What Grace?
Friday of Pentecost 7
2 August 2019

Humans always want to overturn God our Father's plan to save the world by grace through the atoning death of His Son. Humans very easily get puffed up about their abilities and capacities for obedience in the presence of God. We crow about the extraordinary merit we are able to accrue by our own glorious works and efforts, so that grace becomes merely an afterthought. We attempt to return the gift: "Hey God, Your grace was a great idea, but I am doing pretty well on my own. Is there somewhere I can return grace and get money back or exchange it for something I like better?" Grace then becomes not the gift that keeps on giving, but the cause of self-righteous pride when it is rejected in favor of our own work.


The whole Christian life must be lived in, by, and with grace. We live in grace in the same way the fish lives in water. Water supports it, gives it life, and is the medium in which the fish lives. To be removed from it is to die. So it is for the Christian and grace. It is our whole life; the medium in which we swim. It isn't merely the beginning of the Christian life. It isn't just a kick in the seat of our pants at the start line, so that we then continue under our own power. God's attitude toward us is gracious from beginning to end. In enlightenment and conversion, growth and good works, death and judgment, God is gracious to us. That is His attitude. And since it is a divine attitude, it never flags, sputters, or wanes. We may flag, sputter, or wane in our Christian life. But He never does in His gracious care for us. His life never wanes.


There is no way for us to supersede or to supplement grace. It is whole and complete. There are no add-on components like there are for many commercial software packages or free apps that have paid add-ons. Grace has worked its best and most perfect work in the suffering and death of God's Son, Jesus Christ for our sins. When we reject that grace we are claiming to be unmarred by the stain of original sin. "We are doing just fine on our own, thank you." This is a purely human delusion which was championed by the Pelagians in the fifth century, but which has been repeated by legalists of all time. Christ died unto no purpose if we have the power to right ourselves in God's presence.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Leo the Great
"When the Pelagians pretend to disapprove of and give all their definitions to facilitate evasion through their complete art of deception, unless their meaning is detected, they make exception (by teaching) the dogma that the grace of God is given according to the merits of the recipient. And yet surely, unless it is given freely, it is not a gift, but a price and compensation for merits. For the blessed Apostle says, 'By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them' (Eph 2:8-10). Thus every bestowal of good works is of God's preparing, because a man is justified by grace rather than by his own excellence. For grace is to every person the source of righteousness, the source of good and the fountain of merit. But these heretics say it is anticipated by men's natural goodness for this reason, that that nature which (in their view) is before grace conspicuous for good desires of its own, may not seem marred by any stain of original sin, and that what the Truth says may be falsified: 'For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost' (Lk 19:10).

Leo the Great, Letter to the Bishop of Aquileia, 3
Psalm 1

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (ESV)
Lord God, save us from the false teaching of legalism which assumes the human power to be become right in Your presence. Do not take our Lord Christ from us when lean upon our own merits, but call us back to Him from unbelief. Amen.
For Pastor and Julie Day, in thanksgiving to God for all the gifts that he has given them
For the members of Memorial Lutheran Church, that they would take to heart what they learn this weekend as they attend to God's Word
For all those suffering from disturbances of the mind and soul, that the Lord Jesus would continue to be with them and settle their hearts and minds in Him as their gracious shepherd
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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