Grace – The Definition

The working definition Bill provides for grace is,

“The desire and power to do what God wants me to do”

This definition is quite distinct among those evangelical theology has given us. These include:

Unmerited Favor

This is actually a definition for grace that Bill accepts. But his point is that it is simply inexcusably vague to be called a definition. Grace is unmerited favor, but so is the food we eat, our spouses and children, the nation we live in. Mercy – the withholding of deserved judgment for our sin – is “unmerited favor”, as is ultimately the gift of salvation found in Jesus.

Being allowed to pursue happiness in this land of opportunity is an “unmerited favor” which I was born into, did not earn, and do precious little to ensure. The fact that some exercise this favor by working hard to get ahead, further ahead perhaps than others that may be less willing to suffer to see their dreams realized, adds a “merited” aspect to obtaining the benefits of an “unmerited” gift.

In similar manner Scripture speaks of God’s unmerited favor being ministered to those who will humble themselves, obtained by asking, exercised through sowing and reaping. We are commanded to “give all diligence” (2 Peter 1:5) to ensure that we do not miss any part of the “exceeding great and precious promises” given to us. The dispensing of God’s favor is thus tied in measure to how seriously we take Him. God will grade His children in the final judgment based on our works, and everyone is not going to
get an “A”:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

To whatever extent one believes the diligent pursuit of God to be merit – which it is not – to that extent “unmerited” cannot define grace.

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense

This is a creative acronym often quoted as a definition. Once again, however, it fails to say much. It gives no clue as to how those riches found through Christ can be obtained by the believer, let alone “grown” as Paul describes. Apparently we can get more of those riches, specifically, we read, if we are humble. Those riches “labored” in Paul . . . and were enough to make up his weaknesses, he said. Since some people fail in weakness it remains that some get grace, and others do not. The why’s and how’s of that acquisition have become the life focus of Mr. Gothard, a man whose primary life ministry is counseling, leading people to victory over their problems caused by sin.

Irresistible Power

The “Calvinists” among us – “Reformed Theology” – focus much on grace as a force, a power than can make us desire and do things we would not naturally do. God not only provides a free salvation in Christ through His death, but also gives both desire and the ability to receive it to those He favors.

Here we start to see the essence of Bill’s definition, up to the “irresistible” part. While Bill sees a great responsibility that rests with us to embrace grace and not reject it, “irresistible” removes all personal involvement. The problems are obvious. Since not all are saved and delivered from sin, it follows that God must not love those people since He blocks them from deliverance. He also must want the failures of sin to occur, since He can – with grace – overrun our will and make us joyfully choose righteousness. This becomes a violation of one of the foundational laws of the universe, that of Personal Responsibility. “Irresistible grace” makes God a liar, He who claims to hate sin and commands us to do the same, yet forces it on us. Coupled with “Total Depravity”, meaning each of us is a helpless sinner on our way to hell from birth, this becomes completely unjust. And God is never unjust.

It is interesting that some form of fatalism – “my destiny is determined by the whims of outside forces” – appears to present itself in almost every culture and religion. The reason is simple: the heart of man hates accountability, and much prefers to find a Higher Force to blame. A universe scripted entirely by the whims of an absolute sovereign is at the very least boring, devoid of any genuine danger, emotion, blessing, friendship. It leaves us with a grand melodrama with as many acts as the author chooses, puppets to create and crush, others to dress up and promote. I am not alone in being most uncomfortable with the Calvinist perspectives on grace. I find that Bill’s most articulate and energetic doctrinal opponents are ardent Reformed, Calvinist brethren. There is a clear connection between this theology and the opposition to what Bill teaches about grace.

Leave out the “irresistible” part and the perspectives that Bill promotes quickly come right in line with the gift of life, righteous thinking and action that the Calvinist sees. Grace is the wind that blows from the Holy Spirit on our little helpless ships. A sailor in a ship without wind can “work” to row, but the task is impossible, strength giving out long before the harbor is gained. A soft wind gives power to move the ship – a stronger wind more. Hence a wise sailor will tack to the more advantageous location, better wind. But wind is useless for a ship with lowered sails, and ships can in fact sail in many other directions than the direction the wind is blowing, depending on how the sails are trimmed. No ship will make the trip without the unearned, uncontrolled wind, as gratefully acknowledged. But the wind may be “fallen from” or “failed of”, terms the Scripture uses of grace neglected or rejected.

The Spirit of God is Himself a “breath”, a “wind”, the very meaning of the Greek word “pneuma” which the Bible translates as “spirit”. God’s Spirit is given to man as an unmerited gift:

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13).

The force of the Holy Spirit blowing on us, motivating us, empowering us is a gift, a gift we can request or refuse . . . a gracious gift . . . Grace personified. Unmerited, free, but not “irresistible”:

“Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” (Acts 7:51)

Continue to Grace – Etymology and Usage or visit previous in series, What is Grace?

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38 Comments

  1. rob war rob war
    November 5, 2015    

    I’ve read your series here. I have several questions but I’ll start out with one about Mary, the mother of Jesus. The angel Gabriel greeted her is a title, not her personal name “Full of Grace”. Mary is the only person in the Bible that is called “full of Grace”. What would be your explanation for this title? Did she so something herself to “earn” it or is it an unmerited gift from God? Why haven’t you even referred to her in all the Bible verses you have been quoting? Why wouldn’t she be considered a model so we too can be full of Grace? I’ve been curious for a long time why Bill in all his teaching ignores the very person that brought Jesus into the world. I’ll await your response.

    • Moderator Moderator
      November 5, 2015    

      Mary is far from the only person full of grace. Same word you call a title:

      Ephesians 1:6

      “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted (χαριτόω charitoō) in the beloved.”

      • rob war rob war
        November 6, 2015    

        That verse is praising Grace but does not say “full of grace”. You didn’t answer the question.

        • Moderator Moderator
          November 7, 2015    

          g5487. χαριτόω charitoō; from 5485; to grace, i. e. indue with special honor:— make accepted, be highly favoured.

          This is the word “accepted” in Ephesians 1:6 and “highly favored” in Luke 1:18, which you cited. I thought that was what you were pulling out of there.

          • rob war rob war
            November 9, 2015    

            You did not answer my questions at all but in all honesty, I did not expect a clear answer anyways. You misuse of Greek words and their meanings is quite amazing. You did not answer why is Mary given the title “full of grace” when the angel Gabriele came to her. That title is unique to her alone and you can’t wiggle out of it with trying to use another unrelated verse to confuse the Greek meanings. It doesn’t fly.

          • Moderator Moderator
            November 10, 2015    

            I can see you are a Mary fan.

            Χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη ὁ κύριος

            Hail, highly favored of the Lord, “graced”. That is not a title , it is a statement of fact. And there is no “full of” in there anywhere.

            Vines: “charitoo (χαριτόω, 5487), akin to A, to endow with charis, primarily signified “to make graceful or gracious,” and came to denote, in Hellenistic Greek, “to cause to find favor,” Luke 1:28, “highly favored” (marg., “endued with grace”); in Eph. 1:6, it is translated “made… accepted,” kjv, “freely bestowed,” rv(lit., “graced”); it does not here mean to endue with grace. Grace implies more than favor; grace is a free gift, favor may be deserved or gained.”

            The only other use of that word in the NT is directed to all believers . . . We too are “graced”.

          • rob war rob war
            November 10, 2015    

            Is there something wrong with being a “Mary” fan?

          • rob war rob war
            November 10, 2015    

            I think you have kinda proved that grace equals to favor or as you started out in your definition “unmerited favor” for returning to the Greek words. This kinda undermine the Bill definition of grace that you are trying to promote. The wikipedia article on Grace in Christianity sums up very nicely using Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant views about what grace is which favor shown by God to us, a free gift, not earned at all. Now yes, from this initial beginning there are divergent ideas and theology but all do hold to Ephesians 2:8. While Calvinist do emphasize irresistible grace which is what Bill seems to try to counter, Arminians do view grace of God as a cooperation with one’s free will. Bill is just focusing on the later in exclusion to the former.

          • Moderator Moderator
            November 10, 2015    

            No more or less than being a “Bill fan”, probably. Unless you believe her to be more full of grace than the average believer, the point we were making.

          • Moderator Moderator
            November 10, 2015    

            Since you are appealing to the ecclesiastical world at large, here is a quote from one of Bill’s IBLP newsletters (Nov. 22, 2011). See if you agree:

            “Even the Westminster Confession affirms the definition of grace that we have been using for nearly fifty years – it is not only God’s unmerited favor, but is also the desire and power to do God’s will: “When God converts a sinner, and translates him in the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.””

  2. rob war rob war
    November 10, 2015    

    So you are saying that being a “Bill fan” is equal to being a “Mary fan” and she is the one who said yes to God and gave birth to Jesus? So Bill is equal to Mary? is that what you are saying?

    • Moderator Moderator
      November 10, 2015    

      I guess so? I mean . . . I know their roles in history cannot be compared, she was definitely unique. But fundamentally she and Bill and Paul and I are on a common footing when it comes to value . . . and grace. That is the salient point. IF you are Catholic then that will never satisfy you . . . and I would prefer to not get lost in that discussion.

  3. rob war rob war
    November 14, 2015    

    The 1646 Westminster confession is a Calvinist statement of faith that was approved by the British Parliment. While you quote Bill stating that the Westminster confession has a definition of Grace that agrees with Bill’s, where in this confession and statement of faith does it really say that? In reading it which is readily accessable on a number of Reformed sites Chapter XIV states, “Grace of faithe, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls is a work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts and is ordinarly wrought bu by the ministry of the word, by which also and by the administration of the sacraments and prayer, it is increased and strengthen.” I do not find Bill’s definitional Grace in that. In fact the Westminister does mention something that Catholic, Orthodox, Luther, Calvin and Wesley teach is that someone can increase and receive Grace through participation and reception of sacraments, ie: communion (and baptism). I would suggest rereading John 6. In you series here about Grace, you do not even mention this. Bill did not teach this at all. Bill may have wanted to refer to the Westminster confession but he seems like he has ignored a number of it’s key points. But if Bill’s ideas about Grace counter those found in reformed theology, it is curious why he would quote something like the Westminster confession to support his teaching.

    • Moderator Moderator
      November 15, 2015    

      “Grace of faithe, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls is a work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts and is ordinarly wrought bu by the ministry of the word, by which also and by the administration of the sacraments and prayer, it is increased and strengthen.”

      So . . . WHAT is this thing they refer to that enables one to believe . . . . And, after salvation is increased and strengthened?

      Here is the text: https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Confession_of_Faith_of_the_Assembly_of_Divines_at_Westminster

      Where we read, chapter 9:

      “IV. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.”

      Could not be more clear.

  4. Pamela Pamela
    November 19, 2015    

    For someone to say that grace is the desire and power to do what God wants me to do is like someone else saying that dogs are German Shepherds. That someone can point out each and every German Shepherd in the pound and say, “See? German Shepherd. Another German Shepherd. Dogs are German Shepherds,” but that’s not going to change the fact that there are other dogs around. One expression of doginess cannot define the entire spectrum of doginess.

    There are many instances of grace in Scripture that defy the limited definition set forth by Bill. These instances become obvious when you try substituting Bill’s definition every time you see the word grace.

    How about Titus 2:11: “For the [desire and power to do what God wants me to do] of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” Really? *That’s* the means of salvation? Ephesians 2 indicates otherwise.

    Interestingly, the dissonance is reflected in the writings here, and there we see a subtle shift in usage. Here’s what was said on another page in this series: “Grace appears to us all, and immediately begins to motivate us to hate sin, love righteousness..” Wait a minute. You’ve been saying that grace *is* the motivation, the desire, to hate sin, love righteousness, etc. Now it’s the *means* of motivating us to hate sin and love righteousness? *

    Yes, because grace is unmerited favor.

    It doesn’t matter how satisfied Bill is or isn’t with the actual definition of the word. It is what it is. The food we eat, our spouses and children, the nation we live in… yes, those are all unmerited favors, even if we work hard at achieving them. It’s all unmerited favor, because in our sinfulness we deserve nothing but death from our holy God.

    But God is rich in His mercy. And He Himself is full of grace. Is it even possible to say that God is full of grace if grace is defined as “the desire and power to do what God wants me to do”?

    *Another example of the subtle shift is in the interpretation of the Westminster Confession cited elsewhere on this page. “IV. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.” Grace is *the means* by which God enables us to “will and to do that which is spiritually good.” Grace is not simply the will and power to do what God wants, and this would be more clear to someone who understands grammar and can diagram a sentence.

    • Moderator Moderator
      November 19, 2015    

      And, as pointed out in the article, saying that Grace is “unmerited favor” is like saying that German Shepherds are dogs. Many, many things are “unmerited favor”. Conversely, “The desire and power to do what God wants” is quite unique as a definition, would you not agree? What else could be placed under that heading?

      We deal with each of your passages in the article. Titus 2:11 IS the motivation and ability to turn to God. Everybody gets that in measure . . . and if responded to, that will lead to more grace, until led into the arms of the Savior. Ephesians 2:8-9 – Grace comes through faith, which is itself a gift. When we believe what God tells us we are given grace – desire and ability – to turn to Him for salvation through Jesus.

      God being full of “grace” is the “desire and power” to bless us. It is as simple as that. Does that not make sense?

      • rob war rob war
        November 19, 2015    

        It is a twisted definition. It does not consider that Grace is unmerited, we do not earn it. Then Grace does enable us to follow God after receiving it from God. Bill is taking enable part of Grace and twisting it into will.

        • Moderator Moderator
          November 20, 2015    

          Spend a few moments reading the section on “Unmerited” grace, see if it makes sense. Scriptural grace appears to include a definite sense of favor bestowed . . For cause.

      • Sandy Sandy
        November 19, 2015    

        No ~

      • Pamela Pamela
        November 21, 2015    

        Interesting. You’re saying that when God has the grace, grace is “the desire and power to bless us.” But when we have grace, even if grace came from God, it’s something different; it’s “the desire and power to obey Him.”

        Now there are two definitions of grace to defend. I don’t think that helped.

        Many things are graces. The desire to obey God and the power to obey God are simply two of those graces; they are gifts we do not earn, but are granted by God, according to the will of the Father, through the blood of Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

        Can’t you see? True grace is so much greater, so much more profound and transcendent and beautiful, for it speaks of the goodness of God in a way that this stumbling attempt never can.

        • Moderator Moderator
          November 23, 2015    

          Grace is motivation toward someone. That motivation can result in a blessing, a gift, thanksgiving, obedience, trust, all things documented in the article. You thus have it reversed. A gift is a gift . . . even a bribe is a gift. A gift is a “grace” when given out of sincere desire toward the person. That is the link to “favor”. “Unmerited” is somewhat inherent in that aspect, in the sense of being unforced, not by rule, by law. But . . . grace towards us can be increased . . . favor can be increased by the response provided. That is equally clear. And that special case of grace, the motivation in us to love God and obey him and then to love others, that can also be increased as we humble ourselves . . . and ask for it.

          • Tyler Tyler
            December 1, 2015    

            Okay, is grace “the desire and power to do what God wants me to do”, “motivation toward someone”, or in God’s case, grace is “desire and power to bless us”? How many definitions are you defending? Anyway you look at it, that certainly seems unorthodox. Honestly, I’m asking this as a genuine question. What exactly are you guys defending on here? Because I get the feeling you’re not satisfied with a broad definition of grace that includes Gothard’s definition as a part of it, but also includes the food we eat, “God’s desire and power to bless us”, and “His motivation toward us”, all of which fit under the heading of “God’s unmerited favor.”

            Instead it looks like you’re propagating several different definitions. I’m having trouble following.

          • Moderator Moderator
            December 3, 2015    

            First of all, have you read the entire article? We seek to address many of your concerns in the various sections: http://discoveringgrace.com/files/dg-grace.pdf

            “Unmerited favor” is for the most part a superset of God’s grace. Since mercy is itself “unmerited favor”, it reduces the definition to nothing, especially since Mercy and Grace are contrasted in Scripture:

            Hebrews 4:16

            Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

            And then there are the situations where grace clearly is merited; we have a whole section on that. http://www.discoveringgrace.com/2015/09/25/grace-charis-with-merit/. Things like this are cited:

            “For this finds favor (grace), if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor(grace) with God.” (NASB)

  5. Tyler Tyler
    December 3, 2015    

    Okay… yes, I read the entire article. And yes, I am still very confused. You admit that the food we eat, the nation we live in, etc. are all examples of grace, but then argue that Gothard’s definition (that doesn’t include any of those things) is the proper Biblical definition rather than a broader one that does actually cover all the facets of grace. Yes, mercy and grace are not interchangeable. Grace is beyond mercy, and mercy is included in grace. So yes, in Heb. 4:16, both words are used. There is no reason to assume that mercy then cannot be defined as a part of grace.

    I am actually a Calvinist, so I would rather not get into a raging debate on the merit/unmerited aspect of grace. So even though I really, really want to answer that argument, I’m not going to engage on that point.

    My point is actually rather simple. You claim that “unmerited favor” is a definition Gothard agrees with (though you apparently don’t since you take issue with the merited/unmerited portion of it), but that it is simply too vague since it allows for too many other things to also fall under the heading of grace, or in your words, it is “inexusably vague”. My question would then be, why is that an issue? Why have you decided that the Biblical definition must be specific, speaking of exactly which area of grace the author is speaking of each time it is referenced?

    And do you believe that “the desire and power to do what God wants me to do” fits as a definition for grace throughout all of Scripture, as a definition should? For example, “For by ‘the desire and power to do what God wants me to do’ are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:6)

    I guess my question would be summed up in the idea that if you were to say you believe in salvation by grace alone, by that, do you mean you believe in salvation through “the desire and power to do what God wants me to do” alone? And is that a desire that comes from God (because that’s nowhere in this definition), or is this just something some people happen to have and others don’t?

    • Moderator Moderator
      December 3, 2015    

      No, you misunderstood. The food, the nation are examples of UNMERRITED FAVOR. Not necessarily grace. Grace is focused on a “drive to bless”, “drive to favor”, “motivation to desire” if you will. God is full of grace as He plans for our salvation . . . and He puts grace within us to respond, to “desire Him” if you will, the power to respond to His grace. Even you Calvinists :-) acknowledge that grace working in us is not the same as the grace working in Jesus when He made himself poor, to make us rich.

      It matters because there are huge, practical aspects of grace that we highlight that are simply not addressed by “unmerited favor”. Grace working inside Paul . . . grace ministered to others through our words . . . grace given to the humble. I provided a key verse in the last post that demonstrated grace to be “merited” in some cases. You will be able to keep your Calvinist Card if you answer.

      Salvation is by grace alone, but salvation is not singular, but in three parts (see our other article on http://www.discoveringgrace.com/2015/10/13/a-salvation-trinity/ ) Grace that God is full of towards us and Jesus is full of when He came provided for our salvation in the legal, spiritual sense without any involvement on our part. He then enabled us with practical grace within us to respond, to “desire and accept” that free gift. That practical grace then also drives our new spiritual life, making us want things we never wanted before, and having the power to “walk on water” as it were to actually do it. Grace must increase, just like wind on the sails of a ship must increase, as we grow in “grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”. There are things we can do to sabotage that practical grace, working in our souls . . . cutting off the wind, leaving us helpless, “fallen from grace”, “failed of grace”, unable to live the Christian life. So . . . this business of grace for Bill is furiously focused on the practical aspect, “Why do some Christians fail, while others live powerful lives for Jesus?”. If God is able to keep us from falling, why do some of us fall?

      • Tyler Tyler
        December 3, 2015    

        Ha, ha, I’m much more interested in rightly dividing God’s Word than I am in keeping my “Calvinist card”. :) I am certainly not a Calvinist in the classic sense of the phrase (since I do believe man has a limited free will) and I have no problem admitting that there are verses I do not understand how they are compatible with what I see the rest of Scripture saying. The verse you threw out there (which you didn’t give a reference for and I don’t know off the top of my head) is an example of that. I don’t know, and I’m honest enough to admit that.

        I agree with you that there are different aspects of grace, saving grace being unmerited, other grace being at times given based on our progressive sanctification (which is still unmerited because sanctification is a work of Christ in us rather than a work we perform in ourselves). So yes, I think I can agree that there are different aspects of this grace.

        You gave three examples though of grace that is not “unmerited favor that I do take issue with. I would like to understand better what you’re saying, because again, I am a high school student. I’m learning on my Christian walk, and I don’t have all the answers. So I appreciate your willingness to answer questions!

        “Grace working inside of Paul…” That’s not an example of unmerited favor from God? What is it then? Without a text, it’s hard for me to know exactly what we’re speaking of here, but before I accept that this is not “unmerited favor from God”, can you show me why you don’t think it is? “Grace ministering to others through our words…”, I believe again, it is God’s favor manifesting itself through our words and actions, just as you say it is the desire and power to do God’s will (which I believe is simply an example of God’s favor).

        The last one is the one that stands out to me though. “Grace given to the humble…”? That’s not unmerited favor? In context, it appears to be. Starting a verse previously, “Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'” Since the previous verse(s) reference God’s desire for His Spirit to dwell in us, I would say this is speaking of saving grace, grace that is given to those humble enough to admit their need for Christ and inability (this is where the unmerited part comes in) to come to Him on their own. But again, we’re getting into Calvinistic waters that I would rather not get into here. That’s not the purpose of your site, I know.

        Plus, simplifying the idea of receiving grace because of actions is exactly what you are doing, oversimplification. You do this, so God does this. Like your example, where you read “God gives grace to the humble” to mean that we ought to make ourselves humble in order to get more grace. We do this so God will give us grace.

        Rather, we ought to understand that even those good things (which we must work to do in our own lives) for which God promises grace are gifts from God, not products of my own effort. For example, Phil. 2:12-13, Paul speaks very clearly that we need to work to obey God, but even that working is the working of God in us. So Christ’s working in us is displayed by our working. Though we don’t realize it, it’s not really us doing the working of sanctification at all, it’s Christ. “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

        Or here in 1 Cor. 15:10, “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, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” Yes, Paul worked hard. But was it really Paul doing it? Not according to Paul. It was God.

        I’m eager to learn. Please, point out to me where I’m wrong if you think I am.

        • Moderator Moderator
          December 5, 2015    

          “The verse you threw out there (which you didn’t give a reference for and I don’t know off the top of my head) is an example of that. I don’t know, and I’m honest enough to admit that.”

          Oops . . . here it is, with reference:

          “For this is thankworthy (“charis”, grace), if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable (“charis”, grace) with God.” (1 Peter 2:19-20)

          NASB:

          “For this finds favor (grace), if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor (grace) with God.” (NASB)

          “You gave three examples though of grace that is not “unmerited favor that I do take issue with. . . . . “Grace working inside of Paul…” That’s not an example of unmerited favor from God?”

          Saying God working hard inside of Paul to make Paul work hard at the ministry God gave him is “unmerited favor” is like saying that the key to Bill Gates billions is “hard work”. If *I* want to be a billionaire, I am sure I will find some tips in the life of Gates that will get me closer, since I work very hard, yet I am not even close to my first billion. So, if God expects me to “give all diligence” in the business He has given me, how do I get Him to work hard inside of me too so I will be able to work hard like Paul did? Are you saying – in fine Calvinist form – that Paul, like a robot, had no influence on that matter – grace just “happened”? If so, then why does Paul give clear direction for increasing grace . . . and what to do to not lose grace . . . and keeps asking for grace for those that read his epistles?

          “The last one is the one that stands out to me though. “Grace given to the humble…”? That’s not unmerited favor?”

          Not any more than it is “unmerited favor” to give grace to the one man whose heart was right with God before the flood, Noah. See, if I have no ability to humble myself before God – “fatalism”, destined, like a robot, by God – then the granting or withholding of grace is as meaningless as the rest of life, i.e. so completely. But, if I have the command from God and ability to humble myself before God, that materially affects whether I get grace or not.

          “In context, it appears to be. Starting a verse previously, “Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’””

          So let’s move back to 1 Peter 5, where it is more clear:

          “5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility:for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:”

          These are imperatives . . . “Submit yourself” . . . “Be subject” . . . “Be clothed with humility” . . . “Humble yourselves”. Does that make more sense?

          “ For example, Phil. 2:12-13, Paul speaks very clearly that we need to work to obey God, but even that working is the working of God in us. So Christ’s working in us is displayed by our working. Though we don’t realize it, it’s not really us doing the working of sanctification at all, it’s Christ. “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.””

          So here is the crucial question: IF God does it all, overpowering my will – the implication in your statement – then why does He, who hates sin, not make all believers reject sin and obey Him, “working out” their own salvation? Does He love some more so they are carried along to blessing and reward and honor, while He loves others less, choosing that they should fail in the Christian life and so get “Saved so as by fire”, slinking into heaven? See . . . that type of conclusion is simply unbiblical and why I reject the “bondage of the will” as taught by Calvinism. It removes the principle of “personal responsibility” completely. In the end, the play is acted out exactly as He chooses, the obedience as well as the failure. In that case, whatever fault is to be found with a failing Christian, it is a crime against God to condemn him because he has been doing exactly what God made him do.

  6. Tyler Tyler
    December 5, 2015    

    Alright… I wasn’t looking for a debate about Calvinism, but apparently it showed up anyway. I don’t have time to go around and around (which is the direction most online Calvinism arguments I’ve seen have gone), so this will be my last comment on this thread. I will read any response you make to it though, so you can feel free to have the last word.

    I see you doing a lot of explaining, but not much Biblical interpretation. So, you believe that man decides to become humble and that’s why God gives Him grace. Cool theory, but I notice you didn’t bother interpreting Phil. 2:12-13 or 1 Cor. 15:10 that seem to say something very different from that. Let’s look at those.

    “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Does that support your idea of man deciding to work out his salvation, so God decides to give him grace? Or does it seem more consistent with the text to say that yes, we are to work out our salvation, but who is it that gave us that will and the working? Ourselves? No, God.

    “For 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, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” His statement regarding his own work? “I labored even more than all of them, yet not I.” Again, which our views is more consistent with the text? I saw a lot of statements in your comment, but not much Bible.

    “If God does it all-which is the implication of your statement- then why does He, who hates sin, not make all believers reject sin and obey Him, ‘working out’ their own salvation?” If I could tell you why God does what He does, I wouldn’t be a high school student planning on a career in missions. I would be making millions of dollars speaking at conferences across America. He’s God! You expect me to explain to you God’s motivation for not making all believers complete and immediately sanctified? I don’t know. I don’t claim to know.

    But yes, I agree the implication of my statement is that God does it all. I’m interested what your position is. God does most? God does a lot? God does a little bit? And can I ask what part do the dead men of Eph. 2:1 do? What part do the slaves of sin from Rom. 1-5 do? What parts do the Rom. 8:8 men do? If they do anything, I swear those are the most active dead slaves I’ve ever heard of! :)

    “In the end, the play is acted out exactly as He chooses, the obedience as well as the failure.” Yep, that basically sums up where I’m at. That seems to be what Joseph meant when he told his brothers in Gen. 45 that their sin was actually an action of God’s. “Now therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” Notice who ultimately decided Joseph was going to Egypt. Was it Judah? Was it the brother’s who sent him away with hate in their hearts? Actually, the Bible says it was not. It was God. Yes, the brothers sinned, acting on the intentions of their wicked hearts, but in acting on those intentions, they were fulfilling the will of God.

    I think that’s what Isaiah would have said if you asked him about Is. 10:5-15, where the vicious Amalekite invaders were said to have been commissioned by God and are described as a tool in the hand of someone greater, like an ax or a rod. Yes, I think “the play is acted out exactly as he chooses” sums very well what David meant in Ps. 33:9-11, “For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.”

    What does David say? His statement certainly reflects a God who directs the play, doesn’t just watch it happen. Do the nations do as they please because they have free will? Are the people’s plans successful since they planned them? Or does God specifically say “No” to the plans of people in favor of His decree?

    I think Nebuchadnezzer would have been fine with your statement that God directs the play (both the play and the outcome) in Dan. 4:34-35, “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?'”

    I don’t know why some believers live victorious Christian lives and others live a broken life of constant struggling and falling. Does a belief in God’s sovereignty dismiss man’s responsibility? Not according to Romans 9. But to make man’s measure of grace dependent on men who “cannot do that which is pleasing to God” seems unBiblical to me.

    • Tyler Tyler
      December 5, 2015    

      Hey, when I was writing this, I meant to go back and edit some of my comments, but accidentally pushed the “post” button before I was ready. There is no edit button, so I can’t go back and fix some things I said. I’m sorry for the arrogant tone I have in several places throughout the comment. Again, I was going to go back and edit some of them, but I accidentally pushed “post” too soon. My apologies.

      • Moderator Moderator
        December 5, 2015    

        Not a problem – I had that experience numerous times posting on RG. Sometimes I asked the moderator to squash a post, which they usually did :-) What you said was not bad. I appreciate your sensitivity, regardless. I wish editing were an option. I have that as moderator. Perhaps if we switched to official accounts – an option we do have – that would become a reality. The cost would be the hassle for folks to get signed up so they can post.

        I agree that the debate is likely on bad turf, at least for this forum. Let’s see if I can make a couple of comments –

        ““In the end, the play is acted out exactly as He chooses, the obedience as well as the failure.” Yep, that basically sums up where I’m at. “

        That makes God the author of sin. We believe this to be a notion that Scripture would oppose.

        “I don’t know why some believers live victorious Christian lives and others live a broken life of constant struggling and falling.”

        There, again, is where we reach a point that is unsupportable. See, this entire website, that of RG, are revolving around what a man has done or should be held responsible for. With this perspective, it all becomes absurd. Because Bill – and all of us – did exactly what God told us to do. No point in trying to clarify or correct on your part, for you are opposing God.

        Do you see the problem?

        Frankly, this IS somewhat front and center in the Bill debate. Since the most vociferous opponents of Bill’s doctrine are Calvinists, Fatalists (“your fate is predetermined”), those that do not believe in “personal responsibility”. If ANYTHING defines Bill, it is preaching “personal responsibility”.

        • Tyler Tyler
          December 6, 2015    

          I’m just poking my head in for one last passage to get your take on it. I do believe God ordains the future and I believe man is still held responsible for what he does since he acts on the intentions of his heart.

          Is. 10:5-7, 12, 15, “Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger and the staff in whose hands is my indignation, I send it against a godless nation and commission it against the people of my fury to capture booty and to seize plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets. Yet it does not so intend, nor does it plan so in its heart, but rather it is its purpose to destroy and to cut off many nations…. So it will be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, ‘I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness.’… Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it? That would be like a club wielding those who lift it, or like a rod lifting who is not wood.”

          Okay, so let me point out a couple things I see in this passage (which I don’t mean to leave out portions out, I just wanted to put in the most relevant portions. For the sake of context, it’d be great if you could read the whole thing!). Then I will bow out of this thread (hmm, that sounds familiar… seems like I said that once before!).

          First off, I think we can agree that what Assyria did to the children of Israel was sin, can we not? 1.) God was very clear about what He thought of people messing around with Israel. 2.) I think we’re both acquainted with how brutal the Assyrians were. So the invasion itself was sin.

          Yet God takes responsibility for it, does He not? He claims to have sent it and commissioned it, even though it did not plan to do so in its heart (which makes it sound as if this was not a free will Assyrian choice to me). But what is God’s response? When it’s done with Assyria, when it’s served it purpose, He will punish it for its arrogance in doing exactly what He commissioned them to do!

          The closing verse (15) is to me the most powerful, when he compares Assyria to a lifeless axe or club that has no power of its own and can only do what the one wielding it desires. The question of how God’s sovereignty and man’s free will (since I believe in both) mesh is a question I have trouble answering and I think every honest theologian who believes in both does as well. I assume you believe in at least a measure of God’s sovereignty along with man’s free will, yet that seems to be at odds.

          So, my question is how would you explain this passage? Thanks!

          • Moderator Moderator
            December 6, 2015    

            Thanks, Tyler

            I believe the key is found in a couple of passages. The first is from Proverbs 16, a chapter chock full of verses that relate to the sovereignty of God:

            “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
            “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” (Psalm 76:10)

            The first verse is so significant. It states clearly that we are responsible for our plans, the decisions we make . . . but God assumes full responsibility for where our steps actually land. In simplest terms, God controls all things physical, and He is wise enough to lay plans far in advance which He will ensure will work out exactly as He says. He can literally pick our feet up and put them where He wants, or use earthquakes or floods or any number of other natural events to move us where we are needed. Besides that He is also smart enough to coax and push us into just about any course of action, just like a wise parent with a small child. So, for example, creating a world-wide tax right when Jesus was to be born so Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem was a piece of cake.

            In the second verse we see that God will use our bad behavior to praise Him . . . up to the limit where that is not feasible, then He will make us stop. Just like Pharaoh in the days of Moses, God picked an appropriate person with certain inclinations to be king of Assyria and manipulated him – through his natural pride, anger, or through the counsel of others, signs [See Ezekiel 21-21-22], whatever it took – to come to spank Israel. The key is not that God is MAKING that king sin, just that He was using that wrath, already there, to accomplish His pleasure.

            God calls Moab His “washpot” [Psalm 60:8], there to wash His people from time to time. He uses Satan in exactly the same way – Satan must ask permission to mess with God’s people, and then only within the constraints he is placed under.

            So . . . God “raises up” this king or that people to provide corporal discipline of His people from time to time. He motivates them to accomplish His will of a spanking, SOMETIMES actually even telling them [1 Kings 11]. Regardless, this is NOT “bondage of the will”, fatalism, where God makes us do things by overwhelming our will. These are all mechanisms that we are familiar with and use on others, only He is so much smarter than we are.

  7. Dave Dave
    December 17, 2015    

    To get down the nuts and bolts, is it possble that some aspect of grace is a “reward” for accepting previous grace? Going to a “higher level” as it were? This would seem to be true on Bill’s idea that we can act in such a way as to recieve more grace… The more grace we accept and use, the more grace we recieve to do it better?

    • Moderator Moderator
      December 17, 2015    

      “To get down the nuts and bolts, is it possible that some aspect of grace is a “reward” for accepting previous grace? “

      There might be something to that :-) A confirmation: “For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” (Mark 4:25)

      • Dave Dave
        December 17, 2015    

        But if we can “earn” or be “deserving” of any amount of grace, doesnt that mean we have some amount of control over the giving of grace?

        • Moderator Moderator
          December 18, 2015    

          Maybe it is not so much the “earning” as it is the ability to receive it. Bitterness, pride cut us off from grace, at least that practical power that we are concerned with (and as you can see grace is also at times the reference to God’s desire and power to bless us). Regardless, God refuses to give grace to the proud. Does that give us control? About the same way that we control whether or not we go to jail but whether we decide to sell drugs or not . . . maybe a lame example, but the best I could do.

          • May 22, 2016    

            Just following this conversation between Moderator and Dave. Romans 12 implies that it is the Lord that gives faith and grace and He determines how much grace and faith is allotted to each believer of course we all agree on this right?

            Where does it say that in reference specifically to grace and faith that you will be given more? Mark chapter 4 is about hearing and believing not earning grace or faith or earning more that is foreign to the text.

            Likewise Romans 12 says nothing about earning grace the text implies it is a gift I can post Mark 4 and Romans 12 in their entirety if you like the context does not support the assertion that you can earn more grace. This is where Bill parts way with the biblical meaning of grace.

          • Moderator Moderator
            May 22, 2016    

            Where does it say that in reference specifically to grace and faith that you will be given more?

            There are MANY verses that talk about being given more grace, including Romans 12. Where did we say we “earn” it? God gives it as a gift as it pleases Him, but it pleases Him to give it to support His work – i.e. grace empowering our service – and He gives it in response to both need – sin, in Romans 5:20 – and obedience, those that are humble, in 1 Peter 5:5 et. al. We are told to earnestly desire (“lust after”, read the word) better gifts at the end of 1 Cor. 12 and the beginning of chapter 14 – Romans 12 tells us that each of those gifts is a “measure of grace” from God . . . so . . . we ask for that grace . . . at the throne of grace. Nothing about earning, but only those that are passionate about furthering the kingdom of God will do that. Is that “merit”, the more committed believers vs. those along for the ride? You tell me.

            Faith itself is given as a gift – a grain of mustard seed – which we then plant or don’t plant according to Luke 17 (“increase our faith”). As cited, that grain that Jesus said “moves mountains” Matthew 17:20 in fact GROWS into “all faith” in 1 Cor. 13:2, which “moves mountains”. The grain must be planted – act of obedience – then it grows.

            Not sure of your point, so will let you ponder and respond.

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