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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Grace's Influence

I've been meditating on grace a lot lately. Grace is a deep subject. Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, said we are saved by grace.

The Greek word translated "saved" here is sozo. It is used more than one hundred times in the New Testament. Jesus used the term often: "Daughter, your faith has made you whole." (Mt 9:22). The word "whole" is the Greek word, sozo. "The Son of man came to save that which was lost." (Mt 18:11). "The Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." (Luke 9:56). He told the blind beggar, "Receive your sight, your faith has "saved" you." (Luke 18:42). Luke tells us that the man who was possessed of devils was "healed," using the same word, sozo. We know by these examples that the word saved (sozo) means more than just saved from going to hell. We know by the examples that the health, and wholeness that this word represents is not a "someday when I get to heaven" experience. Health occurred for the blind beggar when he believed. Wholeness came to the woman with the issue of blood the moment she reached out in faith. Salvation is deliverance, preservation, health, well-being and to be made whole—and if we are to assume it works as it did when Jesus walked the earth—all that sozo is should occur when we believe.

It is by grace we are saved, through faith, says Paul (Ephesians 2:8). That tells me that grace is a major key to my salvation, so I think I should meditate on grace frequently and deeply. But do we really know what grace is? Do we really know what it means that grace has come into our lives? Do we know how to access grace? Admittedly, I still have more questions than answers, but I continue to meditate because I know God reveals to those who diligently seek. Questions don't bother God, it is indifference that bothers God.

The word Paul uses in the letter to the Ephesians, translated "grace" is the Greek word, charis. My friend, Robert Shankle, the best teacher on the effects of grace in a believer's life, taught me about grace when I was a young Christian. He taught me to use a Bible dictionary to study deeper and to get a fuller meaning of what God says. The Strong's dictionary says this about grace: charis is from a word meaning graciousness (as gratifying),
of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude). Strong's says it is especially the influence of God (divine) on/in the heart of mankind and the reflection of that influence in the life of said mankind.

This is not what I learn in church. This is not the message of grace that I hear from the pulpit. I hear that grace is a free gift from God, and I hear that because of this free gift I am forgiven of all my sins (past, present, and future). I hear that grace is God's unmerited favor—which many Christians have translated to mean they are God's favorite. Favor is one way the translators of the King James version of the Bible translated the Greek word, charis. That translation was done in the early 1600's. The point I'm trying to make is we may understand the words differently in this age than those who gave us the words.

Take, for instance, the word favor. My Merriam Webster dictionary defines favor as: Friendly regard shown toward another, esp. a superior toward an inferior. "Approving consideration or attention." But when I look at the definition for favor in my American Dictionary of the English Language composed in 1828, I see a definition for the word, favor that is almost a page long and details favor as "kind regard, support, defense, vindication, lenity, (to pardon the guilty is a favor, to punish them is an act of justice.) mildness or litigation of punishment. A gift or present." I've summarized.

So, what does it mean that we are saved by grace, through faith? What did it mean that those who experienced Jesus' favor while He walked the earth received immediate "salvation" and not a promise for a future deliverance from whatever they were suffering from? Why did grace look different then than it does now? Or have we just perceived it differently? And if we have perceived it differently, how should we understand that we are saved by grace through faith?

Robert Shankle has started a new blog where he promises to teach us about grace. This is the link to his blog: http://robertshankle.blogspot.com/

Next blog, I will go into more detail about what it means that God influences our heart.

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