OBEDIENCE AND GRACE.
There is much confusion on man's ability to obey the commands of God. There are two types of commands in the Bible. These are the direct and indirect commands. Everyone is always able to obey the direct command. The indirect command is one that a person will never accomplish without first receiving the results of the direct command.
A person fulfills the direct command when he repents from sin and makes Christ the Lord of his life. This person then can receive all the help and aid of the Holy Spirit. A person will only fulfill the indirect commands by abiding in Christ. No person will ever grow in grace and the knowledge of God without abiding in Christ. No person will ever overcome sin by his own efforts and strength.
We always can fulfill the direct commands directly and the indirect commands indirectly. God can never require anything that is impossible for us to accomplish. We can become more than conquerors through Christ. Whatever difficulties we face, we are able through Christ to overcome them all.
No man ever will fulfill the indirect commands without depending totally on Christ. A sinner, as long as he remains totally selfish will never love God because pure love does not flow from a selfish mind. God freely makes available the love that the law requires. The grace of the gospel when received will fulfill the obedience required by the law. Without this love, no one will keep the commandments.
The true Christian loves God, resulting in keeping the commandments. John 14:15, 21a, 24. "If you love me, keep my commands. He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me. He that loves me not keeps not my sayings." The Christian does not keep the commands to prove his love. He keeps the law as a natural result of his love. A selfish heart naturally produces sin. A heart full of God's love naturally produces holiness.
Deception can occur when a sinner tries to fulfill the indirect command without first truly repenting and receiving Christ. An example of this would be when a sinner tries to obey or serve God with a selfish heart. He has no true love for God and would fail. He is under the influences of the law, not grace. He is motivated and influenced by the fear of punishment and the hope of reward. He always fails and comes to the conclusion that he was unable to fulfill the law. He would only be partly right. He will never fulfill the law without first receiving God's gift of Christ.
Deception may also occur when a believer tries to obey or serve God from his own resources. He also would fail and think it is impossible to obey. He fails because he does not yet depend totally on Christ. A believer will always fail when he ties to obey from his own energy and strength. The believer must first realize his own spiritual bankruptcy and then receive the strength from Christ that he needs to overcome this sin.
The scriptural example of these experiences is in Romans 7 by Paul. This is not an example of Paul's life at the time he wrote it. Romans 8 is the answer to this problem. This is the experience of a believer who trusts totally in Christ. Please read Romans chapter 7 and 8 completely. You will see that chapter 7 shows a person living under the law. Romans chapter 8 is the description of a believer experiencing true grace of God.
There is no law that requires grace. Man's sinful state puts no demands on God to furnish grace. If man did not have the ability to obey, then God would be under obligation to give him the ability before He could righteously judge him. Nothing forces God to provide grace. Grace is a result of God's own free will and choice. God can legally withhold grace and still justly send the sinner to hell. Man does not need grace to obey because he can obey without it. Grace does not supply some lack of deficiency in a person's ability.
The sinner's problem is not that he cannot obey, it is that he will not. He does need God's grace because he refuses to let go of selfishness and obey. He is so stubborn that he will never give up his selfishness without the grace of God and influence of the Holy Spirit. His mind is full of selfish pursuits and resists as much as possible the demands of reason, conscience and the Bible. This is voluntary selfishness, a state in which the sinner is a voluntary slave of lusts, appetites, and desires. This selfish state of mind is caused by a person's free choice to prefer his own selfish interests over God's higher interests, just because they belong to him.
The sinner refuses to give up his own way even knowing he should. This is why a sinner is a real criminal and rebel worthy of punishment forever. The law prohibits selfishness because it is sin. Selfishness is the root and source from which all forms of sin flow. This is the only real problem that needs to be overcome.
The grace of God helps break up the sinner's selfishness and make him truly willing. God's grace cannot make or force anyone to give up sin. The will must remain totally free for sin and holiness to exist. A person can always resist and reject God's grace. Grace is a gift from God. A sinner cannot do anything to attract God's favor or make himself desirable to Him. Grace is God's free choice to reach down out of pure unselfish love to a rebel and a criminal. He poured out His love to us when we were sinning, refusing to come to Him and were His complete enemies.
Romans 8:7,8 "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."
Romans 5:6,8-10 "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
An unconvicted sinner will never search after God. He even lacks the desire to do so. He is hostile in mind, and engaged in evil deeds. He lives in the lusts of his flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind. He has a carnal mind and is an enemy of God.
God knows the sinner loves himself totally and hates Him. God being rich in mercy reaches down with grace that intends to make the sinner willing. This is true grace. We all deserve hell but God gives us grace and mercy. What a loving God!
If you are a sinner you can turn to God, but are totally unwilling to do so. Your voluntary selfishness deserves punishment but God's grace reaches down to you with His unselfish love. This is truly amazing grace. The law requires a pure unselfish love for God. The sinner hates God and does not even want to know Him. God truly loves the sinner and desires to set him free from selfishness. God revealed His love to everyone when He gave Christ. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
God offers every person the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. The love that the law requires will never flow out of selfishness. The selfish person is hostile to God and chooses to remain so. Without first receiving Christ and the aid that God freely offers, a selfish person will never bring pleasure to God.
Some people are deceived. They think grace does away with the law or somehow removes their personal responsibility to obey. This is completely untrue. The grace of God does not cover up sin or fill in gaps of disobedience. If a person is sinning or disobedient, no amount of grace will let God see him as obeying, perfect or holy. The true Christian truly obeys and keeps the law.
1. Does the law or man's sinful state demand or require any grace? Why?
2. Explain why God can legally withhold grace and still justly send sinners to hell.
3. Is man able to obey? Why?
4. What is voluntary selfishness? Why does it deserve hell?
5. What is the grace of God intended to do? Why?
6. Can anyone ever earn grace? Why?
7. Why does God give grace?
8. Can a person resist God's grace? Why?
9. Explain the difference between direct and indirect commands.
10. How can a person fulfill the indirect command?
11. What does the law require?
12. Will a selfish person ever obey the law? Why?
13. What do we need to keep the law? Why? How can we keep the law?
14. What does a selfish heart naturally produce? Why?
15. Does the grace of God cover up sin? Why?
16. Romans 7 gives an example of what type of person?
17. Romans 8 gives an example of what type of person?