Monday, March 30, 2009

64 - Grace pilgrimage - 2

I don't wish to be OVER-SIMPLE - but maybe I should just confess it right here - simple concepts changed my life. Maybe the MOST simple was about GRACE. I am used to definitions which do NOT define and explanations which actually explain away the concept with which we start. The oldest definition I remember for GRACE was "unmerited favor" - and there was Lexical evidence for it. My problem was - is there merited favor? Well - I'm talking from God's realm - do we EVER merit His favor?

OK - my answer was "not hardly" - what was yours? Well - if that is true - why use THAT as an answer? So - I began a search for the root concept - the basic idea of the Greek word, "Xaris" or "karis" - (my only granddaughter is named that - so it is quite cogent to me) - and I found a simple four letter word which captured it - GIFT. Funny thing - everyone already KNEW that. So - I began to use it - and each time I had problems with someone over my definition - they wanted "unmerited favor" - because "gift" as too simple. Besides, another word is translated "gift" as well - and we don't want to confuse.

Well - translators already did that - "gift" is used for at least five words in the NT. Actually the one other main word could be better translated as "present" - but I use that as a synonym for gift anyway. What to do? Well - at least we talked about it a little - let's just admit the word MEANS gift - no matter how we translate it - at least in our common vernacular. So - my trek took me to a simple definition - but the concept might be a little more complicated. We're talking about God GIFTING us with salvation as a present. Once I saw the simplicity of THAT - my study changed and so did my life. Grace was a simple word with impressive complications. I could now BOAST of God and what HE did - in Christ and begin a new full, confident focus on what GOD DID - and the focus was better - and more Biblical. Jesus really DID begin to get "all preeminence" as Paul wrote is should be in reference to God's desire and structure. For me - the focus was sharply changed - to put God in the thoughts and focus of NT Christianity. AND - many scriptures became more understandable and simple. When Paul taught about a "faith apart from law" I could actually see a faith apart from law with no twisting involved.

When I saw a sentence in our NT which taught "Christ is all and in you all" - I could appreciate that fact. HE was given to me to be my new life. His performance was a GIFT to me. His confidence is now my confidence - because as John wrote - "As HE is, so are we in this world." (Don't forget, that was written about confidence on judgment Day - we SHOULD have that - but the focus is HIM.) Just as I was thinking that thought - I "ran into" a thought in 2 Corinthians 3:4 "SUCH is the confidence that we HAVE through Christ - toward God - NOT that we are sufficient of ourselves to claim ANYTHING as coming from us - our sufficiency is from God." Note that Paul said the sufficiency came "through Christ" - so allow YOUR motto to be the same as mine for today - "ALL sufficiency is from CHRIST - NO sufficiency is from us" - thanks Paul for that great help.

Ah - but that means we are saved by grace - and the sufficiency was IN CHRIST - so guess how we STAY SAVED - though Christ. (Otherwise there might actually BE some sufficiency somewhere else - right?) Wow - Christ actually IS ALL - and we can count on it. No wonder that expression is in your NT - "Thanks be to God for HIS indescribable GIFT"

Monday, March 16, 2009

63 - Grace pilgrimage - 1

Many steps are involved for any study as it gathers information and outlines itself as new thoughts emerge and challenge former conclusions. I have mentioned that several of these happened when I was translating books. Even beginning students translate phrases and sections of simple Greek. As we get into second and third year Greek, much time is spent in trying to wade through grammar problems and attempt to search though more complex structures. ONE of the things which amazed me was the new insights which didn't demand a new translation but a fuller understanding of the general translations right in front of me. When Jesus claimed to BE The way, The Truth, The Life - it didn't take a fresh translation, but rather an acceptance of the plain words translated into simple English. The same is true of many passages in Romans and Galatians. Problem was - at the three churches I spent time with, not one had actually had a thorough study of the basic text. Overviews have left many woefully lacking in true textual meaning.

One brief example - I had heard Romans 3:23 "partially" quoted probably 300 times. Being forced to translate it changed my pilgrimage from learning what HAD been taught to what the TEXT teaches. The SUBJECT of the context is God's NEW way of righteousness which is APART from law - and focuses on faith in Jesus Christ. "ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" is the well known partial verse. That phrase was meant to be part of the teaching that ALL are justified freely by His grace as a gift. In other words, the emphatic part of the verse got left out entirely. The whole context is about a focus on a new kind of righteousness - GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS (verse 21) which comes about through faith in Jesus Christ. The phrase about all persons sinning was actually an axiomatic statement which led up to teaching that God has an answer for all who have sinned - salvation by faith in Jesus Christ - apart from law.

Another little phrase is ignored or missed in the same regard a few verses later in Romans 3. Paul asked in Romans 3:27 - "what then becomes of our pride and boasting? It is EXCLUDED." Abram is the example of the template for being declared righteous in God's presence. He simply believed God (that in a dream message)and THAT was counted to him as righteousness. Paul discussed the concept all the way from 3:32 through chapter 5. That section is not studied enough. But - to get to my point - Paul taught that IF Abram had done any works for his righteousness then he had something to boast about.(By the way - since there was no Law of Moses yet - that kind of works is not our subject - but ANY works.) BUT - even then he wouldn't be able to boast before God. See chapter 4:1ff. The point is made however, that Abram's righteousness was a gift in response to his faith - period. Part of our problem here is that faith simply means to trust another entity's PROMISES. Christendom has re-defined faith to be people centered instead of God focused - serious error it seems to me.

Result - the concept of boasting is rampant among much of Christendom - mostly innocently - but to close for today, notice two concepts: (1) boasting is not available for all who come to God. The idea of boasting is simply a self-focus. God leaves us NO GROUNDS for a self-focus. (2) Even the intelligentsia of the day - the Greeks (check 1 Corinthians 1:21-31) cannot find their way to God by their "wisdom" -they as well are left to come to God with a simple focus on His Promises - or more directly on His Promise - Jesus Himself. To them, that is FOOLISHNESS - but it is Truth. To those who think they can do GOOD WORKS - sorry it is EXCLUDED. Good works DO get done by Christians - but they are the result of God being at work in us to will and to work - Philippians 2:13. As Ephesians 2:10 teaches us - we are HIS workmanship - we are worked on by God as we are His project.

Conclusion - Paul taught me much I did NOT understand correctly as he claimed that Jesus came, lived, died and raised so that those who LIVE might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who for their sakes died and was raised - 2 Corinthians 5:15. The focus is NOT us, but rather it is JESUS. - More to come