Friday, April 15, 2016

Standing in Grace

April 15, 2016

One of the great affirmations in the Bible is St. Paul's declaration in Romans  5:1-2 in which he says, "Since we have been justified, by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God."

I've already commented on the first verse in which I believe the translators misplaced the comma, placing it after the word "faith" instead of after the word "justified." Placing the comma where they do implies that we are justified by something we do, namely believing. Paul insists that justification (being made right with God) is solely on the basis of what Christ did for us in dying for our sins. My faith has nothing to do with what God accomplished on the cross. It can neither add nor detract from Christ's atoning work. What faith does do is it gives me peace. Instead of condemnation, I have the assurance that God has made things right.

In the second verse, Paul reveals us a second benefit that comes from trusting in Christ: we have access to grace that causes us to rejoice in hope. I left out a phrase. Paul says, "Faith gives access to the grace in which we stand." It is those last four words that draw my attention tonight. Grace is our only hope. If my hope of being right with God depends on my getting life right, I am in big trouble. I cannot go through a single day without making a mess of something or other. If it's not an ill-advised word, it's a wrong attitude. If not a wrong attitude, it is an obviously sinful or selfish deed. I could go on, but you get the picture. The most common word in the Bible for sin means literally, "to miss the mark." It's a military term. We aim for the target, hoping to hit it, but we miss. I miss the mark constantly. I'm always falling short. In short, I need grace. Daily. Hourly. And God freely gives it.

But here's the catch: I must stand in it. He didn't say "grace in which we sit." In Bible times, to sit down meant the work was done, or that you were in a position of authority. When it comes to grace, the need is never done, and I certainly don't have the authority to demand God's favor. That's why it's called grace; God freely gives better than we deserve.

He also didn't say, "grace in which we lie down." In the 23rd Psalm, God makes us to lie down in green pastures, giving us rest, but here, we don't lie down and do nothing. Although grace is freely given, we can't afford to lie down on the job. We must stand firm against the assault of the Enemy, against doubts and fears, against temptations, and we are enabled to do so because of grace. Tonight, I am grateful for this word from God. It just popped into my head this morning, and I've been thinking on it all day. I stand in grace, firm in faith, trusting not in my ability to beat the devil or even my own weaknesses, but instead, trusting in the goodness and grace of God to forgive, strengthen, and guide every time I need it.

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