Redefining Grace in Light of the New Testament

Written by on April 8, 2018

No question about it. The New Testament is a fresh and radical revelation. However, tradition has dulled that revelation. Let’s have our eyes opened! A vantage point in this journey of understanding is to accept that Old Covenant and the Torah have been replaced by the New Covenant and rulership of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. – Heb. 8:13

Anything we think about Grace is inextricably tied in with the Covenants. If we believe that the Old Covenant, or even part of it, is still in force, our view of Grace will be coloured by that view. If we believe that the Mosaic Law (Torah) is still in force our view of Grace will be legalistic and at best a “mixed grace”. If we believe that the New Covenant has come and replaces the Old Covenant, our view of Grace will be seen in the context of Jesus and God’s empowering presence through the Holy Spirit.

Paul Receives New Revelation About Grace

Gal. 1:11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. Gal. 2:1 …6 As for those who were held in high esteem — whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism — they added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel …9 James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.  – Galatians 1:11-12; 2:1-10

The point Paul is making here is that his Gospel of Grace did not come from himself or any other person but from Jesus himself. The revelation of the Gospel of Grace came directly from Jesus. That should give us pause when tempted to think as Peter described in 1 Peter 4:18, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand…”

Paul’s teaching is only hard to understand when we try to fit them into a belief system that is infused with the Old Covenant and the need to keep the Torah. A battle that still exists in the church today.

Rather than make this a longer article, I’ll summarise some of the key points that compare and contrast a “traditional” view of Grace with a pure New Covenant view.

The “Traditional” View of Grace

  1. Our righteousness, or our being right with God, depends on us keeping the Law without fault.
  2. God requires us all to keep the Law perfectly before being happy with us.
  3. Our sin is that we have broken or not kept The Law. ie. Sin is “transgression of the Law”.
  4. Nobody is able to perfectly obey the Law so that everybody is a sinner.
  5. The sin problem is solved by Jesus obtaining forgiveness for us by His death the cross. Therefore grace is “unmerited favour”.
  6. Jesus died to appease His angry Father. In other words, God took out His anger on Jesus instead of us. Therefore grace is “unmerited favour”.
  7. Jesus did the impossible by perfectly keeping The Law, something we could not do for ourselves. Therefore grace is “unmerited favour”.
  8. The Law (and the Ten Commandments in particular) is still our Moral Code. God requires us to keep them perfectly but we can’t, but Jesus did. Therefore grace is “unmerited favour”.
  9. We do what we can and to the best of our ability in keeping the Law and Jesus makes up for our deficiency and shortfall. Therefore grace is “unmerited favour”.
  10. Grace is defined as “unmerited favour” because we did not deserve the unforgettable gift of God’s forgiveness bought at the cost of Jesus’ life.
  11. Grace is therefore God’s gift of a “free ticket” into a place of being considered or called “righteous” (Imputed justification).
  12. Grace is our free ticket into the privilege of eternal life but we need the Law for our sanctification which also qualifies for eternal life.
  13. However, because grace is “unmerited favour” and God still requires perfect Law-keeping, we still have to earn or prove our righteousness by keeping the Law (at least 10 of them).
  14. Grace is not sufficient by itself to save us, or neither can it help us be righteous.
  15. If someone teaches a “grace alone” gospel, it is viewed as an inadequate doctrine and needs to be “balanced” with teaching about “works” and the avoidance of sin.
  16. Grace is powerless in overcoming sin in our lives and we need Law to assist us.
  17. God is still angry with those who sin.
  18. We are urged to work harder and harder to “be righteous” and are condemned by the threat of God’s wrath when we fail.
  19. We are given the Holy Spirit whose job it is to help us keep the Law.

Any moral code that is based on the Ten Commandments is legalistic. – Dr. Michael Eaton, Theologian and Author

The New Covenant View of Grace

  1. Grace is the same Grace that is in Jesus.
  2. Jesus was not full of “unmerited favour”.
  3. Grace is better defined as God’s empowering presence.
  4. Grace is not a sentimental view of God’s favour, it is the favour of God that gives us power.
  5. This “Presence” is the Holy Spirit and is a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Eph 1:14)
  6. Belief in Jesus is the only way we are saved.
  7. The Law/Torah is no longer in authority over us.
  8. The Law is an inadequate definition of sin and powerless to bring in righteousness.
  9. Only faith in Jesus will save us.
  10. The Law is not based on faith.
  11. Unbelief is sin. The Law does not define unbelief as being sin.
  12. The Law does not command us to love and keeping the Law does not fulfill Love.
  13. However, love totally fulfills the intent of the Law.
  14. The Law cannot help us overcome sin.
  15. Only by believing in Jesus we are regarded as fully and perfectly righteous before God.
  16. As righteous people empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are able to master sin.
  17. Only saved people can “work out” their salvation (Phil 2:12-13), not to prove their salvation but to live it out in transformation.
  18. God Grace gives us all we need for a godly life.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. – 2 Peter 1:2-3

 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

 

Jesus, not the Law, is the best expression of Grace and He is a perfect representation of the Father. – David Crabtree

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