Friday, November 7, 2014

2 Timothy 1: Grace is Divine Power


2 Tim 1:6-14 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,  and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

A common refrain heard among those who have misunderstood the purpose of grace is: "But we are all imperfect!" (Meaning, "so we are excused for our sins but for the grace of God!"). While there is some truth in that, we have confused again means and ends. God's grace is both means and ends, but so often we stop at means of grace and forget the ends of grace.

Yes, grace is God's forgiveness in spite of our imperfection. But grace is also God's power to overcome our imperfection. God's forgiveness is the means of grace, but God's power is the reason for grace: "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" (v.6-7). We did not earn the "gift of God" for it's freely bestowed on all who believe, but this gift of God is divine "power and love and self-control."

In fact, Paul exhorts Timothy to "share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God" (v.8). It's impossible to read these verses and go away with the excuse, "I can't help being imperfect because I'm born a sinner! So I need God's grace." Rather, we should come away with this: "Thank God for His grace, for it is His power to make me perfect in my weaknesses." Therefore, Jesus words to us is: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." The excuse "We're all imperfect" misses the purpose of grace--which is God's power to overcome our imperfections so that we can be "made perfect." That is why, Jesus also said to his disciples in Matthew 5:48, "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

So, Christians should stop rationalizing our weaknesses with the lame excuse that "we can't help being imperfect because we are sinners." Rather, we should say, "Thank God for His grace which has overcome my weaknesses by transforming me with His power, love and self-control."

Father, what amazing grace You have shown us! The grace that accepts us as we are in order to empower us to become as You are. Amen.

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