Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity

John H. Stoll, Th.M., Ph.D

Copyright 1996, John H. Stoll

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Chapter 1 - A Theology of the Grace of God

There is a need for Christians to think Biblically. By that is meant that one needs to integrate Biblical facts with Biblical principles, so that in discerning God's will for the person, that one is able to correlate together everything that the Bible has to say on that point. Thus the Christian is able to assimilate with understanding what God desires the child of his to know, through instruction in the Word. The result is that the Christian comes to maturity in Biblical understanding, and follows the admonition to, "Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Maturity in one's spiritual development is the primary goal that God has for all His children. Everything else, e.g. service/ministry, will follow as one comes to maturity. Thinking Biblically is an indication of maturation.

In order for us to properly develop according to God's word, we must begin with the "bottom line" of, who God is and His relationship with us. Therefore, a need to understand a theology of God's grace.

In Romans 3:23 we read, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." God by "rights" could "write" us all off to eternal damnation, and still be a just God. He created mankind sinless, and gave him every opportunity to follow Him. But, Adam/Eve turned from being God centered to becoming self centered, and by that first sin placed all of mankind in sin (Rom.5:12). BUT, "God so loved the world that He gave" (John 3:16), and sent His son Jesus Christ into this world to provide redemption for all from sin, and reconciliation to God (Rom 3:24; 5:1; II Cor. 5:17-19; Titus 3:5-7). This is grace, which means the favor of God upon mankind without any merit on anyone's part, but love pure and simple.

The process of God's grace is seen in Eph. 2:8,9 which states that, "By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God". Then in Titus 3:3-8 we have the most condensed and succinct overview of God's grace that says, "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another (this is the Christian's past). But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior (this is the Christian's present situation by God's grace), so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (this is the Christian's future by God's grace). This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone" (This is God's admonition to Holy living in the Christian).

An understanding of the Grace of God begins with John 1:17, which says, "For the law was given by Moses, but Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ". Then in Romans 8:14 it says, "For as many are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God". In other words, the law of Moses was given for two reasons, first to provide the children of Israel with God's requirements for holiness so that Israel would know how to measure up to that holiness, and also to show the inability of a sinful people to be able, by their own works, to measure up. So, the law which was intended to be a guide to eternal life, in essence became a barrier to it, since none could measure up (Rom.7:10). The failure to measure up resulted in separation and alienation from God (Rom. 3:19,20). Thus the failure of Israel to live up to the law is what the Old Testament teaching is all about, and the need for the prophetic teaching of the coming of Christ to accomplish for mankind what the law was unable to do.

This is why the contrast is given in John 1:17. The law did not accomplish reconciliation of Israel to God, but the grace of God, coming by Jesus Christ did. Now, all who have made a commitment to God through Jesus Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:2,14-16) are children of God. Christ said in Matthew 5:17, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am come not to destroy, but to fulfill". The law was holy, and just, and good; it was mankind who fell short of what God's holiness required. Therefore, the grace of God, in the person of Jesus Christ, came to fulfill for each of us, what none of us could do, that is, measure up to God's holy requirements. This is God's grace. The child of God has been freed from the penalty of the law (Rom. 8:2).

The problem to present day application of God's grace, is that in some instances the church has placed the Christian back under the law through legalism (i.e. the imposition of church standards of behavior, e.g. "do's and don'ts", which may or may not have a Biblical foundation, and are externally imposed, rather than through internal constraint by the Holy Spirit). See: Gal. 1:6,7; 2:20,21; I Cor. 1:30; Titus 3:3-8; Rom. 8:4; Phil. 3:9.

How then should a Christian live, if freed from the law? The answer to that is one's attitude toward the Biblical principles. It is not how much is one able to live according to the fleshly desires, but how close one can live to the guiding help of the Holy Spirit through the Word. Let me illustrate. Many years ago there was a gentleman who desired to hire a young man to drive his carriage with a team of horses. As each applicant came in he was asked one simple question, "Sir, tell me how close you can drive my team of horses to to the edge of the cliff by the river road without going over". Each young man tried to explain his ability in answer to the question. Finally, one man came in and replied, "Sir, I don't see how close I can drive without going over, I see how far away I can stay". This illustrates what God desires of His children. If we would heed the Word, and discernment of the Holy Spirit, we would not be troubled by the legalism of the church, and thereby walk in the freedom of God's grace. See: Col. 2:20-3:4 NIV.

In order to better understand the difference between law (legalism) and grace, let us look at various contrasts:

1. Demands righteousness from mankind 1. God gives righteousness to all. Rom 3:21;Phil 3:9.
2. Is connected with the Old Testament & works 2. Is connected with Christ & faith. Rom. 10:4-10.
3. Blesses the good works Exod. 19:5. 3. Saves the bad Eph. 2:1-9.
4. Demands that blessings be earned Deut. 28:1-6. 4. Is a free gift. Eph. 2:8; Rom. 4:4,5.
5. Power is by the individual Rom. 8:4 5. Power is through the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5; John 16:13; I Cor. 2:9-14.
6. Is the wrong path of life for the Christian Rom. 7 6. Is the right path of life and victory, with peace & joy for the Christian. Rom. 6; Rom. 8:5.

When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way. While we do His good will,
He abides with us still, & with all who will trust & obey.

Trust & obey, for there's no other way,
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love,
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, and the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there's no other way,
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.

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