Reading the New Testament in the Spirit of Grace

When you read the New Testament, you can see the conflict between the historic perspective of God’s law and the spirit of grace that the apostles brought from Jesus.  As the apostle John had written, the law came through Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  Both schools of thought appealed to the same set of written words, but interpreted them in totally different ways.

The Judaizers believed the message of Jesus but clung to the law of Moses according to the flesh.  That is, they wanted Gentile converts to be circumcised just as the Jews had always been circumcised.  Paul spent much of his ministry arguing with them, pointing out that salvation was by the spirit of grace and that clinging to the historic practices was antithetical to truth faith.  This took great conviction on the part of the apostles because they were disregarding millennia of practice that had begun with Abraham.

Let me ask: Do you read the New Testament today in a spirit of grace or in the spirit of law and flesh?  By that I mean, do you – like the Judaizers – think that proper Scriptural interpretation means that people must be baptized, must take communion, must attend church, must tithe, and so on?  If you read the New Testament in a spirit of grace, you don’t see it that way.  Rather, you see that the New Testament saints engaged practices appropriate for the unique period of time in which they lived.  Our inheritance from them is to imitate their faith, not their actions. 

Without reading in a spirit of grace, we would be fighting with slingshots and the jawbones of donkeys.  Without grace, we would be calling down fire from heaven on supposed enemies.  Do you think it is only the Old Testament that we should read in a spirit of grace? 

Notice that the more legalistically someone reads the New Testament, the less grace you see in their lives.  Don’t be like them.

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19 Replies to “Reading the New Testament in the Spirit of Grace”

  1. Agreed – whilst going to church, reading the Bible, praying, being baptised and so on are all good things, none of them make a person a Christian. The only thing that makes them a Christian is having faith in Jesus and the forgiveness and salvation on offer to all through Him. However, should those other things not then follow on from that? They are all ways of growing as disciples (if you take baptism as making a public confession of faith) and should therefore be encouraged – just not demanded in a legalistic sense.

    1. Prayer is the natural, spontaneous, and frequent practice of the person who has faith in Jesus Christ.

      Reading the Scriptures is a blessing to some (like me, and, perhaps, you); yet to others it is a distraction, and thus unnecessary. What matters is obeying the Spirit of Jesus.

      Going to church mainly involves the traditions of men and, as such, is of no value against fleshly indulgence (Have you not noticed that the behavior of church attenders is not markedly different from that of society at large?). Church worked in the New Testament because it was the means of waiting on the kingdom of God. Since the kingdom has since come and is now in our midst, we should seek it and not church (Matthew 6:33). Going to church makes you a disciple of church; going to Jesus makes you a disciple of His.

  2. I disagree with regards to reading the Scriptures – Jesus says that if we love Him, we will obey His commands. How else will we know His commands unless we read them in the Bible? Also, church shouldn’t be just some dry, traditional service, but an opportunity to meet with, share with and encourage other believers. Whilst I agree with you that these things are secondary to that saving faith, I do still feel that they are important nonetheless for a Christian to grow.

    1. Everyone who knows about Jesus knows that His commandments are that we love God and each other as He did. Humanity’s problem is not being ignorant of Jesus’ commandments, but rather being defiant of them.

      If you do read the Bible to learn more about His commandments, you will find there is nothing among them telling us to go to church.

      Jesus does not want His believers to segregate themselves from society; rather, He wants them to permeate society…like salt – just as He did.

      1. Going to church does not mean segregating yourself from society, though! I repeat, I do not think that going to church makes someone a Christian – however, I still believe that it can be a positive thing to do. It offers a chance to learn, worship and pray together, as well as demonstrating that love for other people by simply spending time with them and getting to know them and their situations. But if a church is only inward-looking, then it is failing to carry out the commandment to spread the good news; it has to have a balance of inreach (to properly disciple those who are already Christians) and outreach (to spread the Word).

        A good church can permeate society far more effectively than a bunch of individual people, in my opinion.

        1. Salt does its work when it is spread, not when it is gathered.

          More importantly, if people follow your advice how will they find the kingdom of God?

  3. You’re misunderstanding my point – I’m not saying that the salt shouldn’t be spread, just that we can learn from one another and grow that way. In addition, good churches can work together to acheive great outreach which may not have been possible by working alone – the running of groups which people from the wider community attend and benefit from, for example.

    I must admit to being confused by your second point regarding finding the Kingdom of God – surely spending time in fellowship with God and His people is the closest we can get to finding that in this life? I get the feeling you still think I’m saying that attending church is the be-all and end-all, when all I’m actually saying is that it CAN be beneficial!

    Interestingly, on a previous point about reading Scriptures, how often did Jesus quote the Old Testament? The Scriptures were pretty important as far as He was concerned! It is the Word of God and should not be disregarded so lightly.

    1. The Scriptures are the word of God and I do not disregard them in the least.

      I’m glad that you believe that faith in Christ is of the utmost importance. On that, we are in complete agreement.

      As for the kingdom of God, are you saying that you don’t think it can be found in this life?

      1. And yet you think that for some people, reading the Bible is “unnecessary”? I couldn’t disagree more, I’m afraid.

        And no, I don’t think we can experience the full Kingdom of God in this life, as this life will always involve sin and impefections which will not be present in Heaven. We can partially experience it within our own hearts and with other Christians, but there is so much which is way beyond the scope of our imaginations and which is yet to come.

        1. You may disagree if you like, but everyone agrees that the person who can operate the device successfully without consulting the owner’s manual is better off than the person who reads the owner’s manual but cannot successfully operate the device. The end goal is successfully operating the device (that is, obeying God). You have changed the end goal to say that everyone must be a student of the owner’s manual.

          That there is much to come which is beyond our imaginations is certainly true, but He who said, Seek first the kingdom of God” also said “He who seeks, finds.” You have deprived your readers of the hope of the kingdom of God in this life and substituted church life in its place. It’s a poor and inadequate substitute.

          You mean well and think you are preaching Jesus as Lord, but you are actually preaching church as Lord. Go back to what you wrote on your blog May 16, 2010 about 2 Chronicles 16:9. That was a very good word and will lead you to more light. God is everywhere and sees all that we do. Living for Him means living with the constant awareness that everything we think, say, and do matters to Him.

  4. Excuse me? How many times have I said that church is not the be-all and end-all? I am saying that it can have benefits, not that it is a substitute for the Kingdom of God! If you’re going to twist my words like that, then I’m afraid this discussion is utterly pointless.

    1. There is no need for you to be upset. I am responding to your words in good faith – specifically, those you wrote earlier today saying, “…I don’t think we can experience the full Kingdom of God in this life…” and “We can partially experience it within our own hearts and with other Christians…” This sounds to me like you are saying that our experience of the kingdom of God in this life is limited largely to the experience of church life. If you are not saying this, please clarify.

      1. Yes, I said that we cannot experience the FULL Kingdom of God in this life – and you agreed that there is far more to come, which is beyond our imaginations, so I fail to see why you disagree with me here? We can partially experience the Kingdom, but only when Jesus returns will the Kingdom fully arrive because there will be no more sin, suffering or death. As it is, Heaven will involve being with God and His people – and that is something which we can do on this earth, even though it will be in an imperfect way. It doesn’t have to be through church, in fact if we only spoke to other Christians whilst at church then I’d worry about the quality of our social lives, but church is ONE way of doing this. Spending time with other Christians allows us to encourage, challenge, help and teach one another, and as such is a good thing to be enjoyed. That is not to say that the Kingdom is limited to this – if we are to be more like Jesus, then we are also to reach out to others with that same love we demonstrate to other Christians. But my point has been in response to your comments about church, hence why my own comments have revolved around this.

        As for no reason to be upset, you have claimed that I am (a) depriving my readers of the Kingdom of God and (b) preaching church as Lord – those are huge and unfounded accusations which I think would upset you if the shoe were on the other foot – if you read more of my blog, you would see that at no point do I ever preach church as Lord, but Jesus as saviour to all who will believe.

        1. Thanks for the clarification. It now appears that the crucial difference in our views is my belief that Jesus has already returned (that is, the kingdom of God is in our midst) and your belief that He is yet to return. See Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again in Introduction for a fuller explanation.

  5. I’m a little confused are you saying that because I read the Bible, go to church, pray, study God’s word with other believers, tithe and have been baptised means that I’m not a believer and follower of Christ and that I’m living in a man made religion rather than a God led relationship?

    1. Your confusion comes from lumping together things I am trying to distinguish.

      First of all, I am not a judge of who is and isn’t a believer and follower of Christ. Nevertheless, if you tell me that you are, I am inclined to believe you…and rejoice. I would that everyone was a believer and follower of Christ.

      As for going to church, tithing, being baptized, and all the related rituals associated with church today – this is man-made religion based not on the commandments of God but on the traditions of men, and are of no value against fleshly indulgence. God operates today through His kingdom, not churches. The last church through which He operated was the one you read about in the New Testament.

      As for praying and reading the Bible, these are indeed kingdom activities which can help you grow in grace. You must, however, do them unto God and not unto men.

      God is everywhere and wants us to serve Him everywhere and at all times. Constantly acknowledging God’s presence will give you power over sin. Man-made religion cannot deliver you from sin.

      1. I disagree, I think that God does operate through His church, and by church I mean His believers, not the building not the politics not the denominations, but His people.

        We were created as relational beings, relationship with God and with other believers and I truely believe that God uses those relationships to further His kingdom.

        You are right, man made religion cannot deliver us from sin, only a God made relationship can do that and I think that God can be served in so many ways be it through tithes, baptism or fellowship; encouragement, study or communion…these acts carried out in love, love for each other and most of all love for God are acts that God in His wisdom and power can use.

        1. I could actually agree with your first sentence as written, if taken at face value. However, you probably mean man-made churches and not the one of which Jesus is Lord. There is a true church in the world today; the Lord Jesus is its pastor (1 Peter 5:4), and its members follow Him wherever He goes (Zechariah 14:9; Revelation 14:4; 17:14). They do not bow to any human pastor (Matthew 23:8-11). The Lord knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19). Their distinguishing characteristic is purity of heart before Him (Matthew 5:8). If you seek to be part of that church you are doing well for it is the kingdom of God.

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