And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
In the Psalms, Selah signaled a break in the singing, possibly for an instrumental interlude or a pause for reflection (Psa. 46:11).
At this moment of uncertainty in our nation and the world, with the coronavirus galloping across the globe, a pause for reflection and centering is in order. The hymn, “Be Still My Soul,” was written in 1752 by Katharina Von Schlegel, a portion of which follows.
Be still, my
soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Be still, my
soul: thy God doth undertake
Be still, my
soul: the hour is hastening on
God continues to accomplish His will in His world. He has not abandoned His people, even when the world abandons Him. The Lord God is our hope and our trust in unsettled, turbulent times (Heb. 13:5-6).
Let us pause, and know that He is God:
“Be still, and
know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted
in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Selah” (Psalm 46:10-11).
An understanding of God’s grace is vital as we apply God’s principles of forgiveness of sins and fellowship with God and His people. We have no right to assure someone of God’s grace when God has not done so. We must be careful to define God’s grace as it has been explained in the inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
The Scriptures teach “the true grace of God” includes the commands of God. “By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand” (1 Pet. 5:12). Peter affirmed his brief letter to the saints (the epistle of 1 Peter) gave exhortation and testimony of “the true grace of God.” Therefore, by observing what the apostle wrote, we too can understand “the true grace of God.”
In his first epistle, Peter indicates living in the grace of God includes the following:
in holy living, 1 Pet. 1:13-16
These are only some of the instructions the grace of God gives us so that we may stand in “the true grace of God” (Tit. 2:11-12; 1 Pet. 5:12).
Christians are not free to violate “the word of His grace” and conclude they remain in “the true grace of God” (Acts 20:32; 1 Pet. 5:12; Gal. 5:4). Attempts to extend fellowship with God and others beyond the boundary of revealed truth (into error and immorality) fail to define “the true grace of God” and the word of His grace correctly. Justifying a broadened fellowship based on God’s grace simply magnifies the problem. One cannot disobey the will of the Lord and rightly claim His forgiveness and fellowship while continuing to sin (Rom. 5:21-6:1). Furthermore, we do not have God’s approval to sustain fellowship with those who go beyond the teaching of Christ (2 Jno. 9-11; Eph. 5:8-11).
We are not establishing our own righteousness when we obey Jesus in faith. We are not meriting God’s grace. God revealed His grace to Noah by commanding Him to build an ark (Gen. 6:13-14). Noah did not earn God’s grace when he obeyed Him by building the ark (Heb. 11:7). Abraham acted in faith when he prepared to offer Isaac as God commanded. He did not earn God’s grace in doing so (Heb. 11:17; Jas. 2:22-24). These men obtained God’s grace when they faithfully obeyed God’s word. God’s grace is received today by faithful obedience, too.
Now, let us consider an application that is drawing more and more attention among Christians these days; The moderate consumption of intoxicating beverages (i.e., social drinking). According to the Scriptures, the Christian who disobeys Christ and continues to do the will of the Gentiles and to walk in “lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” is not ceasing from sin and is not standing in the true grace of God (1 Pet. 4:3, 1-2). While agreeing that drunkenness is sin, along with the excesses of conduct that accompanies intoxication, these Christians ardently maintain a personal right (liberty) to drink socially and moderately.
The Greek word potos is translated “drinking parties” (NKJV, NASV, ESV), “banquetings” (KJV), and “carousings” (ASV). The Greeks used this word of “a social gathering at which wine was served, a drinking party” (BDAG). One is hard-pressed to restrict potos (“drinking parties”) to the consumption of alcohol only in the final stages of inebriation.
The word triplet used by the Holy Spirit in 1 Peter 4:3 (drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties) encompasses the full range of drinking intoxicants. From the wine that “sparkles in the cup” and “goes down smoothly” (drinking parties), to the “letting loose” that accompanies a few drinks (revelries), to excess intoxication (drunkenness), God’s word warns saints no longer to live like the Gentiles (cf. Prov. 23:23-35; 20:1; 1 Pet. 4:1-2).
The disobedient Christian in such matters is not standing in “the true grace of God;” he has “fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). When a Christian moves away from obeying the gospel, he moves away from the grace of Christ (Gal. 1:6-9). This falling from grace includes violating the Lord’s teachings concerning moral purity (1 Pet. 1:13-17).
Christians stand in “the true grace of God” when we trust and obey God (Acts 20:32; Rom. 5:1-2). To trust and obey does not mean God saves us because we have earned salvation. Doing that would demand sinlessness (Rom. 3:10, 19, 23). We are unprofitable servants, only doing our duty to our Master (Lk. 17:10). Like Abraham, we are sinners saved by grace through faith, not merit (Rom. 4:1-5). Since God commands us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” we must not deceive ourselves into thinking God’s grace saves us regardless of what we know, believe, and do (2 Pet. 3:18; Rom. 6:1-2, 14-16; Tit. 2:11-12). God’s grace does not mean He accepts us and saves us despite continuing to sin. He saves us so that we will no longer be ruled over by sin (Rom. 6:4-18). Grace will not save you if you continue to practice sin (Rom. 6:1-2; Tit. 2:11-12). Do not continue to practice sin instead of repenting of it, thinking God’s grace will save you. Do not “receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 6:1, 2).
Peter said to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:18). He did not pit knowledge against grace, and neither do we by affirming God’s grace is obtained through obedient faith (Jas. 2:21-24; Rom. 4:1-5). God’s grace calls us out of sin, not to continue living it in. Grace does not overlook our sin to save us anyway.
The people in Matthew 7:21-23 pleaded for salvation despite their “lawlessness,” but they did not receive it. Neither will we be saved if we practice lawlessness. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2) When we sin, we must repent, confess it and forsake it (Acts 8:22; 1 Jno. 1:9).
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Inevitable and Invincible
Many young Americans believe they are immune to the coronavirus. At least, they act that way. College students on spring break have resisted efforts to slow the advance of Covid-19 (like social distancing). Their resistance coalesces around two arguments, inevitability and invincibility.
The inevitability argument goes like this: “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying. You know, I’ve been waiting, we’ve been waiting, for Miami spring break for about two months we’ve had this trip planned. Two, three months, and we’re just out here having a good time. Whatever happens, happens” (Brady Sluder, heavy.com).
The invincibility argument goes like this: “We’re not worried about it -- we’ve been drinking Coronas all day bro” (“Students on Spring Break Fail to Heed Coronavirus Warnings,” Anders Melin, bloomberg.com).
Both of these attitudes lead to careless, foolish conduct that is void of sound judgment. These attitudes are also unwise and dangerous when used to excuse sin.
First, while it is inevitable that the wages of sin is death, it is not inevitable that we sin (Rom. 6:23). Sin is a choice, and it brings death. Obeying God is a choice that leads life (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Rom. 5:12; Josh. 24:15; Heb. 5:9).
Second, youth does not make you invincible. “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall” (Isa. 40:30). Young people get sick and die, too. Therefore, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” before difficulties arise that impede your willingness to obey God’s will (Eccl. 12:1).
God warns us of sin’s dangers (Rom. 1:18-32; 2:1-11; 6:23; Gal. 5:19-21). Your sin is not inevitable (“whatever happens, happens”). You are not invincible against sin (“I’m not worried about it”). So, be sober and be watchful (1 Pet. 5:8; Matt. 26:41). Abhor what is evil and cling to what is good (Rom. 12:9). Choose what is good in God’s sight, and abstain from sin, regardless of the form it takes (1 Thess. 5:21-22). The danger of sin is real. How do you respond?
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 03/20/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA