Phil.2:13 – NLT – For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
The message of God’s grace has been misunderstood and misused since the time of the Apostle Paul. Augustine spent his ministry life fighting this error and preached consistently on grace calling it sovereign joy. Augustine believed that the grace of God changed the very things we found pleasurable. Rather than a pursuit for the sensual pleasures of life, grace empowered us to seek and find pleasure in God. Luther was also a preacher of grace and was disturbed by the misuse of his teaching, he coined the word antinomianism to describe the beliefs of his enemies. These false teachers twisted Luther’s message of grace as something that covered our sins and allowed us to be guilt free in our sinful behaviors; sound familiar? Often we hear people excuse their sinful lifestyles and say something about grace and God made me this way. This error keeps many supposed Christians locked into a lifestyle of compromising behavior with no victory in their lives. Here is an amazing description of the solution from the 1700’s from Matthew Henry.
“God is ready to agree with his grace and to help our faithful endeavors. The actions of God’s grace in us, far from excusing us, are intended to spur us on in our endeavors. “And work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for he works in you. Work with fear, because he works from his good pleasure.” To will and to do. It is the grace of God that inclines the will to do what is good; it is the grace of God that then enables us to perform it. Of his good pleasure. Just as we cannot act without God’s grace, so we cannot pretend to deserve that grace.”
I love Henry’s explanation, he says the actions of God’s grace are “far from excusing us” but grace actually helps us or empowers us in our attempt to follow and serve the Lord. It is the grace of God that sways our will to do what is right and actually enjoy this new way of life. No wonder grace is called amazing, it not only forgives us but delivers us from destructive behavior. Grace is far from excusing us, rather I would say it empowers us to a better way of life.