July 2018 Newsletter - "Grace" by Nathan Padilla
Grace is a term that is grossly misunderstood today and most often taken out of context. The church today has a western “Protestant” or “Pentecostal” definition of grace that is generally twisted and misunderstood. Most believers use the Apostle Paul’s letters of being “saved by grace” [Eph_2:8] and take it completely out of context. To be “saved by grace” we must understand what grace is. First, however, let us consider what it is not. For one, I will mention one scripture in particular that is NEVER used when it comes to grace. In the book of Jude, he warns of these men who crept in and were “ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ,” [Jud1:4]. Grace was a license for immorality. Paul testifies this in his epistle, “have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh,” [Gal_5:13]. Liberty in the Greek is “eleutheria,” and it means to live as you should, not as you please. Here is an example of the Early Church and their understanding of how grace was being twisted in their time by heretics:
“Some of the heretics simply deny the Law and the Prophets for the sake of their own doctrine. And under the pretense of grace, they have sunk down to the lowest abyss of perdition.”1
Where did this thorn seed of grace come from? A second century heretic by the name of Marcion was one who was an advocate of this belief that grace was a liberty to live the way you want. This type of grace never speaks of the fear of the Lord or discipline (chastisement), but it separates the Old Testament from the New Testament. He says the God of the Old Testament is angry and brings judgment, but the God of the New Testament is all about love.2 Tertullian gives more insight into their mentality of this Marcionite doctrine.
“This will turn out an imaginary goodness, a phantom of discipline, perfunctory in duty, careless in sin. Listen, ye sinners; and ye who have not yet come to this, hear, that you may attain to such a pass! A better god has been discovered, who never takes offence, is never angry, never inflicts punishment, who has prepared no fire in hell, no gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness! He is purely and simply good. He indeed forbids all delinquency, but only in word. And so satisfied are the Marcionites with such pretenses, that they have no fear of their god at all. They say it is only a bad man who will be feared, a good man will be loved. Foolish man, do you say that he whom you call Lord ought not to be feared, whilst the very title you give him indicates a power which must itself be feared?”3
Another sect that has interpreted were the Nicolaitans. This excerpt from Fausset’s Dictionary describes the teachings of the Nicolations.
“The Nicolaitans abused Paul's doctrine of the grace of God into lasciviousness…they even joined in the ‘fornication’ of the idol feasts, as though permitted by Christ's ‘law of liberty.’”4
Now that we have established what this so-called grace is, what is grace? How does the bible describe it, and how was it defined according to the Ante Nicene Fathers? The first time we see the word grace is in Genesis with Noah [Gen_6:8]. What is that grace that Noah found in the eyes of God? Tertullian describes that grace as the teachings of Enoch.
“he, of course, had heard and remembered, from domestic renown and hereditary tradition, concerning his own great-grandfather’s ‘grace in the sight of God,’ (Cf. Gen_6:8) and concerning all his preaching’s;”5
So Noah was saved by the grace of the teachings of Enoch. How can grace be teaching? Let us summon the Apostle Paul to be in agreement.
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Eph 3:1-5)
The Apostle Paul explains to us that grace are mysteries that were revealed by Jesus Christ. He makes an astonishing proclamation that grace was given to him and not the church, meaning that Paul was a steward of the grace to give to the church. Paul reiterates what he was given by the God to give to the church. 1 Corinthians 4 says, “SO THEN, let us [apostles] be looked upon as ministering servants of Christ and stewards (trustees) of the mysteries (the secret purposes) of God.”6 Being a steward of the grace and the mysteries. The apostle Paul was chosen as an Apostle to be a steward over God’s grace, which are the mysteries of the kingdom, to give to the church. The word steward in the Greek is “oikonomos” which is a combination of two words. The first is “oikos” the tabernacle, in which Paul says he was a “master builder” [1Co_3:10]. The second word is “nomos” the Torah/Law, Paul said that the “Law is Spiritual” [Rom_7:14] and that he was to “establish the Law (nomos)” [Rom_3:31]. What I am alluding to by bringing this to our attention is that Paul had received a grace that Moses had? Moses was “faithful in all My house” [Num_7:12], which goes back to what the job of a steward/oikonomos, is to be watchful over. Yahuah tells Moses “for you have found grace in My sight” [Exo_33:17].
Now that we have established what grace is and is not, let us now see how grace in the early church was used in the context in which they were taught. Going back to the epistle to the Ephesians, we are “saved by grace through faith… and not of works,” [Eph_2:8-9]. Clement of Alexandria expounds on this meaning:
“For by grace we are saved:” not, indeed, without good works; but we must, by being formed for what is good, acquire an inclination for it. And we must possess the healthy mind which is fixed on the pursuit of the good; in order to which we have the greatest need of divine grace, and of right teaching, and of holy susceptibility, and of the drawing of the Father to Him.7
So, you may say this contradicting or overriding what the Apostle Paul says how it’s not by works. Let us contemplate this meaning and use Paul as a witness to Clement’s explanation. “Saved by grace through faith” means that through faith we receive grace. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” [Rom_10:17] What was the word that he was preaching? “establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began,” [Rom_16:25] and “I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,” [Eph_6:19]. Thus, by Paul dispensing the grace/mysteries to the church, they would be saved in having faith in what they were being taught. Faith is an action as James explains, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” [Jas_2:17]. He also says, “if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” [Jas_2:14].
The final illustration of grace I will present is from Mathetes, who was a disciple of the Apostle Paul.
“Then the fear of the law is chanted, and the grace of the prophets is known, and the faith of the gospels is established, and the tradition of the Apostles is preserved, and the grace of the Church exults; which grace if you grieve not, you shall know those things which the Word teaches, by whom He wills, and when He pleases.”8
Paul’s disciple, Mathetes, defines grace as teachings from the Torah and the Prophets that will establish the Gospels and the Apostolic Traditions (oral teachings of revelation 2Th_2:15) and help us to know what Yahushua, the Word teaches. “Without a parable he did not speak,” [Mar_4:34]. To explain grace correctly, we could not merely give you one scripture and interpret it out of context. Most believers have misunderstood grace and have twisted the true meaning to their own destruction and to excuse their lewd behavior and use their definition of grace as a “get out jail free card” when we can grieve or even insult the Spirit of grace [Heb_10:29]. Saints, it’s time we adorn our minds with grace. Shalom.
- Caius - Fragments (quoted by Eusebius) Ch. III, ANF Vol. 5
- Irenaeus - Against Heresies Ch. XXXIII, ANF Vol. 1
- Tertullian - Against Marcion Book 1 Ch. XXVII, ANF Vol. 3
- Fausset’s Dictionary
- Tertullian - Apparel of Women, ANF Vol. 4
- Amplified Bible
- Clement - Stromata Bk. 5 Ch. I, ANF Vol. 2
- Mathetes (Disciple of the Apostle Paul) - Epistle to Diognetus Ch. XI, ANF Vol. 1