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Given for the Saints of the World, on April 18, 2010.

"I refuse to make nonsense of the grace of God! For if righteousness were possible under the Law then Christ died for nothing" (Gal. 2:21, Phillips).

In spite of the many, many scriptures which attest to the futility of trying to be good enough to earn God's favor, so many Christians still cannot believe that they are saved by grace alone. According to their "works mentality," there has to be some self effort involved. Otherwise, it's just too easy, they think. Perhaps these dedicated "workers" are the ones who coined the phrase "cheap grace." As they struggle to do what is righteous and avoid evil in their lives, they look with scorn on the idea that the grace of God is available to all men, and yet, that's exactly what Paul said: "For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men" (Tit. 2:11, RSV). What a difference the translation makes. For instance, the King James Version and the NIV translate it "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." Notice that in the RSV version, grace is the "delivery system" by which all men are saved.

Jonathan Mitchell's translation of Titus 2:11 makes the point perfectly clear. (See link at End): " For God's saving grace (the salvation-imparting influence and boon of undeserved kindness, favor and goodwill whose source is God and which brings deliverance, rescue, restoration and health) has been fully set in clear Light (was fully manifested and made to completely appear) for all mankind (to all humanity; in all humans) [other MSS: You see, the joyous favor of God: a Savior for (to; in) all mankind, has been fully displayed; or: So you see, the grace, which is God, was made to suddenly appear {as} a Savior for all humans]"

In the KJV and NIV translations, grace merely makes it possible for all men to be saved, according to the Orthodox position that the blood of Christ was shed for all men, but only those who obey God will benefit from His sacrifice. These very different points of view illustrate the great gulf fixed between those who are compelled to add their works to God's work in Christ, and those who know that it is only by God's grace that we are cleansed and saved (Eph. 2:8-9). Here is John's description of Christ: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of GRACE and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (John 1:14).

Christ healed those who had been held in bondage by the grip of Satan AND the Law before the grace of God appeared clothed in flesh. Paul admonished Timothy to give testimony to Christ, "who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago" (II Tim. 1:9). It's important to note that this gift was given before any of us was born!

The preacher of a local church here in Neosho asked a Wednesday night class, "What is grace?" An old woman answered: "Grace is what God gives us when we obey Him." That's "cheap grace" on the hoof. Over time, the phrase would float by, but for the past 10 days, it has been my daily companion. When that happens, I know I'm to write about it. So we'll explore it together to see what the Lord has in mind for us.

Our dear friend Jeri Fox reminded me of a scripture found in II Chronicles, Chapter 30 that fits perfectly into this discussion. The setting is the reign of King Hezekiah, one of the few kings of Judah who "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done" (II Ch. 29:2). That Hezekiah loved the Lord was amazing, since his father, King Ahaz, was dreadfully wicked. "He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites" (II Ch. 28:3). This blood stained valley was the very one which Jesus described as the place where the fire is not quenched and the worm never dies (Mr. 9:43-48). The Greek word for the Valley of Ben Hinnom is "Gehenna." The King James translators substituted the word "hell" (a place of punishment after death), for that physical location on the earth, used as a trash incinerator in Jesus' day. This misconstrued concept has kept Christians in fear and bondage ever since.

Why didn't Jesus' listeners run screaming into the night, tearing out their hair when Jesus spoke of the fire that's never quenched and the worm that never dies? Unlike most Christians today, they knew the evil history of this Valley (also called Topeth, "place of fire"). I've written extensively about this before, but I'll give a brief summary: It was a valley located on the SW side of Jerusalem, where the rebellious people of Israel, like King Ahaz sacrificed their sons to the Pagan God Molech and Baal: "They poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood" (Ps. 106:38). This was detestable in the sight of Almighty God, who said through the Prophet Jeremiah, "They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin" (Jer. 32:35).

It always astonishes me that in spite of God's severe punishment of Israel and Judah for this abomination, nevertheless, Christians today say that He will do to His children exactly what He condemned them for, i.e., He will burn His children in eternal hell fire! Now THAT would be an abomination! How anyone can believe that a God who loves us enough to die on the cross for us, could then turn around and burn His children in fire for eternity, is completely beyond me. It is not what the scriptures proclaim: "and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2).

Jesus NEVER referred to a burning hell AFTER we die, but rather used the Valley of Ben Hinnom, which all his listeners knew and understood, to make His point. "And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to 'Gehenna,' to the unquenchable fire" (Mr. 9:43). It would be better to cut off your arm than be burned in the fiery trash incinerator known as Gehenna, which was, the place on earth where refuse, dead animals, and bodies of criminals were destroyed. The fires were kept burning day and night for that purpose, and the worms were probably maggots which feasted on the dead bodies. Western Christians have taken this literally, when Jesus was making a metaphorical point about the consequences of sin in this life.

Mark concluded his remarks on Gehenna by declaring: "EVERYONE will be salted with FIRE" (Mr. 9:49). Did you get that? Everyone will go through the flames, not just the wicked. How can that be? "Our God is a refining fire!" (Heb. 12:29). John said, "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16). Fire is God's cleansing agent used to burn off the dross.

Back we go to King Hezekiah, who was given an amazing example of saving grace found even under Law. He had restored and repaired the temple, calling on the priests to consecrate themselves and the temple of the Lord. "Remove all defilement from the sanctuary. Our fathers were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the Lord our God and forsook him. They turned their faces away from the Lord's dwelling place and turned their backs on him" (II Ch. 29:5-6). Hezekiah made a covenant with God, in order to turn the Lord's fierce anger away from the people. The priests did as the King had commanded, and when the temple was purified, the "service of the temple of the Lord was reestablished" (30:35). Then Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah (two separate kingdoms), "inviting them to come to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel" (30:1). They celebrated it in the second month, rather than the first month as God had commanded Moses, because "not enough priests had consecrated themselves and the people had not assembled in Jerusalem" (30:2-3).

Consecration is a process first ordered by Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai: "And the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments, and be ready by the third day; for on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people" (Ex. 19:10). Strong's definition of consecration is "to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate." The physical act, in this case, washing their clothes, was symbolic of cleansing their minds and hearts and turning their whole being unto the Lord.

Though Chronicles includes information not found in Kings, I prefer to read Kings and avoid the endless lists that the Chronicler loves to include; so my thanks again to Jeri Fox for pointing out this passage which reflects God's grace, even under Law: "For a multitude of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, 'The good LORD pardon every one who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary's rules of cleanness.' And the LORD heard Hezekiah, and healed the people" (II Ch. 30:18-20). This is a powerful example of God's grace, for the Law required that no one eat the Passover Feast unless he or she had been consecrated, cleansed and purified. Should we expect less grace in the New Covenant which is based on the works of Christ, NOT the works of men? "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).

Over the years, I came to see that men had created the concept of "cheap grace" by their idea that in addition to Christ's sacrifice, they were supposed to add to it by their response. "God can't save you unless you obey Him" has been thundered from pulpits and pamphlets for centuries. To that notion, I ask, "Where is the man powerful enough to thwart the will of God?" for our Father is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9). Peter does not limit God's will nor men's response to this life. God's grace is not cheap! It cost Him His only begotten Son! After publishing, "The Sin Eraser," we received this e-mail from a friend:

"Jan, I wanted to believe all would be saved, but doubt kept nagging at me every time I said that. Some would get angry when I mentioned all being saved, saying it wasn't right. But then not too long ago, when doubt was chewing on me again, these words thundered all through me: 'Do you think I would waste one drop of My Son's blood??!!'" End Quote.

That is the question. Not one drop of the Lamb's blood, slain from the foundation of the world, was wasted. "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ SHALL ALL BE MADE ALIVE.....Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven" (I Cor. 15:22,49).

Father, we are speechless at the magnificence of your grace; we fall on our faces before you in adoration and worship to the Lamb who was slain and to Him who sitteth upon the throne. Holy is Your name which we proclaim to all the world. We give you honor and glory and blessings, now and forever. Amen. Jan Antonsson

Lenny and Jan Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)

Jonathan Mitchell's New Testament Translation

The Perfection Process

The Sin Eraser

Good Men, Righteous Men, and Sinners

The Glory Road

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This site was created on 04/13/10

by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister

and last updated on 04/14/10.