Grace, Godliness, and the Will of God

By Mike Tiry

Yes, grace is truly a concept so marvelous that it could only be of Divine origin! Today we are living in a time when God deals with the human race on the basis of grace. This is in contrast to time past when God dealt with mankind via Him dispensing Law through Moses unto Israel. Also this is in contrast to a future time when God's wrath will deal with the ungodly as He establishes an earthly Kingdom. But today any person whoses soul is saved has salvation on the basis of pure grace--not simply apart from human merit, but in spite of a complete lack of human merit. Grace, as a concept and as an operating principle, is so vast and so deep and so wonderful that it will take us eternity to fully appreciate it.

Grace provides freedom and sets both God and man free. For man, grace sets the believer free from the Law of Sin and Death (Rom 8:2). Grace flows freely to us secured by the Lord Jesus Christ's complete work at Calvary, His resurrection, and ascension to the heavenly places as Head of the Church, which is His Body (Eph 1:22-23).

At Calvary, as the spotless and sinless Lamb of God, He took upon Himself the "sins of the world." He not only took upon Himself the "sins of the world" when He "died for our sins according to the scriptures" (1Cor 15:3) but He went beyond that. There on that cross, His Father in heaven "made him to be sin for us." That means that He took upon Himself not only our sins (the acts and actions) but also sin, the root of the acts and actions (the root produces the fruit). It was there on the cross,

"that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Rom. 6:6).

Grace has set the sinner free, not to sin but to serve God and to conform his will to the will of God. Man has a will and God has a will. Man's will is a God given thing. The first institution in the Book of Genesis is that of free will or volition. God did not make man as a robot but as a free entity who can think and act for himself. God giving man a will was not that man should operate his will independent of God's. On the contrary, it is God's will (the Creator) that man (the creature) should conform his will to. But man chose to operate and live in self-will being independent of and contrary to the Creator. At that point, sin entered the human race and communion/fellowship with God was broken. At that point also, the justice of God came into the picture and it had to be addressed.

Grace and Freedom

As we stated earlier, grace set man free but it also set God free. Now we ask "How could God ever be bound so that He needs to be freed? What could bind God?" The love of God is infinite but so is His justice. Apart from the grace of God which flows freely to man from Calvary, God's infinite love would be constrained by His own infinite justice. It is the case of the irresistible force (the love of God) meeting the immovable object (God's justice in having to judge and punish sin).

Only God's infinite wisdom could resolved that conflict between His infinite love and His perfect justice. It is the cross of Christ that resolved that conflict and which both satisfied God's justice and set His boundless love free to now flow to man by the means of Him dispensing grace.

That freedom, both for God and for man, is what we know as the grace of God in the Dispensation of the Grace of God. Today, that is what dispensation mankind lives in. Where once "sin reigned unto death" now grace reigns (Rom. 5:21). Now grace is sovereign. Now corrupt mankind can come to his Creator on God's terms and be saved by the means of grace and through the exercise of faith in the Gospel of the Grace of God understood by the written Word of God.

To say that grace reigns is to say that nothing stops the free flow of saving grace from God to man today. Today, grace and grace alone brings salvation.

Grace and Godliness

Today the grace that brings "salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11). Today the free flow of God's saving grace is available to all sinners without distinction and is a teacher. But what does grace teach? It teaches us "that denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." In addition, it teaches us to be "looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:12-13).
To live soberly is to live with a sound mind. To live righteously is to live a life of moral and ethical uprightness. To live godly is to live so as to have our will conformed to the will of God. Each of these describe different qualities of the Christian life:

Open Rebellion

Ungodliness is to live and operate independent of the will of God. Believers are capable of living ungodly (even though they might be living soberly and righteously). Such believers are living in self-will. Even though their lives might be, for all outward appearance, morally and ethically right, they are none the less living in disregard of the will of God.

God created men as free moral agents with the ability to choose self-will or God's will. He likewise created angels as free moral agents. The sad state in both realms is that rebellion to the Creator is rampant. The first act of self-will was in the angelic realm when Lucifer set his will against the will of his Creator. Note his five point plan in Isaiah 14:13-14:

"I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation [i.e. where the angels meet], in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High."

Lucifer's fall was simple to understand. He, of his own free will, acted contrary to God's will and became Satan--the fallen creature. Until then, he was perfect in his ways from the day he was created (Ezek 28:15) till iniquity was found in him. That iniquity was pride which led him to declare his independence from his Creator. [Satan is presently the god of this world who sets the course of this world as the prince of the power of the air (2Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2).]

Then man was created. Man was created innocent but with a free will. But a free will is meaningless without an opportunity to use it and thus the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was made available to man by God. Now Adam, the innocent creature, is tested by Satan, the fallen creature. And what is the temptation? It is to act in blatant disregard of God's will understood by God's spoken Word. What Satan told Eve is that she could violate a direct command of God and get away with it--i.e. she could be her own sovereign.

Grace and Redemption

God has provided redemption for men, but all indication is that there is not such a thing as grace and redemption for angels. Today, God is showing to angels and demons what His grace can do among and for men. Paul, the apostle, states in Ephesians 3:8-11:

"Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Grace is grace because mankind, whether lost or saved, does not deserve it. We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8, 9) and we live by grace (Col. 2:6). Grace seals the believer to eternal life with everlasting consolation and good hope (2Thess 2:16).

At this present hour, by His wonderful grace God calls all men everywhere to fellowship with him in His eternal purpose in Christ.

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved) And raised us up together [with each other and with Christ], and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." (Eph 2:4-7)

Sad to say that most people will not believe what God has said about His will for mankind today. This will result in eternal damnation of their eternal soul in the Lake of Fire. And strangely sad, most professing believers miss the eternal things in Christ which can not be seen (2Cor 4:18). No doubt this is due to them not listening closely to God's chosen spokesman as the Creator dispenses His glorious Grace. Is it not Paul, in his epistles, who proclaims such heavenly truths for the members of the one Body of Christ?

Each member of His Body has been "called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (1Cor 1:9) As one rightly divides the Word of Truth according to Prophecy and Mystery, how to fellowship with Christ, even to know the will of God, becomes abundantly clear and spiritually meaningful.

The One Body is to fellowship in things heavenly where Christ sits (Col 3:1-3). These things are given to us by God through Paul, the gentile apostle of Grace. Paul's written testimony is that these heavenly things are the subject of the Mystery committed unto him, and to him alone, by Jesus Christ through distinct, unique visions and revelations (Gal 1:11,12; 2Cor 12:1,7).

Christ and the Will of God

If there were any one who could legitimately exercise His own will it was Christ. He is the eternal co-Creator (John 1:3; Eph 3:9; Col 1:16; Heb. 1:2) with the Father and is equal to the Father (Phil. 2:6). Yet He, in every respect, yielded His will to the will of His Father. All of Scripture testifies that Christ came to do the will of God the Father (Matt 26:39-42; Phil 2:5-8; Heb. 10:7). As He approached the cross, his attitude was one of yielding to the Father s will. Note His words: "Father, not my will but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). To the very end He lived in total dependence upon the Father. He manifest such dependence with His dying words "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46)

The Mind of Christ In Us

What we as believers need then is to know the will of God. For it is only by us yielding our will to His that God's purpose for us through grace can be accomplished. Many believers express their desire to know God's will for them, even prayerfully looking for God to reveal to them His will for them in some physical way or thing. They earnestly think that they've found God's will for them revealed and entwined in the circumstances of their lives. Others have thought to have found God's will confirmed to them in their emotions and feelings. Still others look to men and the institutions of men for God's will for them and have been, as a result, lead down the path of folly into the traditions and commandments of men becoming a purveyor of a perverted Gospel of the Grace of God.

They make two mistakes. Those being:

  1. Looking for the will of God to be revealed anywhere, but in the written Word of God. This attitude places subjective evaluation over the Authority of the Bible. It's reflective in one's demeanor, as it were, to read people, circumstances, and feelings whereby finding God's will toward and in these things.
  2. Looking for God's will for them rather than simply knowing the will of God. The inherent danger with this mistake is that the believer's attention is turned inwardly, concerned with what God wants him to do, rather than understanding what God is doing at this present hour. (If you can not understand what God is doing [i.e. what the will of God is] you will never be able to apply His will to life)

It is true that God's grace is free to work and does work through the circumstances of our lives (Rom 8:28). However, the only revelation of the will of God is the written Word of God. It is the privilege and responsibility of the believer to study rightly divided the Scriptures of Truth so he might comprehend the will of God and then, with spiritual knowledge and judgment, yield his will to that of God's.

Mankind Today and the Will of God

During this present Dispensation of Grace, we have the will of God clearly laid out for us in the Word of God. That clear concise presentation for the English speaking people is the Authorized Version of the Holy Bible. Not everyone who claims to be looking for it is enthusiastic about it after they see it, but it is none-the-less there for us. Some prominent aspects of the will of God for man today are:

  1. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. God has therefore made eternal life available to all men without distinction. That requires a knowledge of the will of God as expressed for today in the preaching of the Cross committed unto Paul, the apostle.
  2. God has a will and a purpose for the heavens and the earth which He created. He is executing that purpose through time. Understanding this requires a knowledge of His will as it is manifested in His dispensations. This is where obedience to 2 Timothy 2:15 becomes crucial to spiritual life, both for living right now and for eternal glory instead of eternal judgment.
  3. God has a will for the individual believer living on planet earth during what the Bible calls "this present evil world." That has to do with the believer being set apart as God's own peculiar treasure, ordering the details of his living after the wisdom of his Heavenly Father.
  4. God has a will for the church which is Christ's body. That involves believers functioning together in what Paul calls "the fellowship of the mystery." Only by being spiritually knowledgeable of this Mystery can local assemblies clearly propagate the Gospel of the Grace of God, advance godly edification, and properly function in Body Truth.