Grace and Peace to the Faithful Saints
"Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 1:2). In the introduction the apostle Paul prayed that God the Father and the Lord Christ Jesus would continue to supply grace, and peace to the trustworthy saints of the Church. This is not a frivolous religious greeting used by the writer just to fill space or to sound spiritual. The simplicity of this prayer contains a message of great significance. Just because grace is a free gift from God we should never think of it as an easy way out of life's difficulties.
The fundamental definition of grace says it is the "free," "unwarranted," "undeserved," "unmerited favor," shown by God to humanity. This is irrefutable, because God cheerfully imparts his grace to undeserving people. It is God's grace that will ultimately achieve his purpose. Grace is what God uses to divinely influence the heart of an individual, causing their life to reflect his dealings. In other words, God uses whatever measure necessary to induce a transformation of heart in a person. He does this to produce a life that will openly reflect the change to all creation. If Instruction in righteousness is needed to generate this manifestation then God's grace provides such training. However, if correction becomes necessary to produce the desired result, grace can make the needed adjustment.
Perhaps some have forgotten the word of encouragement that addresses us as sons? It warns us not to make light of the Lord's grace, or discipline. Moreover, it encourages us not to lose heart when he rebukes, challenges, and reprimand us. It is necessary for us to understand that chastisement is not always punishment for wrong doing. Training in the things needed to equip us for God's purpose is also a form of chastening, or discipline. Paul wrote to Titus that the saving grace of God made its appearance to all humanity. He went on to tell us that this same grace teaches us by discipline to renounce irreverence and worldly desires. It also teaches us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope. That is, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Pr. 3:11f; Tit. 2:11ff).
Let us consider the discipline of the military. The person involved in such training possibly feels at times that they are being punished and afflicted unnecessarily. I am reminded of a story that a young man in the Marine Corp. told me some time back. He said, "One morning, during boot camp training, our DI (Drill Instructor) took us out to a field where he ordered us to dig a long, deep trench. Furthermore, he told us we could not stop to eat or rest until we had completed the task. It took all day in the hot sun to complete our assignment. As the sun began to set in the west, we began to take comfort in looking forward to a good hot shower, a meal and a full night of rest."
The recruit went on to say, "Our DI returned to check on us just before the chore was completed. As he approached, we could not believe what we heard. He appeared full of anger and was shouting, cussing and fussing at the top of his voice. He said, 'Who told you to dig this hole in my field!' Someone said, 'You did, Sergeant!' He said, 'Who told you that?!' No one dared to argue with him. He then said, 'Fill that hole up!' It took nearly the whole night to complete the job and no one got any rest, or food, until we completed it." This young Marine went on to say, "I did not understand this discipline until I went to Vietnam. There I learned that such training often made the difference between life and death. In the battlefield I experienced the necessity of going without sleep for days at a time. Yet, it was critically important to remain not only awake, but alert, even when our physical bodies needed rest."
This discipline was a hardship on those young recruits while in boot camp. It certainly did not seem pleasant at the time. However, it yielded good fruit on the field of battle where the necessity of staying alert without needed rest became obvious.
The Lord faithfully tutors and trains those he loves. He also administers the necessary chastisement on everyone he accepts as a son. Thus, we must learn to endure hardship as discipline, for God is treating us as his sons. What son is not disciplined by his father? Remember! Everyone undergoes discipline. If you are not disciplined, then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. God disciplines us for our best that we may share in his holiness. Thus, we need to submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Truly no discipline seems pleasant at the time. It is often painful and unpleasant. However, later on it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:5ff).
To the Church in Corinth the apostle Paul wrote, "No discipline, or pressure, comes to you except such as is common to the human race." Moreover, "God is faithful, who will not allow a testing to come your way that is beyond your capability. He makes the way of exit each episode of discipline so we are able to endure." (1Co. 10:13). It is because of this disciplined training that the writer of Hebrews encourages us to watch out for one another. It takes a unified effort to make it through God's boot camp to the fullness of son placement. Thus, he says we are to strengthen the feeble arms and weak knees of the brethren. By making straight even paths for those who are lame it produces healing in their walk rather than disability. Moreover, we must make every effort to live in peace with everyone. The way to accomplish this is by becoming completely, separated, dedicated and consecrated to God our Father. This state of holiness is absolutely essential and without it no one will see the Lord. It is the responsibility of every son to see to it that no one misses the grace of God. Also, imperative that every son to see it that no bitter root springs up to cause trouble and defile others. (Heb 12:12ff).
God delivers us, and trains us up, by grace through faith it has absolutely nothing to do with human effort. It is the gift of God made available through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. On Calvary's hill God made him who had not sinned an offering for sin on our behalf. He did this so that in Christ Jesus we might become God's righteousness in the earth. (2Co. 5:21). No amount of human effort or sacrifice could do what the Lord has done, therefore, no one can vaunt, boast or strut as though they accomplished something in their own strength. (Eph. 2:8f).
The apostle Paul understands that salvation is not a one time experience, but a progression into the fullness of God's plan. Thus he prays for the church and says, "Grace to you." (1:2). Again, he writes to the Church in Corinth saying, "God is capable of causing all grace to abound into you." He does this so that as we become contented and satisfied always in all things. Moreover, so we may abound to every worthwhile achievement. (2Co. 2:9).
Peter is another apostle who wrote to the
Church saying, "grace and peace become multiplied
to you in the knowledge of God, and of Christ Jesus our Lord." Peter
taught that the grace and peace multiplied, or increased
in the knowledge of God, even of Christ Jesus our Lord. That
is, the more we acknowledge God the more we experience the
grace of God being accompanied by peace. (Eph. 1:2; 2Pe.
1:1f). The apostles requested the increase of both grace,
and peace in their prayers for the Church. We have seen that
grace deals with training and correction. What is the purpose
of an increase of peace in the life of the believer? The
Greek word used in these instances finds its root in the
Greek word "eiro." This is a primary verb
that means "to join." The idea of being
joined to the discipline of God is tremendous. That is, united
as one with that which God is doing in our lives. The statement
has been made, "I will practice this thing until
it becomes second nature to me." This is but a
half truth however when it comes to grace. For when Paul
wrote to Titus that the saving grace of God made its appearance
to all humanity he was not referring to a doctrine or even
an invisible force of God. The grace that he said appeared
first came in the nature and person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
John said, "The Word became flesh, and tabernacled
among us, full of grace and truth." He further
declared that the law was given through Moses. However, grace
and truth came through Jesus Christ, our Lord. (Joh. 1:14,