gracetidings:with dr doug mamvura
My life was transformed by the message of the grace of God and this is why my desire has been to share the revelation of God’s grace to this generation. I believe that this is the number one need in the church today.
In my estimation, the book of Romans is Paul’s masterpiece on the subject of grace. He constantly wrote of God’s grace in all his epistles, but the letter to the Romans is special. I don’t think anyone can claim a true revelation of grace if they don’t have a good understanding of the book of Romans.
Paul put forth this radical statement in Romans 1:16: “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” That doesn’t sound as radical to us as it did to the people in Paul’s day because the term gospel has become a religious cliché to us. Most people don’t know what it means. In Paul’s day, it was a radical way of referring to the grace of God as the means of obtaining right standing with Him.
The Greek word from which the English word “gospel” was translated literally means, “a good message, or good news”. It was in use before the writing of the New Testament, but it was very obscure. In my research, one commentator said there were only two times in all of Greek literature where this word was used. This is because it really meant more than just “good news”. It was more like “nearly-too-good-to-be-true news”. It was a superlative that was so fantastic that it was seldom used. However, this sensational word perfectly described what Jesus did for us; therefore, it became a common word among New Testament believers.
Today, most Christians think the word “gospel” is just a word that identifies religious things. They relate preaching on the wrath of God and impending judgment as the gospel, but it’s not. It’s true that those who don’t accept the sacrifice of Jesus will spend an eternity in hell, but that’s not “good news”. That’s certainly not “nearly-too-good-to-be-true news”.
The gospel is the “good news” that despite our sins and the judgment we deserve, God has provided complete redemption for us. Even more specifically, the word “gospel” describes the grace that enables us to receive this forgiveness.
Just saying that Jesus provided salvation for us is not truly the “nearly-too-good-to-be-true news” unless it is emphasised that all Jesus provided is available to us by grace. The grace of God is the heart of the gospel.
In Acts 20:24, Paul said he was testifying of “the gospel of the grace of God”. He said the same thing in Galatians 1:6: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.” Paul equated the grace of God with the gospel. Any statements about God or the salvation He provided, without highlighting the grace of God, are not the true gospel.
Telling people they are going to hell if they don’t repent is true, but it’s not the gospel. Even telling people that Jesus provided an escape is not the gospel if we tell them they have to live holy lives in order to obtain that salvation. Putting any stipulations on what we have to do to acquire God’s provision denies grace and, therefore, is not the gospel.
These are radical statements! Most of the church world doesn’t define the gospel this way, but that’s the way Paul defined it, that “the gospel…is the power of God unto salvation”. The power that we need to get saved and obtain everything that Jesus provided for us is in the gospel. If we seem powerless to receive, it is because we don’t have a full revelation of the true gospel.
The religious system of Martin Luther’s day preached Jesus. They talked about the forgiveness of sins and the wrath that awaited all who rejected the sacrifice of Jesus. They placed such a burden of personal holiness on the individual in order to receive what Jesus proved that they perverted the true gospel with all their requirements. They were not preaching the gospel. Martin Luther received the revelation that it is only by grace that anyone can be saved (Romans 3:28), and it changed his life and the history of the world.
Mainstream Christianity has lost the understanding of grace just as surely as it was lacking prior to Martin Luther’s revelation. We need another reformation centred on the grace of God.
An amazing thing has happened in our presentation of the gospel today. Evangelical Christianity preaches grace as the heart of the gospel for the initial born-again experience, but then it reverts to personal performance in order to receive everything else from God. That’s a perversion of the gospel too. Paul said in Colossians 2:6: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” That means that since we can only be born again by putting faith in God’s grace, everything else in the Christian life has to come the same way.
If it was “just as I am without one plea” to get saved, then it has to be the same to get healed or prospered or delivered. Are we so foolish to think that we got saved by grace, but now we can be made perfect through our own efforts? (Galatians 3:3).
That’s why Paul wrote the book of Galatians. The Galatians had received the gospel and had been born again, but after being saved, they left grace and went back to trying to earn the blessings of God through their adherence to rules and regulations. This brought some of the harshest rebukes the Apostle Paul ever gave to anyone. He said in Galatians 3:1: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” He also said in Galatians 5:4: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
You might ask: “Dr Doug, are you saying that we can live in sin because salvation is by God’s grace?” I’m glad you asked that question. Paul addressed that very question four times in the book of Romans. You could even say that if that question never comes up, then the true Gospel that Paul preached hasn’t been presented. Most of the Gospel messages being preached in our churches today never raise that question because they aren’t preaching the true gospel.
Of course, Paul didn’t advocate a life of sin and neither am I. Holiness is a fruit and not a root of salvation (Romans 6:22). Paul told Titus in Titus 2:11-12: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Grace teaches us to live holy lives. Our holiness is a response to God’s grace, not something we do to earn God’s grace. Grace cannot be earned, or it wouldn’t be grace (Romans 11:6). When we clearly see the grace God has extended to us, the love of God will abound in our lives and we will live more holy lives accidentally than we ever have before on purpose.
Grace doesn’t give us a licence to sin, but it actually frees us from sin. In Romans 6:14 Paul said: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
Grace breaks sin’s dominion over us. The law, or a performance-based message, gives sin dominion over us.
l Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @dougmamvura