The Church Age


47 Grace Is Sufficient to Save

by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, December 2013

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need Hebrews 4:15, 16

From the first, Satan has attacked the covenant of God. He has declared that the law of God is arbitrary and unnecessary and that it is impossible for created beings to keep the law of God. He claims that God demands worship and obedience only for selfish reasons and will do nothing for mankind if it causes Him discomfort! Satan would have us believe that the Bible and the story of Creation are a myth. Satan claims that the prophecies of the Bible are all wrong in their timing and in the events prophesied. Most of all, he says that Jesus did not need to die and that has His sacrifice did not benefit humanity as claimed.

A Christian knows that there is a God because he talks with Him in prayer and God responds. The Bible is a book that changes the lives of people and nations. Prophecies are fulfilled as predicted. The law of God brings peace, freedom, and order in society. Jesus proved His love by His willingness to live among men and die as a sacrifice on Calvary.

The focus of the covenant of grace is to show God’s initiative in saving humankind. Jesus, the Creator God, became a human and lived a sinless life as a human (1 Tim. 3:16; Phil. 2:5-8). This life He gave as a sacrifice on Calvary so that we might live.


Humankind “Bought With a Price”

After Adam and Eve sinned, God came to them in the cool of the evening and announced that He would put “enmity” between Satan and humanity (Gen. 3:15). It was God who took the initiative. He “put” the law back into the heart of mankind. This was a new covenant action.

There were consequences. Adam had “sold” dominion of the earth to Satan. He became a slave to sin and had no power to resist.1 Christ came, took authority from His anticipated sacrifice on Calvary and purchased man again (1 Cor. 6:20).2 By this, Christ brought humans back into favor with God so that they could receive pardon for sins. He gave them a new probation to learn about grace and to choose again to serve Him.

It is not easy for people to choose Christ and liberation from sin. Satan uses all methods-fair and foul-to keep mankind enslaved. God, using love and persuasion, gives people freedom in which to again choose to serve Him. At Creation, God gave humans free will. Now they must use that free will and consent to the work of grace in their lives.


Overcoming in Christ

The apostle John received messages for seven churches in Asia Minor while he was on the Isle of Patmos (Rev. 2 and 3). The messages portray the seven epochs of Christianity from that day until now. Following each message is a promise, “To him that overcometh “|” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). Some claim that once they are “saved,” they do not need to keep the law and continue to overcome. When people accept Christ and their life is changed, they receive pardon for sins, salvation, and many spiritual blessings.

The sinful nature is still present, and there are still sins to overcome. Christ stands before the Father for His people. It is only “in Christ” that a person can be perfect in this life. However, by continual consent to the work of grace in the life, those habitual, besetting sins and “blind spots” will be overcome.

As sinners see the perfection and holiness of the Son of God, they can only pray: “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The victory they enjoy and the perfection they show are only in Christ. Christ covers their sinful nature with the white robe of His righteousness. It is only when “this corruptible shall have put on incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:53) that Christ removes the sinful nature.

As Jesus looks upon these redeemed ones, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa. 53:11). Again we read: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).


The Life of Victory

Satan has been all too successful in deceiving the world into sin. There has always been a faithful remnant-God’s unique people. These make God first in their lives and consent to the work of grace that changes their lives. Being human, they still have the sinful nature. Even God’s people will sometimes yield to sin. This becomes a peculiar problem to God.

David was a man after God’s own heart. He sinned grievously with Bathsheba and in arranging for the death of Uriah the Hittite. When the prophet Nathan pointed out his sin (2 Sam. 12:1-7), David repented deeply and sought the Lord (Ps. 51). Nathan gave David his judgment, with the preface: “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (2 Sam. 12:14).

If one of God’s people sins, it is hard to repent, and it is an insult and a disgrace to Jesus.

If those who hide and excuse their faults could see how Satan exults over them, how he taunts Christ and holy angels with their course, they would make haste to confess 264 More Than a Promise their sins and [repent]. Through defects in the character, Satan works to gain control of the whole mind, and he knows that if these defects are cherished, he will succeed. Therefore, he is constantly seeking to deceive the followers of Christ with his fatal sophistry that it is impossible for them to overcome. But Jesus pleads “| “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. 12:9).”| Let none, then, regard their defects as incurable. God will give faith and grace to overcome them.3

Satan’s claim is that Jesus died in vain and that grace cannot change human lives. This is a lie. Before Christ comes again, He will have a people who gladly show that He has changed their lives.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened ...who have tasted the goodness of the word of God... If they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. (Heb. 6:4-6, NIV)

This verse does not speak of besetting sin, but rather speaks of apostasy and rebellion against Christ. The greatest gift that Christians can give to their Lord, is their own life, changed by grace. We take comfort in this promise, “If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).


Grace-God’s Gift, God’s Power

Grace is the supernatural power of God by which He pardons sin and renews the sinner’s life in righteousness. The sinner must accept this gift by faith and consent to the work of grace to change the life, choosing to do what is right. It is God’s purpose to restore His image in man (2 Peter 1:4-11). The Holy Spirit mediates the power of grace to change lives.

Before His ascension, Jesus spoke to His disciples, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth“ (Matt. 28:18). Through the authority of the cross, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to prepare us for heaven and give us power to witness for Him.

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession... For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Heb. 4:14, 15)

Even in their close association, Jesus could not tell His disciples everything they needed to know. There were several reasons for this:

1. There was not time. Jesus was too busy teaching the people and healing.
2. The disciples could not understand theology as could Paul. Grace Is Sufficient to Save 265
3. The disciples did not understand Jesus’ mission, even up to the time of His ascension (Acts 1:6).

The Holy Spirit was promised to “teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26). At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the church with power. He gave the church gifts, by which the gospel went to the then known world.4 He promised these same gifts in Ezekiel and Jeremiah through the new covenant.5

John 6 and 15 emphasize what it means to have “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:25). By this grace, God changes human lives, gives us new birth, and makes of us “a new creature.”6 This process must take place before Christ comes again. The character that is formed is the only thing that a person can take to heaven.


Faith, the Hand That Grasps God’s Blessing

While grace is the supernatural power of God to change our lives, faith is another word to describe the experience of the Christian. Faith describes our relationship with God: trust, belief, love, and a willingness to obey Him.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen... Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear... 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. (Heb. 11:1, 3, 6)

Since Eden, every human being has been given a spark of faith and a desire to avoid evil (Gen. 3:15). John wrote: “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). If you choose to obey, you will be led step by step to Christ. The more you see of the perfection of Christ and the more you see of the cross of Christ, the more you are motivated to follow Him. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

Now, while faith is a gift from God, it is also an action that comes from within man. Genuine faith is an active faith (James 2:20-26)! Jesus said much about faith, but He did not use big words. He just said, “Follow me.” If a person refused to “follow” Jesus when bidden, he or she was not a Christian- plain and simple (Luke 18:18-24).

Faith is what the believer uses to take hold of grace! To understand faith you must have an intuitive relationship--a commitment-with God. While faith is a gift and an understanding given by God, all must choose to exercise their faith to serve God. “Prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence.”7


The Relationship Between Faith and Works

A crucial question arises: When Jesus died for all people and extended His grace to all, was His grace also effectual for all? By common observation, there are wicked people in this world. Those who have resisted the grace of God and refused Christ will be lost.8 Is the justification spoken of in Romans 5:16-18 by faith or before faith? Is faith a form of “works?”

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see... And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:1, 6, NIV).

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

Faith describes the relationship a person must have with God. It includes trust, belief, and love. In that love, there is an emotional component, a desire for all that God is. Faith is the gift of God, but it must be exercised by human beings. Grace is by the initiative of God and is the supernatural action of the Holy Spirit to change human lives.

With this, one can understand that sinners cannot come to God unless God draws them and opens the way for them. When people are “justified by faith,” they take God at His word, believe His promise and His covenant, and accept the grace of God. When Abraham believed God, “It was counted to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6).

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Yet, we must consent to the work of grace for our life to be changed. This involves our choice, for grace cannot act in a vacuum. Repentant sinners must choose, must make a decision, and must commit themselves to Christ to be saved at last. Is this action a work? Do these things “add something” to the work of grace?

A “work” is usually a ritual, a task, or an act of obedience by which a person hopes to merit salvation. For the person “in Christ,” works are the “fruit” of the Spirit--the result of being saved.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22, 23).

These are actions and attitudes that are quite different from consent, choice, decision, or a commitment to serve Christ. A Christian will be active in his life for Christ. Thus, sinners do not “work” to merit salvation, but rather show works as the fruit of their relationship with Christ.


Endnotes

1. Sin brings loss of freedom (John 8:34; Rom. 6:12, 16, 17, 19-23; 2 Peter 2:19). It makes people prisoners (Ps. 146:7; Isa. 14:17; 42:7; Zech. 9:12).
Paul could speak of being a prisoner of Jesus, because, though kept in chains, he had become Jesus’ servant (Greek doulos “slave”) (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 2 Tim. 1:8; Philemon 1:1, 9).

2. Jesus Christ has authority (Greek exousia) (Matt. 7:29; 9:6; 28:18; Luke 4:36; 5:24; 9:1; John 5:27; 10:18; 17:2).
Before Him, every knee shall bow (Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10).
Salvation is given through the power of God and Jesus Christ (Exod. 9:16; Deut. 4:37; 9:29; 2 Sam. 22:33; 2 Kings 17:36; Ezra 8:22; Neh. 1:10; Job 26:12, 14; Ps. 62:11; 66:7; 106:8; Isa. 40:26; Jer. 32:17; Nahum 1:3; Hab. 3:7).
Jesus possesses power (Greek dunamis) that He grants to human beings (Matt. 6:13; 24:30; 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 24:49; Rom. 1:4, 16, 20; 1 Cor. 1:24; 4:20; 6:14; 2 Cor. 12:9; Eph. 3:20. Phil. 3:10; Heb. 1:3; 2 Peter 1:16; Rev. 4:11; 7:12).

3. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1911), p. 489. Grace Is Sufficient to Save 267

For texts on the work of God’s grace, see Luke 2:40; John 1:17; Acts 4:33; 11:23; 14:26; 15:40; Romans 1:5; 12:6; 1 Corinthians 3:10; 15:10; Galatians 1:3; Hebrews 4:16.
For texts on the work of the Holy Spirit, see Ezekiel 37:11-14; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 2:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; and Titus 3:5.
God’s people have His law written in their heart (Jer. 31:33); they are not condemned because they believe in the name of Jesus (John 3:18); they have become a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17); they confess their sins and have them forgiven (1 John 1:9); by abiding in Him they avoid sinning (1 John 3:6-9); by God’s love, they keep His commandments and keep from sinning (1 John 5:3, 4, 18); Christ is able to keep us from falling (Jude 1:24). If we do sin, we have an advocate (1 John 2:1). When God’s people’s “fall away,” they crucify Christ afresh (Heb. 6:4-6).

4. Paul gives three lists of the gifts of the Spirit, with variations in each, though “prophets” or “prophecy” is in each list! (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 4:11-12).
The New Testament describes the spread of the gospel through the Roman Empire. Less known is its spread to eastern nations by the Church of the East.

5. “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people... And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:33, 34).
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh... And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them... And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezek. 36:26-28).

6. The change that comes by grace is described in Jesus’ words, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). The change that comes from glory to glory is in Paul’s statement about beholding Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17).
It is the will of God that every person be changed by God’s grace. To be “in Christ” is to be born again, to become more like Him, to put on the robe of His righteousness, and to overcome sin. Yet, each person still has old habits and the sinful nature to overcome. These are covered by the robe of Christ’s righteousness. With our consent and through God’s grace, the sinful nature is overcome and new habits are formed. Verses on the new birth and the overcoming of sin include John 3:3, 6; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 2:1, 2; 3:5-7, 9; 5:18.

7. Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association), pp. 94, 95.

8. The wicked refuse to believe in Christ and are lost (Philip Schaff and David S. Schaff, The History of Creeds, The Creeds of Christendom [Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Books, 1983], vol. 1, 6th edition, p. 518).