Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

March 24, 2005

Thoughts on Being Strong in Grace

Thanks to Paula, Sarah, and Milton for your interesting responses to yesterday's question ("What does it mean to be strong in grace?").

The essence of both Paula's and Sarah's comments (as I see it) is that we can be confident in our salvation. This is an important perception. Simply stated: Jesus Christ is always enough. Meanwhile, my blogger-friend Milton, like any well-trained pastor, looks at the context of the verse in question (2 Timothy 2:1).

When Paul says "be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus," I think he's simply encouraging Timothy to be strong by reminding him of the basis for all our purpose, joy, peace, and power: the grace of Jesus Christ.
Of course Milton is right to look to the context. Timothy, it seems, was going through some stuff! I looked the passage up in Matthew Henry, and found this:

When Peter promised rather to die for Christ than to deny him he was strong in his own strength; had he been strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, he would have kept his standing better.
Yes, but when Peter stood before the Sanhedrin -- remember, these were the very people who had manipulated justice in order to bring about the crucifixion of Jesus -- then he was strong in grace. (Acts 4)

An ongoing theme of many of Paul's letters is perseverence. We must persist, press on, fight the good fight, mortify the flesh, work out our salvation. Paula and Sarah are absolutely right to speak of confidence in this context. In all this we have absolutely nothing to fear. We are called, after all, to be "overcomers." But, lest we think that the Christian is called to be a kind of superman, reveling in his own strength, Paul always reminds us where the strength comes from. "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power," he tells the Ephesians (6:10). And elsewhere:

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. (1 Cor 1:8,9)
God does not call us to passivity, neither to self-reliance. But he does call us to stand and be counted, like Peter. Still, whenever we do so, we stand in grace. He is the faithful one. He will not forget you, fail you, or desert you. As for us, whenever we choose the option to respond "according to the flesh," we are responding in our own strength, and implicitly denying the sufficiency of Christ. But when we stand in the sure grace of God, "keeping in step with the Spirit", even in the face of persecution, we can have great confidence. Nothing, nothing, nothing can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus! So go ahead and stand!

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To stand in grace is to stand in power. Before Pentecost Peter was powerless to stand in grace, but...

Tom

10:06 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

I think you just hit the nail ight on the head, Tom. Thanks for cutting to the chase!

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Milton said...

Enjoyed the post, Bob. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in including my comments. Peace.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

Standing in grace... the only way to stand against the wind.

Well, not the only way. We can do it on our own, but I, at least, get knocked over by very small winds. So I learned to live in a hole where the wind couldn't reach.

Now God calls me to live out in the open. A lamp in a hole doesn't do anyone much good, not even me. I've taken some steps with him, out of the hole, and believe me it's terrifying. But if I look at him, by grace, instead of all the chaos happening around me that looks to tear me apart, I don't get so scared. So I take another step.

Out on a limb with God. Trust comes in because so many times in the past the limb has been cut off behind me. Will God do the same thing? He has promised not to do so, but so have others.

It takes time to learn this, which I think is one of the church's biggest failings. People get saved and are then immediately expected to act like superheroes. God is willing to put in the time it takes to make a real follower out of the shattered human being that comes to him hollering for help before circling the drain for the last time.

11:35 AM  

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