by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1 May 11, 2004 Lincolnton, N.C.
(032)Thesis:Life by the Spirit is not an escapist life that rejects "obligation".
Introduction:We have finished with our consideration of Paul's prayerful interest in the Romans as those who have become God's instruments of grace to Paul...they had been used of God to do what God had told Paul to do. He recognized this and was grateful for it.
This evening we are going to look into another aspect of Paul's desire to go to Rome: his sense of deep obligation to do what he had been commissioned to do. In this next paragraph of Paul's letter he wrote of his sense of obligation to those he generally referred to as "Gentiles". And he said that he was interested in proclaiming the Gospel in Rome because of this sense of obligation. But, because of the difficulties of man's relationship to "obligation", we want to see if we can clarify what Paul meant by what he said.
I. The Issues.
A. Paul claimed that he had received the "grace" of "apostleship".
1. Inherent in the terminology is the fact that "grace" can never be legitimately understood as "a freedom from responsibility".
a. "Apostleship" inherently includes the responsibility to accurately represent Jesus Christ.
b. That this responsibility came as of "grace" inherently means that grace can never be divorced from responsibility.
2. In our text Paul emphasizes his understanding that the grace extended to him put him under a more specific responsibility than he had ever had before.
B. Paul's expression of the "grace" of "apostleship" focused upon a message of salvation by grace through faith [Note 1:16-17].
1. This message completely contradicted his former "life by the rules" under a heavy sense of "obligation".
2. Yet he returns over and over to the reality that "responsibility" has not been "done away".
C. Thus, the issues before us consist fundamentally in the question of how we are to understand Paul's teaching of "life by grace" in the context of "living with obligation".
II. The Facts.
A. There cannot be a fundamental contradiction involved that allows a man to proclaim one thing and practice another.
1. We must assume that Paul's concept of "grace" was in perfect harmony with his life under obligation.
2. We must assume that if there is a problem in our thinking about "grace" in the face of life under obligation, the problem is ours, not Paul's.
B. There has been a lot of theological water under the bridge over the last 2,000 years that makes it necessary for us to be very careful to seek clarity of understanding.
III. The Areas of Concern.
A. The first area of concern is how "grace", "responsibility", and "becoming a recipient of grace" are tied together.
1. At issue here is the doctrine of "justification by grace through faith apart from the works of law".
2. The confusion arises in respect to the particular identities of "grace", "faith", and "works of law".
a. "Grace" is often defined in terms of a kind of "freedom from obligation".
1) This clearly will not work within our text of Paul under obligation as the apostle of grace.
2) At the heart of the New Testament promise of salvation is the fundamental issue of inter-personal reconciliation between two distinct persons: a human being and God.
a) When addressing reconciliation between persons, it is fundamentally ludicrous to speak of any sense of a cessation of obligation because persons must relate to one another and cannot escape the reality that relationships "demand".
b) Therefore, any "methodology" for reconciliation must include a way for two who were at odds with one another to begin to harmonize with one another.
3) Therefore, "grace" must be defined in terms of a "method of assuming responsibility".
a) The original state of the "unreconciled" was one in which there was no desire or ability to meet the responsibilities.
b) The offer of "grace" is two-fold...
i. It offers "forgiveness" in the face of failure so that condemnation is never an issue.
ii. It offers both a "new heart" and a "new Spirit" in an on-going process of a renewal of the "mind" so that the re-established relationship can progress further and further into total relational harmony.
c) There is no sense whatsoever in "grace" that irresponsibility is acceptable or even possible. Grace puts us into a relationship that will bring us to mature responsibility.
b. "Faith" is often defined in terms of a human decision to trust in a contentless deity with no particular results to come.
1) Faith is not the consequence of human decision (one cannot "choose" to believe); it is the consequence of persuasive confrontation.
2) Faith is not an ambiguous sense of well-being that has no real content; it is a specific expectation of a specific result of God's action on my behalf.
3) Faith can be "claimed" when it does not exist, but it cannot exist without results coming to pass.
c. "Works of Law" is often misdefined also.
1) Some attempt to make "works of Law" simply the human fulfillment of Mosaic Code so that "salvation apart from works of Law" does not mean human performance is not in the picture; it just means the details of "law" have changed.
2) Some attempt to make "works of Law" any obedience to divine imperative so that performance is out of the picture altogether.
3) However, the biblical concept of "works of law" is the Spirit-less performance of man as an attempt to obtain acceptance before God.
3. Therefore, we can say that a person becomes a recipient of the grace of reconciliation and regeneration when a person is brought to desire a relationship of harmony with God and to believe that the provisions of God are sufficient for this harmony quite apart from man's attempts to meet the demands of that harmony.
B. The second area of concern is how "grace", "responsibility" and "living as a possessor of grace" are tied together.
1. "Grace" as God's active and effective provision for relational harmony fundamentally assumes that the responsibilities that relational harmony requires will be met.
2. The real problem with the meeting of responsibilities has to do with attitude and power and if the attitude has become one of desire and the power has been granted by means of a new Spirit, responsibility is pretty much automatic.