJV)
Although chains and tribulation awaited Paul in Jerusalem, he would not be deterred from accomplishing the service given him by the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:22-23). He reminded the Ephesian elders that he had testified of God’s grace by preaching the kingdom of God while he was among them. Those who say the kingdom of God has not yet been established have a problem. If the kingdom does not exist now, then how can it be said that grace is obtainable now? In truth, Christians stand in grace now, and those who are saved by grace are transferred from sin’s darkness into the kingdom of the Son (Rom. 5:1-2; Col. 1:12-14). Preaching God’s grace is tantamount to preaching God’s kingdom. The saved are added to the church, which is the kingdom of God (Matt. 16:18-19; Acts 2:47; 28:23, 28, 31). The kingdom (the church) does exist now (Mk. 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). Kingdom citizens have been saved by grace, through faith (Acts 2:47; Eph. 2:8-9). God grace and God’s kingdom are inextricably linked. By God’s grace we are receiving an unshakable kingdom (Heb. 12:28). As a result, we are able (and expected) to “have grace” by which to serve God acceptably. In the kingdom (the church) there is grace and acceptable service to God.
3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah. (Psalm 32:3–4, NKJV)
We saw in 2 Samuel 11:1 in yesterday’s Sword Tips (#1843) that David was not where he should have been, when he should have been there, or doing what he should have been doing. Failing to guard himself against sin, suffering came upon David, his house, his nation, Bathsheba, Uriah, and others. David was tormented with guilt over his adultery, deception, and murder(cf. 2 Sam. 11:27). You see, covering up sin does not comfort the heart of the person who is given to doing the will of God. David was such a person – a man after God’s own heart, in fact (1 Sam. 13:14) – yet he sinned (Psa. 51:3-4). He felt the internal pain of sinning against the Lord. He could not escape the turmoil that captured the depth of his soul. His vigor was sapped from him. David inserted a suspension in the music at this point in the psalm (“Selah”) – a pause, perhaps to reflect on the gravity of sin’s destructive powers and our futility to overcome it alone. Surely we should pause and ponder the depth and guilt of our own sins and our helpless condition without the mercy of God. David’s only real escape and renewal of hope was through God’s mercy and forgiveness (Psa. 32:1-2). The same is true of us (Eph. 1:7; 2:1-10). The guilt and shame for our sins need not be our undoing. Through Christ, we obtain mercy, grace, regeneration, and hope (Tit. 3:4-7; Acts 2:37-41).
4 Remember me, O Lord, with the favor You have toward Your people. Oh, visit me with Your salvation, 5 That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, that I may glory with Your inheritance. (Psalm 106:4–5, NKJV)
God’s historic goodness toward Israel is recited in Psalm 106. From Egypt, to the wilderness, to the land of promise, and to their exile among the Gentiles, Israel repeatedly repaid God’s favor with rebellion. “Many times He delivered them; But they rebelled in their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity” (Psa. 106:43). Yet, God “regarded their affliction,” remembered His covenant when they cried to Him, and showed them mercy among their captors (Psa. 106:44-46). The unrelenting goodness of God compels us to learn from Israel and live faithfully in His blessings under the covenant of Christ. Today, the Israel of God is the church – those who are of the faith of Abraham, not of the flesh of Abraham (Gal. 6:16; 4:21-31; Rom. 2:28-29; 4:12, 16). Those who serve the Lamb of God share in His powerful victory over Satan and his cohorts, for we are “called, chosen, and faithful” (Rev. 17:14). God offers this salvation to the world through Jesus Christ. In Christ we are the recipients of God’s grace, we gladly rejoice as His nation, and we glory in our inheritance (cf. Psa. 106:5; Eph. 1:3-7; 1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 9:15; 1 Pet. 1:3-4). Just as God gathered a remnant of Israel from the Gentiles, the church is gathered by the gospel as a remnant of grace from the nations. We thank God for His power and triumph in His praise (Psa. 106:47; Rom. 11:5; Isa. 11:11). Truly God’s mercy is “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psa. 106:48).
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, NKJV)
God is willing to forgive us even after we have been unfaithful to Him (Jas. 4:4-5). His intent is not to see us perish, but that we should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Oh, what love! And yet, we must understand this calls on us to abandon our sins against God and turn to Him for grace. (When we do, He gives it.) This takes humility, which is at the heart of repentance. Indiana Jones famously said, “Only the penitent man will pass.” Harrison Ford’s character also said, “The penitent man is humble before God,” and he “kneels before God.” Indeed, only the humble person repents. Pride prevents us from admitting our sin, changing our heart, and turning to the only One who is willing and able to save us from sin’s pain and punishment (Rom. 6:23). We must understand that God dispenses His grace according to His will, not ours. The “gospel of the grace of God” teaches us to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 20:24; 2:38). It teaches Christians to repent and pray God’s forgiveness when we sin (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9). God’s grace is greater than sin, but we cannot continue to sin and expect grace to abound (Rom. 6:1-2). That is pride, and God resists the proud. To be saved by God’s grace we must have the faith to humbly repent and submit to “the word of His grace” (Eph. 2:8-9; Acts 20:32).
4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:4–8, NKJV)
God’s grace, given by Christ Jesus, came to the Corinthians in the same way it goes to the four corners of the world, through gospel preaching and its acceptance (Mk. 16:15; Titus 2:11-12). In “all utterance and all knowledge” the “gospel of the grace of God” enriches souls who believe it and obey it (Acts 20:24, 32; Col. 1:5-6). Notably, the gospel (“the testimony of Christ”) was confirmed (verified, settled) in the Corinthians (undoubtedly, a reference to the miraculous gifts they received through the apostle (v. 6-7; Mk. 16:17-20; 1 Cor. 12:1). This had enriched them in Christ, but their faith still needed to be confirmed (settled, strengthened, v. 7-8). Like them, the Lord settles (verifies, stabilizes) our faith when we live by His settled gospel (“the testimony of Christ,” v. 6). We may correctly say the Lord uses the confirmed gospel (v. 6) to confirm Christians (v. 8). Our task in being strengthened is to take His gospel into our hearts and live it. By doing so we will not be blamed (be “blameless”) but settled when Christ is revealed in the day of judgment (v. 8).
6 Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, for they are from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord. (Psalm 25:6–7, NKJV)
David pledged his trust in the Lord, confident Jehovah would receive him as he lived by faith (Psa. 25:1-3). He was eager to learn and live in God’s “ways,” “paths,”, and “truth” (Psa. 25:4-5). David knew the Lord was the God of his salvation, so he patiently followed the Lord with full assurance of His acceptance (Psa. 25:5). Eager for God’s favor, David urged the Lord to remember His past expressions of mercy and grace. Even as God had shown mercy and grace “from of old,” so now David would seek God’s forgiveness. Like David, we can trust God’s continual mercy and grace to forgive and strengthen us in our time of need (Heb. 4:15-16). God is ready, willing, and able to forgive our sins when we call on Him in faith: “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Psa. 86:5). Those who trust in the Lord will walk in His ways, paths, and truth, patiently waiting on the Lord to bless, and fully assured that “as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psa. 103:11-12). Thank God and praise Him for the unending mercy, boundless grace, and abiding peace we have in the Lord Jesus Christ (2 John 3).
In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil. (Proverbs 16:6, NKJV)
One would be hard-pressed to find a more concise description of God’s part and man’s part in salvation “by grace…through faith” (unless it is this quote from Ephesians 2:8-9). God provides atonement for our sins out of the abundance of His mercy, revealing it by His word of truth. As the apostle Paul noted, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:4-5). God’s kind love and generous gift of mercy saves us. Yet, without the faith that comes from “the fear of the Lord,” one will not depart from evil to be saved. As Peter said, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). Without God’s mercy we could not be saved. Without God’s truth we would not know we were lost in sin, and we could not have faith to fear Him and work that righteousness that He accepts. Truly, in God’s salvation “Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed” (Psa. 85:10). God’s mercy is offered to you. His truth commands you to believe and do His will. If you will fear the Lord and obey His gospel in faith, you will receive atonement for your sins (read Acts 2:36-41).