Preparing the way for Christ did not end with John the Baptist, but it merely opened the way for men and women, young and old to open their hearts and make their hearts fit for Christ to take up residence. Man must remove the debris from his heart before the Holy Spirit can partner with man and help him lead a clean and holy life. It is for that reason, even after Christ has been here, and His Spirit is standing by to inhabit the human spirit, God continues to send prophets, apostle, teachers an example to prepare human beings for salvation. And it is up to man to work out his salvation and not to Christ (Luke 11:49; Philippians 2:12). The Apostle, whom Jesus chose directly (Act 9:15-16), commanded his Roman Christians to stop sinning that jeopardized their salvation:
“Let not sin therefore reign your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification (Romans 6:12-19).
THE APOSTLE OF GRACE, WHAT WAS HE SAYING?
Both, the Law and Grace are gifts of God and they lead to man’s redemption. But, for a man to serve either one, he has to separate himself from sin, disobedience, and unbelief. It is what Jesus declared: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).
God had left it up to Adam and Eve to decide under whose control they wanted to live? And God gave them the right to choose between good and evil (Genesis 3). Adam passed on that personal responsibility “to choose” to all his descendants. To give the man an option or a clearer choice, God sent his Son into the world. Now man can choose to live under Jesus the Christ or stay with Adam and his partner Satan. Thus, every person decides his/her destiny and not God, or Christ, or anyone else. The Apostle Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, wrote the Corinthians and the Romans.
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam (Christ or anyone who believes) became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the mand of heaven. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable (I Corinthians 15:45-50).
Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sin (sinned)—sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a tie of the one who was to come.
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 in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 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.
Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience, many will be made righteous. Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:12-21).
THE GRAVE MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE ROLE OF GRACE
Grace has become a “mystery” with dubious interpretations. It resulted from taking the concept of acquittal out of content. Grace, like the Law, kept man from committing sins. Grace is a period in which God, in Christ, acquits and forgives those individuals who repent and those who stop sinning. However, God does not acquit nor does Christ forgive those who do not stop from sinning or those who continue to sin and shame grace. For Paul, “to live in Christ” meant to have died in baptism to sin and emerged as a new being and a new creation. Read on what Paul said regarding living in Christ in Romans and Ephesians:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive in God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:1-11).
When you were slaves to sin, you were free in regard to
righteousness. But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:20-23).
And you he made alive when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Among these, we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loves us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:1-10).
ACCORDING TO THE WRITER TO THE HEBREWS, WHAT DID GRACE ACCOMPLISH?
The Hebrew writer insisted that “Grace” does not cover or protect the sinner, who does not separate him/herself from the transgressions that bar them from the Kingdom of God. Grace has no power over sin because man has that power to contain himself from living in sin. Grace cannot keep anyone safe unless they want to stay inside grace. Grace is God’s gift that surrounds and shelters His faithful servants. The reader needs to take to heart the words of the Hebrew writer.
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was consecrated, and outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you know that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.
“For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls (Hebrews 10:19-39).
ON EARTH, MAN AND NOT GOD DECIDES WHOM HE WANTS TO FOLLOW AND SERVE
God did not create human weaklings. The idea that God makes the weak strong is a metaphor. The man God made is endowed with a mind that can control human desire and passion. Young Timothy had fallen “the timidity trap” and the Apostle Paul shook him out of it. “Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (II Timothy 1:6-7).
According to Genesis 2:7, God put “His Breath” and “His Spirit” in man that was powerful enough to run the earth, the sea, and the sky. Who gave man the idea that he is a grasshopper? It was and it is man himself, who is unwilling to practice self-control, and who fails to be what he could be to himself and to others. Thus, man concentrates on the fear to fail, instead on the hope to succeed. A man can be what he wants to be by his own choice. Paul, himself, became an example of self-control:
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law, I Became as one under the law — though not being myself under the law — that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law — not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ — that I might win those outside the law. To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might, by all means, save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (I Corinthians 9:19-27).
The Galatian Christians were losing their freedom and their ability to decide for themselves what to believe. And Paul had this admonition:
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness self-control; against such, there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each an will have to bear his own load (Galatians 5:13-6:5).