The Third Missionary Journey
THIRD QUARTER 2018
SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #10
SEPTEMBER 8, 2018
“THE THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY”
But I make account of none of these, neither do I count my life precious to myself, so that I finish my course with joy, and the ministration that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify fully the good news of the grace of God. Acts. 20:24 YLT
The pathos in Paul’s voice is nearly palpable even today. This was Paul’s final farewell to the elders in Ephesus, and in verse 25 he would inform them that it would be the last time they would see his face. He would not be swayed from going to Jerusalem and though he may be bound with cruel chains and calumny, he assured his brothers that he was also “bound in the Spirit” (vs. 22) and therefore fully prepared for whatever was to come. Whether imprisonment, beatings, or even the loss of life itself, his great joy was to finish the assigned mission given him by the Lord Himself, of thoroughly and earnestly bearing witness to the good news of the grace of God. Paul would reiterate this again (vs. 32) where he says, that he would “entrust them to God and to the Word of His grace.”
If you had one chance to say goodbye to the people you love before you died, what would you say to them? How would you represent the “good news of the gospel” to those you would never see again? I think it is instructive that Paul would use the term “grace” twice to describe the “Word” and the “good news of the gospel” in his parting speech. Grace - it is definitely unmerited favor and it is definitely amazing! It is God in the Person of Christ freely giving Himself. It is God and Christ in their faithfulness agreeing upon the plan of salvation from the foundation of the world and accomplishing it in Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection. It is God saying to us what the angel said to Mary; “greetings favored one, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). We too have been “accepted (favored) in the Beloved” by grace (Ephesians 1:6).
But what exactly is grace? Is there a deeper meaning? It is grace by which we are saved and it precedes any work of man, but what happens when that grace is accepted as the reigning power in the life? In The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, September 1, 1896, A. T. Jones wrote this in an article called, “Shall It Be Grace Or Sin”:
“It can never be repeated too often, that under the reign of grace it is just as easy to do right, as under the reign of sin it is easy to do wrong. This must be so; for if there is not more power in grace than there is in sin, then there can be no salvation from sin. But there is salvation from sin; this no one who believes in Christianity can deny. Yet salvation from sin certainly depends upon there being more power in grace than there is in sin. Then, there being more power in grace than there is in sin, it cannot possibly be otherwise than that wherever the power of grace can have control, it will be just as easy to do right as without this it is easy to do wrong.
No man ever yet naturally found it difficult to do wrong. His great difficulty has always been to do right. But this is because man naturally is enslaved to a power—the power of sin—that is absolute in its reign. And so long as that power has sway, it is not only difficult but impossible to do the good that he knows and that he would. But let a mightier power than that have sway, then is it not plain enough that it will be just as easy to serve the will of the mightier power, when it reigns, as it was to serve the will of the other power when it reigned?
But grace is not simply more powerful than is sin. If this were indeed all, even then there would be fulness of hope and good cheer to every sinner in the world. But this, good as it would be, is not all; it is not nearly all. There is much more power in grace than there is in sin. For "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." And just as much more power in grace than there is in sin, just so much more hope and good cheer there are for every sinner in the world. How much more power, then, is there in grace than there is in sin? Let me think a moment. Let me ask myself a question or two. Whence comes grace?—From God, to be sure.
"Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." Whence comes sin?—From the devil, of course. Sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. Well, then, how much more power is there in grace than there is in sin? It is as plain as A, B, C that there is just as much more power in grace than there is in sin, as there is more power in God than there is in the devil. It is therefore also perfectly plain that the reign of grace is the reign of God; and that the reign of sin is the reign of Satan. And is it not therefore perfectly plain also, that it is just as easy to serve God by the power of God as it is to serve Satan with the power of Satan?
Where the difficulty comes in, in all this, is that so many people try to serve God with the power of Satan. But that can never be done. "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt." Men cannot gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles. The tree must be made good, root and branch. It must be made new. "Ye must be born again." "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." Let no one ever attempt to serve God with anything but the present, living power of God, that makes him a new creature; with nothing but the much more abundant grace that condemns sin in the flesh, and reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. Then the service of God will indeed be in "newness of life;" then it will be found that his yoke is indeed "easy" and his burden "light;" then his service will be found indeed to be with "joy unspeakable and full of glory."
Did Jesus ever find it difficult to do right? Everyone will instantly say, No. But why? He was just as human as we are. He took flesh and blood the same as ours. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." And the kind of flesh that He was made in this world, was precisely such as was in this world. "In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren." "In all things"! It does not say, In all things but one. There is no exception. He was made in all things like as we are. He was of Himself as weak as we are; for He said, "I can of Mine own self do nothing."
Why, then, being in all things like as we are, did He find it always easy to do right?—Because He never trusted to Himself, but His trust was always in God alone. All His dependence was upon the grace of God. He always sought to serve God, only with the power of God. And therefore, the Father dwelt in Him, and did the works of righteousness. Therefore, it was always easy for Him to do right. But as He is, so are we in this world. He has left us an example, that we should follow His steps.
"It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure," as well as in Him. All power in heaven and in earth is given unto Him; and He desires that you may be strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power. "In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily;" and He strengthens you with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your heart by faith, that you may be "filled with all the fulness of God."
True, Christ partook of the divine nature, and so do you if you are a child of promise, and not of the flesh; for by the promises ye are partakers of the divine nature. There was nothing given to Him in this world, and He had nothing in this world, that is not freely given to you, or that you may not have. All this is in order that you may walk in newness of life; that henceforth you may not serve sin; that you may be the servant of righteousness only; that you may be freed from sin; that sin may not have dominion over you; that you may glorify God on the earth; and that you may be like Jesus. And therefore "unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. . . . Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." And I "beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain."
Grace is given according to the measure of the gift of Christ! Now that is a lot of grace! So, receive it, not in the measure in which you think you deserve it but in the measure in which it was given. Receive it in all its saving fulness today! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all, Amen! 2 Cor. 13:14
~ Rob Benardo