Radical grace


By Johnny Tatum


The purpose of this study is for us to begin to discover how grace gives us power for life.






In the New Testament, there are ten spiritual attributes—ten desirable attributes—for life that are produced only by grace, and some of them might be very surprising.  We will begin with number ten, and we will work up to number 1, which is the most amazing.



Number 10: Grace Produces Comfort And Hope


Through whom [Jesus] also we have obtained our access by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)


Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope through (—how? —) grace. (II Thessalonians 2:16)


So what is Paul saying?  As we live in this fallen world, there are disappointments, there are setbacks, and there is sin in our life that plagues us, but he says that we have a source of comfort and hope.


Now what is this source of comfort and hope?  Is it hoping everything will work out okay?  Is it thinking My sin will not be quite as bad tomorrow because I am going to try harder?  No.  Paul says that comfort and hope come from resting in God’s grace.



Number 9: Grace Stimulates Our Spiritual Gifts


Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them accordingly. (Romans 12:6)


Paul says that when God saved us, it was by His grace.  We tend to think we are saved by faith and, really, we cannot say that is wrong; in fact, that was the whole battle cry of the reformation.  However, if we are going to be very specific about it, we have to say that we are not saved by our faith — we are saved by grace, and faith is the instrument.


When Paul says that God saved us by His grace, it was a gift —the gift of grace.  But when God gave us the gift of salvation, it was not one little package; it was a big package with many gifts inside, including the gifts of forgiveness and cleansing.  Also included in that package were our spiritual, supernatural gifts; it is only by grace that these gifts are stimulated.



Number 8: Grace Produces Spiritual Fruit In Our Lives


Paul, speaking of the Gospel, says:


Which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also (—from where did the fruit bearing come? —) since the day you heard the hope and truly understood the grace of God in truth; (Colossians 1:6)


Paul was looking at the Church at Colossae and he was seeing some great-looking fruit being manifested in their lives; he says very clearly that they started growing that fruit [when? —] the day you understood grace.


So, do we want spiritual fruit in our lives?  Sure we do!  Now, one way to do it would be to get pictures of fruit (apples and oranges) and tape them to us.  It would be totally ludicrous, but I think that is how we try to do it.  We look at the fruit of the Spirit and say I am going to be gentle today – I am going to be meek – I am going to be long-suffering today.  That is just as stupid as getting an Elm Tree and gluing supermarket-bought apples onto the tree; it does not work that way.  Paul says that spiritual fruit comes from resting in God’s grace, and then, the supernatural fruit comes out.



Number 7: Grace Produces Good Works


Note: This is where the obedience factor comes in.


One of the most famous passages in the New Testament is from the book of Ephesians, as follows:


For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)


During a recent evening youth program, the boys and I looked at this verse. We circled the phrase Good works.  I told them a story about the explorers trying to find the source of the Nile River.  One of the boys said that it would have been easy to find; just follow the river to the source. I said that it was not that easy, so we talked about it a little while.  Then I suggested that we find the source of good works in this verse.  So how do we do that?  One of the young men suggested that we start with the good works and trace backwards in the verse.  That was good thinking, so we proceeded.


We started with good works—Created in Christ Jesus for good works.  Is the source of good works our own efforts?  No, because [going back through the verse to find the source], the text says Not as a result of works.  How could this be?  It says We are created in Jesus for good works and then it says It is not a result of works.  So, let us keep tracing it backwards.


It is not good works, but it must be something that we are supposed to do.  No, because it says And that not of yourselves.  So we kept tracing back, trying to find the source of good works.  Faith must be the source.  No, because it says Through faith, so faith is the instrument by which we appropriate something.  And, of course, we keep going back and we find the answer at the very beginning of verse 8 — for by grace.  Now we have explored and found the source: The source of good works is grace.



Number 6: Grace Produces Signs and Wonders


And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6:8)

In context, Stephen is speaking of gifts that were used in the apostolic era.  Though we are not part of the signs and wonders movement, there is a general principle that the Christian life should be characterized by supernatural activity and power — as the world sees us, they should see signs and wonderful things coming out.


For Stephen, what was the source of the signs of the wonders?  He was full of grace and power.  And the conjunction grace and power is a hendiadys (two connotative words connected by a conjunction used to express a single, complex notion); he is saying that Stephen was full of grace that is power.



Number 5:  Grace Produces Actual Holiness In Our Lives


For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you. (II Corinthians 1:12)


Paul is talking about his holiness; he makes it clear that his holiness came from the grace of Godnot from fleshly wisdom.


In our subtitle, we use the term actual holiness to make a distinction.  When we were saved by grace, holiness was placed onto our account.  How much holiness?  100 percent —whatever amount of holiness Messiah Jesus has is how much we got.  Now the problem is: In our actual lives, we fall far short.  So, we were granted positional holiness as a gift—a gift of grace.


How is actual holiness incorporated into our lives?  Actual holiness is produced in our lives by the same process that granted us positional holiness — through grace — when we were saved, grace produced positional holiness.  So now, resting in grace is the way for actual holiness to be manifested in our lives.



Number 4: Grace Produces Labor For Christ


But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, (and to make it clear, he adds—) yet not I (not my self labor), but the grace of God with me. (I Corinthians 15:10)


This is another paradox; actually, this is one of my favorites.


Resting in grace is, in a way, a passive decision.  Think how many commands in the New Testament are passive: Be transformed by the renewing of your mind —not transform yourself— Yield, Submit, Rest in grace…  These are passive decisions.


What is really ironic is what comes out is not passivity.  In fact, if passivity comes out, then that person is not resting in grace.  If a Christian is actually resting in God’s grace, then what is going to come out is labor.  But it will not be labor from his own striving; it is going to be the grace of God working within him.  Anything we do—any labor we perform—no matter what comes out, if it is not on the basis of God’s grace working within us, then it is just flesh and it is worthless (it is going to be burned).  So, Paul says Yes, I labored more than all of them, but it was not my own strength.  He says Yet not I, but the grace of God within me.  So if we are resting in grace, what will come out is labor.



Number 3: Grace Produces Strength


You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (II Timothy 2:1)


After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and then establish you. (I Peter 5:10)


Here is another paradox: Grace produces strength.  I think this is difficult for us to grasp, because we tend to think of strength as something that we develop—we build up—and that will produce strength.  However, the Bible forces us to be humble; it says that strength in our life—the power to deal with life—comes only from grace.


Here, Paul uses a word for strength that means being perfected, meaning brought to maturity.  Therefore, we do not react to things in the world as children do in anger, out of selfishness, or from being shortsighted.  Instead, we face situations with wisdom and good judgment.  That would be a great way to deal with the world; certainly, it is very desirable.  And Paul is saying the only way we get that is through grace.


Paul uses another word establish.  He means that when we are established, our emotions are not chained to the ups and downs of life.  Our outlook on life is based on the fact that we are sunk into Messiah Jesus.  It would be great to face the world that way, although it is not attainable by self-effort.  Paul says it is a gift that comes from grace.  So, we have another paradox:  Resting in grace produces strength.



Number 2: Grace Produces Growth


“And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)


but grow (—how?—) in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen. (II Peter 3:18)


Here is another concept that is difficult.  We [Christians] have the tendency to think that spiritual growth comes from a variety of things, including some degree of self-effort.  We want to say that spiritual growth comes from our spiritual discipline — spiritual growth comes because I am making correct moral choices.  That may be the most common error concerning the issue of spiritual growth—

As you make wise moral choices day to day, it becomes easier to do it and every time you make a correct moral choice, you are growing spiritually.

That may sound right, but it is not right: Obedience is a result of spiritual growth, not the cause of it.


Peter says Grow in grace, and again, this word in means by the instrument of grace.  When he says Grow in grace, he does not just mean grow by learning more about grace.  He means we are to grow in grace by resting more and more in grace.  So, we have yet another paradox: Resting in grace produces spiritual growth.



Number 1: Grace Releases Us From Slavery To Sin


In Romans 6, there is another amazing verse; the more I read it, the more I do not understand it—


For sin shall not be master over you, because you are not under Law, but under Grace.  (Romans 6:14)


Have you ever really thought about what that says?  It does not seem to make sense, does it?  And yet, I believe, this is the most important aspect of grace in our lives—even though it is the most difficult aspect to understand, and in fact, the opposite makes sense.


Here is what would make sense to me For sin shall not be master over you because you are not under Grace but under Law.  But Paul is saying that because we are under grace, we are totally freewe are totally forgiven—and because we are in that position, sin is not to be master over us.  But this does not seem to make sense.


It may be clearer from another perspective.  He is saying that since we are under grace, then sin does not have to be master over us.  Now if that is the case, he is obviously telling us something about being under Law.  Since you are under Grace and not under Law, then sin does not have to be master over you.


First, let us look at what Paul means by Law.  I do not believe that he is talking about the Mosaic Law because he was talking to a mostly Gentile audience, and like most people today, they did not know what the Mosaic Law was.


When he is talking about Law, he is talking about any kind of system of discipline, self-effort, rules, and/or regulations to which we bind ourselves.  So, he is saying something that is just amazing, something that goes counter to human reasoning:

If you are a slave to a Law for your spiritual life, if you are a slave to legalism, a slave to rules and regulations, that also means you are a slave to sin.

Is that not amazing?  Again, it goes counter to human thinking.





We have seen ten spiritual qualities that are produced only by Grace.  So we emphasize grace because:

We want —

q       Comfort and hope.

q       Spiritual gifts developed.

q       Spiritual fruit in our lives.

q       Good works.

q       Our lives characterized by supernatural power.

q       Actual holiness in our lives.

q       To labor for Messiah Jesus.

q       To be strong.

q       To grow.

q       To be from the slavery to sin.

We want those things, and the Bible says that those are only attainable through Grace.


In future Radical Grace studies, we will focus on Number 1: Grace Releases Us From Slavery To Sin.  However, let me make a distinction now.  We are never going to be free from sin in this life; we are always going to sin, –every day, –all day.  I have heard people talk about how many days they have gone without sinning I have gone three or four days without sinning.  Those individuals are either completely oblivious to what sin is or to what we are as sinners.  They are separating individual acts of sin from the fact that we are just sinners.  So, the question How long have you gone without sinning? is a ridiculous question.


Again, we are never going to be free from sin in this life — that will not change until we drop off these bodies — but until then, a Christian does not have to be a slave to sin.  [It bothers me that…] There are some very prominent people in the evangelical community who are trying to quantify the amount of sin in a person’s life as a test of salvation; however, we know instinctively when we are slaves to sin and we know if there is some sin that is absolute master over us.  So the normal Christian life includes sin, but the normal Christian life does not have to include sin being a master over us.



Next: Radical Grace #4: Balancing Grace Hinders Grace


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