Does God Withhold Grace?
To answer this question let's consider those to whom God gives grace. In James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 we read that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. The word translated "resist" is antitassomai and means, "to range in battle against; to oppose one's self, resist." The word is used in Acts 18:6, where we read of the opposition of the Corinthian Jews to Paul's preaching that Jesus was Christ. A few verses later (verse 12) we read of the ongoing opposition of the Jews to Paul's preaching, to the point they mounted an insurrection against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat! So James and Peter tell us that God is standing in opposition to those who are proud. The proverbs writer records for us that "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished." (Proverbs 16:5), and "An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin." (Proverbs 21:4). In 1 John 3:8 we read, "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:41 that everlasting fire is prepared for the devil and his angels. So the grace we all need to be saved will not be given to those who are proud. Their fate will be everlasting destruction with the devil and his angels.
Since we know grace will be given to those who are humble, has this group of people failed to keep any of God's commandments? If they have, then we know that it is unnecessary to do all we are commanded in order to receive God's saving grace. The Greek word translated "humble" in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 is tapeinos. In addition to "humble" the word is translated "of low degree", "base", "cast down", "of low estate", and "lowly." Tapeinos is translated "lowly" in Matthew 11:29, which reads, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." But what does Jesus mean when He says, "and learn of me."? The Greek word manthano is translated "learn", and is also used in Ephesians 4:20. To consider the context of this verse, let's consider verses 17-23: "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;". Here we see the Gentiles walking in the vanity of their mind, alienated from the life of God. Paul tells the Ephesians, though, that "ye have not so learned Christ". If they have learned Christ, they will have put off corruption according to deceitful lusts and be renewed in the spirit of their minds. What does this tell us about learning of Jesus? Those who learn of Him apply what they learn to their lives!
So in Matthew 11:29, what does Jesus tell us we are to learn of Him? He continues with the phrase, "for I am meek and lowly in heart." Those who learn of Jesus apply his meekness and humility to their lives. Their reward will be to "find rest unto your souls." Here we see the saving grace of God given to those who learn of Jesus and apply His meekness and humility to their lives. Now that we have an example of one who was humble, and whose humility we are to imitate in order to receive the saving grace of God, did this one fail to keep any commandment given Him by God?
Let's turn to John 15:10. Here John records the words of Jesus: "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." Jesus kept His Father's commandments, and kept all of His commandments. But what benefit does one receive by abiding in Jesus' love? Please consider His words as recorded in John 15:13-15: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." Consider the significance behind the statements Jesus makes in these 3 verses! First He tells us that "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." The word "love" in verse 15 is the Greek agape, the same word He used in John 15:10. The word translated "friend" is philos. Did Jesus lay down His life? Yes! For whom did He lay down His life? He tells us that there is no greater love (agape) than for a man to lay down his life for his friends. In verse 14 He tells us who His friends are: those who do whatsoever He commands them. So Jesus laid down His life for His friends, and His friends are those who do whatsoever He commands them! But doesn't Romans 5:8 tell us that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners? It most certainly does! So am I saying that all sinners are Jesus' friends? I am most certainly not! When Jesus died on the cross, what happened? His blood was shed. What does He tell us about His shed blood in Matthew 26:28? "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." So when He died, His blood was shed for the remission of sins. But who receives the remission of sins? In Acts 10:43 we read, "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." So whosoever believeth in Jesus shall receive remission of sins. John 16:27 says, "For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." The Greek word translated "loveth" in this verse is not agape, it is phileo! So God has a warm emotional attachment (phileo) for those who believe that Jesus came from Him. Those who believe in Jesus have remission of sins. Aphesis, the word translated "remission" in Acts 10:43, is also translated "forgiveness" elsewhere in the NT. Aphesis is derived from aphiemi, which is translated "forgive." We read in Matthew 6:15 that it is the Father who forgives sins. Since the Father forgives (remits) the sins of those who believe in Jesus, and He has a warm emotional attachment for those who believe in Jesus, God forgives the sins of those for whom He has a phileo type of love. Jesus' blood was shed for those who receive remission of sins, therefore God has a phileo type of love for those for whom Jesus' blood was shed. Jesus' blood was shed at the time of His death, and He died for those whom He calls His friends. Since His friends were the ones for whom He shed His blood, and God has a warm emotional attachment for those for whom Jesus' blood was shed, those who are Jesus' friends are also God's friends. Jesus' friends are those who do whatsoever He has commanded them, and Jesus' friends are also God's friends, therefore one must do everything commanded them in order to be the friend of Jesus!
This is of such great importance, I'd like to review the points we made above. Below are those points listed in order, based on the relationship between each we read of in the scriptures:
Those who keep every commandment of Jesus abide in Jesus' love (agape). (John 15:10) Return to 9
Jesus laid down His life. (John 10:17-18)
Since Jesus laid down His life for His friends (#6), and man has no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends (#4), then Jesus has no greater love (agape) than that He has for His friends (philos). Return to 8, 9
Since Jesus' friends (philos) abide in His love (agape) (#7), they also abide in the Father's love.
Since those who abide in Jesus' love (agape) are those who keep each of His commandments (#2), and Jesus' friends abide in His love (agape) (#7), Jesus' friends are those who do whatsoever He commands them. (John 15:14) Return to 15, 17, 22, 24
Since Jesus laid down His life for His friends (#6), and His blood was shed when He laid down His life, His blood was shed for His friends.
Since Jesus' blood was shed for the remission of sins (#12), and those who believe in Jesus receive the remission of sins, Jesus' blood was shed for those who believe in Him.
Since the friends of Jesus are those who do whatsoever He commands them (#9), and remission of sins is given to the friends of Jesus (#16), then remission of sins is given to those who do whatsoever Jesus commands them.
The Father forgives (aphiemi) sins. (Matthew 6:15)
Since the Father forgives (aphiemi) sins and Jesus' blood was shed for the remission (aphesis) of the sins of His friends (#16), the Father forgives the sins of the friends of Jesus.
Since Jesus' friends do whatsoever they are commanded (#9), and those who believe in Jesus are His friends (#15), and the friend of Jesus is also a friend of the Father's (#21), then the Father loves (phileo) those who do whatsoever they are commanded.
Since the Father loves (phileo) those who believe in Jesus (#20), and He forgives the sins of those who believe in Jesus (#13), the Father forgives the sins of those whom He loves (phileo). Return to 24
Since those who believe in Jesus keep each and every one of His commandments (# 9 and #15), and the Father forgives those who believe in Jesus (#13), and those who believe in Jesus are loved (phileo) by the Father (#20), and the Father forgives those whom He loves (#23), the Father forgives only those who keep each and every commandment of Jesus! Return to 26
Forgiveness of sin is according to the riches of God's grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
Since forgiveness of sin is given by the Father to those who keep each and every commandment of Jesus (#24), and forgiveness of sin is according to God's grace, then grace is given only to those who keep each and every commandment of Jesus!
But what is a commandment of Jesus that we must keep in order to receive the grace of God, which we need for salvation? There are several Greek words translated "commandment". The one used in the verses noted above is entole. Entole means "an order, command, charge, precept, injunction." The English words are linked to an on-line English dictionary. I'd like for us to consider briefly the definition of "injunction." Merriam-Webster gives this definition: "a writ granted by a court of equity whereby one is required to do or to refrain from doing a specified act." So entole carries the idea of something one is required to do or to refrain from doing. We see the nature of commands as issued by authority in Luke 7:1-10. In this account we read of a centurion whose servant was sick. (verse 2) The servant heard of Jesus and sent unto Him the elders of the Jews, beseeching Jesus that He would come and heal his servant. (verse 3) The elders did so, and acknowledged the centurion's love for and service to Israel. (verses 4-5) Jesus went with them. As He approached the centurion's house, the man sent friends to Jesus. These friends were to tell Jesus that the centurion was not worthy for Him to enter his house. They were to ask Jesus to "say in a word, and my servant shall be healed." (verses 6-7) Why did he do so? The centurion understood authority. He, too, had soldiers under him who responded to his orders as he gave them. (verse 8) When Jesus heard his words, He marveled at him and said, "I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." (verse 9) We see in verse 10 that the servant of the centurion was healed as he requested.
The centurion knew that Jesus was given authority. He knew that His orders would be obeyed as He issued them. His faith in Jesus' authority led to the healing of His servant. Jesus tells us today that all power (authority) in heaven and in earth has been given unto Him. (Matthew 28:18). Since He has all authority, he has the power to issue commands and expect them to be obeyed. His servants today, however, have the option to obey or disobey His orders. Those who obey have been promised the gift of God's grace and the forgiveness of sins. Those who disobey have been promised eternal destruction. His commandments are recorded in God's word. His servants are expected to study His word, learn His commandments, and obey them. We have commandments we must follow prior to salvation in order to receive salvation. These commandments are reviewed in the "salvation" section of my website. Please link to this section should you wish to review these commandments. Since we know we must keep every commandment of Jesus in order to receive the saving grace of God, everything He tells us to do before salvation is absolutely essential in order for one to receive salvation. Some will accuse me of "legalism" and attempting to earn salvation by works. If you feel I am teaching that we may earn salvation, please review the study above. I've provided a link for your convenience. We are going to cover "law" in the next section of this study, but at this time consider John's statement in 1 John 3:4. He tells us that "whoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." Do we sin today? Most certainly! Romans 3:23 states this fact plainly. Therefore, since we sin today, what must be true? We are under law! What law we are under will be covered in the next section of our study. Please consider the truth to the teachings of the inspired writers and determine to follow each and every commandment of Jesus so that you might receive the saving grace of God.
From the above evaluation we can learn several important points:
Faith without works is dead (James 2:20). Based on the above evaluation the truth in James' writing is easily seen. Since Jesus' friends do all that He commanded, and Jesus' friends are those who believe in Him, then those who believe in Him do all they are commanded to do. Since God's grace is necessary for salvation, and it is by God's grace that we receive forgiveness of sins, and only those who are Jesus' friends are recipients of God's grace, then one must do everything they are commanded to do (i.e. be Jesus' friend) in order to receive forgiveness of sins. One who says they have faith but fail to keep the commandments of Jesus is not His friend, does not believe on Him, is not a friend of God, has not received forgiveness of sins, and is not saved! The "faith" they claim is dead and incapable of accessing the saving grace of God which is necessary for salvation. There is a direct relationship between belief and works.
Works without faith are incapable of producing salvation. Hebrews 11:6 states, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Since those who believe are Jesus' friends, and Jesus' friends are the ones who receive forgiveness of sins from the Father, then those who don't believe are not Jesus' friends and cannot receive forgiveness of sins regardless of how many good works they do.
What else can we learn about works?
In Ephesians 2:8-10 Paul says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Here Paul tells us that salvation is the gift of God and is not of works. But his next statement is that we are created unto good works! This passage in many ways sums up everything we've studied so far. From our study we understand we are saved by grace and not by works, since our works can never equal the value of the salvation we receive from God. We cannot earn salvation, therefore if we receive it we have been given a gift of God. The gift of salvation we receive is found only in Christ Jesus. As Peter told the rulers of Israel in Acts 4:10-12, "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Since salvation is found only in Christ Jesus, and the friends of Jesus receive salvation, then the friends of Jesus are in Him. But how does one get into Christ? Paul tells us in Galatians 3:26-28, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Before baptism one is outside of Christ. It doesn't matter how many good works they've done, how great their "faith" is, or how diligently they've kept themselves from sin. Paul tells us that as many as have been baptized into Christ have put Him on! The phrase "into Jesus Christ" is used one other time in the NT: Romans 6:3. Again, Paul directly links one being into Christ with baptism! There is no verse in the NT that teaches any other method by which one enters into Christ other than by baptism! Many verses, however, speak of one being "in Christ." What is the difference between "in" and "into"? The Greek word translated "in" is en. If you note the word origin portion of the entry for en it reads, "a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality (medially or constructively), i.e. a relation of rest. (intermediate between (1519) and (1537))" That's quite a "mouthful" for such a small word. The English dictionary uses the following definition for in: "used as a function word to indicate inclusion, location, or position within limits." The "1519" and "1537" mentioned in the above definition refer to the numbers assigned a word by the writers of Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. So en represents a position intermediate between eis (1519) and ek (1537). Let's consider these two words as we strive to understand en. The writers of the KJV translate eis several ways. The dictionary defines eis as meaning, "into, unto, to, towards, for, among." Ek is defined as, "out of, from, by, away from." So these 3 prepositions tell us the relationship between an object or person and their target (goal) or origin. One who is entering a defined location is going "into" that location (eis). Once they have entered that location, they are included within the limits of that location (en). Should they travel outside the limits of the location they are traveling away from it (ek). Now let's apply our understanding of these words to our relationship with Christ. Until one is included as part of Christ one is not in Christ. Before one may be included as part of Christ one must enter into Christ. The only scriptural method by which one enters into Christ is through baptism. Once one is baptized one is a part of Christ and is now in Christ. One who claims to be in Christ but has not fulfilled the requirements necessary to become part of Him is making a false claim.
I would like to briefly address an unfortunate error contained within the Greek dictionary I reference so often. This error shows us how we must be cautious of any explanation of the scriptures offered by man. Once the definition for eis is rendered, you read the following paragraph (pasted in its entirety, no spelling corrections made):
"For" (as used in Acts 2:38 "for the forgiveness...") could have twomeanings. If you saw a poster saying "Jesse James wanted forrobbery", "for" could mean Jesse is wanted so he can commit arobbery, or is wanted because he has committed a robbery. The latersense is the correct one. So too in this passage, the word "for"signifies an action in the past. Otherwise, it would violate theentire tenor of the NT teaching on salvation by grace and not by works."
Let's turn to Acts 2:38 and see if this verse can be approached the way this uninspired writer suggests. The verse states, "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." The example the writer used was, "Jesse James wanted for robbery." Let's consider everything mentioned before "for" in these two sentences. In Acts 2:38 we have:
Every one of you
In the name of Jesus Christ
In the commentator's statement we have:
Now we need to consider what follows "for" in each of these statements:
Acts 2:38: The remission of sins
In addition to the sentences themselves, we have context. Let's consider the context in which each statement was made:
Acts 2:38: On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached to a large group of people "from every nation under heaven." (verse 5) Peter preached a scathing sermon, outlining the sins they had committed in crucifying the Son of God. At the conclusion of his sermon they realized their predicament and asked, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (verse 37) Peter tells them in verse 38. In verse 41 we read, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls."
Jesse James: A notorious bank robber, train robber, and murderer who lived in the United States during the mid-1800's. Much effort was expended by law enforcement and the civilian population to stop his criminal activities.
Now let's consider "for" in the light of the phrases which precede this word, follow the word, and the context in which the statements are made. The commentator to the Greek dictionary urges one to apply a past tense meaning to "for". In Acts 2:38, when applying the past tense, "for" would be telling us what the subject of the sentence did in response to something he had already received. In the commentator's statement, "for" tells us why the subject was wanted (i.e. what he had done in the past which resulted in his wanted status). Is it valid to apply the past tense to both statements? I believe we would all agree that the word "for" in the commentators statement is telling us that Jesse James was wanted for robberies committed in the past. Common sense and context make this clear. However, what necessary conclusions must we draw should we apply the past tense to Acts 2:38?
Repentance is unnecessary for the remission of sins.
Baptism is unnecessary for the remission of sins.
Everyone who heard Peter on the day of Pentecost had his or her sins remitted.
The concept behind the phrase "in the name of Jesus Christ" carries no meaning when considered along with the remission of sins.
"But why do you say repentance is unnecessary?" some might ask. Because we have that ever-present coordinating conjunction "and", rendering repentance and baptism of equal importance. If baptism is unnecessary before remission is granted, then repentance is unnecessary as well! Just think! If "for" in Acts 2:38 reflects an action of one who has received remission of their sins, they have no need to repent of the sins they've had forgiven. They are free to do what Paul condemns in Romans 6:1-2. Can we support this conclusion by study of other scriptures? Please consider Simon the sorcerer, recorded in Acts 8. Simon witnessed Peter and John granting the ability to perform miracles through the laying on of their hands. Simon wished to have this ability, too. He offered the apostles money if they would give him this ability. Peter soundly rebuked him for this thought. In verse 22 Peter tells him to, "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." If our commentator heard Peter's statement he may well say, "But Peter, God doesn't require repentance before granting forgiveness. His grace and goodness are all I require, and He freely gives them to me despite my rebellion against His authority and will." In the account of Simon the sorcerer we see that God DOES NOT grant forgiveness of sins to those who are unrepentant! Since God requires repentance prior to forgiveness, Acts 2:38 can mean nothing other than repentance and baptism are required before one can receive remission of sins. Our commentator goes on to state, "Otherwise, it would violate theentire tenor of the NT teaching on salvation by grace and not by works." After completing this study I pray that you will not succumb to the error contained within this statement. We have shown how one can never earn salvation, but this does not eliminate the need for works in order to be saved.
One final thought as I finish my discussion regarding this false teaching of man. We've already determined that both repentance and baptism must be unnecessary for forgiveness if the commentator's position is correct. What else must be unnecessary? Belief! Belief and baptism are given equal grammatical rank by Jesus when he uses "and" in Mark 16:16. Hear His words: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Now, if Peter in Acts 2:38 teaches that repentance and baptism are acts of those who have already had their sins remitted, therefore making them unnecessary in order for one to be forgiven, then Jesus teaches us that belief is just as unnecessary! Imagine such a situation! God had might as well open the gates of heaven to all of mankind. If our commentator is teaching the truth, God has lost all control over who is given eternal salvation. Mankind has absolutely no reason to believe. He is assured salvation! God has forgiven him, even though He has absolutely no faith in Him or His Son. What a ridiculous concept! But it must be true, if Acts 2:38 means what our commentator says it does. If one only applies their God-given reasoning ability and a little logic to the false teachings of man, one will almost certainly be surprised, if not repulsed, by the necessary conclusions that must be drawn.
The study of works and salvation is an exceedingly important one. In this study my goal was to evaluate works and determine whether they are in any way necessary for salvation. We considered the Greek words translated "work", and looked at ergon in detail. We determined that, before no work of any kind would be required for salvation we would have to show two things to be true:
No physical product or act (that is, physical work such as one might perform with their hands) is required for one to be justified.
No mental product or act is required for one to be justified.
We studied Romans 3:28 and James 2:24, taking a complementary rather than contradictory approach to our study. Since justification is the point of misunderstanding among many religious people considering these two verses today, we took a detailed look at justification. We learned from the scriptures how it is God who justifies, and not man. Justification, therefore, is the state of being of a man. Romans 3:28 and James 2:24 tell us what God must see in a man before He will declare him righteous. Many people consider works of any kind being required for salvation renders our salvation earned. We considered the word "earning", and showed how it is impossible for us to earn our salvation since the value of our works will never equal the value of the salvation we receive. One who truly considers and understands the value of salvation will understand it is their duty to do all they are commanded to do, since they owe God an unrepayable debt. He doesn't owe us anything. Once understanding that God does not give grace to those who fail to keep His commandments, we considered the question, "Does God withhold grace." Through an in-depth study of the scriptures we learned that God does withhold grace from those who are disobedient. Since forgiveness of sin is given by the Father to those who keep each and every commandment of Jesus, and forgiveness of sin is according to God's grace, then grace is given only to those who keep each and every commandment of Jesus! We learned the Greek word entole (translated "commandment") carries the idea of something one is required to do or to refrain from doing. Again we saw the work involved in keeping the commandments of Jesus. Through our evaluation of works we understand that without works faith is dead (James 2:20), and that works without belief will never lead to salvation. We learned that one must be in Christ to receive the gift of salvation, but one can get into Christ only through baptism. So without baptism one has not entered into Christ, and since salvation is found only in Christ then baptism is absolutely essential for salvation. Finally we considered the false teaching so prevalent in the religious world today regarding the preposition eis. If eis (translated "for") in Acts 2:38 reflects the actions of one who has already received remission of sins then repentance, baptism, and belief are all unnecessary for salvation. "For" in this verse can only refer to something that is required of one before they receive the gift of salvation.
I pray this study on works has been beneficial to you. The word of God contains the answers to every false teaching of man. If we take the time to consider its teachings we will be able always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1 Peter 3:15).