It’s Grace from Start to Finish. (reign in life)

Posted: September 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

It's Grace from Start to Finish. (reign in life)

Most people (even Christians) think that
God relates to them based on their
performance and that grace is (as one
man told me) “for when we mess up”.
The truth is that grace is the only way to
live a successful Christian life.
Understanding the Grace of God
Prepared by Pastor Max Ridgway
The greatest need among believers is
understanding. God has established a New
Covenant of grace through the redemptive
work of Jesus Christ. It is a finished work,
and needs no improvement. However,
because of a lack of understanding, many
(if not most) Christians are not enjoying
the tremendous benefits of the “abundance
of grace and the gift of
righteousness” (Rom. 5:17) which has been
freely bestowed by God upon mankind.
The New Covenant is a covenant of grace,
and it stands in contrast to the Old
Covenant of law. “The law was given by
Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus
Christ” (John 1:17). In this book we will
examine the subject of the grace of God
using a passage from Paul’s letter to the
Ephesians as a guide.
Ephesians 2:8-9
8: For by grace are ye saved through faith;
and that not of your selves: it is the gift of
9: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
The first thing Paul tells us about grace is
that we are saved by it. It is important to
understand that salvation is not only the
initial new birth experience, when a sinner
receives Jesus as Savior and Lord. In a
narrow sense, it is that, but in a broader
sense the idea of salvation encompasses
the entire Christian life. Paul is certainly not
saying that we are saved initially by grace,
through faith, and then we switch to
another principle to continue in the
Christian life. We start by grace through
faith, and we continue by grace through
Colossians 2:6
6: As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus
the Lord, so walk ye in him.
Galatians 3:3
3: Are ye so foolish? having begun in the
Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the
These statements by the Apostle Paul
confirm the fact that we continue in the
Christian life by the same principle with
which we start the Christian life. As we
receive Christ in the beginning, (by grace
through faith) we continue to walk in him
(by grace through faith). Having begun in
the spirit (by grace through faith) we are
also brought to maturity (by grace through
So then, when Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8
that we are “saved by grace through faith”,
he is writing about the initial salvation
experience, and also the ongoing growth in
grace that takes place during the Christian
The first thing Paul teaches us about the
grace of God is that it is “not of
yourselves”. In other words, it is not about
you. Salvation is not something you
produce. Salvation is a gift of God, granted
by his grace. What God does by grace he
does just because he is God. It is not
because somebody prompted him, or
motivated him. Grace is what God does on
his own initiative.
Sometimes people define grace as “God’s
unmerited favor”. The very idea of grace
implies an action on the part of God that is
unearned or undeserved by the recipient. If
it is deserved, it is not grace. If it is earned,
it is not grace. Grace is what God does
totally apart from human merit.
Having taught about grace for many years,
I know that this a very offensive idea to
many Christians who think that they have
earned God’s favor because of their
sacrifices, or their holy lives, or their Bible
study, or their church attendance, or their
tithing, or their fasting and prayer.
But what God grants by grace, is to be
received simply by faith, and it is “not of
yourselves.” What God grants by grace is
granted, not because you earned it (for
then it would be a wage, not grace), but
simply because God is good.
Because salvation is by grace and “not of
yourselves”, all human differences are
eliminated. This is another terribly offensive
thought to people who think they are better
than everyone else. But the truth is, as far
as God is concerned, we are all in the same
First of all, Paul tells us in Romans 3 that
because we have all sinned and fallen short
of God’s standards, we are all alike before
God, without any differences.
Romans 3:22-23
22:…there is no difference:
23: For all have sinned, and come short of
the glory of God.
Whether you fell a little short, or a lot
short, there is no difference as far as God is
concerned. Our sin, whether great or small,
has put us all in the same category before
God. We are all equally in need of his
grace. By that same rule, there is likewise
no difference where righteousness is
concerned. The first part of Romans 3:22
says that the righteousness of God, which is
by faith in Jesus Christ is “unto all and
upon all them that believe: for there is no
difference…” God’s grace makes us all
equally dependent upon his mercy.
Luke’s gospel gives the account of Jesus
entering the house of a Pharisee for a
meal. A woman of the city, “a sinner”,
according to the text, also came into the
Pharisee’s house and began to wash the
feet of Jesus with her tears and dry his feet
with her hair. The Pharisee was greatly
offended at the thought of a sinful woman
touching Jesus. Jesus responded to the
Pharisee with a parable.
Luke 7:41-42
41: There was a certain creditor which had
two debtors: the one owed five hundred
pence, and the other fifty.
42: And when they had nothing to pay, he
frankly forgave them both. Tell me
therefore, which of them will love him
In the parable of Jesus, the amount owed
by the debtors was unimportant. Though
one owed a tremendous amount, and the
other owed a tiny sum, they were both alike
in that neither had anything to pay. The
grace of the creditor in freely forgiving
them both eliminated all differences
between them. Their forgiveness had
nothing to do with either of their merits; it
was “not of themselves”, but wholly
because of the grace of the master.
In Matthew 20 Jesus gives another parable
that illustrates the truth that grace is “not
of yourselves”, and therefore has nothing
to do with you or your works.
Matthew 20:1-16
1: For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a
man that is an householder, which went
out early in the morning to hire labourers
into his vineyard.
2: And when he had agreed with the
labourers for a penny a day, he sent them
his vineyard.
3: And he went out about the third hour,
and saw others standing idle in the
4: And said unto them; Go ye also into the
vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will
give you. And they went their way.
5: Again he went out about the sixth and
ninth hour, and did likewise.
6: And about the eleventh hour he went
out, and found others standing idle, and
saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the
day idle?
7: They say unto him, Because no man hath
hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye
also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is
right, that shall ye receive.
8: So when even was come, the lord of the
vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the
labourers, and give them their hire,
beginning from the last unto the first.
9: And when they came that were hired
about the eleventh hour, they received
man a penny.
10: But when the first came, they supposed
that they should have received more;
and they likewise received every man a
11: And when they had received it, they
murmured against the goodman of the
12: Saying, These last have wrought but
one hour, and thou hast made them
unto us, which have borne the burden and
heat of the day.
13: But he answered one of them, and said,
Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not
thou agree with me for a penny?
14: Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will
give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15: Is it not lawful for me to do what I will
with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because
I am good?
16: So the last shall be first, and the first
last: for many be called, but few chosen.
In this parable the particular amount of
work done by the laborers was irrelevant;
the grace of the master made them all
equal. Salvation is”not of yourselves, it is
the gift of God”. We may look around at
one another and compare our works, and
wrongly suppose that because our works
are better than someone else’s we have a
special right to God’s favor. But the grace of
God is extended to “all them that believe”,
whether our good works are great or small.
The grace of God eliminates all human
differences. “Not of yourselves, it is the gift
of God.”
When Paul says, “not of yourselves”, the
thought is this: “it’s not about you.” Even
our sin was not about us, it was about
Romans 5:12
12: Wherefore, as by one man sin entered
into the world, and death by sin; and so
death passed upon all men, for that all
have sinned.
In the same way that sin in our lives was
not of ourselves, it was because of Adam,
likewise righteousness in our lives is not of
ourselves, it is because of Jesus, and our
faith in him. Even our obedience or
disobedience is not a deciding factor in
determining our righteousness or
Romans 5:19
19: For as by one man’s disobedience many
were made sinners, so by the obedience of
one shall many be made righteous.
The fact that salvation and righteousness
come wholly by grace through faith means
that it is “not of ourselves” – it is the gift of
God. We were made sinners, not by our
personal disobedience, but by Adam’s
disobedience. Likewise we are righteous in
God’s sight, not because we are personally
obedient, but because Jesus was obedient,
and we place our faith in him. The gospel
is all about Jesus, it’s not about you.
The second thing Paul tells us about grace
in Ephesians 2 is that it is “not of works,
lest any man should boast.” Grace is purely
God’s gift, unmerited and undeserved. Our
works, whether good or bad, do not have
anything to do with God’s grace. Salvation
is by grace through faith, and works have
nothing to do with it.
Romans 11:6
6: And if by grace, then is it no more of
works: otherwise grace is no more grace.
But if it be of works, then is it no more
grace: otherwise work is no more work.
Work always demands a wage. But grace is
always a free gift. If God gives us salvation
and righteousness by grace, then it cannot
be worked for; it is a free gift. “Not of
works lest any man should boast”.
Jesus gave a parable in Luke’s gospel to
illustrate the fact that salvation and a
righteous position before God cannot be
earned by any amount of good works.
Luke 18:9-14
9: And he spake this parable unto certain
which trusted in themselves that they were
righteous, and despised others:
10: Two men went up into the temple to
pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a
11: The Pharisee stood and prayed thus
with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am
not as other men are, extortioners, unjust,
adulterers, or even as this publican.
12: I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of
all that I possess.
13: And the publican, standing afar off,
would not lift up so much as his eyes unto
heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying,
God be merciful to me a sinner.
14: I tell you, this man went down to his
house justified rather than the other: for
every one that exalteth himself shall be
abased; and he that humbleth himself shall
be exalted.
Notice that the Pharisee was obedient to
the precepts of the Law, and had good
works to show for it. He fasted twice a
week, and paid his tithes. But salvation
does not come by good works (neither is it
maintained by good works) but only by
faith in the grace of God. Notice also that
the Pharisee’s good works led him to boast
about himself. This is why Paul says that
salvation is “not of works lest any man
should boast.”
By contrast, the publican (a tax-collector)
had no good works to boast about. He
called upon the grace, or the mercy, or
God. Jesus said that the man who
approached God on the basis of God’s
mercy went home “justified”. The word
“justified” in Greek comes from the same
root word as “righteousness”. It literally
means “made righteous”. The sinner, with
no good works, who simply trusted in the
grace of God, was “made righteous” in the
sight of God, rather than the religious man
with many good works. The Pharisee was
only interested in boasting to God about
his good works; he did not see himself as
needy at all. He could not be justified, or
made righteous by God because he thought
he had already earned righteousness by his
good works. But because the tax-collector
recognized his need for the mercy and
grace of God, he could receive God’s
justification. Because he considered himself
to be ungodly, God could justify him by
grace. Actually, an ungodly person is the
only kind of person God can justify.
Romans 4:5
5: But to him that worketh not, but
believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly,
his faith is counted for righteousness.
God cannot justify people who trust in
themselves and their own good works; he
can only justify those who recognize their
need and lack and approach him with faith
in his grace alone. For Christians who have
received the grace of God and are born
again, we must always recognize that our
only righteousness before God is that
which is bestowed upon us by his grace,
and that we still have nothing to boast
about except what God has done in our
lives by his grace.
The Old Testament story of Abraham
demonstrates this great truth about the
grace of God and it’s independence from
our merit or work.
Romans 4:1-5 (Message translation)
So how do we fit what we know of
Abraham, our first father in the faith into
this new way of looking at things? If
Abraham, by what he did for God, got God
to approve of him, he could certainly have
taken credit for it. But the story we’re given
is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What
we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered
into what God was doing for him and that
was the turning point. He trusted God to
set him right instead of trying to be right on
his own.”
If you’re a hard worker and do a good job,
you deserve your pay; we don’t call your
wages a gift. But if you see that the job is
too big for you, that it’s something only
God can do, and you trust him to do it (you
could never do it for yourself, no matter
how hard and long you worked) well that
trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you right
with God, by God. It’s a pure gift.
When the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians
2 that salvation is “not of yourselves”, and
“not of works”, the thought is this: the
Christian life is not about you, it’s about
Jesus. It’s not about your work, it’s about
his work. A person may say, “If it’s all
about Jesus and what he’s done, then what
is my part?” Your part is to believe. This is
why Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8 that we
are saved “by grace through faith”. Our
part is not to work, but to trust in the work
of Christ.
When the Apostle Paul writes about
“works”, he is referring to the “works of the
law”; in other words, doing what is
prescribed by the Old Testament Law. It is
important to understand the difference
between Law and Grace because the
principle of Law and the principle of Grace
are opposites. The message of the Law is
this: ” You do what is required, and God
will respond with blessings”. The message
of Grace is this: ” Jesus has done what is
required, and you respond with faith”.
This truth can be easily illustrated by Paul’s
letter to the Galatians.
Galatians 3:10-11
10: For as many as are of the works of the
law are under the curse: for it is written,
Cursed is every one that continueth not in
all things which are written in the book of
the law to do them.
11: But that no man is justified by the law
in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The
just shall live by faith.
First Paul says that “as many as are of the
works or the law are under the curse”.
Another translation reads, “all who depend
upon doing what the law says….” In
Deuteronomy 27 and 28 God gives the
blessings and cursings of the Law.
Deuteronomy 28:1 says that if you hearken
diligently in order to do ALL HIS
COMMANDMENTS, then the blessings will
come upon you. (The principle of Law is:
you do, and God responds). In
Deuteronomy 28:15 says that if you do not
hearken diligently in order to do ALL HIS
COMMANDMENTS, then the curses of the
law will come upon you.
Paul says that if you depend upon doing
what the law says, then you are
automatically under the curse. Then he
quotes from Deuteronomy 28:15 to say,
“cursed is every one that continues not in
ALL things written in the book of the law to
do them.” In other words, what the law
requires is perfect performance. Paul
assumes that we understand that none of
us is capable of perfect performance of the
requirements of the law.
Paul then says that it is evident that no one
is justified by the law in the sight of God.
He quotes from Habakkuk 2:4, which says,
“The just [those who are righteous] live by
his faith [by faith in him]”. In other words,
life before God comes through faith, not
through the law.
Most people assume that God gave the Old
Testament law so that people would have
rules to live by. But that was never the
purpose of the law. God always intended
that those who are righteous would live
solely by faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul,
in his writings, gives the most complete
and thorough explanation of the true
purpose of the Law. Here is a short
summary of what he reveals about the
purpose of the Law.
The Law makes everyone guilty (Rom. 3:19)
The Law produces only the wrath of God
(Rom. 4:15)
The Law causes sin to increase (to abound)
(Rom. 5:20)
The Law causes sin to revive (to come alive)
(Rom. 7:9)
The Law strengthens sin (I Cor. 15:56)
The Law is a ministration of death (II Cor.
The Law is a ministration of condemnation
(II Cor. 3:9)
The Law is “not of faith” (it is contrary to
faith) (Gal. 3:12)
The Law is a “schoolmaster”, intended only
to bring us to Christ (Gal.3:24)
The Law produces only bondage (Gal. 4:25,
The true purpose of the law was to reveal
the necessity of receiving a Savior. The law
reveals and strengthens sin in the flesh so
that we will trust in Christ who dealt with
and put away sin in the flesh by his
redemptive death on the cross. This is
exactly what Paul tells us in Romans 8.
Romans 8:3-4
3: For what the law could not do, in that it
was weak through the flesh, God sending
his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,
and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4: That the righteousness of the law might
be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the
flesh, but after the Spirit.
“What the law could not do” was to
produce righteousness in mankind. It could
only reveal sin, and could not produce
righteousness. So what the law could not
do, because of it’s weakness due to our
sinful flesh, God did by himself by
sending Jesus in the very likeness of our
sinful flesh, in order to bear the
condemnation for sin. The result is that all
of the righteous requirements of the law
are fulfilled in those who put their faith in
Christ. We walk, not by the flesh (by human
strength, attempting to fulfill God’s law for
ourselves), but we walk in the spirit,
according to the new creation God has
established within the spirit of all believers.
Salvation and true righteousness come to
us and are maintained by grace through
faith, and it is not of ourselves, and not by
our work. It is the pure gift of God’s grace,
which cannot be earned by our own effort
or good works. This is the message of
Ephesians 2:8-9: “By grace you are saved
through faith; and that not of yourselves: it
is the gift of God: not of works, lest any
man should boast.” Having established the
fact that our good works do not earn or
contribute to salvation, Paul then gives us
the grace-perspective on good works.
Ephesians 2:10
10: For we are his workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus unto good works, which God
hath before ordained that we should walk
in them.
Ephesians 2:10 begins by talking, not about
our works, but about God’s works. “We are
his workmanship”. Who we are as believers
is wholly the result of God’s work in our
lives. We had nothing to do with it apart
from simply believing the gospel and
trusting in Christ.
Paul then describes God’s workmanship:
“created in Christ Jesus unto good works…”
Our good works do not earn or maintain
salvation, but because we have received
God’s grace and his gift of righteousness,
we find that we are now his workmanship,
and that he has created us “in Christ” for
the purpose of good works that he before
ordained for us to walk in.
In a New Covenant system of grace, good
works are the natural outcome of faith in
Christ. Just as it is natural for a tree to
produce fruit according to the nature of the
tree, so it is that as believers in Christ,
recipients of the grace of God, we naturally
produce fruit in our lives according to the
nature of Christ.
John 15:5
5: I am the vine, ye are the branches: He
that abideth in me, and I in him, the same
bringeth forth much fruit: for without me
ye can do nothing.
The branch shares a common life with the
vine. The fruit produced on the branch is a
direct result of the life that is in the vine.
The branch does not produce fruit in order
to be part of the vine; the branch produces
fruit because it is a part of the vine.
Notice that Jesus says, “he that abideth in
me, and I in him” produces fruit. This
expression is referring to our union with
Christ. Notice that the fruit produced in
our lives is a direct result of our “abiding”,
or living in that union with Christ.
The only way to avoid producing fruit is to
try to produce it on our own. “Apart from
me you can do nothing”. This is why the
Apostle Paul warns believers against
turning from their faith in Christ to a
system of law. It is only as we live, abide,
and rest in Christ that true righteous works
are produced in our lives. We must be
carefully avoid a “law mentality” that puts
all the burden back on us to produce fruit
in our lives.
Romans 7:4
4: Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are
become dead to the law by the body of
Christ; that ye should be married to
another, even to him who is raised from the
dead, that we should bring forth fruit
unto God.
Paul informs believers that producing “fruit
unto God” is a result of being “dead to the
law” and “married to Christ”. It is only
through our union with Christ, by grace
through faith, that a truly righteous life
The whole book of Galatians was written to
warn believers to rely upon Christ alone,
and to avoid turning back to any system of
Galatians 5:4
4: Christ is become of no effect unto you,
whosoever of you are justified by the law;
ye are fallen from grace.
Paul says that if we rely upon our own
obedience to the law, “Christ has become
of no effect”, and we “fall from grace”. In
other words, if you are going to attempt to
make your life acceptable to God through
your own efforts and law-keeping, then you
don’t need a savior; you’re on your own.
But Jesus says, “apart from me you can do
Paul told the Philippians that the only thing
he was personally interested in was to be
found “in Christ”, without any
righteousness that he could point to as his
own. He said that he counted all of his own
religious effort as “dung”, and his only
desire was to know Christ…
Philippians 3:9
9: And be found in him, not having mine
own righteousness , which is of the law,
but that which is through the faith of
Christ, the righteousness which is of God by
Because Paul embraced the righteousness
of Christ that comes by grace through faith,
does that mean that there were no good
works in Paul’s life. On the contrary, Paul
says that because of grace, he produced
more than all of the other apostles who
were still laboring under a mixture of law
and grace.
I Corinthians 15:10
10: But by the grace of God I am what I
am: and his grace which was bestowed
upon me was not in vain; but I laboured
more abundantly than they all: yet not I,
but the grace of God which was with me.
Notice that Paul attributes his abundant
labor, “more than they all”, to the grace of
God which was bestowed upon him. The
difference between works of the law and
works that are the fruit of grace is a
difference of motivation. The message of
the law is this: do what is written in the
law, and you will gain God’s approval and
blessing. The message of grace is just the
opposite. It says: You have already gained
God’s approval and blessing because you
are in Christ, therefore do according to
what is written in your heart, in your spirit.
Under grace we act, not to get blessed, but
because we are are blessed. We forgive, not
in order that we may be forgiven, but
because we have been forgiven. The
message of the grace of God is that God
has already done everything for us, and
we are only responding to him in faith.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor, extended to
mankind regardless of our good works or
bad works; regardless of our right behavior
or wrong behavior. We began this book by
examining Ephesians 2:8, “By grace you are
saved, through faith.” Just a few verses
before this statement Paul wrote,
Ephesians 2:4-5
4: But God, who is rich in mercy, for his
great love wherewith he loved us,
5: Even when we were dead in sins, hath
quickened us together with Christ, (by
grace ye are saved;)
Paul explains that “by grace you are saved”
means that ” even when we were dead in
sins, he made us alive together with
Christ.” He does not say that after you
repented God responded and made you
alive. He says that God moved first , even
while we were dead in sins, and made us
alive in Christ. When we hear the gospel
and believe we are only receiving what God
has already provided for us. It is we who
respond to God. Grace means that God
has already moved, and provided
everything we need.
As far as God is concerned, he has already
saved the whole world. The whole world
has not heard and responded in faith, but
by grace God has already provided
salvation for the whole world. That’s why
we preach the gospel; so that the whole
world will hear what God has already done,
and respond in faith. We do not have to
twist God’s arm and persuade him to save
anyone; God has already moved and
provided salvation freely, by grace through
Sin has already been dealt with and put
away by the grace of God. God does not
respond to us and put away our sins when
we repent or confess them to him; he has
already purged, judged, and put away sins
forever. When we repent or confess our
sins it is we who are responding to God
and what he has already done; we are only
receiving for ourselves what he has already
provided by his grace. Here are a few New
Testament facts about how God has already
dealt with sin:
Jesus has already, by himself, purged our
sins (Heb. 1:3)
Jesus has already put sin away by the
sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:26)
God is not imputing our sins to us (II Co.
5:19, Rom.4:8)
When God took our sins and laid them
upon Jesus at the cross, it was wholly by
his grace. God is not keeping track of sins,
or imputing them to individuals today,
because he has already imputed those sins
to Jesus on the cross, and as far as God is
concerned, sin has been dealt with forever.
What is our response to the tremendous
fact about the grace of God? Our
appropriate response should be faith. “By
grace you are saved, through faith.” We
should believe in what he has done. We
should put our faith in what he has done.
We should trust in what he has done. We
should rest in what he has done.
If we, as believers, would ever wholly
embrace the grace of God, and free
ourselves from a law-mentality, it would be
impossible for acts of sin to have any part
in our lives.
Romans 6:14
14: For sin shall not have dominion over
you: for ye are not under the law, but
under grace.
If sin is having dominion over us, it is
because we are still under law in our
thinking (though God himself is dealing
with us by grace). If we would ever agree
with God, and simply embrace his grace, it
would be impossible for sin to have any
dominion over us.
Titus 2:11-12
11: For the grace of God that bringeth
salvation hath appeared to all men,
12: Teaching us that, denying ungodliness
and worldly lusts, we should live soberly,
righteously, and godly, in this present
It is only the grace of God that can teach
us how to deny ungodliness and worldly
lust. If we try to live under a law-mentality,
by our own strength, sin will continue to
have dominion over us. If we would
embrace God’s grace, God’s unmerited,
undeserved love for us would lead us into
a perfect expression of his righteousness in
our lives.
The grace of God is what God has already
done for us. What has he done for us? He
has already laid all our sin on Jesus. Jesus
has already purged us from all of our sins.
Furthermore, God has laid the
righteousness of Christ upon us. He sees
us, as believers, as perfectly righteous
before him, as though sin had never
existed. How do we respond to this good
news of God’s grace? “By grace you are
saved, through faith”. We place our faith,
our trust, and our dependence wholly upon
Jesus and his finished work, and we receive
for ourselves ” the abundance of grace and
of the gift of righteousness”, and through
God’s grace we reign in life (Rom. 5:17)


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