Are You A Christian Outlaw?
by Dr. Timothy Hoflund
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Are you saved by Grace through Faith in the Atoning Sacrificial life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus by calling on Him as Lord?
Well, if you are truly saved from the penalty of your sins, the answer is yes for we cannot save ourselves from the eternal consequences of being born a Sinner and no works that we do, even if we lived perfectly, are good enough to redeem us from the hand of the enemy!
In fact when the dead are judged by their works, they shall finally see that the very best of their works do not come at all close to the WORK OF JESUS for our salvation, redemption - for our ultimate reconciliation!
So this means that the laws and commandments of God no longer have any place in our lives, right? After all, we are not justified by the works of the law, we are not saved by the works of the law, we are under Grace so we don't have to pay any attention to the Laws of God prescribed in pre-Christ Scriptures ... right?
All we have to do is to live by the promises of God and listen to our hearts, right?
I mean, if it is saved by grace, then if someone tells me I am doing something wrong according to the Laws of God, I am free to continue doing what I want because those just don't apply anymore ... right?
Well, isn't that right? Grace not Law?
"For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." See there? We just don't need to obey the Law because we are in Christ Jesus by GRACE! What a relief!!!
WRONG ANSWER!!! Oh the flesh is a stubborn element indeed! It does not intend to be denied the satisfaction of selfish desires and the devil is right along side to provoke our disobedience to what God says is right ... using slices of God's word to justify our insubordination!
It is amazing to me how Christians live as spiritual outlaws and expect all to be right between them and God! They focus in on the verse I just quoted and stop reading right there! But WHAT DOES THE REST OF GOD'S WORD SAY?
The very next sentence declares ... "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!" Romans 6:15
And just what is sin? Hmmm, well according to God's own Word in the book of 1 John 3 we find - - "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law"!!!
So then, is a born again Christian no longer required to obey the Laws of God? Some say that we are only obligated to keep the commandments of Jesus Christ. Well, isn't He the Word become flesh to have dwelt among men? So then doesn't that make all commandments the commandments of Christ?
So again the question ... "Are You a Christian Outlaw"? Don't think that God's laws apply to us, or that only certain laws apply to us today?
Frustrated yet? Confused?
Tune in next issue when we will deal with the roots of confusion that the flesh takes advantage of such as: What is Grace - Biblically? What is the purpose of the Law in the New Testament? What is the role of God's Laws in New Testament relationship with God?
Believe me, this will not only help each of us in our personal spiritual success, but profoundly enable us to help our kindred in Christ to do the same!
GRACE … If we don’t understand what Grace actually is, we cannot live according to and by God’s Grace! If we don’t understand what Grace truly is, how can we possibly grow in grace as God’s Word directs us to do?
Ask many people in the Church to define Grace and you will quite likely hear “unmerited favor” or something very close to it.
Now if this is the true and genuine meaning of grace, if we cannot “merit” God’s favor but we receive it just because God is so good that He wants us to be in His favor merely because we “believe” in His Son, Jesus then we must accept as truth that no matter what we do, or don’t do, God’s favor will just flow throughout our lives and we will be in His favor no matter what!
Now if THAT is the case, IF we can do nothing to merit God’s favor then neither can we do anything to merit God’s disfavor! If one is true the other must also be equally true!
Therefore, if we are granted God’s favor merely because we accept His Son Jesus for our salvation, for the forgiveness of our sins then we really are not responsible to obey God at all … just claim that you believe in Jesus as God’s Son and you believe He is your Savior and you are free to live how you want and follow the desires of your heart and expect God to make good on any promise you can either find in God’s Word or manufacture by using His Words!
Is something sounding not quite right with this line of reasoning? Is something disturbing your heart right about now? GOOD!
Unfortunately, the meaning of Grace, whether malignantly or benignly, has been not just distorted but totally redefined to mean something other than what Grace truly is! Malignantly the devil has, as with all of the key words in God’s Word, been busy to bring about wide-spread if not total acceptance of erroneous meanings!
So then, what makes little ol’ Dr. Timothy think he knows better than the traditional teaching of generations of “learned” men and women who commonly agree that grace is the unmerited favor of God?
The answer to that is: Different teachers!
When I was first told what grace was, nearly 35 years ago now, something just didn’t make sense. But I benignly accepted what I was told and tried to reconcile it with what seemed to be contradictions in Scripture. After a few years of this I began to ask the Lord to teach me what grace (and many more words) truly means … especially every time I came across 2 Peter 3:18 - - “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ …”
How can I grow in something that is unmerited, especially a benefit of unmerited favor with God?
Well according to Romans 5 & 6, “where sin abounds grace does much more abound”, so what, to grow in grace we should sin a whole bunch more so that we can experience more of God’s unmerited favor? Well Paul not only said this is not so, but “God forbid” no!
So in wrestling with this matter, finally an answer came! While in a week long intensive Christian educational seminar, the speaker gave a definition of God’s grace that sparked me to dig into the original languages and find the original meaning! Wow! The curtain lifted and I hope it will on the readers of this article as well! I discovered that, for whatever reason, the meanings of Grace and Mercy had been comingled or perhaps reversed altogether! Again, the result of this is that if you do not know what Grace truly is, how can you truly live according or under Grace?
And who would want us to be confused on this matter? Who would gain advantage for our being made ineffective in our Christian witness and ministry not to mention our very fellowship with God as our Father, by being unable to experience life in the reality of Grace? The only answer is, the devil!
The definition that sparked me to dig into the original language/meaning of Grace was something like this: “Grace is the desire and power to do God’s will.”
That made sense, but still did not clear up my understanding, because this could still be unmerited, even though this particular speaker stated that such was not the case.
So I studied Grace and found …
Greek Word: χάρις
Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.
DO YOU SEE IT? The divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life.
Yes, favor, benefit, pleasure, and other things are attached to or perhaps a benefit or result of, but not the very meaning of Grace!
So, to condense it down and give us a valid working definition of Grace, let us say that Grace is “God’s divine influence upon our hearts”.
From that I understood that new explanation of Grace by the speaker of the seminar that grace is God’s power enabling us to do what He says is right!
Now, while in the Hebrew, the English word, Grace does have a strong implication of being unmerited favor; in New Testament language Grace has a strong implication of being unmerited power! The dynamics are profoundly different! We are given spiritual enablement by God’s gift, and from that point He tells us to grow our ability! Think of the strength of a new born infant. He didn’t do anything to be given his muscles, they were just part of his body at birth, but in order to gain strength he had to grow his muscles, by exercise his strength grows!
On the other hand, if Grace is unmerited favor, favor is something that is either earned or granted. If granted, the “growth” of favor is entirely at the discretion of the Benefactor! If earned, then the favor we find with God is based solely upon our efforts!
So, then, what IS unmerited favor? That would be MERCY! Mercy is entirely at the discretion of the one from whom mercy is needed! He can either give it or withhold it, but either way, the beneficiary cannot earn it! Notice, we are nowhere in Scripture told to grow in mercy!
This then brings us to the purpose of grace!
God’s divine influence upon our hearts as reflected in our lives!
Grace is God influencing us as to which way to go, which way to act, which way to talk, which way to think, which way to believe and which way to follow! Christ says that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no man comes to the Father but through Him! Christ also says, that no man comes to Him except the Father draws them to Him! GRACE – GRACE – GRACE!!! God divinely influencing us in our actions, beliefs and conduct!
So then, to correctly apply grace for saints in Christ, grace is not the freedom FROM being obedient to God but actually it is the power TO be obedient to God!
So when we read that we are not under “law” but under “grace”, to be spiritually correct we must adhere to the original meaning of the word used in the New Testament.
In other words, God empowers us to live lawfully or to be “law abiding citizens” of the Kingdom of Christ and of God! Now this is important … being a law abiding citizen of the Kingdom is NOT FOR OUR JUSTIFICATION! For by the deeds of the Law no flesh is ever justified nor indeed can be!
So, IF one can but apprehend the understanding of the Law’s purpose, then the whole matter of “The Law” in the lives of God’s children can stop being an issue of contention! Once this is settled, we can begin to live as “Lawful Saints” free from condemnation and free from the struggle against becoming either legalistic or liberalistic is our spiritual walk!
In other words, we will see that to live lawfully is not for our salvation/justification but is crucial for our sanctification!
The constant purpose of the Law is to identify and define what sin is! See: Romans 3:20
Grace is that enabling power that is the force behind or the force that energizes FAITH!
And so we must ask, is the Law against Faith? What does Scripture say? “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” Romans 3:30
So then, by God’s divine influence on our hearts, (Grace), we are made able to live within the boundaries set by what God says is right … or to say it another way, we will be able to live the right way! So, what laws are we speaking of, the laws of sacrifice or the laws of liberty? The laws of faith or the laws of covenant?
The New Testament clearly identifies that we are to be obedient to what God declares is right. Now the question is this: If God says that He expects certain conduct or activities of us according to the Patriarchs, in every previous covenant, by the mouths of the Judges, the Kings, the Prophets and yes, the Law; does He not expect the same conduct or activities of us in Christ? Does God change? Has God ever changed what He expects in the conduct and lifestyles of His people?
God changes not! What HAS changed? What has changed are those things that Jesus fulfilled by His life, death and resurrection! Does God require us to perform sacrifices today as He did of the pre-Christ Jews? No, because Christ is our sacrifice … He fulfilled those requirements declared in the Law!
And therein, I believe, is a big part if not the very root of the confusion/contention that exists today about God’s Law in our lives! Jesus said that He did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill. Jesus also said that one jot or one tittle of the Law shall by no means pass away until ALL be fulfilled! So this begs the question … did Jesus fulfill everything in the Law for all men for all time? The answer is: NO! (Now before you get all riled up at me, keep on reading!)
Are there things in the Laws of God that remain unfulfilled? Absolutely yes! Christ came to fulfill all the Law, but He began with the sacrifices which bring us justification and forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to God as our Father!
HOWEVER, If Christ has already completely fulfilled all the law, why then does He tell us through the Apostles that there still remain points of The Law that WE are to fulfill? “… for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ "You shall not bear false witness,'' "You shall not covet,'' and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
So then, it is clearly apparent that while we are not “under” the Law because we are in Christ, it is also just as clearly apparent that God still expects us to abide by the Law prescribed in the “Old Testament”!
But why - - for our justification, for our salvation? Absolutely not! For our righteousness? Again, no for righteousness is not accomplished by “keeping the Law”!
But because we are made righteous, we are able to abide by the Laws of God and Grace enables us to comply with God’s requirements and expectations and this for maintaining a clear conscience before God that we are able to walk uprightly before God! Walking uprightly is to have no reason to be “bowed down” under guilt! For what does the guilty soul do in the presence of God? It bows down in guilt before God!
Those with a clear conscience towards God are able to walk uprightly with God!
Or, did God make us to be the righteousness of God IN Christ so that we can live in disregard of what God says is right? Did God make us to be righteous so we can then live unrighteously?
Well then, does this mean that we are to execute the requirements of the Law such as stoning those in adultery? Of course not, again, Jesus fulfilled the penalties of the Law. For example: Are we to now allow adultery? Of course not, for God’s Law has not changed, adultery is still sin! In Christ we have been raised to a higher plane, so instead of putting the adulterers to death we are to put adultery itself to death!
Finally, if we truly understand the genuine meaning of Grace, then we must realize that we do not have the license to “pick and choose” which of God’s expectations or requirements (laws) we will be obedient to or in agreement with! Rather, we will draw upon that enabling power to act in agreement with everything that God’s Word declares to be right!
I read a quote recently that says: “To do less under GRACE than was expected under the LAW is a DISGRACE!”
Under the Law God expresses very high expectations regarding the conduct of His children. But think about this, under Grace His expectations are even higher for Jesus did say, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”!
Be blessed in Christ!
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Excellent! This is a very timely message to the church today. I loved how you scripturally defined the Grace of God. This article was thought provoking and clearly presented.