And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. Gen. 5:24
In concluding this series on grace, let us see what grace is. In the first place, notice that the Bible talks of the grace of God, and not another. In other words, grace is of God. Man has no grace in himself. Man without God is mere flesh; and the carnal mind, or the flesh, is actually enmity with God (Rom. 8:7).
That means that if you want grace you go to the Lord. And that is why all those good people you see walking by are not so good, after all. Those smiling and good-looking people you see out there are capable of doing anything. The most peace-able people have been known to commit the most unbelievable atrocities.
In any case, crime or no crime, man without God has no grace in him. Even if he does not commit a crime all his life, still man cannot walk in the righteousness of God and he cannot do anything that pleases God. That is why we believe on Jesus and there begin our journey of living a life that pleases God. And, once we believe, the door is open for all to join the race of grace and win big!
Grace is therefore a work of Christ in a man’s heart. But it is Christ crucified, and not another. This is the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Grace is a result of a work in our hearts, a work of the cross.
In Galatians 1:15-16 we read of Paul’s encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me…”
Notice that Jesus was not revealed to Paul, but rather He was revealed “in me…” There is a big difference there. In the first place, when Paul talks of a revelation, he was not talking about visions. He was not talking about a vision of Jesus Christ, however “spiritual” such a claim might be. Christ would appear to Paul in visions many times later; but at that particular moment, it was not a vision of Christ that he saw. Here Paul was talking of something far more profound, far grander. He was talking about a work of the cross in his life. That is what he was talking about.
In other words, when Paul says he met with Christ on the road to Damascus, he is saying he met with a work in the Spirit. It was his heart that was confronted. It was not a physical encounter with a smiling Christ as we most likely are tempted to think.
But let us move on. The Apostle Paul was as much human as you and I and, as much as he recognized the beauty of this grace that the Lord presented him with and desired to walk in the fullness of it, yet at the same time he wanted some relief in the flesh. The Lord told him you cannot have your cake and eat it. You have to choose one of the two.
Paul chose to walk in the grace of God. God told him, “OK, let me show you how things work out around here” – and God immediately plunged a thorn into Paul’s flesh. In other words, in desiring to walk in the fullness of the grace of God, Paul allowed God to deal with his flesh. And God leaped at the opportunity afforded by Paul.
God got to work in Paul’s heart, and He actually sent a messenger of Satan to deal with Paul’s body. Can you imagine that? God sent an emissary of the enemy to buffet Paul! That is certainly not good news!!
You can imagine the fury and vengeance with which this messenger must have descended on Paul. Ka-boom!! By the time he would end his ministry Paul was in bad physical shape, literally. He had been battered and pounded and pummeled, and you just have to wonder how strong physically Paul was!
But the worst suffering that Paul endured was not the physical suffering. Rather, it was the opposition that the gospel itself received, so much so that with those whom Paul managed to reveal the gospel of Jesus to, many would begin reneging on their first faith and turn to deviant gospels. And Paul was compelled to go back and lay the foundation of Christ anew.
Paul suffered so many things for the sake of the gospel. You can read about it in 1 Cor. 4:9-13, 2 Cor. 6:3-10, 2 Cor. 11:23-33 and in many other scriptures. These were the circumstances under which the cross would work in Paul’s life to reveal the grace of God. Paul had no other way of arriving at God’s grace.
That is why, in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul himself “… determined not to know any thing… save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Christ had revealed to Paul the single avenue to carrying His grace. It was through living the crucified life. A life where we are daily denying self, taking up our cross and following Christ.
It is therefore evident that all the Godly men of old, since Abel, to Enoch, to Noah, down to our generation, have received a revelation of the crucified life just as the Apostle Paul received it on the road to Damascus. They understood the cross just as he understood it. These people suffered the same way that Paul did. And they also preached the message of the cross to the men of their generation.
The apostle is the messenger of God to reveal the hidden mysteries of the Kingdom of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul proved faithful to his calling in this regard.
Is it too much for us today to desire to know nothing apart from the cross of Christ – the message that Paul faithfully represented – wherein we also might receive the same grace, the grace to live a life that would please the Lord?
[I love the sentiments expressed in this song. It’s a work of grace, and it’s got to come from the heart!]