As the weekly work place Bible study was wrapping up, the two Church of Christ class leaders asked for topics the class members would like to study in the future. Several subjects were mentioned, but one in particular caused a bit of bewilderment for the two study leaders – one lady wanted to study grace!
After the lunch hour bible study concluded, one of the study leaders looked at the other and said, “Just exactly what is it about grace she wants to study? How much can there be to talk about? It’s just unmerited favor and there is little more to it than that. It’s not a very practical topic to study.” Both men agreed it wouldn’t be a productive study and selected other topics for the following weeks.
The story above is, unfortunately, a true one and it illustrates a prevalent attitude concerning grace in many Church of Christ congregations. A great many of us in the Church of Christ have never been taught the true nature of grace. Many have never been taught anything about grace at all. Therefore it really isn’t part of our vocabulary, we aren’t equipped to discuss it, it doesn’t enter our thoughts and it’s not embodied in our theology. We know grace is in the Bible, but we have no idea what to do with it.
It is implied, and sometimes taught overtly, that we must have “faith of the right kind and works of the right kind” to be saved. In this system of belief “saving faith” is the type of faith that results in obedience to the commands of God and it is obedience to God’s commands which brings about our salvation. One congregation’s website explains it this way:
“Trusting Jesus as “Lord” motivates obedience to His commands in order to obtain and maintain salvation”
The reason we don’t know what to do with grace is because our teachings about salvation are based upon what we must do to obtain and maintain it. Grace, on the other hand, is all about what God has done to secure our salvation. Salvation isn’t the result of works, nor does it come about from a combination of grace plus works.
Those who fail to understand this exert a great deal of effort to earn their salvation. While they may not think so and thereby fail to recognize it, they are depending upon obedience to law for their salvation. This is what legalism is. Make no mistake, good works do come into play in a Christian’s walk. However, good works are a consequence of being saved, not as a necessary element of becoming or remaining saved.
Grace is not a mysterious topic. It is actually a fairly simple subject that many simply fail to grasp because they are blinded by legalistic dogma. It is my hope that the following articles in this series on grace will help those who are wrestling with legalism and are seeking to better understand the subject.
This series of articles is not meant to be a rigorous or complete study of the subject, but merely a starting point. For a much more comprehensive study on grace I highly recommend Jay Guin’s free book, “The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace.”