Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Can Grace be abused?

Hi Dearly Beloveds,

Just came back from a gathering session. A mildly heated debate came about when the facilitator of the group used the term "abuse Grace". He was mentioning that it is possible for an individual to "abuse Grace". Extreme scenarios were played out, the heavy subject matter of adultery was used as an illustration.

Taken for example a man, having an adulterous relationship, tells his wife that he's in an adulterous relationship because where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. The verse reference would be:
Romans 5:20
But the Law entered so that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound,

He then goes on to say to his wife that God will bless him more because he has sinned, grace much more abounds in his life.

First and foremost, I think, such situations are rare and few. But i'm sure it happens.

Few key questions:

1) How should that man's wife react and what should she do?

The couple should agree to go for some kind of counselling first. But if the husband disagrees and still wants to continue in that adulterous relationship. Then...

Divorce the man for goodness sake! She is in a hurtful relationship, it would not benefit her in any way to be with this man.

2) How should we view this man?

He is obviously not well. By taking this verse out of the very context of the gift of righteousness and using it for his personal immoral gain and habit, he probably is suffering from some kind of mental and emotional problems. In another word, he is probably to some degree a sociopath (from dictionary.com, noun: a person, as a psychopathic personality, whose behavior is antisocial and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience).

The context of Romans 5:20 starts from Romans 5:14. It would be the recognition of our righteousness before God is as a gift from God. And this Gift, though is free for all who wish to believe, is NOT cheap to God. God paid dearly for it, for us to receive it for free. Jesus paid the penalty for us on our behalf.

Context is here:
Rom 5:14 But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is the type of Him who was to come;
Rom 5:15 but the free gift shall not be also like the offense. For if by the offense of the one many died, much more the grace of God, and the gift in grace; which is of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
Rom 5:16 And the free gift shall not be as by one having sinned; (for indeed the judgment was of one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses to justification.
Rom 5:17 For if by one man's offense death reigned by one, much more they who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ.)
Rom 5:18 Therefore as by one offense sentence came on all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came to all men to justification of life.
Rom 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous.
Rom 5:20 But the Law entered so that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound,
Rom 5:21 so that as sin has reigned to death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

When the believer sees the Gift of Righteousness as an act of unconditional and sacrificial love from our Heavenly Father, we see His Love for us!

Now what can set a person free from sin?

Knowing that God does not condemn us any more, we are then set free from the effects of sin.

John 8:10-11 (the adulterous woman about to be stoned by the Pharisees)
10 And bending back up, and seeing no one but the woman, Jesus said to her, Woman, where are the ones who accused you? Has no one condemned you?
11 And she said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.

So what empowers a person from not sinning? Knowing that though we have sinned and will sin in our earthly lives here, God Himself the Salvation of our lives does not condemn us!

We have now been saved from the judgment which was of condemnation to the free gift of righteousness which brings our offenses, by the blood of Jesus, to our justification! (Romans 5:16)

The knowledge of the Truth sets us free! (John 8:32)

The original Greek word for sin in the NT is "Hamartia" meaning - to miss the mark.

In the context of Romans 5:20, there is no differentiation between what kind of sins are covered under grace which more than abounds. The debate that we had was also whether it is willful sinning, habitual sinning or unconscious sinning.

Sin simply means to miss the mark. In God's eyes sin are all equal, from the smallest to the greatest.

Matthew 5:28
But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Just a thought can be equated to the physical deed itself. This is God's standard.

A man can wilfully sin. In this case, this adulterous husband. He has bent the Word of God to use it for his personal immoral gains, to use it to wilfully hurt his wife and his family, but if some time ago he has declared and believed that Jesus is his Lord and Saviour, then we are not here to judge this man.

We pray for his deliverance from this immoral life he is living in. We pray for his wife to be released from this bondage and be healed from the hurt that she has gone through and we also pray that if both parties decide to go through counselling, that their marriage can be restored and be renewed and that it can be a testimony to the goodness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Even if that man has rejected counselling, we will still pray for him and we are not in a position to judge him.

Paul succintly said it here in Romans 14:8-13:

8 For both if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore both if we live, and if we die, we are the Lord's.
9 For this Christ both died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.
10 But why do you judge your brother? Or also why do you despise your brother? For all shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God."
12 So then each one of us will give account concerning himself to God.
13 Then let us not judge one another any more, but rather judge this, not to put a stumbling-block or an offense toward his brother.

So, in our speech, conversation, counselling to such a person, it would be much better to speak the Life giving Words of Christ into this brother's life. We don't have to tell him he's got a problem or that he has sinned and done something wrong. His conscience has already convicted him of that.

Let's look to the Word again:
John 8:7-9 (The Pharisees decided not to stone the adulterous woman because of what Jesus said and their conscience convicted them)
7 But as they continued to ask Him, He lifted Himself up and said to them, He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.
8 And again bending down, He wrote on the ground.
9 And hearing, and being convicted by conscience, they went out one by one, beginning at the oldest, until the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Another example of the conscience bearing witness to the law.
Romans 2:14-15,
14 For when the nations, who do not have the Law, do by nature the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law unto themselves;
15 who show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and the thoughts between one another accusing or even excusing one another,

So coming back to the topic of "Abusing Grace".

We can see it from 2 perspectives.

1. From the spirit of "legalism" and "religiosity".
"Oh! that Brother has abused grace because he used the Word and twisted it to suit his sinful life! Look at him now! Living in sin in that adulterous relationship...! etc."

2. From the spirit of Truth & Grace.
"Yes, we recognise that Brother is now in an adulterous relationship. Let's pray for him and his family that their relationship be healed. Let us leave room for God's Grace to work in his life. For where sin (to miss the mark) abounds, grace much more abounds. I'm sure someone would have recommended them to go for counselling with the church or possibly they would have talked about it."

- Yes, in point 1, that brother has in a way "abused" (wilfully misinterpreted out of context) how that Word of God is applied. But God is bigger than that! In God's everlasting Grace and Mercy, He will surely still pour His Love on this brother's life. To heal him, to renew his mind, to bless him. The response of the individual to God would be like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-25) returning to his father. Be it returning with good or bad intentions, so long as he returns home, his Father is delighted and overjoyed!

- In point 2, yes we are ALSO abusing God's Grace! Because we believe that God is greater than sin! Where sin is, there is God to deliver you! There is Jesus to save you! His mercy endures forever!

Psalms 118:1
"O give thanks to YHVH; for He is good; because His mercy endures forever."

So if putting such a statement (answers to point 1 & 2) into a mathematical context, we can reduce the common terms and eliminate the less important variables that would not impact the end result (I'm not that good in math so I don't know the exact term for it. Apologies). Which in this case, is the word "abuse".

Grace CANNOT be abused anymore because GRACE has already been abused 2000+ years ago!

Grace is NOT a doctrine, Grace is NOT a teaching, Grace is NOT a message. GRACE is THE Good News/Gospel itself!


Because GRACE = JESUS !

John 1:17,
For the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Grace and Truth CAME as Jesus Christ! So that means, Grace and Truth is the person of Jesus Christ Himself!

To receive Grace is to receive Jesus! So once you're saved, you have already received the Grace of God! Because now you are in Him and He is in you!

How about abusing Grace/Jesus then?

Isaiah 53:5-6,
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

If anyone has watched the movie "The Passion", you would have known what abuse really is. In fact, I believe Jesus suffered more than what was shown in the movie.

The earlier verse in Isaiah 53:2 says,
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

As a plant pulled out of the dry ground, stomped on, crushed and beaten to a pulp. That was what Jesus went through. In the movie, when Jim Caviezel was on the cross as Jesus, you could still see a face, you still could recognise Jim Caviezel's face. But here in Isaiah 53:2 says, He has NO form ("To'ar" in the Hebrew, which means: shape, form, outline, figure, appearance ) nor comeliness ("Hadar" in the Hebrew, which means: splendour, majesty, glory) and no beauty ("Mar'eh" in the Hebrew, which means: sight, appearance, vision) that we should desire Him.

It would mean that by the time Jesus was on the cross, we wouldn't want to look at Him at all. Because He would have looked totally disgusting and we'd probably vomit looking at Him with our tears rolling at the same time.

So, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we can no longer abuse Grace/Jesus because He has already been abused! All He asks for is for us to USE Him. Use Him, draw on Him, for He is our Salvation in ALL our circumstances in our lives.

So in that circumstance in your life or when we are looking at someone elses circumstance in their lives what do we say? More importantly, what would Jesus say? I believe He would say this:
Matthew 16:15-16
15 He said to them, But who do you say I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Lord Jesus, You ARE my GRACE! In ALL areas of my life, YOU are my GRACE!

I will use You, I will draw on You, I will feed on You, I will drink of You!

Hallelujah! God is most well pleased when you see and use Jesus this way.

Matthew 17:5,
While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them. And behold a voice out of the cloud which said, This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear Him.

Him and Him alone do we hear. Him and Him alone do we magnify and glorify. To Him and Him alone do we give weight to all our circumstances, especially in the moments where we miss the mark.

We give Him Glory, Honour and all praises to Him!

Thank you Jesus, you are our Yeshua, you love us and we love you back.


Shalom to one & all,