Now that we have established just who the plan belongs to – that is to say that, it is God’s plan and not ours, we can look into what God’s plan actually is. It seems to me that what is preached in churches today, and for the past hundred years or so, is only a very small part of that plan, or rather a name that people give to the plan. What is preached is generally defined as ‘grace‘ but in separating grace from the plan itself, not only do we lose sight of what grace is, but we also fail to learn about the other important facets of the plan by which our salvation is made available. Grace isn’t a single aspect of doctrine. Grace merely describes the mercy which drives God to rescue mankind.
I would very much like you to try to forget everything you know about the concept of grace. It is not a cute little acronym which is told to mean God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. That is a nonsense peddled by people trying to explain something they have little understanding of. And the reason they have little understanding of it is that they fail to ask God what grace means. They only preach what their Bible College taught them. What ever happened to preaching with unction?
God’s plan was (and still is) this: to provide salvation or rather, deliverance, from the punishment which is due to all of us, to all of mankind without them having to do anything about it, except to believe that God had already achieved it. And, if it is something that God has already achieved, then you can be sure that the acts which we indulge in, because we think they make us righteous are, like dirty rags in His eyes, as He reminds us in Isaiah 64:6.
God’s grace is that whilst we had no idea that we were condemned in His eyes because we were born with a sinful nature, He went and ensured that we could experience His deliverance, despite the fact that we deserved to die. Sadly, men who preach only God’s grace, miss the point. They promise a life of abundance but fail to see themselves (let alone tell others), that the abundance of which they speak should be entirely spiritual. The life they promise in return for attendance on a Sunday, is a life entirely of the flesh; a life full of catering to our carnal desires. I’m talking about wealth, about greed, about security, about personal achievement, about being well thought of by others. So, it seems appropriate that if I claim that these preachers have no real understanding of God’s grace, then I should really explain exactly what His grace is. Less there be any further confusion. Let’s start at the beginning.
On the sixth day of creation, God brought into being the living creatures – the beasts, the livestock, and creatures which crawl along the ground. Then He turned His attention to what was to be the pinnacle of that creation – man. Let’s take a look at what the book of Genesis says about this:
“And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them male and female, He created them. And God blessed them and God said to them to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” [Genesis 1:27-28 Direct Hebrew-English Translation]
And we know that God then rested on the seventh day, Shabbat.
Now, I have always been a little troubled by this account. I know I am not the only one who is troubled by it either. The thing that bugged me isn’t the idea that God is able to create something out of nothing – I get that completely, but simply why it says in verse 27 that He created them both, male and female, and then in chapter two we have the account of Him creating first Adam, and then Eve, from Adam. The way my brain developed an explanation to un-trouble my mind was to say that what was written in chapter two about God forming Adam from the dust of the ground and then Eve from one of Adam’s ribs was actually the detail of what was written in 1:27. However, despite having this ‘workaround’ employed for almost thirty years, the troubling has persisted. Until yesterday.
I have long tried to understand the differences and relationship between body, soul, and spirit. Yesterday it all finally made sense. I say finally, knowing that with God there is always more – that His revelation only gets deeper and wider the closer we get to Him.
What God created on the sixth day was all of the living souls of everyone who was ever going to live. Then, on the seventh day, He rested. When He returned to work, after He had rested, He formed from the dust of the earth a vessel that was to become the body of Adam. For that body formed from the dust to work, it needed two more components – a living soul and the breath of life. When God breathed into the nostrils of what He had formed from the dust of the ground, He gave the lifeless body a living soul, and His own Spirit. Remember the word for spirit and breath are the same – ruach. This was man at his perfection – a living soul, a physical body, and a spiritual body of God’s own Spirit. It is the living soul that we all require. A life support machine in a hospital can keep a body alive, but only a living soul can made it live. And then, God replicated man by creating Eve from one of his ribs, and breathed into her His Spirit and her own living soul. Built into all living souls was God’s instruction to multiply. God didn’t need to form a new man and woman every time they procreated, for them to multiply. The living soul simply reproduces the vessel in which it found itself.
However, we know that before that process could begin, Eve was persuaded by the serpent not to believe what God had already said. God said that if they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that they would surely die. But we know that they didn’t physically die as a result of eating the fruit – Adam was over 900 years old when he died, having lived on a long time after being expelled from the garden. The death of which God warned them was actually the death of their spirits – the breath of life.
Remember when their eyes were opened after they ate from the tree? The first thing they did was to hide from God. God couldn’t find them. Have you ever considered that it might be because, He could no longer see them? Perhaps, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, the physical fleshy life we have wasn’t, back then, the prominent life. Perhaps it was the spirit life. Perhaps God, who we know is spirit, failed to see them in the spirit realm because their spirits had died.
Look at it like this: the soul is the life-force within us, the part that truly lives forever, regardless of where we end up. That soul is our appetite for life. The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh, which literally means appetite, or throat. It is the soul which chooses to feed either the flesh or the spirit. When the serpent came to Eve, she was already used to her soul feeding her spirit’s needs by the way of God’s words. His fellowship with Adam and Eve, His breath, fed and sustained their spirits, causing their spirit bodies to grow and mature. But, the serpent tempted Eve to feed her flesh – not only for food but also the other things that the flesh desires, such as self-importance, and pride. The result was spiritual death. Their spirits died because they allowed the soul to feed their flesh. The serpent’s words polluted them because they were not God’s pure words. Because their spirits died, they started to exist only in the physical realm. In the physical realm they couldn’t see God naturally. And because God had to then banish them from the garden, the one place on earth where the spirit and the physical world existed together, their spirits could not be revived by His breath of life, or by the fruit of the Tree of Life.
God had programmed into all living souls, which He created on the sixth day, the process of procreation. When Adam and Eve came together and produced a child, that child was born to them with exactly the same makeup as the two of them – a living fleshy body and a dead spirit. It is God who is responsible for adding a living soul to what men and women create, either at the point of conception or at the point of birth. But everything else is programmed into the soul.
I am sure that before Adam and Eve ate from the tree, they could see both aspects of themselves – both their physical and spiritual bodies. Both would have been visible. But once the spirit died and the process of multiplication started, all who were born from their seed were born in their image, and not God’s. All, except one.
And so, God’s plan for the salvation of mankind was set in motion. He had clearly built some rules into creation during those first six days, rules that couldn’t be changed, like the living souls being programmed to multiply only what is there, and not what should be there. Another was that because God is entirely good, He couldn’t allow sin to stand in His presence. In fact, for anyone with sin in them to stand before God in person means certain death. That is why Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, the one place where God could be seen face to face in His spirit form. And, somewhere, written into that creation from the very beginning (because God knew in advance what would happen), He built in that the blood of an innocent could atone for sin. That someone, or something, could take the place of someone who deserved punishment, providing they had no sin themselves. We can see this with God providing Adam and Eve with animal skins to clothe them before they left the garden (Genesis 3:21). Surely, at this point, He showed them how to sacrifice an innocent animal to atone for sin? But whilst the sacrificial system could only atone for sin, it would never remove the stain of the sin. It was always a temporary solution, until the fullness of God’s plan could be executed.
So, this is grace – that because of the disobedience of Adam, in his seed was carried spiritual death, and therefore, also the condemnation which was due to him, to everyone who followed, including you and me. We are all born condemned before God. We are born spiritually dead because of Adam’s sin. But God, who is rich in mercy, and who desires nothing more than to be back in fellowship with man, devised a plan by which our spirits could be reborn, and man could be reconciled to Him. He did this even when we didn’t know of it. Even when we were still dead in our sins. The apostle Paul speaks of this often (see Ephesians 2:1 & Colossians 2:13, for example).
His grace is such that not only did He do all this without our asking, He did it in such a way that His salvation could only be attained freely from Him – there is absolutely nothing we can do to attain His salvation of ourselves, no matter how good we think we are. Our attempts at righteousness are always going to be fruitless, and they only serve to feed the fleshy side of us.
And that is grace – that there is nothing we can do to achieve either spiritual rebirth or salvation. He has done it all for us. Of course, the part we have to play to receive His salvation comes in the form of a journey, but we shall come onto that. For now, in the context of what God’s plan actually is, let us stay for a moment on the subject of grace, and how we access that grace.
Unlike the flaky preachers of today who peddle that grace is like some ‘Get Out Of Jail Free‘ card, I’m not going to water down or mix God’s words on the subject. And please believe when I say this, what I write on this blog is as much for me to understand, as it is for anyone else. I am learning as I go along.
Whilst God’s grace is freely available – that is to say, that there is nothing we can humanly do to achieve or deserve it, it requires a certain action on our part to access the salvation which has been allowed by the acts of His grace.
Grace comes through faith. Paul makes that clear in his letter to the church at Ephesus:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” [Ephesians 2:8 NKJV]
If we don’t have faith to begin with, we can’t access the grace of God. Faith is the means through which grace comes to us. That much is clear. But what is equally as clear, and is no longer preached, is that in order to understand the need we have for salvation, which produces in us the faith in the promised salvation, we must be first made aware of that need.
Now, if your preacher only preaches grace as a concept or as a means by which to attain the riches of the Kingdom of God, then you will never hear of your sin, nor of the separation from God which that sin has brought about. You will never get to understand that we were created to be in constant fellowship with God in our spirits. If you are not told that you are born spiritually dead, and therefore condemned, you will never sense the need to say that you are sorry to God for the acts of sin you have committed in your years of ignorance to His truth. If you never say sorry and repent, then you will never receive the forgiveness for your sins. If you never receive forgiveness for your sins, which is made possible by the shedding of innocent blood on your behalf, then your spirit will never be made alive, and you will never be made clean before God. If your spirit is never made alive, you will never be able to allow your living soul to nourish it. If your spirit isn’t nourished with God’s word and presence, then it will never mature and develop as it should. And if you are not made clean before God by way of Yeshua’s blood, then you can never even enter that presence to be nourished.
You see, this is how it should work – we hear the message (the seed) and if the condition of our hearts (the soil) is such that we listen and understand God’s word, then that seed will find soil in which it can grow. That seed will become, in this instance, your faith. As your faith in God grows and you believe in Him and what He says to you, then that will be credited to you as righteousness. His righteousness. There is nothing we can do – no good works, no religious observance, no stance on morality, which will give us righteousness. It is credited to us by God alone, when and only when, we believe in Him. This crediting to us of His righteousness eventually produces holiness so, by the time we shed these earthly bodies, our spiritual bodies are mature enough to stand before God and escape the fire of His judgement. When this life finishes, our living souls will continue to occupy the now born again spirit bodies.
Despite what will be preached in church buildings all over the world this morning, salvation isn’t a one-off choice to accept what was said during an altar call. It is a life of making choices based entirely upon what you believe God is saying to you. When we trust Him to guide us through life, that trust brings His righteousness. Without His righteousness we will never truly know Him. If we don’t know Him then we will be locked out from His wedding feast. It all comes down to having a personal relationship with God. Look at what Paul says in his letter to the church at Rome:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” [Romans 12:1-2]
A well known and often quoted couple of verses, but look at it again. Paul understood that our bodies; this fleshy life, is so unimportant. God is never going to satisfy for us any of the desires of our flesh. Only we can do that. Paul is urging us that when we consider the mercy God has shown to us by sending His Son to die in our place, that we should do the same – we should count our physical lives as something that belongs to God. He tells us that, as people who have been bought at a price, we should consider this act as part of our service to God. He continues by saying that because we are now spiritually reborn, and therefore, leading lives led by God’s Spirit, we should forget the way the world works and allow God to renew our hearts, so that His word, His seeds, may be sown and grow in our lives.
His grace isn’t a licence to do whatever we want in life – to use our living soul to feed the desires of our flesh because we once said the Sinner’s Prayer is to show ingratitude towards God. He wants us to live spiritually abundant lives, not physically abundant.
His grace is such that He has already paid the price for your sins, even when you were unaware of them. His grace is such that if we repent, He forgives our sins and forgets about them forever. His grace is that by simply trusting in Him and what He says, we are not only spiritually reborn, but are made clean by His blood, and can enter His presence. His grace is that as we drawer closer to Him, He draws closer to us by the free gift of His righteousness. His grace is that our continued trust in Him, especially when life is difficult, produces a glory in us for the next life. We don’t produce that glory. He does it by His grace.
Hopefully, you will now see grace as the Bible says you should. The knowledge of His grace should be all you need to realise your sinful nature is part of your flesh. The spiritual rebirth that grace allows means that you no longer have to be a slave to the flesh and its sinful desires. You can, instead, feed and nourish the spirit and receive, once more, the breath of life – His Holy Spirit. And that is God’s plan – that we all are reconciled to Him.
In the next part of this series, we will continue by looking at how we should respond to God’s plan in the same, simple, and practical fashion which the early disciples did.