“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”
Romans 11:6 (NIVUK)
At times, during his earthly ministry, Jesus seemed to ask some strange questions. On one occasion a man who had been an invalid for 38years was lying by a pool called Bethesda, clearly hoping to be healed by being the first to enter the pool after an angel had troubled the water. As John records, “When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6) It seems a strange question to ask an individual in that situation.
On another occasion blind Bartimaeus was begging by the roadside when Jesus passed close by. He called out to Jesus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus who is able to perceive the thoughts of men (Luke 9:47) still asked the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” to which the beggar replied, “Rabbi, I want to see.” (Mark 10:46-52)
Jesus was willing to extend God’s grace to both these individuals but he will not force grace on anyone. As with these two individuals, healing grace cannot be earned or merited—it has to be willingly received and accepted. God offers restoration to wholeness but he will not coerce humanity into accepting it.
Both encounters contain a message of caution and realism. To be healed the invalid needed to obey Jesus’ command to “Get up! Pick up your bed and walk.” But in so doing he received criticism from those with a legalistic mindset who were unfamiliar with the ways of grace. (John 5:8-13) Also the healing of blind Bartimaeus required that he make a complete lifestyle change since he could no longer expect to receive financial support through begging at the roadside.
The above examples show that the gospel of grace is not always well received; also with the acceptance of grace comes responsibility since it teaches the recipient to be prepared to make lifestyle changes. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)
Father, help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and play our part in spreading the gospel of grace.
Study by Eddie Marsh
Grace Communion, Sheffield
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