God's Grace, Unconditional Promises, Unconditional Love
God's Grace, Unconditional Promises and Unconditional Love?First a bit of insight from A. W. Tozer's devotional on the idea of God making unconditional promises.
Sat, December 16, 2017
QUESTION: In the light of the many promises to answer prayer how do you account for the Lord’s refusal to hear Paul’s prayer for deliverance from his thorn in the flesh?
Experiencing Grace Sufficiency
God never makes unconditional promises. King Herod made an unconditional promise to his stepdaughter Salome, and was compelled to fulfill it, though to do so cost him bitter remorse and forced him to commit a murder.
God, being sovereign (i.e., free to do what He wills to do), does not put Himself at the disposal of His creatures by making promises with no conditions attached. He never gets into a position where He must answer prayer against His will. Certain extremists, to encourage faith, teach that God has made a unilateral covenant from which He cannot escape, and all we need to do is to believe to assure our getting anything we want. Such teaching is in radical contradiction to the letter as well as the spirit of the Holy Scriptures.
Paul’s thorn presents a tough problem for the Bible teacher; but if we do not know what it means we may at least know what it does not mean; and it does not mean that in refusing to remove the thorn in answer to prayer God became guilty of a breach of promise. “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
God answered Paul’s prayer by granting him grace instead of deliverance, and Paul was well content. Isn’t it odd that the apostle who was directly and intimately concerned in the matter should be so very happy about the whole thing and we who are not in any way affected should be the ones to complain about it!
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. Second Corinthians 12:8-9
Paul wanted the thorn removed. God wanted to show Paul the sufficiency of His grace in the worst of human circumstances. Having discovered that grace sufficiency, Paul could then delight in weakness because when he was weak, precisely then he was strong.
Lord, there are times when I am so busy sending prayer panic memos off to You that I fail to discern Your voice assuring me that Your grace is sufficient.
The topic or understanding of unconditional promises or unconditional love requires an understanding of word meanings. Please bare with me as I share the critical foundation for what I have found the Word of God to say. You do not need a college education to understand the Bible. You need the Bible, dictionaries, and a quiet place, alone with the Holy Spirit; and of course time, with a dedication and hunger to learn.
You must empty yourself of yourself in order to hear the Holy Spirit. You will never know "Truth" if you think that you already have and know the "Truth". If you are looking for support for what you already know or think is "Truth".
If you want to know "Truth" you must come out of darkness (confusion, ignorance, lack of knowledge, lack of wisdom from the Holy Spirit). If you want to understand the picture concepts that a writer is painting, you must choose to agree on the definitions of words.
Satan plays with words and their definitions in order to deceive. He is the master of deception, the greatest actor of all times; playing the part of an 'angel of light'.
“God said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.’ "
"The serpent said to the woman, “Surely you will not die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open and you will be like divine beings who know good and evil.”” Gen 3:3-5
Satan is the same today as when He deceived Eve.
Are you a child of Eve; willing to listen to Satan's appeal to human reasoning and deception?
...or a child of God, listening and seeking the Father's "Truth" from the Holy Spirit.
In our generation Satan is no longer discussing the concept of death; it is the ideas of being saved, salvation, faith, believe, grace, works, perfection, etc..
The emphasis of my understanding is centered around the King James English version of the Bible; supported by the English definitions of Noah Webster and the Hebrew and Greek definitions of James Strong.
My greatest support for understanding certain words is the context that they are used in; within the Word of God itself.
So how do I understand what A. W. Tozer is sharing in his devotional on Paul's "sufficiency of God's grace"? How are we to know what Paul was thinking when he used the Greek word that is translated into English as 'grace'? Was he thinking in terms of the Old Testament Hebrew word meaning, 'graciousness; favor or kindness' or what James Strong shares as a Greek understanding, that takes the 'graciousness; favor or kindness' one step farther as the death of Jesus Christ opens the Holy of Holies up to all that repent.
The temple, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, is not made by man's building materials, it is to be the shell of clay, the human body, of those that put to death their self; selfishness and self's obedience to the desires and natural hungers of that human body.
The self-life that was fed by the influences of this world, is no longer the ruler within, but the Holy Spirit has been welcomed in to have total influence and control of 'all'; the total being (body, mind, will, thoughts, time, etc.) surrendered to the will and influence of the Father.
With the idea of the Holy Spirit really being within each true child of God, grace takes on a new shade or color of meaning. James Strong, in his dictionary, puts it this way; grace - graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude).
When I have real New Testament 'grace' I have the Holy Spirit living within, but it does not stop there. The Holy Spirit is 'expendable', for lack of a better word. The idea is that I must care for my temple with a similar care that the Old Testament Temple was cared for. I must keep it clean and free from any of the world and the world's influences. If I do not the Holy Spirit will be driven out. I must be like the wise virgins and keep an abundant supply of oil. The wick must be regularly trimmed to keep a good flame for ample light to dispel the darkness.
To have and maintain real grace I must feed from the influence of the divine. To feed on the influences of the world will destroy the influence of the divine. Only the Father of the Bridegroom will decide when the door is shut and those that have not maintained their lamps and the oil supply will not be allow into the wedding.
Paul clearly expresses this 'grace' when he speaks about his weakness allowing the power of Christ to live within.
“But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Paul, when he wrote to Titus, really puts a defining word picture of what grace does and looks like when it is operating in the dedicated human life.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation (defence) to all people.”
“It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
“He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good.” Titus 2: 11-14
“Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; indeed, sin is lawlessness.” 1 John 3:4
Therefore, when we have the grace, the influencing presence and power of Christ dwelling within us, we, like Paul, can stop looking at our circumstances and enjoy the operation, and presence, of Christ through and in us, to meet anything that life, the world or evil may throw at us. That presence will not be something that we believe or presume that we have, it will be a living reality producing fruit like the fruit that Jesus Christ produced, as a human, by the indwelling presence of the Father.
Unconditional Promises, Love?
Now for the idea of anything from God, being unconditional.
To start with Noah Webster says that unconditional means, " Absolute; unreserved; not limited by any conditions."
The idea of God having no conditions to His promises or His love seems to be a modern invention. As I searched through various translations, I only found one that used the word one time, and that time, according to James Strong, was an incorrect translation usage of the word 'unconditional'.
I just want to do a quick, if I can, review of some of the conditions that God has set.
In order to have, and keep, eternal life one must eat from the 'tree of life'. It was found in the garden after creation. Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat from it after they had disobeyed. There are conditions that must be met to be able to eat from that tree.
The children of Isreal were to be blessed if they kept God's commands. If they did not keep his commands they would be punished and put under the curse.
The greatest condition on love is found in John 3:16, the verse on God's love for the world.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The condition is that one must believe. John appears to have understood faith and believing as something you demonstrated by action, just as James clearly stated, in his letter.
Net Bible, in their translation notes for John 1:12 "But to all who have received him — those who believe in his name... N28" Note 28 contains this thought. "... It might also be that for John, faith was an activity, something that men do..."
"If" ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. John 15:10
Ye are my friends, "if" ye do whatsoever I command you. John 15:14