Grace and Works are Not Opposed to Each Other

I have long heard that grace and works are not compatible. If you are saved by grace, then works have nothing to do with anything.

The main proof text is Romans 11:6

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

The context of this verse is referring to the plan of God in choosing the Jewish people to bring forth the Messiah and God then putting them aside and now going primarily to the Gentiles.

Romans 9-11 has little to do with Calvinism and much to do with God’s plan of salvation and how Jews and Gentiles play their part in this plan.

When it comes to God’s plan, He will make sure there is a remnant that remains faithful to carry the plan ahead. This remnant is there by grace.

In other words, Jews didn’t become the Chosen People because they were so deserving of the honor. Nor are Gentiles now in because they are so much better.

Nope. No one earned that remnant status. The remnant is there because of grace.

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
–Romans 11:5

This elected remnant is there by grace, not by works. If you keep Romans 11:6 in its context, you can clearly see that Paul is explaining the election of the remnant. He’s not talking about how an individual gets saved, nor is he talking about life after an individual is saved.

To take this verse to mean that grace means we don’t do anything is just goofy.

But I have heard the point taken even further–if you do works, you are going against grace. This is even more goofiness.

Grace and works are not opposed to each other. Grace and work actually work together quite nicely.

Again, let me state, no one is saved by works. I think we’re clear on that. We are saved by grace through faith, it is not of ourselves, not by works, but as a gift from God.

And the next verse says we’re created in Christ Jesus by that same grace to do good works that God has ordained we should do. In other words, grace brings about salvation enabling us to do what God has always wanted people to do anyway–His will.

Grace, when properly understood and applied, will always result in good works. But alas, I’m just saying stuff. There’s no reason why you should listen to me. So, take a listen to God’s Word:

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
–1 Corinthians 15:10

You can know Paul has God’s grace by observing how much he labors. Doing nothing means you are taking God’s grace in vain–to no profit.

Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
–2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Grace brings us consolation, comfort, good hope, and establishes us in every good word and work. That’s what grace does every time it’s tried. It keeps you busy.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
–Titus 2:11-14

Grace doesn’t just bring salvation, it also teaches us to stop sinning and to start doing good stuff. The whole point of God giving grace to save people is to make a people who energetically pursue doing good works.

God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
–2 Corinthians 9:8

I’m not sure how it could be stated any more clearly than this.

The idea that grace and works are opposed to each other is just not true. Yes, there is truth in how people get saved–it is by grace and not by works. There is a definite distinction made there.

But when it comes to life after salvation, the whole point of God giving you grace is so you’d be able to do good works.

Salvation by grace isn’t about leaving you in your sin but when you die you can go to heaven.

Grace transforms and equips us to do good works in this present world. The benefits of grace can be had RIGHT NOW! A new life. A new passion. A new desire. A new heart. A new will. RIGHT NOW!

If you have God’s grace you will be doing good works. If you aren’t doing good works, you have taken His grace in vain, which means you haven’t taken it, folks.

You don’t do good works to get God’s grace. You get God’s grace to do good works.When you receive God’s grace, you do good works. Every. Single. Time.


Theologians Diminish Grace

Satan has focused a lot of his deception on the word “grace.” Grace is an abused word. It’s possible another word carries more theological baggage, but I can’t think of what that word would be.

Theology is an attempt to make the simplicity of God’s Word, something the faith of a child can grasp, and make it confusing so you feel like you need the Initiated Few.

You know when you’re walking into Confusing Theology Land when biblical words start getting adjectives stuck in front of them.

“Will” is an example. “Will” simply means a desire. God’s will is what God desires. It’s quite simple.

It remained simple until theologians became a thing. Now it’s not just “God’s will,” now it’s God’s

Decretive Will
Permissive Will
Sovereign Will
Desiderative Will
Directive Will
Perceptive Will

There could be more, it depends who you ask. Also some of the above may be the same wills, I don’t know. I’m not a theologian.

All of this is just silliness. But the silliness doesn’t stop there. The silliness is extended to God’s grace as well. There’s not just “God’s grace” anymore, now it’s God’s

Irresistible Grace
Prevenient Grace
Common Grace
Sanctifying Grace
Salvific Grace

And on it goes.

Here’s the interesting thing, none of these adjectives before will or grace are found in the Bible.

If you look up grace in your New Testament (KJV anyway) and look for adjectives before “grace,” here’s what you’ll find.

Acts 4:33—great grace
2 Corinthians 4:15—abundant grace
2 Corinthians 9:14—exceeding grace
James 4:6—more grace
1 Peter 4:10—manifold grace

All of these adjectives tell you one basic thing: God’s grace is massively huge! When God describes His grace; He makes grace big.

When theologians describe grace, they make it smaller. They whittle away at the concept. They make it fit their particular theological point of the time.

This is where problems start. After a while, we’re not even talking about God’s grace anymore; we’re talking about some theologian’s ax he likes to grind.

Which is why there’s one more adjective used before “grace” in the Bible:

1 Peter 5:12—true grace

Watch out for adjectives before biblical words. Theologians use them to limit a subject, mostly because the Bible doesn’t speak the way they do about a particular word.

Don’t let theologians confuse you about grace. Keep God’s grace big. That’s how He describes it.

Why Does God Take So Long?

I often hear Christians bemoan how long God takes to do stuff. This is especially so when it comes to the salvation of someone we love. It’s a hard thing to see someone head the wrong way. Why doesn’t God stop them?

There are many cliched Christian answers to for the “why does God take forever” dilemma:

–God’s timing is not our timing. There must be a reason why He is not intervening.
–God is eternal. A day with Him is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day. We’re only impatient because we’re temporal.
–God works in mysterious ways.
–God’s word does not return void. They will be saved in God’s time.

Although some of these answers have kernels of truth, none of them rightly address the issue.

Most, if not all, of these answers approach things from a Calvinist perspective:

God does all the saving; people do nothing.
People are not saved because God doesn’t save them.
Therefore, we blame God for their unbelief. What is He waiting for?

The true answer to this dilemma is found in many places in the Bible, but perhaps most explicitly in Isaiah 30:18:

And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.

Isaiah 30’s context is about Israel waiting on God to bring judgment. They wait for Jerusalem to be elevated and peace to come, for all their promises to be fulfilled once and for all. Right now, however, as Isaiah writes these words, they are suffering.

They are waiting on God to fulfill His word. So, what is He waiting for? Why is He taking so long? Let’s get this thing going!

Isaiah wants them to know why God is taking forever to bring His judgment: He’s waiting for them to repent so He can be gracious! Isaiah 28:21 says judgment is God’s strange work. God would rather wait for people to repent than to wipe them out in impatience.

For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
–Isaiah 30:15

The word “return” is the word for “repent.”

When you stick the whole chapter together God is reminding a questioning and impatient people that they are the problem!

If they return to Him, He will be gracious. He says that to them all over the place through the prophets. He’s holding off on final judgment so more may repent. That’s called GRACE.

As they are waiting for God, God is waiting for them!

Perhaps our impatience with God has more to do with our stupidity than God’s slackness in keeping His promises.

When it comes to finding fault, start with people and never throw the blame on God. We’re the idiots in this scenario.

7 Warped Doctrines That Make Sin Acceptable

Sin typically only bothers us when someone else does it. Our own sin lost its ugliness long ago.

Although not true for all, this is the view of the majority about sin.

One would think the Church would help people see their sin. But typically the Church fosters judgmental Pharisaism more than holiness.

Most church-goers don’t think their sin is a problem. Here are some doctrinal justifications that lead to this view:

1. Grace forgives all sin, so it doesn’t matter if you sin.

2. Your old nature did it, it had to happen, nothing you can do about it.

3. God doesn’t see you. He sees Christ’s righteousness.

4. Love covers a multitude of sin.

5. Baptism guarantees your entrance into heaven.

6. If sin is a problem, you can work it off in purgatory.

7. We’re justified by faith, not works; therefore it doesn’t matter what I do as long as I believe.

Although some of these doctrines have elements of truth, if they make you view sin as not being a problem, you’ve warped those elements of truth.

Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Love does cover sin, and it also patiently teaches and chastens. We are justified by faith and not works, and faith brings with it the power of the Gospel that makes us sons of God and equips us to every good work.

Sin is bad. We’re not supposed to do it.

Don’t ever lose sight of that simple idea.

Theology takes simple issues and makes them confusing so we can use our confusion as an excuse to do what we want.

Don’t do that.

Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
–1 John 3:7

Hitler, Stalin, and Calvinist Anger

Evolution News and Science Today is an excellent website about the issues of Intelligent Design.

This is not a Christian website. It’s a science website examining issues surrounding the debate between Evolution and Intelligent Design.

They have an article out today about the scientific attempt to deny free will–our actions are genetically predetermined, we have no real choice.

This is secularism’s version of Calvinism.

Calvinism and Secularism both deny free will, the only difference is over who controls our will. Calvinism says God does everything. Secularism says our genes do everything.

In the end, we do nothing. Our actions are our controlling agent’s fault.

Here are some quotes that lead to their point of what happens when we deny free will. Again, this is coming from a scientific, not a religious, standpoint.

But if . . . free will is not real, then there are no innocent people, any more than there are guilty people. There is no innocence or guilt at all, because innocence and guilt only have moral meaning if we have free will. If there is no free will and no innocence and guilt, there are just natural systems (us) doing what natural systems do.

. . . .

Hannah Arendt observed that a hallmark of totalitarian states is the eclipse of the concept of guilt and innocence. In a totalitarian state, masses of people are managed like livestock, irrespective of any imputation of personal guilt or innocence. Hitler didn’t kill Jewish children because they were guilty of crimes. He cared not whether they were guilty or innocent. Stalin didn’t starve millions of Ukrainians because they were individually guilty. He starved them as a matter of public policy, without regard for individual moral culpability.

The denial of free will, and the denial of moral culpability that follows on it, is the cornerstone of totalitarianism. The denial of free will does not, pace Dr. Sommers, herald an era of tolerance and understanding. It heralds an era of human livestock management, and the early experiments based on denial of free will and moral culpability — in Germany and the Soviet Union — have already been run.

Now, I am not saying that Calvinists will turn into Hitler and Stalin. I am saying this plays a part in why Calvinists have a reputation of being angry jerks.

They are not responsible for their angry jerkness. Nor do you have any value yourself to be treated with any dignity as an individual. For Calvinists there are two groups: 1) Evil vile sinners and 2) evil vile sinners whom God chose to love.

This does not, and will not, lead to an agreeable treatment of others. Remember, John Calvin burned a number of people at the stake. Observe his government he ran in Geneva. Does it sound a tad like what this article is talking about?

The Apostle Paul, Bellum Romanum, and Terrorism

Bellum Romanum is a Latin phrase used to describe the particular kind of warfare the Romans waged against the Barbarians. It means “Roman War.”

You may recognize the Bellum from the Antebellum South–Ante–Before and Bellum–War–the South before the Civil War.

If you’re familiar with the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire, you know that they spent hundreds of years dealing with barbarian hordes picking on their extremities.

These Barbarian Wars began about 100bc and went sometime into the 400’s ad.

Rome convinced its people that barbarians weren’t totally human, they were sub-human. They were uncivilized brutes. Therefore, since they weren’t official humans, any number of atrocities against them were justified.

Bellum Romanum was all out war without restraint. There was killing, raping, and pillaging. Today we would refer to what Rome did as genocide.

It was the abject destruction of societies. Not just the destruction of barbarian warriors, but of innocent barbarian folk with their cities and everything else.

If you’re paying attention to history, you’ll recognize that much of the New Testament was written between 50-80ish ad. Smack dab in the middle of these dealings with the barbarians.

Knowing this background information, Romans 1:14 takes on special meaning. Paul says, “I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise.”

Paul considers himself to be obligated to barbarians along with civilized Greeks! Imagine what he’s saying!

This is a culture that has determined that the only good barbarian is a dead barbarian, they’re not even people. Then the amazing doctrines of the NT break in and Paul says he’s indebted to serve barbarians, almost as if they’re people like Greeks!

Colossians 3:11 says that in Christ there is no difference between barbarians and other people. This is astounding stuff!

It also has relevance for peoples since then. The idea that a nation’s enemies should be viewed as sub-human runs throughout history. If you can convince your people you’re up against animals, this helps justify your violence.

The white colonist’s attitude toward Native Americans was similar. As was America’s attitude toward African slaves. Hitler depicted Jews as animals.

You might even notice similar rhetoric today concerning terrorists. “Terrorist” is almost a synonym for Rome’s “barbarian.” Terrorists are less than people living in squalid caves in the mountain.

So when President Trump said on the campaign trail he would like to bomb them all to hell, many Christians cheered.

Watch out!

Nations have a right given by God to wield the sword, to protect their people. But watch out when we cheer violence. When we think bombing people to hell is worthy of praise.

Hell is real. People, even terrorists and barbarians, have souls.

Paul didn’t worry about what Rome was doing. But Paul did not buy into Rome’s prejudices. Paul loved everyone as members of Christ or potential members. As real people with real souls who need Christ.

Follow Paul’s example.

Warring Against the War on Christmas

I was recently told that I, as a pastor, should be very concerned about the “War on Christmas.”

I must confess, I am not concerned with what the world does with Christmas.

It is a little known fact that Christmas used to be illegal to celebrate in America. The Puritans didn’t like it because it was Catholic–Christ-Mass. Do you see it? Puritans aren’t Catholic. Boo Catholics.

Now, I’m not suggesting Christmas should be illegal, I’m suggesting that I don’t care what the world does with Christmas and I feel no obligation as a Christian to be bothered by the “War on Christmas.”

What concerns me more than what the world does with Christmas, is what Christians do with Christmas.

Take this picture for instance:

This photo bothers me. It pops up in several versions and often comes with a poem. Here is one variation of the poem:

The sleigh was all packed, the reindeer were fed,
But Santa still knelt by the side of his bed,
“Dear Father, ” he prayed, “Be with me tonight.
There’s much work to do and my schedule is tight.
My sack will hold toys to grant all kids’ wishes.
The supply will be endless like the loaves and the fishes.
I can do all these things, Lord, only through You.
I just need your blessing, then it’s easy to do.
I do this only to honor the birth of the One,
That was sent to redeem us, Your most Holy Son.
So to all of my friends, lest Your glory I rob,
Please, Lord, remind them who gave me this job.”

OK, here’s where Jeff’s head explodes.

I just, I don’t even, I mean, come on, seriously?

The book of Ezekiel is about the downfall of Israel and Jerusalem, the dispersion of the Jewish people because they broke their Covenant with God.

Ezekiel says one of the main reasons why they were judged is because they lost the ability to discern between the sacred and the profane.

Sacred things are thing set apart for a purpose, things that are holy and sanctified.

Profane things are common, ordinary, every day usage kind of things.

Israel treated Sacred things like Profane things and they brought the Profane into what was Sacred. They lost their way.

I am not saying Santa kneeling before the manger photos are equivalent to the sin of Israel. I am saying it’s headed in that direction.

Santa is fictional. He’s not real. What confusion does this cause to kids? Is Jesus fictional too?

More than likely, the sincere attempt with this picture and poem is to elevate Christ. Our traditions bow before Jesus.

I get it. I know.

But I think the exact opposite occurs. I think instead we are yoking together the profane with the sacred.

I feel bad going after things like this, I really do. But where is the line between making a point and being blasphemous?

For me, this crosses the line. It’s sentimentalism that fails to keep a distinction between the sacred and the profane, and by doing so, ends up profaning the sacred.

If you want to celebrate Christmas, go for it. If you don’t want to, then don’t. But try and keep the blasphemy to a minimum.