In this recent “Ask Anything Live” Dr. Albert Mohler covers some really important questions and if you’re like me, you will find such questions & answers helpful.

A Quiz on the Atonement — What do you know about the atonement?  Take this quiz and evaluate your knowledge and positions.

Jesus Is With You Wherever You Go (Four-Minute Clip on Missions) — “You can press on in the hard work of making disciples, both near and far, because Jesus is always with you.”

Pursuing Contentment through Your Ordinary Local Church — “Your church has a primary role in your personal pursuit of contentment.”

Ten thoughts about the “Billy Graham Rule” — This is a helpful overview of the dust-up regarding the “Billy Graham Rule” in recent weeks.

Resources on Eschatology Then Matt Walsh, Rome, and Mary as Mediatrix — Some interesting points of discussion in James White’s latest DL.

Exploding myths about cohabitation — “University of Virginia sociologist Bradford Wilcox has published a study of the effects of cohabitation, couples living together without marriage.” This is a helpful article on an increasingly popular lifestyle choice that’s damaging to the family.

Theology Word of the Week: Grace

Grace. The biblical words translated ‘grace’ are ḥēn (Heb.) and charis (Gk.). Neither word carries the usual sense of the English word ‘grace’ implying a personal virtue. They indicate rather an objective relation of undeserved favour by a superior to an inferior, which, in the case of divine grace towards mankind, accompanies the ideas of covenant and election (see Predestination). This favour to the individual as both creature and sinner results, however, in a transformed life through an effective calling (Gal. 1:15) and the production of faith and repentance (Eph. 2:8–9; 2 Tim. 2:25). The subjective effects of grace may sometimes seem to make God’s grace an independent virtue, a ‘thing’ possessed by the believer (Acts 4:33; 11:23; 13:43; Rom. 5:21), but attention to context reminds us that these are rather references to the operations of the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29). Theories that the Gk. idea of charis as an independent potency is present in NT usage are quite unproven. Ultimately NT grace comes in a person, Jesus Christ, and is bound up with him (Jn. 1:14, 16–17; Rom. 5:21; 1 Cor. 1:4, etc.).

The very sense of the word implies the freedom of grace. It is wholly unmerited, not evoked by the creature’s disposition (e.g. Eph. 2:1–10; Tit. 3:3–7). As early as the 2nd century, however, the priority of grace over human response was obscured by an interest in redemption as a new revelation and law and a channelling of grace through clerical ministrations, while the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was neglected. In some measure Irenaeus and Tertullian recovered the place of the Spirit as the unique source of all grace in its transforming effects, but Tertullian’s feeling for concrete realism and legal terminology threatened even further to turn grace into an impersonal ‘substance’.

It was Augustine who spoke once more of the priority of grace, especially in his doctrine of predestination. In opposition to the contention of Pelagius that each individual, untrammelled by any burden of inherited sin, was essentially free for moral choice, Augustine etched out starkly the radical and enslaving character of sin and grounded salvation in ‘prevenient’ grace which alone facilitates repentance and faith. Yet for Augustine there was also a grace subsequent to faith which made the renewed will the agent of God’s own loving acts towards others.

The pre-scholastic and scholastic periods made many refinements in the concept of grace, leading in particular to the distinction of ‘actual’ grace (grace actualized in concrete acts) and ‘habitual’ grace (grace as the fundamental principle of a new nature), and the distinction between ‘uncreated’ grace (the gift of God himself which underlies all other kinds of grace in salvation) and ‘created’ grace (the effect or impact of uncreated grace upon the individual’s own ‘nature’ or disposition). By the time of the Reformation, however, grace was widely thought of as an independent virtue by means of which the sinner could produce acts commending himself to God’s favour having once received it from God as gift.

Under the preaching of the Reformers, a revival of the primacy of grace occurred, together with a conviction of its basic sense of divine favour. Luther renewed Augustine’s evaluation of human sinfulness and so emphasized justification as to obscure any real process of sanctification or consolidating state of grace. Grace was, for Luther, manifested in the irregular surges of faith against the temptation to legalism and self-sufficiency. For Calvin, however, a new state of sanctification or regeneration inseparably accompanied justification by faith.

Calvin also formulated a doctrine of grace at work in the world at large, and distinguished between the grace of Christ, by which one became and remained a Christian, and a ‘general’ or ‘common’ grace to which may be attributed the restraint of gross sin. This also accounted for religious aspiration, decent behaviour, social brotherliness and the achievements of art and science. ‘Special’ grace was a special capacity, virtue or endowment. This sympathetic view complements but does not modify Calvin’s agreement with Luther and Augustine on human helplessness in sin, at least with regard to acceptance with God.

Later Arminian theologians rejected the distinction between common grace and the grace in salvation, seeing only a single divine grace held out to every person. They were unable, however, to dispose of the NT references to predestination and election or to explain satisfactorily the many distinctions of human response and privilege before the one grace. More recently some Calvinist theologians in America have jettisoned altogether Calvin’s doctrine of common grace, believing that to the non-elect even God’s kindness in the gospel intensifies the severity of the sinner’s rejection by God. In general, this view has not convinced most in the Calvinist tradition.

Since the Reformation, controversy has continued on the way grace reaches Christians through the sacraments and on the relation of grace to law. On the latter, some have opted for Luther’s view of the law as merely an ever-present power directing to grace, while others have adopted Calvin’s ‘third use’ of the law as an active element in Christian sanctification. The OT dispensation appears to some as a ‘legal’ (or even legalistic) parenthesis and to others as a preparatory period of law bearing us to the coming grace in Christ and partially anticipating it, or as a phase of one covenant of grace centring ultimately on Jesus Christ.

The primacy of grace in Christian thought has reached into the 20th century in the massive work of both Karl Barth and Karl Rahner, each of whom, in his own way, returns to the idea that in grace God essentially gives himself. [1]


  1. Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 281.

 

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