2.16 Forgiveness of sins and salvation really
has been received by us through repentance, through absolute grace. We
have been saved, as Israel we have been constituted in embryo God's Kingdom,
although this will only be physically manifested at the Lord's return.
The Responsibility Of Freedom
Gal. 3:15-20 stresses how the Law came after the promises to Abraham, and cannot disannul them. Reasoning back from Paul's writing, we can arrive at some understanding of what the Judaists were saying. Their position was that baptism of Gentiles into the Abrahamic covenant was fine, but they must keep the Law for salvation. Paul is pointing out that the promises to Abraham offer eternal inheritance in the Kingdom on the basis of faith and grace, and neither the Law of Moses nor any other form of legalism can change that fundamental basis. An appreciation of the promises will therefore root us in the wonder of salvation by grace, to the point that we will reject all forms of legalism whenever they are proposed in the ecclesia, and whenever our own flesh seeks to justify itself by works achieved rather than by humbly accepting forgiveness of sins. That the Lord's death took away the Law can be assented to us and passed by. But the RV of Romans draws a difference between " the law" and " law" without the article, i.e. legality. Because we are saved by grace, no legal code, of Moses or anyone else, can save us. Therefore we are free- but that freedom is so wonderful that we are under " the law of Christ" , the rigid principle of always seeking to act as this Man would do, who freed us from law. Otherwise, we end up replacing one form of legalism [under Moses] with another, a set of laws given by Jesus. He has saved us in prospect, outside of any law. And we are to rejoice in this and yet respond to it.
Dostoevsky's epic The Brothers Karamazov is really a parable of the terrible burden of this freedom and the forgiveness of sins. In it, Jesus returns to earth. He is arrested, and the Inquisitor visits Him in the middle of the night. He tries to explain to Jesus that people do not want freedom. They want security. He argues with Jesus, that if one really loves people, then you make them happy- but not free. Freedom is dangerous. People want law, not responsibility; they want the neurotic comfort of rules, not the danger of decision making and the burdens it brings. Christ, says the Inquisitor, must not start up this business about freedom and grace and the commitment and responsibility it demands. Let things be; let the church have its laws. And will Jesus please go away. The life of grace to the extent that it must be lived is a radical confrontation- it creates the necessity of making pure freewill decisions to do and think acts of grace in response to God's grace. Grace has been presented as the easy way out. It isn't. It is far, far more demanding than legalism.
The experience of that grace which brought about the forgiveness of our sins will make us gentle people, kind hearted, generous, not hard-minded in our judgment of situations; it will make us dedicate ourselves to the work of sharing this superb grace with others through preaching, and will inspire us to work unceasingly to reclaim those who have wandered away from the grace of God, and to build up those who hesitate to fully accept it. As God has reached out into our little world, so we will try to do in the lives of those around us. The end result of obeying the truth is " unfeigned love of the brethren...love (of) one another with a pure heart fervently" (1 Pet. 1:22). " Ye were running well; who did hinder you, that ye should not [keep on] obey the truth?" (Gal. 5:7) suggests that obeying the Truth is not just in baptism; it is an ongoing motivation to keep running the race of practical life in Christ. We " love one another from the heart fervently: having been begotten again…" (1 Pet. 1:23). Love of the brotherhood is in the end the result and guarantee of the new birth. We are asked not to receive God's grace in vain, nor do despite unto the spirit [power] of grace. These phrases surely suggest that the experience of grace is a compulsion to action, which we can resist but ought rather to allow to work in us to bring forth fruit. The [Gospel of the] Kingdom of God and our relation to it now ought to bring forth fruit in us (Mt. 21:43). It isn't just a set of true propositions.
Confidence And Desire For Christ's Return
Grace and faith in the forgiveness of sins teaches us to look for the blessed hope and the appearing of Jesus (Tit. 2:9-11). If we aren't sure of salvation at His return, we can hardly look forward to it. A firm grasp of salvation- definite salvation- by a real grace alone means we can look to that day with confidence and expectation. And it's an upward spiral. We have " love toward all the saints, because of the hope which is laid up for you" (Col. 1:5 RV). If we doubt the hope, thinking we don't know if we will be accepted or not…there isn't much inspiration to love our brethren with the similar senseless grace which we have experienced.
Generosity And Unity
Because in the Kingdom we will be given all the wealth that is Christ's, therefore we should sell what we now have and give to the poor (Lk. 12:33 cp. 44 NIV). But more than this, in a sense God has now given us the Kingdom (Lk. 12:32 NIV), and therefore we should in natural response to this give of our blessings (in whatever form) to make the poor rich, just as Christ did to us (2 Cor. 8:9 alludes here). Basically, according to this, generosity (both of spirit and material giving) is proportionate to our faith that we both have now and will receive the matchless riches of God's grace in Christ. " Grace" is used by Paul in 2 Cor. to refer to both the grace God has given us and the grace of giving which the Corinthians ought to respond to it with; as God had reached into their lives, so they should reach into the lives of their poverty stricken brethren. The good news of God's Kingdom, in both it's present and future aspects, is like yeast which works away from the inside of a man and inevitably, by its very nature makes a fundamental change (Lk. 13:20,21). Because whoever really believes the doctrines of the One Faith and lives the life which they naturally bring forth, really will be saved. Therefore we will have a sense of true unity with our brethren who believe as we do, whatever human barriers there may be between us. Therefore " the Faith" is linked with unity between believers (Eph. 4:13; Phil. 1:27). We will live eternally together, and this must begin in life together now. It is inevitable that a certain amount of 'politics' intrude upon our ecclesial experience; one group wants this, another wants that; one sees things one way, another perceives things from a different viewpoint. But here again, the principles of the most basic Gospel must govern us. The Greek word for 'politics' does in fact occur in the New Testament.- when Paul says that our politeuesthe must be " worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Phil. 1:27). The principles of the loving, saving, reconciling, patient Christ must work their way through even the politics that are inevitably part of life together.
Job 37:23,24 reasons that we therefore fear God because God is plenteous in grace and will surely save us and give us forgiveness of sins. This is the very opposite of what is often supposed- that appreciating salvation by grace may lead us to not fear God as we should. But " men do therefore fear him" if they truly grasp the awesome extent of His grace.
God lamented of Israel: “Though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies” (Hos. 7:13). The redemption that we have received is real, actual and true. We really will live eternally in God’s Kingdom; we will be there. The truth, the utter reality of the redemption we have known, ought to result in our being truthful in our words. To lie is a reflection of how the true reality, that we are redeemed, has not yet sunk deeply into us.
The Works Of Repentance
Mt. 21:29,32 parallel 'repent and work' with 'repent and believe'. As the Lord said in Jn. 6, the work of God is to believe- in the forgiveness of sins. The experience of repentance and forgiveness will result in an ever deeper faith, and the works of gratitude which are inseparable part of faith. The parable speaks of repenting and going to work in the Father's vineyard; as if care for our brethren, seeking their fruitfulness and that of this world [after the pattern of the vineyard of Isaiah 5] is the obvious work of repentance.