Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 16
October 2, 2011
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
1901 ASV Translation:
21 I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought.
- I. Paul's Response to Hypocrisy.
- A. He "saw" that their behavior and the Gospel were in opposition.
- B. He "said" to Cephas in the presence of all... . Paul determined to address the problem in public because it was not only a distortion of the Gospel, it was also a public humiliation for all of the Gentile brethren.
- 1. If you, being a Jew, are living in the manner of a Gentile and not in the manner of a Jew, how do you compel the Gentiles to live as Jews? [See the Study Notes for July 3, 2011<097>].
- 2. We [are] by nature "Jews" and not "sinners" from among the nations [See Study Notes for July 10, 2011<099>].
- 3. But knowing that a man is not justified by works of the Law, but by faith of Jesus Christ... [See Study Notes for July 17, 2011<101>].
- 4. ...even we believed into Christ Jesus in order that we might be justified by faith of Christ and not by works of law... [See Study Notes for July 31, 2011<103>].
- 5. ...because by works of law shall no flesh be justified [See Study Notes for July 31, 2011<103>].
- 6. Now, if seeking to be justified in Christ we are found also ourselves sinners, do we conclude that Christ [is] a servant of sin? Absolutely not [See Study Notes for Aug. 7, 2011<105>].
- 7. If I build again what things I destroyed, I establish myself as a transgressor [See Study Notes for Aug. 14, 2011<107>].
- 8. For I through law died to law in order that I might live to/for God [See Study Notes for Aug. 21, 2011<109>].
- 9. I have been crucified with Christ; I live but no longer [as] I, but Christ lives in me ... [See Study Notes for Aug. 28, 2011<111>].
- 10. The "now life" that I am living in the flesh ... [See Study Notes for Sept. 4, 2011<113>].
- 11. The faith which is of the Son of God Who loved me ... [See Study Notes for Sept. 11<115>, 18<117>, and 25<119>, 2011].
- 12. I do not frustrate the grace of God...
- a. The use of "frustrate" to translate Paul's term in regard to his response to "grace" is unfortunate. It is found 16 times in the New Testament and the translators of the Authorized Version chose to go with "frustrate" only in this text and the NASB abandons "frustrate" altogether in its dealings with Paul's term.
- 1) The word so mis-translated is used in texts where an already established issue is being faced with someone wanting (strongly so) to replace it with a contrary alternative. This is the case in all 16 contexts where the word is found. In every case, the desire to replace what is already an established "given" is both potent and "dismissive" (i.e., the "attitude" of the person wishing to replace what is in place counts that already established reality as unworthy of its place). This is a word that strikes at the heart of "significance" and, thus, is in play when the one who "attempts to replace" wishes to humiliate.
- 2) The English word "frustrate" has more to do with an attempt to keep something from being effective. This is not the sense of Paul's term. His word simply posits the "attitude" that something else would be a far better choice for "effectiveness".
- 3) It is fundamentally impossible to "frustrate the grace of God", but it is a regular occurrence for men to seek to replace it with "something more effective". That is precisely what the legalists in our text (along with Cephas) are attempting to do. At issue is the right behavior of those who are the people of God. Under consideration is the question of which "method" will stimulate the greater degree of godly behavior. The legalists think pressing people with "law" will prove more effective than explaining the Love of the Son of God. Admittedly, producing the motivation to live for God is not an easy task (most people, even "believers", keep God at a distance as much as they can). But, when you consider that imposing "law" produces zero godliness and one hundred percent ungodliness (the power of sin is the law, and when law is allowed to arise, sin comes to life with a vengeance), turning to the grace of God does not seem foolish at all. Slow, to be sure, but not as ineffective as "law". If it were not for hypocrisy, "law" would stand no chance as an alternative to "grace", but, unfortunately, as in many other things, "appearances" count largely and "law" produces "appearances".
- b. The issue of "grace" is its definition.
- 1) What, actually, is "the grace of God"?
- 2) Paul's text gives many elements of the answer.
- a) First, "Christ is dead in vain" (AV translation) tells us that, for Paul, "grace" in this context zeroes in on the death of Christ. This is not a definition, but it is a statement of methodology, and methodologies allow us to find ways to explain a thing (give a definition). If we look for the attribute of God that explains the methodology, we can define it. Christ's death was "the Just for the unjust" (1 Peter 3:18). It was the way God retained His "Just-ness" while permitting sins to be erased from the sinner's record (Romans 3:26). It was the outworking of a divine "plan" to provide sinners with redemption (Galatians 4:4-5). It was an action taken by God without regard for the actions of men (Romans 11:6; Romans 4:4-7). It was an action taken in spite of the condition of men in either attitude or action (Romans 5:8). Thus, since grace was expressed by the death of Christ without regard for the condition or actions of men, we must "define" it in terms of divine action without regard for human action. "Grace", then, is God doing for man what He required of man and then giving the result(s) of His doing to the man who believes as opposed to the man who works. Grace is that divine attribute which prods God into doing what man needs for his own eternal well-being in spite of the resistance of man.
- b) Second, "if righteousness [is] through law..." identifies precisely what "grace" is attempting to do. The issue is how a man gets to be "qualified" to stand before God uncondemned. This bleeds over into what happens afterward (the question of how a man lives, having been made alive by grace), but its most pertinent objective is restoring to man what was lost by Adam's sinfulness. It should go without saying (but does not) that the corruption of humanity by the Adamic attitude/behavior makes it impossible for any man to approach this objective on the basis of his own attitude/behavior. Not only does every man's past militantly undermine his ability to stand uncondemned, but every man's immediate present does so also because the notion of a man's presumption of his ability to be "right" before God's searing knowledge of him in every respect is sheer arrogance. And, as for bleed-over, that same arrogance also exists in all who think that their behavior after conversion can stand that searing knowledge. At the very best of man's activities lies Paul's comments, "I am what I am by the grace of God" and "I do not consider myself as having arrived." In other words, not even the premier example of human godliness (the apostle Paul) can claim to be so good as to be able to stand the searching evaluation of the omniscient God. Bottom line: righteousness is not through law at the beginning (justification), nor after the fact (progressive maturity in the Truth).
- 3) The characteristics of the "grace" of God.
- a) First, above all, "grace" is the polar opposite of "justice" in this respect: "justice" insists upon a primary inclusion of a conclusion-determining evaluation of the behavior of those being subjected to the conclusion; "grace", on the other had, adamantly rejects any consideration of the behavior of those who are to be subjected to the conclusion. Paul said "grace is no longer grace" if "works" are involved (Romans 11:6). He further said, in the same place, that if "grace" was allowed into the mix, "work is no longer work".
- b) Second, since "grace" excludes "works" in an absolute sense, the second characteristic of "grace" involves only the character of God in its origins. It is fundamentally impossible to find the roots of the expression of "grace" anywhere else and still retain its separation from the behavior of those who benefit from it.
- c) Third, since the issue at the heart of the expression of "grace" by God is the "benefit" of the recipient, "grace" must, absolutely, be an attribute that puts genuine, eternal, benefit at the very top of its "objectives" list. There is no "grace" in eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord.
- d) Fourth, "grace" is not divorced from "faith" in at least one sense: the impact of "grace" in a man's situation is effectively determined by "faith". Since the issue of "grace" has to do with eternal benefit, and since eternal benefit has most fundamentally to do with relating to God in a positive way, no one can enjoy the impact of "grace" who holds God at a distance through disbelief.