What happened to faith in the Gospel of Grace?

Today I listened to a sermon in church by a guest preacher. The sermon was about the “Gospel of grace.” This is what I understood of the sermon, which I gathered from my notes. The parts in square brackets are my additions. Words in quotation marks – other than scripture references – are the preacher’s own words.

I am a sinner. I deserve punishment. Christ ransoms me through the shedding of his blood. He replaces my sin with his righteousness: [God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)].

The preacher continues: No work on our part is involved. It’s all of God; all Grace. God gives freely. Two examples: at the feeding of the five thousand, no one asked for food – and in such abundance; at the miraculous catch of fish, the disciples in the boat didn’t ask Jesus for so much fish:

[When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink (Luke 5:4-7)]

This shows that we don’t have to do anything – no works, because Jesus does it for us without us even asking. We receive grace from the Lord. Grace means we receive without asking. The Preacher says:

“Law demands, grace gives.”

“Grace is receiving from the Lord.

“ We have the Gospel of grace.”

“All is grace.”

After the sermon, the preacher prayed: “It’s not about works, but about us seeking You. That’s where it starts.”

My question is: “Why no mention of faith?

If the preacher had mentioned “faith,” let me try and infer how he would have dealt with it.

Recall his “All is grace.”

I know that the preacher is a synergist (“work together”), that is, he believes the sinner cooperates with God in his salvation because I did discuss this issue with him on a previous occasion. But, say, I, or you, hadn’t met him, how could we tell that the preacher’s “all is of grace” is not really “all” at all. Why not? The answer lies in his final prayer:

“It’s not about works, but about us seeking You. That’s where it starts.”

We get:

  1. “All is grace” (during the sermon) and 2. “It’s not about works, but about us seeking You. That’s where it starts” (the end of the sermon).

What surprised me was that the preacher never mentioned the GIFT of faith. We understand what he means by “gift” because of his examples of the bread and fish in the feeding of the five thousand, and the miraculous catch of fish. No demanding, no asking, not even a respectful hint. That’s what “gift” means in it pure form; for God’s gifts are naturally, and supernaturally, pure.

Where does “it all start” for the preacher? It “all starts” by “seeking.” But, the preacher reminds us, seeking” is “not at all about works.” In other words when we seek, we do nothing, we expend no energy, we do no work(s). This, of course, is patently illogical. So, the preacher’s “all” is “all” excluding that little matter of “seeking,” In other words, if you “seek” faith, God will give it to you. Doesn’t the Bible say “seek and you will find?” Yes, it does. The thing is: Christ gives you the desire to seek. But how can this be if you’re dead, and you are; very dead? it happens like this: Christ raises you to (new) life. In the raising from death, Christ gives you the gift of faith:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressionsit is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:1-9).

This” is in the neuter form in the Greek,where “this” in the passage refers to grace AND faith; both are a gift.

We (sinners saved by grace) were dead, dead as a dodo, not so?; rotting in our coffins six feet under. Jesus comes, digs down to the coffin, creaks open the lid, and breathes life into the corpse. He raised us to new Life. We are born again. Faith has come to us. Without seeking but supernaturally, of course. For how can the dead naturally seek anything?

I liken Ephesians 2:1-9 to what Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky says about the broken earthenware vessel (the Rabbi, of course, will not approve of my comparison at all):

“The Torah tells us that an earthenware vessel (after becoming contaminated) cannot be purified in a mikvah. In order for it to become uncontaminated, it must be broken or shattered so it loses its function as a vessel. If it is reassembled, it is considered a new creation that does not have relevance to the original vessel and therefore it is pure. The same holds true for a person. If he is broken and remorseful because of his sins and does teshuvah, he is forgiven because when he is broken he is the equivalent of the non-existent person. Therefore, after the process of teshuvah, the individual is a new person. Thus, because the sinner no longer exists, even the Attribute of Justice cannot prosecute the penitent.”

“We say in the tefillah of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that we are likened to a broken shard – “earthenware vessel.” We identify with the purification process of the earthenware vessel because – “A broken heart Elokeem (G-d) will not disgrace.”

We are reminded of  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians, 4:7). So, even after we have been reconstructed anew (which what happens when we have been raised (spiritually, in the context of Ephesians 2), believers in Christ never cease to carry this “treasure” in clay jars.

Now, if we sing “Amazing grace, for saving such a wretch like me,” we will perhaps understand better what Christ, and Christ alone, has done for us.

Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky

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3 thoughts on “What happened to faith in the Gospel of Grace?

  1. Hi Raphael, Ive always had this verse in mind – Seek first the kingdom of God & his righteousness… I can tell you, over the last couple of years I have been seeking the things of God. Not because I am told to, but because I had a natural desire to. Infact, thinking about it now – it must have started around the time my child was born. Ive searched & gathered information. Tested & sorted through things in my head – and I would become excited about it, wanting to share with my peers & family. Archaeological Evidences of Biblical History: Scientific evidence for creation; Validation of ancient biblical documents – the Bible is the most authenticated literature in the world. The facts simply blew me away & were just too overwhelming – the scale is completely tipped. If more people/Christians were aware of the facts about The Bible itself, as a collection of ancient manuscripts, it would receive renewed respect.

    YEs, I know – some people said to me that this was showing a lack of faith – “Proving” God as it were.. but this is not how it felt / feels to me. I Know God IS – Its just that these discoveries are/were like opening an exciting new gift ..

    Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 2Chron 20:20

    Do a search through the Bible – the old testament refers mostly to Faithfulness, while the New Testament focuses on Having Faith.. but note : Those who were healed – Came to Jesus in their faith. They were searching him, believing in him.. They didnt just sit around, saying ‘Yes, I have faith’ – Lipservice, when their hearts are pre-occupied with other things.

    “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

    Blessings xx Karen – Christ Church member 🙂

    • Hi Karen, I really appreciate your comments. Let me say something about your:
      “Do a search through the Bible – the old testament refers mostly to Faithfulness, while the New Testament focuses on Having Faith.”

      The Old Testament uses the word “faith” only about 4 times and “faithfulness” more than 80 times. The New Testament, in contrast, uses “faith” about 230 times and “faithfulness” about 50 times.

      Jews accuse Christianity of placing more emphasis on faith (belief, trust) than on faithfulness (works). They don’t understand. Jesus said those who have faith in Him will have eternal life. The important point is that it is faith that saves you, not works. This doesn’t mean that Jesus (and the Apostles) are saying that works are not important. Works (of love) are the evidence that you do indeed have faith in Jesus. As the Apostle James said, faith without works (faithfulness) is dead. And Paul said that works without faith is of no value. There are two aspects to righteousness. The first: we are made right(eous) with God through faith in Christ; second: we grow in righteousness through our faithfulness (good works).

  2. thanx – its nice to discuss these things here – I really appreciate that you have this blog, gives a chance to learn from eachother. Internet is amazing, isnt it 🙂 (wont have much to say in church now!)

    On faith: You will see that the OT refers mostly to GOD as being faithful. So the way I understand Faithful – is this: Consistant and Without giving up hope on someone.. Binding ‘in firm allegience’ ‘adhering firmly and devotedly’.

    I think Faith in itself has a different meaning – i.e believing in something/someone no matter what. Not allowing outside influences to have any influence in what you believe. .. i.e. We have faith: because (sadly) mainstream “science” and ‘politically correct’ society instructs us differently to GOD’s Word yet we will not lose faith in what we know is the truth of Gods word. Its like this : the world says the earth is flat – but we have been told differently & just KNOW it cant be because of what we have been told, so we embark on a journey to prove what we have known all along.

    1Th 5:19 Quench not the Spirit.
    1Th 5:20 Despise not prophesyings.
    1Th 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
    1Th 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
    1Th 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    1Th 5:24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

    Indeed we are dead before the Lord Jesus became our sacrifice – Now all that is required is to love your God with all your heart mind & soul. That is when you seek God and find Him and love Him first.

    The world wants to only “Good things” – things that make our ‘ears itch’ to hear. Where Paul says above – Despise not Prophesyings, he is talking about ‘negative’ things we Dont want to hear. God isnt there to flatter us, so we should becareful of ‘flattering’ false prophets. We should KNOW that when we love the lord with all our hearts, it WILL go well with us. .. most of the OT prophets spoke words of warnings..

    sorry – I got a bit sidetracked there.. Yes you’re right : We will grow in righteousness through our Faithfulness.

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