What does the Bible mean when it says _______?

What does the Bible mean when it says _______?

What the Bible mean when it says “Grace”?

Monday, May 09, 2022

How do we summarize this grand tenet of Christianity? On the one hand, we should emphasize the good of this wonderful truth—grace is all about the fact that God is ready to bring you close to himself! However, to begin to appreciate how good this is, we have to appreciate how undeserving we are! When people talk about grace in nonreligious contexts, they may refer to some undeserved courtesy (such as a grace period). In the Bible,  grace is undeserved blessing or favor from God—which is far more wonderful than any grace we can receive from other people! Take a moment to read this small paragraph from the Apostle Paul’s letter to Christians in Rome.

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
(Romans 3:31-26 from the English Standard Version)

God is righteous; God is just. For guilty (sinful) people to be close to him, their sin needs to be dealt with. Because God is just and holy, he cannot simply let it go. Sin is a real problem. If we care about justice, we should be glad that God does too, more perfectly than we can imagine. So how can God bless sinful people as if they were not guilty? Have you ever said, “I can never forgive that person”? If you have forgiven something big, you know it can be very difficult to forgive—painful even. Paul is pointing out here that we are all guilty. He has been making that point since Romans 1:18.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
(Romans 1:18)

Do you see your own guilt? Religious or not, we all have standards, a way of thinking about the world that comes with some measure of what is good and healthy living. Are we meeting our own standards? Further, if this God exists, how much higher are his standards, how much greater his goodness than my own? So yes, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. This wasn’t just an arbitrary rule we broke; rather, we have chosen our way instead of God’s way. We have rejected him. But now we want to be close to him? We want him to forgive us? That is a lot to ask. 

God is ready bring us close to him again. He offers us forgiveness by giving us Jesus. No doubt, this is a mystery. What God has done is not for humans to fully grasp. But he does give us ways to appreciate his grace. Jesus was given for our “redemption”—bringing us back to him at great cost. He put Jesus forward as a “propitiation”—a gift and sacrifice that adequately deals with the cost of sin. The Romans had gods which expected such sacrifices. People would give gifts to these gods to win their favor for a voyage or fertile crops or for healthy children. But one major difference between the Christian God and those false gods was that the Christian God is the one who provides the gift. We could never produce a gift to outweigh our sin. But since our sin was most crucially against God, he has the right to either bring judgment on us or to absorb that cost in himself. When we forgive a debt, the debt does not disappear. Instead, we bear the cost. That is what God did when he became a human being and died for sin. 

Pause for a moment. Dwell on this. Jesus’ sacrificial death tells us how horrible our sin is. Simultaneously, Jesus’ sacrificial death tells us how much God is ready to bring us close to him again. God’s grace is not such that he takes our sin lightly. It’s not that we are easy to love. It is that he is so good, so kind, so faithful, so gracious that he bears the weight of our guilt—to love us. 

Now, given what God has done, what effect does that have on you and me? Notice what Paul says later in his letter, in light of God’s grace.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice”
(Romans 12:1a)

Paul’s letter gets very practical from this point on. Having spent the bulk of his letter reminding these Christians of God’s grace, he now urges them to live as people who follow this amazing God. So don’t suppose that God’s grace is license to continue to reject God with no remorse. 

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
(Romans 6:1-2)

As people who are made righteous by God’s grace, we are forever changed. 

Thank you for your interest in the Christian Scriptures! Would you like to study more? Find a Bible study or request a personal Bible study that fits your schedule.

For our gracious King,

Mason Venuso

What does the Bible mean when it says "Gospel"?

Monday, March 14, 2022

The term “gospel” is often explained as meaning “good news”. The word was sometimes used by Romans to talk about good news about their emperor. The report of a victory or the report of the birth of a successor to the throne might have been called gospel. So then how did it come to refer to a Christian message about Jesus?

When ancient Jewish translators were working on Isaiah, they selected this word for announcing this good news about a kingdom. But Isaiah was not talking about an earthly kingdom.  

“Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’”
(Isaiah 40:9. All references in this article are from the English Standard Version of the Bible)

Later on, he says again,

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”
(Isaiah 52:7)

Isaiah was challenging the nation of Judah to remember that they only need to trust in the one true God, Yahweh. They wanted to trust in other kings, in Egypt or in Assyria––or even in their false gods. Isaiah reminded them that their God ruled over all. 

Isaiah also indicated that God was a different kind of King, sending his Servant for the sake of the lowly and the broken. 

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound”.
(Isaiah 61:1)

Jesus is that Servant. He would eventually take on this proclamation of good news, saying that God’s kingdom was very near.

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”
(Mark 1:14-15)

The title “Christ” refers to one who is anointed. Anointing a person with oil was a kind of coronation. Newly established kings were anointed to show they were king. So when Peter boldly confessed his belief that Jesus was indeed the Christ, he was saying that Jesus was the promised King of that promised kingdom. Jesus made it clear that he would not only be a king, but truly be this different kind of king. When two of his disciples made a move to have positions of honor in what they imagined to be Jesus’ regime, Jesus challenged them to shift their vision of the kingdom. The other disciples had contempt for the two who were more opportunistic. Here’s what Jesus taught them all. 

“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”
(Mark 10:42-45)

The news that Jesus is the one in charge and that he serves the least of us should be refreshing. Yet, if he was to die, how could he be king any longer? Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice for us, but he was not defeated by death. The sinless sacrifice of the Son of God atoned for sin, from which death derives its power. God raised Jesus. And his resurrection further established his throne.

A number of years later, the apostle Paul would summarize the gospel in this way. Notice what this this good news (gospel) is all about.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,”
(Romans 1:1-5)

Jesus served us, died for us, and he was raised to reign forever. This is the gospel. We respond to this powerfully good news by trusting in and submitting to our King (“the obedience of faith”). 

Thank you for your interest in the Christian Scriptures! Would you like to study more? Find a Bible study or request a personal Bible study that fits your schedule.

For our King,

Mason Venuso