THE GRACE OF GOD WITH RESPECT TO THE COMMANDS OF GOD.
1. The grace of God with respect to His commands, has come to the forefront for discussion among brethren during the past few years.
2. In determining the correlation between the law of God and the grace of God, there are certain things to consider.
A. We, as lawyers, present the law as we have it before us, but God is the judge and makes the determination of guilt or innocence and pronounces sentence accordingly.
B. In such cases, if justice demands clemency, not provided for in the revealed law, in view of certain circumstances, it is the prerogative of the judge to grant it -- not the lawyer.
C. So, our responsibility, as gospel preachers, is to present the law in the light of revelation.
1) Therefore, granting clemency is not our right.
3. Sin is a transgression of the law according to 1 Jno. 3:4.
A. Since God's law is perfect, and since humanity cannot attain unto perfection, "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God". Rom. 3:23.
1) This is true of the child of God as well as the alien sinner according to 1 Jno. 1:8.
B. So, for this reason, Jesus became "the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 Jno. 2:2.
1) However, the benefits of this sacrifice must be appropriated to our lives, the salvation offered is conditional. Matt. 7:21; Heb. 5:8,9.
I. THE COMMANDS OF GOD.
A. Not all of God's conditions for salvation are the same in nature.
1. Some commands are ABSOLUTE and some are RELATIVE.
2. I believe this to be a fundamental point of distinction.
a. By absolute commands, I mean those so fixed as to be void of any relativity.
b. Obedience to such is determined not upon the basis of its relation to something else, but rather upon the basis of being wholly independent of everything else.
c. Concerning obedience to such, there is no "give and take" depending upon some situation or outside factor.
1) In other words, there is no "grey" area -- it is all either "white or black."
2) One either obeys or he does not, without regard to other matters.
a) For example, one is either "buried and raised" in baptism for the remission of his sins, Col. 2:12; Acts 2:38, or he is not -- and that is it.
b) Such commands as this are absolute in nature.
3. By relative commands, I mean those obedience to which is determined by its relation to something else.
a. Obedience to the command to add the "Christian graces", 2 Pet. 1:5-11, must be determined in relation to other matters.
1) People may possess these graces in varying degrees.
2) One man's "knowledge" may far excel another man's "knowledge."
a) Yet, the one with lesser "knowledge" may be obedient, whereas the other may not be.
b) Because obedience in this instance depends upon one's "giving all diligence." vs. 5.
c) Diligence requires a sincere effort commensurate with one's time, opportunity, and ability.
d) In the parable of the talents, Jesus teaches that "talents" represent the measure of what one is accountable for, and that one's accountability is in proportion to his ability. Matt. 25:15.
e) So, one may grow in "knowledge" but not commensurate with other determining factors such as time, opportunity, and ability; therefore, such a one would not be obedient.
f) So, when commands are related to other important factors, they are relative in nature.
II. THE GRACE OF GOD.
A. One may keep ABSOLUTE CONDITIONS to the degree of perfection.
1. In fact, if they are kept at all, they are kept perfectly.
2. There is no relativity about it.
a. On either obeys or he does not -- and that is it.
3. In such cases, grace is not needed in obeying such commands, so far as human effort is concerned.
4. Grace is seen in the nature of the commands themselves -- they are within reach of human effort.
5. FAITH (obedient faith) is the determining factor in the matter of obedience of absolute commands.
B. On the other hand, the RELATIVE CONDITIONS, void of their relativity, cannot be kept by humanity to the degree of absolute perfection. Lk. 17: 7-10.
1. Man, because he is man, cannot attain to such.
2. So, in recognition of this, God's grace has made such conditions relative.
3. And because of this, a child of God can be righteous in spite of his coming short of perfection.
4. God's grace puts righteousness within reach of human effort.
5. This righteousness however is conditional.
a. In addition to one's faith, the determining factor here is primarily one's ability.
b. Thus, man becomes and remains righteous not by meritorious effort, but rather "by grace through faith" Eph. 2:8,9 --faith that manifests itself in obedience to both absolute and relative commands.
C. There is still another area in which God's grace is urgently needed and in which it has been lovingly provided.
1. This area involves that MARGIN OR DIFFERENCE between MAN'S ABILITY AND PERFECTION.
2. This is an area of transgression that perhaps has received all too little emphasis.
3.While God in His grace does not require of man that which is above his ability, His law, nevertheless, remains perfect. Jas. 1:25.
4. After man has done all that he can do, he comes short of perfection.
5. He, therefore, is a transgressor of God's perfect law, hence, a sinner, 1 Jno. 3:4. An unprofitable servant. Lk. 17:10.
6. So, with this in mind, something must be done about transgressions in this realm BETWEEN man's ability and perfection.
D. The scriptures teach that we must maintain a penitent attitude toward and make confessions of those transgressions that grow out of our inability to keep His perfect law.
1. Furthermore, he requires a deep sense of unworthiness on our part, at all times, even after we have done all that we can do.
2. Maybe John had such transgressions in mind, primarily, when he said: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." 1 Jno. 1:8.
3. Some might have been thinking that they had kept God's absolute commands, and consistent with their ability had kept His relative commands and, therefore, were without sin. John corrects this erroneous view.
4. David, no doubt, had such in mind when he said, "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults." Psa. 19:12.
5. The law of Moses made provisions for "sin through ignorance", Lev. 4, so that when the sin became known, certain conditions were to be met in order to obtain forgiveness.
6. Evidently, David's "secret faults" refer to sins of which he was not aware, sins not due to ignorance of law, but due to human frailties and inabilities.
7. So, this being so, he prayed without regard to the conditions of Lev. 4.
8. He evidently had such in mind when he said: "Have mercy upon me, O God, according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: my sin is ever before me." Psa. 51:1-3.
9. It seems that David was conscious of continual guilt over, above, and beyond all that he could do.
10. So, who can deny that we are all equally guilty today?
11. We even fail because of human inability to properly evaluate our time, opportunity, and ability, even though in our own eyes we seem to have done well.
12. Yes, we all need cleansing from secret faults.
13. As we look back over our lives, just how far short are we in the matter of patience, self-control, etc.?
a. The truth of the matter is, we don't really know -- God knows.
E. What then does the Lord our God require of us?
1. He requires obedience to His absolute commands.
2. He also requires obedience to His relative commands commensurate with our ability.
1. When we keep to the letter, the absolute commands of God, and keep to the very best of our ability the relative commands of God, and keep our attitude toward Him humble and submissive, we can be assured that His mercy and grace will fill in where we HAVE HAD to leave off.
2. So, truly we can say, "I am a sinner saved by the grace and mercy of God"
3. God's grace, that has appeared unto all men, bringing salvation into the realm of all men, is a teaching grace. We are taught by the Word of God which is the element to be used and followed by all in order to be saved by His grace. Titus 2:10-14.
by Jim Sasser
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