Grace and Truth

By Lloyd Ellefson

Grace is a wonderful commodity! In order to avail ourselves of God's grace, we need to recognize the inadequacy of our own efforts and ability. As long as we feel secure in our own proficiency it will be meaningless to us. Humanity has been trying to prove its self-sufficiency, so it is unaware of its need for help! Nor does it want to recognize its need of the grace of God. For this reason it needs to experience a dilemma so great that it cannot see a way out without help. When it can no longer depend upon itself, its knowledge, skills and inventions, all hope in its own competence, capability and expertise will disappear.

Since God is full of grace, He wants humanity to avail itself of this grace. To accomplish this, He has to get humanity to recognize its destitution by establishing the fact that man is really helpless - otherwise he will never admit his need of grace. Eventually he must come to recognize that EVERYTHING has to stem from grace!

Do you suppose this is why we have evil? If evil were an identifiable, separate power whose source was not from God, we would have more than one God, wouldn't we? We know that God's nature is not evil. If it were, we would all be in trouble and never get out of it. Since God's nature is GOOD, He displays His goodness. Evil opposes His goodness. I think that the manifestation of evil comes because of God's goodness. God does not create evil out of Himself. In order for us to recognize His goodness, there must be an antitype. This antitype is evil and it manifests itself in opposition to His goodness.

Since evil is an antitype of God's goodness, evil must have a beginning; if it has a beginning, it will also have an ending; it is not immortal. I think it is important for us to see that. Only that which is in Christ has immortality. We know that evil and death are not resident in Christ, and are therefore temporal. This gives us hope, doesn't it?

Man was subjected to vanity, but not without hope. The subjection of the mind to vanity produced the supposition that there are other powers. This led to the idea that man could oppose God. However, at some time or other, man has to come to the point where he recognizes his inability. On his deathbed his confidence sort of melts away. After Adam was subjected to vanity, he did not understand the goodness of God, neither did he understand the source of evil and death. So God put a program for redeeming man from his ignorance into effect. Man did not have the law to guide him, and in his ignorance he did everything evil. Man's unbelief in the face of Noah's preaching proved that, for he would not even believe what Noah said. So God put into effect His overall plan of redemption by bringing in a flood, then the law, and finally Jesus Christ.

The law brings with it a desire to disobey it. "I was once alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me." (Rom. 7:9-11) Sin produces a delusion. We think our delusion is reality, don't we? We have to find a true way of looking at things, and that is what the Holy Spirit came to teach us. Living in the dominion of sin, evil and darkness, increases our delusions. In our delusion we try to figure things out, but the more we figure, the worse off we are. The more secure we feel in our natural thinking and reasoning, the farther we are from the security that is in God. This brings us into an even greater dilemma and delusion.

Sin was present all the time, but people were not aware of it; so God gave them the law to introduce them to the concept of sin. This showed them the power of sin. The law is the power of sin. Sin took its opportunity through the commandment, and deceived man, and through it killed him. "So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful." (Rom. 7:12-13) It effected our death through that which is good. We cannot unravel this unless we begin to see that God is God, that all things really come from Him, and that He has a good purpose in them.

"For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin." (v.14) "...having been disposed of under sin." (Concordant) I have been given over to sin, so that sin rules me and I have become a slave of sin. That is where redemption comes in; it has to do with buying me back from the condition of slavery that I am in. We know that we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ - and the blood of Christ is the soul, the understanding, awareness or consciousness. That is how our redemption comes; it comes to bring a release of our soul from its affinity for earthy things.

Since the law was spiritual and Israel was natural, they could not believe the law nor receive the things of the Spirit. They claimed to believe the law, but Jesus told them they didn't. They were so enmeshed in their own idea of the law and their ability to keep it, that they thought they were obeying it. Therefore they did not see their need of GRACE; they only saw their need of more ENDEAVOR to fulfill the law - if they tried harder, they would be better off.

The spiritual aspect of the law does not come to the natural carnal man. That is why it merely gave him a greater knowledge of sin; not a knowledge of God. Most people think sin is just lasciviousness, stealing, murder, etc. Sin itself springs from the wrong idea of God and the wrong idea of who we were. We did not know why death was coming. Death reigned from Adam to Moses, and nobody understood it. But the law came to identify sin, and natural man used the law to produce his own righteousness while he kept on sinning.

"For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the law, confessing that the law is good." (Rom. 7:15-16) The knowledge that comes from the natural mind is death, even though it may appear to emphasize what is good, natural and from God. The things that are good and can be used for good are not spiritual if our nature is not spiritual. This results in a security and dependence in our natural mind, and not in God. We cannot even keep the law, much less fulfill the things of Christ, because the natural mind is set on the flesh - and this is death. It is unable to comprehend spiritual realities.

Christianity is using Jesus Christ and the crucifixion as a motivation, exactly like the Jews used the law. Because the law said, "Thou shalt not", they were to be motivated to refrain from doing that. Now we are to be motivated to give ourselves to God because Jesus died for us. That is not the gospel! The death of Christ as an intellectual, historical happening, will only perpetuate the law in us - nothing spiritual! It will tell us we have a debt to pay and a law to obey. So we remain debtors. The good news is that grace does not produce debts! If we are given something, we feel indebted to the giver, don't we? Some people cannot acccept anything without somehow repaying the gift. So we become swamped with writing out 200 Christmas cards. Isn't that the same principle? However, grace does not produce debts, for then it would no longer be grace! Therefore we do not owe God anything for His grace!

Redemption brings us out of our carnal reasoning; out of the notion of trying to please God with our works by trying to obey the law or trying to obey Christ. We were slaves to that type of relationship to God. Our freedom does not consist of doing or not doing things. We are freed from slavery to our old nature. That is the liberty we should be singing about!

Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw (beheld) His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) This Word that became flesh was full of grace and truth. So why do people say, "Just wait till Jesus comes; He is going to deal with your sin. Are you ready?" Why do they have this attitude about Christ? This is the crime and punishment attitude of the law! You must keep the Sabbath, you must not murder, you must not swear, nor lust after your neighbor's wife, otherwise you will get it. That is the law! The kingdom message is different! It says that we are going to be like Christ. We will walk in victory! We will walk triumphantly over this earth like an army that has fire going before it, and fire burning behind it, to purge the earth and defeat Gog and Magog. This is not an army which destroys the wicked.

People are looking at the grace of God through the eyes of the law. Their testimony is, "I have received Christ; I have made a decision for Christ, and if you don't, you're going to go to hell." Is there any grace in that? They think receiving salvation is due to their own choice and good works. Conversion would then be due to our own effort; we would have something to do with it. It would then be according to the law instead of God's grace. Our conversion is all grace - nothing but grace! "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, that no one may boast." (Eph. 2:8-9) Receiving Christ causes us to recognize we are sons of God. Zechariah prophesied that the hands of Zerubbabel would lay the foundation of the new temple and that he would put the last stone in place (the capstone - not the cornerstone) with shouts of grace. It was all grace that built the temple.

"He had the glory of an only-begotten from the Father." (Concordant) This Word which became flesh was the only-begotten of the Father; He was the only Word from the Father and He was "full of grace and truth!" The only word of edification we can receive is manifested in Christ. Jesus said, "All that came before Me were thieves and robbers." All the words, instructions, and ideas that came before or outside of Him and in preference to Him, were nothing but thieves and robbers. They were promises - great promises, but they lacked fulfillment.

"John testified about Him, and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, `He who comes after Me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.' For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." (John 1:15-17) Here we have two important issues contrasted - the law through Moses, and grace and truth through Jesus Christ. The law brought the knowledge of sin, and Jesus Christ brought redemption and the truth of who God is. It is of vital importance that we understand that all our knowledge was wrong. Therefore we cannot build on it! Man's natural concepts of God are all sin! Man's ideas which are so wonderfully expressed in the many beautiful poems, the gorgeous word pictures of sunsets, streams, and mountains, are still produced by the natural carnal mind which does not know the goodness, mercy and grace of God. They do not give the glory to God. It is hard for us to believe that this is still sin.

Grace and truth came in Jesus Christ. We can only be freed from error by being in Christ - by having Christ's Spirit in us. Only having knowledge of His crucifixion and resurrection does not save us nor free us from legalism. The redemption He brought has to be appropriated by receiving the grace and truth which came through Jesus Christ. "The only-begotten, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He unfolds Him." (Concordant) Grace and truth did not come through the law nor man's reasonings. The scriptures existed before Christ came, but they did not bring us grace and truth, because Christ, the Word of God, was hidden in the letter. Life came out of death. Without Christ the Bible is dead. If we are not in Christ, words will only motivate the flesh; but if we are in Him, we will see that the spiritual part of it comes in Him. Before the coming and manifestation of Christ, His resurrection and pouring out of the Spirit, we were in a delusion and did not know truth. The prophets spoke about the Christ, but they were not living in that dispensation. The darkness they were in concealed Him from being to them what He is to us now, even though Christ was ever present.

Spiritual realities cannot be comprehended by the natural mind! "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Col. 2:8) Everything in philosophy that is not in accord with Christ and the Spirit He sent, is wrong or sinful. That which causes a person to put more confidence in one's natural reasoning rather than in God's word to us, brings further seduction into delusion, error, confidence in self and in the old man. It brings a reliance upon the traditions of men. These are in accordance to the elementary principles of the world.

"For in Him all the fulness (the entire complement) of Deity dwells in bodily form." (v.9) It says IN CHRIST! Many erroneously have the mentality that it is BY Christ instead of IN Him. The things Christ DID came by Him, but IN HIM we have the inheritance, the union, and the affiliation with these things in reality. The fulness of the Godhead dwells in one form or one body in Christ. All that God IS, is represented in Christ; He is not divided. The whole body of truth or reality of God dwelled in Him. God was expressed in His fulness in Him - not in fragments or portions. Christ is our life!

God is not concerned in just having us do things for Him. A certain Christian quit his ministry to go into politics and run for the presidency. This seems to indicate that being president of the United States was more valuable to him than the preaching of the word of God. The morality that is in the law and the works that can be produced through politics, will supposedly help the United States more than preaching the kingdom of God. We need to see the kingdom of God, and not be despoiled through the seduction of the world!

Our completeness or fulfillment is IN CHRIST! "And in Him you have been made complete, and He is the Head over all rule and authority." (v.10) To the Galatians Paul said, "...with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you." They did not understand their completeness in Christ; they thought they needed the works of the law to bring them completeness. Paul was bringing understanding to them so that they might be released from their error and brought into truth. Our position in Christ and our practice here on earth should agree. Our actions flow out of who we are. What we practice is what we are; the practicing portion is ours and shows the position we have in Christ. That is the portion that we have in our position. What I am saying is this: if we are COMPLETE in Him, then our fulfillment is in Christ. And that is God's intention for man. Every man who is not in Christ, is not partaking of the fulfillment that God has for man, because the fulfillment is in Christ.

It says that in Christ we HAVE BEEN MADE complete. Notice the past perfect tense; therefore it is a PRESENT fact! Our faith should spring from our completion in Christ, rather than in an endeavor to get there. If we keep on endeavoring to get INTO Christ, or trying to fulfill ourselves in Christ, or trying to do what Jesus told us to do, we are not allowing ourselves to be incorporated into His life! We are not praying to Him as we would beseech a human being; we are just allowing His Spirit of knowledge and word to work in us, and/or to change a situation. For example, Alda and I were talking about praying for the sick. If someone is sick, we want him to be healed. So we pray for the healing. Instead, why not pray for the Christ (the truth) to displace the error, and let truth do the work. We get so zeroed in on the healing, that we fight it by looking at what WE ARE DOING - how we are praying and agonizing, etc. - instead of allowing the truth to do away with the error. We don't want to believe that truth is stronger than error. Our problem then is in getting our works out of the way so the grace and truth that are in Jesus Christ can do their work. If grace and truth are separated, we come into error. We struggle with trusting God completely, and battle minors instead of majors. We deal with symptoms instead of with problems. We are complete in Christ!

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich." (2 Cor. 8:9) It was for us that Christ became poor in this world. As He is, so are we in this world. If He was poor in the world, we are poor in the world. Many will look at this from a human point of view. Christ has become the most maligned, the most misrepresented, and the most degraded of all men. Some participate in this falsely and others ignorantly. Isaiah said that Christ's image was so marred that He could not be recognized. Although this may be true in the natural, Isaiah was not referring to that. It was His countenance as the Son of God that was so marred by human thinking, that they did not even know who He was. Nor do they today! Neither do they know who we are.

"That you through His poverty might become rich." Natural thinking deduces that God is in trouble, so He needs our help. He needs money, so we take a collection and do the begging for God. I think it is worse to beg FOR God than to beg God. People often beg FOR God, don't they? They beg for money in the name of Jesus, and they say they can't do His work unless they get more money, etc. It is through His poverty that we become rich. He gave up His glory and His position, became lower than the angels for a little while so that we could become partakers of His riches and glory. So Jesus Christ is really a Giver - He gives us His nature! And we become rich in what He gives! Remember when He gave talents, some buried the talent in the earth, and never got anything in return. That which He gives is to bear fruit in us!

"I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it." (v.10) Paul told them that it was the grace of God which produced in them an eagerness to give. They were not giving to prove they had faith or to fulfill a law; they gave because they WANTED TO participate in the work of the saints. There is a difference between works flowing out of our faith, and our faith being recognized by these works, and doing works to prove our faith. James taught something that was diametrically opposed to Paul's teaching. He taught that his works proved his faith. Why? James was a key figure in the church in Jerusalem where keeping the law of Moses was still very important. We know this because prior to the coming of certain men from James, Peter ate with the Gentiles. Peter was embarrassed about that, for he feared their disapproval. So he withdrew from the Gentiles and joined those who came from James. The legalism James taught brought fear and hypocrisy, and a reliance upon self. Paul would not join them in that. Is it sacriligious to see the faults of leaders as portrayed by the Bible? Obviously there were some good things in James, but there were also tinges of legalism. The various accounts in Acts and Galatians prove this.

Thinking that our own efforts brought us into Christ and into grace, brings us right back into the same kind of dilemma that we had when we endeavored to keep the law. That is why we have to get into a REST about this, let the Spirit of Christ work in us and give us His attitude, for He came to do the Father's will. Then the willingness of Christ will begin to operate in us; we will have the willingness to have GOD do His work within us. The grace that brings debts is no longer grace! We need to see grace for what it is and begin to GROW in it. Our actions are not to be motivated by legalism or the repayment of a debt. Once we have the acceptable will and the eagerness and desire created in us to do it, then our actions will be commendable.

We should not be looking at the completion or perfection of who we are in ourselves. It may sound right to say who we THINK we are, but we do not KNOW who we are. We need to humble ourselves to say who God says we are. In order for a continual WILLINGNESS to do His will to be worked in us, we need to be in a state of humility. "If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself." (John 7:17) If we don't have the will to do His will, then we will not know. People are content with their own thinking of what godliness is - that is the antichrist sitting in the temple. They think they can determine whether it is of God or not, without being willing to do His will.

A lot of Christians sit back and judge others without having any willingness in their hearts to do His will. Our denominational affiliation does not make any difference if there is not this willingness; nor can we know whether the teaching is of God without it. Unless people have a willingness to do the will of God, they cannot judge correctly, for they are judging with their carnal mind. Just as Jesus, Paul and Peter were misjudged, we also will be misjudged.

Grace has come to us in Jesus Christ; He is full of grace and truth. As we avail ourselves of His grace, we do not incur a debt. He has come with His riches to give, that His poverty might make us rich in the way He was rich. He did not have a place to lay His head, so we are not praying for Cadillacs or nice homes. Jesus Christ, the Word, came to destroy all other words that made promises, but did not have the power to fulfill them; they were nothing but thieves and robbers. We are praying for the same relationship with the Father that Christ had. Praise God! AMEN.

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