Years ago, I had a conversation with someone who struggled with what they considered to be Paul’s stern or hard-hitting approach (in his teaching/writing). After years of studying his life and letters, it is hard for me to imagine characterizing his teaching as “hard-hitting”. In fact, the more I read Paul, the more consistently I find his teaching to be filled with an emphasis on the gospel of grace. And he even goes on to communicate clearly that the person needing that grace the most is himself!
While I certainly value that it is essential to be filled with grace AND truth (coexisting at every moment), I more often than not come away from Paul’s writing with an even greater realization that if grace is left out of the gospel, it is not the gospel. Paul was quite firm in his message that adding works to the gospel was evil. (Galatians 5)
Yes, the gospel is certainly incomplete without repentance from sin, but if bible knowledge (quoting memorized verses to get people to do something) is all a person shares with another, it is less than the gospel. I have a feeling that before his conversion, Paul had a very firm grasp of the scriptures. He had studied them all of his life and testified to obeying them with zeal. Yet in all of that truth, he had missed Jesus.
If, in sharing who Jesus is, we leave out the most important aspect of the reason He came – to seek and save the lost and to shower them with mercy – then all the talk in the world about repentance isn’t enough. It’s lacking. The whole truth is that it is His mercy that leads to repentance. We are recipients of the underserved, unmerited favor of a compassionate God that draws people to Himself … because He loves us and desires that no one spends eternity separated from Him.
I confess that I used to be bothered by “grace people”. I thought that those Christians that constantly talked about grace and liberty were so misguided. It wasn’t until I opened my heart to hurting people desperately needing a relationship with Jesus, that I understood where I had gone astray. I thought that by helping people see they were sinners and needed to repent, that would let them know they needed grace. Now I understand that when people understand the grace and love of God, then they are able to recognize that they need to repent. It may seem like a small revelation, but for me it has been huge!
It was grace that taught my heart to sing, and it was by grace my fears were relieved.
How precious was that grace that appeared to me in the hour I truly believed!
Oh surely, Your beauty and love chase after me everyday of my life!