2019-10-21 The Gift-Horse’s Mouth

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”
Ephesians 2:8

Romans is a fascinating book, one that must be read very slowly and savored. It begs to be dissected and cross-referenced, to be compared to itself and other scripture so that the truth of God may be revealed to us. While on one hand it seems that Paul rambles on, the other shows that he has an economy of words that makes one marvel. This is not the writing of someone who can’t collect his thoughts or form a complete sentence. This is of a man who is guided by the Spirit in topics that are almost beyond the comprehension of man.

In fact, they are. Beyond the comprehension of most men. You see, it’s the Holy Spirit who unlocks understanding to scripture. He isn’t available to just anyone, only those to whom are born again. It’s not that the world can’t understand anything in scripture; it’s that the meaning is rejected. Let’s face it, anyone who rejects the gospel is out of his/her mind. It’s not that they can’t understand; it’s that the don’t REALLY understand. At this point, we may question the fairness of the whole situation. I mean, why wouldn’t God hammer it so much that the DO fully understand.

That’s not the way you and I are. Let’s also remember that God knows everything, not only in the present tense, but also past and future as well. He is also the only one who truly knows a man’s heart. He is the perfect judge. Ok? This is important lest we begin to criticize God. Thinking things through is one thing, but let’s make sure we start with the proper set of assumptions.

What, therefore, does God say about man? Do we need to understand the gospel in order to be condemned? No, we don’t. The problem is way before that. Let’s recall Romans 1 in which Paul writes (through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) that “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (v. 19) Okay, now what? “So they are without excuse.” (v.20) The rest of that chapter reveals how, despite our knowledge of God, mankind deteriorates in its lust for sin. All humans. Every human. We see that proof in Chapter 3.

Yet, in Chapter 3, we see hope in this thing called “faith in Jesus.” In Chapter 4, Paul goes back to Abraham, the father of Israel, whose faith is referred to often in the bible. Let’s take a peek at what Paul says about him:

Romans 4:20-22 No unbelief made [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

How about you? Do you believe God in what He has promised? Are you fully convinced? Are you growing strong in your faith? Are you giving glory to God? I would say that I do this. Can you say that you have no unbelief? Ah-ha! That’s the part that is tricky for us to understand. Do I have any doubt? Honestly, I do. What does that mean? Gulp.

Here’s where we need to keep reading our bibles. You see, as I studied this, I kept wondering how Abraham got his faith. And, Noah, how about him? It took him decades to build a gigantic boat! Am I that sure of my faith that I could do something like that? How did these men come to the point that they had “no unbelief”?

Something popped out of Romans 5 for me that had not before. In the last half of the chapter, Paul compares Adam and Jesus. Adam brought sin into the world; Jesus deals with it. Let me show you what I noticed by emphasizing it:

Romans 5:15-17 But the FREE GIFT is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the FREE GIFT by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the FREE GIFT is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the FREE GIFT following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the FREE GIFT of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Let’s add a verse from the next chapter:

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the FREE GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you think the Holy Spirit might be trying to make a point here? Now, your bible might simply say “gift” whereas my ESV says “free gift”, but that doesn’t change the meaning. A gift is a gift. It’s free. No strings attached, otherwise it would no longer be a gift but rather compensation. Paul addresses this back in chapter 4:

Romans 4:3-5 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

See how I am dissecting and cross-referencing scripture? And, within that, we see Paul doing the same thing?

Where did Abraham get his faith? It was a gift of God. A free gift. No strings attached. Did Abraham start his faith journey with “no unbelief” as we see in Romans 4:20? No, because scripture also reveals that Abraham lied about the true nature of his relationship with his wife so that he might save his own life. Or, so he thought he needed to do that. He didn’t always trust God completely in His promise.

But that didn’t matter because God is the one that is judging your faith. You aren’t, nor is somebody else. Thank God for that! No, God first looks at the FREE GIFT he has given you – the gift of faith – and sees THAT as perfect. He’s looking at HIS gift to you, not in you. Remember, YOU started out in Romans 1, futile in your thinking, claiming to be wise, but a fool. No, God gave you a FREE GIFT so that, like Abraham, you might “grow strong” in your faith.

Do you see this? Here’s a couple more things. God doesn’t take back his gift. You or I might do that, but God doesn’t. There may be some who think you can give it BACK to him, as in refusing it, but that can’t happen. God knows all from beginning to end. He wouldn’t give you something he didn’t fully intend for you to have. Not when all the rest of scripture points to him changing you through that gift.

Lastly, look at Ephesians 2:8 at the top of the page. What exactly is the gift? Grace or faith? Well, I always thought it was faith, but today I started to think that maybe it is grace. Then, it dawned on me. Grace comes with faith, and with faith comes grace. Those two are inseparable. In effect, they are one and the same. If you have grace, you have faith. If you have faith, you have grace. How can you say one is a gift without saying the other is as well?

Is it any wonder we see the word “rejoice” so often in our bibles?

Father, I rejoice in all this wonderful news! I have no clue as to why you bestowed such a great gift to me. Honestly. Yet, I am so glad you did. Moreover, I am so glad that you guaranteed all this for me for all of eternity by telling me, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Amen.

Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers

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