Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 16
Thesis: The "grace" of God stands at the fountainhead of all of the good man experiences.
Introduction: At the root of our studies in Paul's confrontation with Cephas is this issue: by what means are men motivated to allow their relationship to God to be repaired? The greater foundational issue is how men are motivated to permit God to become "God" to them. Then the consequential issue is how men are motivated to permit God to be "God" to them as an on-going reality.
I use the term "permit" because of two basic facts: God is the One Who is primarily interested in reconciliation (man, on his own, is simply not interested -- this is the essence of Paul's indictment that "there is none that seeketh after God ... not even one") ; and, secondly, man is the one who is primarily the reluctant party. Then, additionally, "permit" is actually the root concept of what it means to "believe". "Faith" is yielding to the obvious; it is not creating the obvious. When a man "believes", it is only because he has been fenced in so that no other option is actually available to him. As long as "options" exist, man remains double-minded and "faith" remains not only unexercised, but non existent.
Therefore, the large question is this: what is it about God that effectively works to give His love permission to shower goodness upon men?
Paul's answer is: "grace".
Thus, as we move into Paul's final words to Cephas, we want to see if we can understand what Paul meant when he made his gospel the only legitimate form of response by man to the grace of God.
October 2, 2011
- I. The Translators' Impact.
- A. The translators' choices.
- 1. The Authorized Version says that Paul is talking about "frustrating" the grace of God.
- 2. The NASB and the old RSV both say that Paul is talking about "nullifying" the grace of God.
- 3. The old ASV says that Paul is talking about "making void" the grace of God.
- 4. The NIV says that Paul is talking about "setting aside" the grace of God.
- B. The result is some degree of fuzzy thinking for those of us who think in English.
- II. The Question: What Was Paul Describing?
- A. First, he was describing the action of Cephas and "those from James".
- 1. He cast their thinking and behavior in terms of what he did not do, but it was what they were doing that was at issue.
- 2. At the heart of that action was this doctrine: the relationship between God and men is most fundamentally one of man's initiation and God's response.
- 3. At the heart of this doctrine is this most fundamental commitment: God's dealings with men are rooted in His sense of "Justice" and He reacts to men on the basis of their decisions and actions.
- 4. And at the heart of this most fundamental commitment is man's determination to be the "god" in the relationship: man's most primal intentionality is his fixation upon being "in control" so that he, and not some other, determines what happens to him in, at least, the longer term.
- B. Second, he chose a word to encapsulate the action of Cephas et. al.: atheteo.
- 1. It is used 16 times in 12 texts and its use reveals its meaning.
- a. Mark 6:26 uses it when Herod is faced with exclusive options and is forced to choose one over the other.
- b. 1 Corinthians 1:19 may be the most illuminating in that it indicates the choice of an exclusive option in a setting wherein the issue is the question of real effectiveness.
- c. The single characteristic of the word in its contexts is this: given a situation which requires a decision between exclusive alternatives, one is "rejected" because it is viewed as "hopeless in view of the goal" (this may be why the main choice of the translators of the Authorized Version is "despise").
- 2. In our context, the exclusive alternatives are "grace" and "law".
- a. "Law" is a doctrine of human capacity and initiative against the backdrop of "Justice".
- b. "Grace" is a doctrine of divine capacity and initiative against the backdrop of God's "Love".
- c. These are mutually exclusive alternatives having their roots in polar opposite attributes of God that, even for Him, introduce very great tensions when conflict exists in the setting (for God to be both "just" and the "justifier" of certain man demanded the death of the Son of God).
- C. Third, he points his word toward a specific attribute of God: grace.
- 1. This raises a very critical question: what did he mean by "the grace of God'?
- 2. In almost every human definition of "grace", men hedge into some kind of "blend" of equal portions of divine initiative and human response so that the outcome is a mixture of God's involvement and man's involvement.
- a. The Scriptures are quick to point out that man is involved at some level in every situation that is effectively addressed by grace, but the level of that involvement is reduced from "an equal portion" to nothing more than "permission".
- 1) Everywhere that the Bible speaks of man in harmony with God, "faith" is involved.
- 2) But "faith" is a rather passive yielding to the obvious; not an aggressive proactive initiation in creating the truth of the obvious.
- a) "Faith" is the result of "persuasion" which, of itself, involves outside involvement.
- b) And "faith" is the direct result of God's grace at work to overcome man's resistance and reluctance (Note Philippians 2:13).
- 3) Paul, himself, clearly takes on the notion of a significant level of man's "credit" by saying "...by the grace of God, I am what I am: and...I labored more abundantly: yet not I, but the grace of God which was in me" (1 Corinthians 15:10).
- b. Man's distortion by means of a "blend" is simply an extension of his unwillingness to actually "yield".
- 3. The Biblical concept of grace is easier to "define" by looking at the actions that it has taken and deriving from them their root.
- a. Paul's "gospel" is that Jesus Christ took on man's responsibility to a degree so total that He became a veritable "second Adam".
- b. Paul's concept of the "Christian life" is that Jesus Christ has taken up residence in the bodies of those who have believed to a degree so total that all the actual good produced out of those bodies is exclusively "His".
- c. The net result is that "grace" is, minimally, God doing for man what He requires of man.
- d. Then, because the work of Christ outside of the body and inside of the body is applied to every man whose body becomes the temple of God (Christ) by divine fiat, the "grace" of God is expanded to include His willingness to give His work to man freely so that "grace" becomes "God doing for man what He requires of man and then giving man the results at the point of faith".
- III. The Reason for Paul's Description.
- A. Truth precedes faith.
- B. Paul describes his refusal to supplant the grace of God so that Peter might be corrected so that the Gospel could remain among men.