The Author of Salvation

The law that God gave to Moses was a good thing. The Psalmist was right! “The law of the LORD is perfect.” (Psalm 19:7) Despite the law’s perfection, however, there was still a problem. For although the law was good – man himself was depraved. And, try as he may, fallen man could not live up to God’s standard as revealed in His Word.

Paul described the frustration he personally experienced in trying to please God in his own strength: “…the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” (Romans 7:14-15) While the law gave man a knowledge of sin, it had no innate ability to deliver him from the power of sin. If sinful man was to be reconciled to a holy God something more than law would be required. And God, in His foreknowledge, had that “something more” arranged for us from before the foundation of the world.

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John 1:17 informs us that “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” This is not to say that the law was not truth. It was. But it just wasn’t living truth! It was, in a sense, just a concept as far as man was concerned. It was not something that people could actually live out in their own lives. That is until – “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

At long last truth was embodied in human flesh. Truth was finally something more than just an ideal – something more than just an unattainable concept. Now, for the first time, truth was perpetually lived out in the life of a human being.

Grace and truth are inseparable. They come packaged together in Christ. The word “grace” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word “charis” which means – “Graciousness of manner or act – especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.” The definition we generally hear for “grace” today is “the unmerited favor of God.” I think the word “mercy” may perhaps better fit that definition. But “charis,” or “grace” cannot just be referring to the unmerited favor of God. Why? Because that very word, “charis,” is used, more than once, in regards to Jesus Himself – and nothing good He ever received was unmerited! Luke 2:40 says, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.”

What is grace? Grace is something that God gives us to enable us to serve Him in a way that’s acceptable and pleasing to Him. Hebrews 12:28 says, “let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:” Titus 2:11-12 tells us that, “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;”

Grace offers us something much better than the law. For the law only defined sin. Grace gives us power to actually live above sin. And this grace is made available to us, according to Scripture, compliments of the Lord Jesus Christ!

In order for grace and truth to be made available to us, Jesus, in His human aspect, had to experience “first hand” – what it means to learn and grow – not just physically – but even in the things of God. Again, Luke 2:40 says, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” The Greek word translated “waxed strong” means “to empower, to increase in vigor – to be strengthened…” And the Greek word translated “filled” means “to make replete, to cram…” So, Jesus, in His human aspect, even as a child – put real effort into discovering and doing the will of the Father. “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers… And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:46-47, 52) The Greek word for “favour” here is “charis” – the same word translated “grace” in Luke 2:40 and throughout the New Testament.

Although Jesus was God incarnate from the moment He was born – and although He was sinless from the very beginning – there was still a maturing that had to take place in Him as a man. He was not born fully grown – physically or spiritually. I don’t believe, for instance, that as a child He was ready and willing to die on a cross. This level of obedience is something that He had to grow into. He had to grow in wisdom or understanding – and He even had to wax or grow stronger in Spirit.

Why was all this necessary? Jesus’ human experience was absolutely essential if He was going to become the author of our salvation. Hebrews 5:8-9 says, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him…” He learned obedience in “the school of hard knocks” – and then, being made perfect (fully mature or complete), He became the author of our salvation.

God – apart from His human experience in Christ – could never offer us the enabling grace and perfect human Spirit we needed to overcome sin in the flesh. James 1:13 tells us that “God cannot be tempted with evil…” If He desired to give us something more than what Moses did, something more than a mere knowledge of sin – it would be necessary for Him to experience first hand what it means to be human. It would be necessary for Him to know what it’s like to experience human tragedy, sorrow, grief, and even temptation. So – that’s what God did! He literally became a man! And as a man He experienced it all – sorrow, pain, suffering, rejection, temptation…

Each of these new human experiences required that He wax stronger and stronger in Spirit and that He grow in grace. He soon found out what was necessary to make this happen – and then He willingly did it. And all the while He was authoring or preparing something for us…something that would later benefit us.

Christ Jesus observed early on – even as a child – that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble…” – and thus He humbled Himself in every way that He discovered would be pleasing to God. He humbled Himself in prayer and fasting and in obedience to the Word of God that He came to understand more and more. And, each time He did , He experienced personal growth and new found strength and resolve. Thus He continued to grow in grace and waxed stronger and stronger in spirit. Nothing came easy. Nothing came instantaneously. He had to push and press. He had to be patient. He had to endure the entire growth process from infancy to full maturity – both physically and spiritually. And, in His human aspect, He had to avail Himself of every bit of grace – or divine influence – that the Father made available to Him…until finally, as He faced the prospects of crucifixion and of taking upon Himself all the sins ever committed by mankind – past, present, and future – it was more than He in His humanity was equipped to handle. Hebrews 5:7 says, “…in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;”

As Jesus humbled Himself in perhaps the most earnest prayer ever prayed, the Scriptures tell us that “He was heard because He feared.” He was heard because of His humble reverence for God and His will – even as He was being called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice and to bear the sins of the whole world.

He was heard! And although He wasn’t delivered from death – He was granted grace (enabling power) to press on into the will of God. And on that day – God’s enabling grace reached its pinnacle! “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8) On that day – God’s enabling grace reached its apex – full maturity. Where sin abounded (the sins of the whole world – past, present and future) – grace did that much more abound! “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9)

The grace that He had been growing in all of His life – from infancy all the way to Calvary – had now, at last, reached full maturity. This grace that would later be made available to us had to first be developed in Him. He had to author it. No such enabling grace existed until it developed to full maturity in Him ! And thus it can now truly be said that – “of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-17)

Furthermore, the Spirit that dwelt within Him – the fully mature Spirit of Truth that later was going to be made available to us – first had to be developed within Him. That Holy Spirit had to wax stronger and stronger in Him before it could ever be enough to enable us to live above sin. He had to author it for us. He had to make it ready for us. He had to prepare it for us. “And being made perfect (complete), he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;” (Hebrew 5:9)

The Holy Spirit that He has now made available to us – is not the perfectly pure, yet untested Spirit that dwelt in the infant Christ at Bethlehem – pure as it was. The Spirit that now indwells those of us who have been baptized with the Holy Ghost is that fully mature Spirit that had waxed stronger and stronger in Christ as He faced all the wiles of the devil as well as the weakness of human flesh. It’s full of wisdom and grace. It’s living truth. And it’s the very Spirit that prevailed to the extent that it was up to the task of even raising Christ from the dead. That’s the fully tested, full grown Spirit that He authored for us – the perfectly fused Spirit of perfect God/perfect man that He has now made available to us…

Romans 8:11 says, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” We who have the Holy Ghost have the Spirit dwelling in us that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. And He did not come just to enable us to speak with tongues. He came fully grown and resurrected – in order to enable us to live lives that would be acceptable and pleasing to God. His grace is now sufficient for all of us! We no longer have to live in frustration at our inability to live life the way it was intended to be lived – for now, if we’ll stay full of His Resurrected Spirit – “We can do all things thru Christ who strengthens us…” Thank God for grace and truth!

Rev. Robert Stroup is the District Superintendent of the Indiana District, United Pentecostal Church International. He is Pastor of Pentecostals of South Lake in Merrillville, Indiana.

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