Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Peter Vs. Paul: Did Paul Change the Gospel Message?

I. The Charge against Paul, the Apostle

One of the many objections to modern day Christianity, none has excited the masses as much as the idea that the Apostle Paul changed the Gospel message. For this reason,  many accuse modern Christianity of being the church of Paul than the Church of Christ and his original Apostles. Seeing that it was Peter that was to originally head the Church (Matthew 16:13-20; John 21:16+17), appointed by Jesus himself, they supposed that Paul was clever and smart man (not saying that he wasn't a smart man) who knew he could not stop the movement which he persecuted, at that time called "the way" decided to later join it. After awhile he took the movement away from the original Apostles and firmly planted it in the Gentile world. They who make such an accusation of the Apostle Paul neglect the fact that the Apostle Paul was also made an apostle by Christ himself after a confrontation between Saul (now known as Paul, the Apostle) of Tarsus and Jesus, the Christ on the road to Damascus.(Acts 9:1-16, 22:1-15). What gets lost in the debate is also the fact that Peter was to be the first preacher and spokesman of the Church, which was a position appointed by Jesus himself before his ascension, while the Apostle Paul was to be the great missionary Apostle to the Gentiles or the nations,(Galatians 2:1-10  ) Peter's missionary ministry was to be toward the Jews. Peter's ministry to the non Jewish nations or the Gentiles occurred after Paul's death. So Peter's initially ministry was to the Jews in and about Jerusalem. Let see how that all came about.

II. The Initial History of the Gospel Message

In the early days of the Church, the Christian community in Jerusalem were primarily made up of Jews that had converted to "the way" and felt that it was to the Jewish population that the Gospel of Christ must be preached to. Not one of them conceived of the notion to share the Gospel with a Gentile, forgetting the great commission that Christ gave them to preach the Gospel and make disciples of all nations. One day all that changed, for Peter was instructed by the Spirit of God to not discriminate when sharing the Gospel to the Gentiles. (Acts 10). During sharing the Gospel with the Gentiles in Ceasarea, Peter came to the revelation that ".... Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." (Acts 10:34+35) Peter was called to the church council in Jerusalem to explain his actions (Acts 11:1-18) for He being a Jew went in among the ceremonial unclean Gentiles and preached to them the Gospel. When Peter stood in front of the Jewish church council, he rehearsed to all how God allowed him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles in Ceasarea. After hearing his explanation all the Jewish Christian believers of the church council said, " Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." (Acts 11:18) This shows that the Jewish Christians thought the Gospel was to be shared with only the Jews that did not yet believe. Right after that, the Gospel spread to Cyprus and the first Christian community was formed in Antioch when Greek and Jewish believers in the Gospel came to Israel from Cyprus to learn more of "the way" which was the name of the movement before the name Christian was assigned to it. To whom the Church council in Jerusalem sent Jewish Christian teachers of "the Way" to ground them in the faith, Barnabas was one of those teachers that traveled to Antioch from Jerusalem to carry out this assignment. It was there people started to call them Christians, (Acts 11:26) from that point on, in order to differentiate themselves from the Jews who did not convert and the Pagans who still did not believe in "the way" . Peter started preaching to the Gentiles, under the direction of God before Paul began to preach to them.

Another reason that we went through these early Church events is to point out the fact that if the Apostle Paul changed the Gospel message and founded the modern Church, where was he when all this foundational stuff was happening not by Paul's direction but rather by the direction of God? The Apostle Paul was being discipled in Damascus (Acts 9:17-20), and preached the Gospel to the Jews during his discipleship in Damascus. When he heard of the Christians gathering in Antioch, he left Damascus and went there. Barnabas met Paul in Antioch, after which the Holy Spirit set them apart for the preaching of the Gospel outside of Israel. (Acts 13:1-3) The question here is, if Paul changed the Gospel Message, why did the Holy Spirit send him and Barnabas out to preach it without correcting his theology? It is because it was not changed as we will see later in this article.

Now after Peter was being hunted down to be martyred by unbelieving men (Acts 12:1-19) like the Apostle James the son of Alpheaus, Paul and Barnabas took up the call to continue the work of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:1-3) Their directives was to approach the Jews first with the message, if rejected by the Jews, preach then to anyone else willing to hear. This is clearly displayed in the book of Acts, where the first place they entered was a Jewish place of worship, when the Jews rejected the Gospel message that they presented, both Barnabas and Paul began preaching to the Gentiles.

The Church grew under the Apostle Paul's ministry, now his first companion Barnabas is important to look at here, because this was the same man who was sent of the Apostles of Jerusalem to ground the young Gentile and Jewish church at Antioch. Barnabas was a teacher, Paul was a preacher, by these two men God founded Churches throughout Asia, Macedonia and Greece. What is so important about Barnabas? Teachers of the faith have a strong challenge and a charge. That is. they are to watch over what is preached and correct any errors or deviation from what supposed to be preached. Such was the role of Barnabas in the ministry with the Apostle Paul. Barnabas was a teacher of "the way", the teacher of the Christian life. So any deviation from what Paul was discipled to preach about Jesus, would have been detected by Barnabas. Barnabas would have departed from Paul and reported to the Church in Jerusalem that the Apostle had gone astray from the fundamental preaching of the Gospel of Christ. Paul would have been ostracized and excommunicated from the fellowship of the Apostleship of the Church. We know that Paul did not go astray from the fundamental elements of the Gospel of Christ, because when Barnabas did disagreed sharply with Paul it was not about his doctrine, or preaching. It was because Barnabas wanted to take again with them John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark and Paul did not want to take him, because Mark deserted them on their first missionary trip. Not because of any deviation to the Gospel message.

Now while Paul and Barnabas was out and about preaching the Gospel, certain Jewish believers in Christ which viewed Christianity as an extension of Judaism's customs and traditions came from Jerusalem teaching the people in Antioch that they had to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses in order to be saved. This caused a great rift in the church, so much so that the Apostles in Jerusalem, now headed by James, the Lord's brother had to call a together the Church council to determine whether or not to require the Gentle believers in Christ to keep the Law of Moses. (Acts 15) To this Peter stands up and reminds the council how God allowed him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles to be accepted by them by faith only. The same way they, as all Jews was offered salvation in Christ without any requirement to observe any Law of Moses. What a surprise! It is Peter, a Jewish believer and an Apostle of Jesus that advises the Church council in Jerusalem to not burden the Gentile believers with keeping the Law of Moses, not Paul the Apostle. The reason? Because they came to the understanding that since they and their forefathers could not observe the Law of Moses, how could they expect the Gentiles to live according to the Law of Moses?  Paul and Barnabas, who were also attending the council meeting, then gave a full report of their ministry abroad among the Gentiles and how God worked mighty through them to the saving of many souls. Hearing this argument presented by Peter and the Missionary report of Paul and Barnabas, James ruled that a few simple rules needed to be observed so that the Gentile believers would not be and offense to the Jewish believers in Christ, furthermore James declared that those persons who informed them that they had to keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved did not get that instruction or order from the Apostles of Christ. So the Gentiles believers was not required to keep the Law of Moses. Thereby confirming the Apostle Paul's Ministry to the Gentiles and to the Jews of those other nations. This again indicates that the Apostle Paul did not deviate from the elements of the Gospel, that he was discipled to preach. For if he did, Barnabas, Peter and the rest of the Apostles would have corrected Paul. No such correction of Paul's Gospel presentation is noted in the Book of acts by the Church council in Jerusalem

III. The Gospel presentation of Peter Vs. the Gospel presentation of Paul
This now brings us to the issue of what was the original Gospel message and what was the Gospel message that the Apostle Paul preached. Is there any difference? If so why, and was it necessary? Does it prove the argument that Paul changed the Gospel message? In order to determine the answers to these questions we need to see the elements of the preaching of Peter in comparison with that of the Preaching of Paul. The way we must investigate this issue is comparing the Gospel elements in Peter's Preaching to the Gospel elements in Paul's preaching.

Peter's elements of the Gospel are as follows:

1) That Jesus is Lord [God] and Messiah [Christ] -Acts 2:36
2) That Jesus is God's appointed servant which was slain- Acts 3:22+23
3) That Jesus is God's resurrected Son- Acts 3:26
4) That Jesus is God's chosen Savior [Christ, Messiah]of Mankind- Acts 4:12

These listed above were the elements that made up Peter's Gospel message. So what is Paul's elements of the Gospel?

Paul's elements of the Gospel are as follows:

1) That Jesus is the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God- Acts 9:20, 13:33
2) That Jesus is the promised Messiah [Christ]- Acts 13:33
3) That Jesus is the slain Messiah [Christ]-Acts 13:27-29
4) That Jesus is the resurrected Messiah [Christ]- Acts 13:30+31

These listed above were the elements that made up Paul's Gospel message. We must note here that the Apostle Paul spend some time being discipled by the believers in Damascus before he began to make his Gospel presentation after he converted to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. The question is, is the same Gospel as the one Peter preached? When we closely compare the Gospel presentations of Peter and Paul, we find the following points between the respective elements of their Gospel messages to be similar.

1) The Divinity of Jesus

a)Peter states that Jesus' status is elevated to that of "Lord" in Acts 2:36. The Greek word that is translated to this English word "Lord", I have discovered that it also means "Supreme over all" and "God". Peter therefore testifies therefore that God elevated Jesus to divine status equal to His own divine status.

b)Paul states that Jesus' status is elevated to that of being "the Son of God" by reason of Jesus' relationship to God the Creator. God is the Father of Jesus, naturally born to Him and thereby Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. God the creator made Jesus divine, through the process of natural child birth He made him God and man -Acts 9:20, 13:33

2) The Messiah ship of Jesus

a)Peter states that Jesus was Christ. Christ is the English translation of the Greek word which is also a translation of the Hebrew word that is again translated into the English word Messiah. In other words, Christ and Messiah are terms that refer to the same thing. They are exchangeable in English. It is notable that Peter only uses the word "Christ" when speaking in reference to Jesus when he needs to communicate to an audience that knows Greek and or Hebrew.- Acts 2:36, 4:12

b)Paul also states that Jesus was Christ [Messiah] that was prophesied about by the Holy Prophets in his Gospel message.-Acts 13:23

3) The Death of Jesus, the Messiah [Christ]

a)Peter states that Jesus, the chosen Messiah [Christ] was slain -Acts 3:22+23

b)Paul also states that Jesus, the Messiah was slain-Acts 13:27-29

4) The Resurrection of Jesus the Messiah [Christ], God's Son

a)Peter states that Jesus, God's son and appointed Messiah was resurrected from the dead by God the
Creator.- Acts 3:32

b)Paul also states that Jesus was raised up from the dead by God the Creator- Acts 13:30+31

As we can see, Peter and Paul used the same four elements in their Gospel presentations: 1)The Divinity of Jesus, 2)The Messiah ship of Jesus, 3) The death of Jesus, the Messiah and 4) The Resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah. Seeing that they used the same elements in their Gospel presentations, this proves again that the Apostle Paul did not change the Gospel Message in any elementary way. However, there is a noticeable difference between their Gospel presentations. The difference is seen in the perspectives they each preached from as well as the audience they preached to.

IV. The Differences Between the Gospel Presentations

When Peter preached the Gospel, he preached it from the perspective of being an eye witness. When Paul preached the Gospel, he preached it from the perspective of being a second hand witness. The difference between that being a first hand witness and a second hand witness is the quality and the credibility of sources. Peter quality of sources were the other Apostles who walked with Jesus, heard Jesus teach, seen Jesus suffer and seen Jesus be crucified. He and the Apostles also seen Jesus alive after his passion and fellowshiped with Jesus for 40 days (Acts 1, John 21). So Peter's sources for his Gospel presentation are of the highest quality and authenticity. Now this is important to understand, the second hand witness presentation of Paul rests upon the quality and authenticity of his sources. If there is a degree of a lesser quality of credibility, then Paul's Gospel presentation is of lesser credibility than that of Peters. So what are the Apostle Paul's sources for his Gospel presentations? They are the same Apostles of Christ and the disciples who heard Jesus speak, seen Jesus suffer and die on the cross and seen him be raised from the dead. Paul's Gospel presentation was not questioned by the Apostles of Christ when He and Barnabas made their missionary report to them. (Acts 15) After Peter presented the argument to not burden the Gentile believers in Christ with the keeping of the Law of Moses, which no one Jew of them could keep. The salvation of God was presented to the Jews not on the basis of keeping the Law of Moses' administration, but rather it was offered to them on the basis of faith on the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah [Christ]. It appeared to them that God made the same offer to the Gentiles who would choose to believe in Jesus, the Christ and to make them observe the law that no one could keep except for Jesus was not just or fair or right. This was also the offer of salvation in Paul's presentation of the Gospel to the Gentiles and Jews outside of Israel. So we see here that the quality and credibility of Paul's presentation of the Gospel is equal of that of Peter's for they both testified from the same sources. Even though Paul is preaching from the perspective of a second hand witness, his Gospel presentation is equal to Peter's Gospel presentation.

Another difference between the Gospel presentations of Peter and Paul is that Peter's presentations were geared toward the Jewish audience until he was directed to make a presentation to the Gentiles in Ceasarea. Paul's Gospel presentations took on the added elements of preaching against idolatry and Paganism, elements that Peter never had the opportunity to develop in his early  Gospel presentation. Peter's missionary work did not start until Paul met his end. Peter's work was more about the encouragement of the believers that Paul and Barnabas was used of God to reach with the Gospel presentation. This however. does not indicate a change in the Gospel message by Paul, for Peter did not come behind Paul to change what he had preached to them for them to believe for their salvation. Peter rather came behind Paul to confirm what he taught in those fledgling churches. When Peter preached his Gospel message, he emphasized the knowledge of the ministry of God through Christ to the Jews and accused the Jews of slaying Christ. Paul used the knowledge of his audience conscience of righteousness, their spiritual awareness and revelation of the mystery of the Gospel when preaching his Gospel to the Jews and Gentiles outside of Israel.

V. The Verdict

So the question is, was this enough of a change to make Paul guilty of changing the Gospel message? The answer is no. Why? Because when Peter had to make a Gospel presentation to the Gentiles in Ceasarea under the direction of God, he adjusted his message and did not accuse the Gentiles of slaying Jesus. He left that accusation squarely up his Jewish brethren that did not believe in Christ. He rather told the Gentiles what the Jews did to Jesus, the Messiah. They heard, and believed and thereby received Christ. Paul preached and those who heard him also believed the Gospel of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. Since then the Gospel message has been presented in various ways but always remaining true to the fundamental elements of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ which always contains the four elements first proclaimed by Apostles Peter and Paul. To them and the rest of the Apostles the Church of Christ owes its growth and founding beliefs that has lasted for over 2000 years without change.

Don't Abort the Process!

Every thing that God does, he does it through a process.
So whatever the process that God has you going through don't abort the process just because you don't see an immediate result.

The problem with our culture is that when we perceive that some thing or some one is no good to us or for us we throw those things and yes even people away. However, God specializes in renewing and reviving things and people.

People are unique because they have their own will, so it is up to them to submit to the process that God has designed for them to go through.

As the saying goes: If God never intended for you to obtain your goals then He would not have supplied the test.

For example; Ever prayed for more patience? What did you receive instead of patience being infused into your personna? You recieved tests, one after another that excercised your patience.

If you believe that God wanted you to have something, He supplies the tests to see if you have enough faith and determination to get it. Or will you allow yourself to be bound to the excuses of this and that and never pass the tests He supplies.

Will you abort the process? Of Salvation? Of recieving the Kingdom of God? Of the abundant life promised by Christ? Of having all your need supplied by His riches in Glory? Of obtaining all that you inherited by the Death of Christ?

Whatever process you decide to abort, that process stops. The good news is that you can resume any of the processes, if you understand that it is not your will that has to be accomplished, it is His will that will be accomplished.

Enabling Grace

I chose this subject because I have found that most believers really do not understand what Grace is or how it applies to the Christian life. Some believe that the Grace that comes from God through Christ allows them to do any sinful act without any consequences. Some also believe that Grace is only for the well to do or the privileged in our American society. As believers in Christ, we are acquainted with what the Grace of God has provided for us without a means to explain it to an inquiring person. This is the purpose of this article, to arm ourselves with the ability to explain and convey to any what the Grace of God is. More importantly, to explain what does Grace enable a believer to do and what does it enables an unbeliever to do.

I. What is Grace?

It has been well said by many a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus, the Christ, that Grace is when we receive from God that blessing that we do not deserve. Salvation for example is not a right or a privilege but it is an expression of the Love of God for all of sinful Mankind. There was no obligation on the part of God to give us Salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, His only begotten Son, but it was an act of God's Grace. It is that Grace that enables believers to live this Christian life to the best of our ability. I looked up the definition of Grace from the following online sources and this is what I found.

Grace: a noun; defined as: The free and unmerited favor or beneficence of God; "God's grace is manifested in the salvation of sinners"; "There but for the grace of God go I" [syn: grace]
Source: Wordnet © 3.0 copyrighted in 2006 by Princeton University

Grace: defined as: Kindness; favor. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by GRACE ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his Grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by GRACE are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. - Ephesians 2:4-9
Source: Dictionary of Words from the King James Bible. Public Domain. Copy freely

As these two definitions of Grace have disclosed to us in this article, that Grace is God's kindness and His display of favor. That kindness and display of favor by God through Christ is unmerited, that is can not be earned in any way, nor is it given on the basis of individual morality. The Grace of God is bestowed upon us through the love of God for us. As the Apostle Paul writes:

"But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only [so], but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: For until the Law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also [is] the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, [which is] by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many" - Romans 5:8-15 King James Version of the Bible

What does this mean? This means that even the most moral man alive is still lost in his sin, and that only the salvation provided by the Grace of God through Jesus can save him. Simply put, Grace made Salvation available to all men no matter what their status is in any society, whether they be rich or poor, slave or free. Through the Grace of God provided through faith in Christ, all men have the opportunity to be saved. Therefore it is by the Grace of God that a person is found by God in Christ. This is provided without solicitation or recompense of moral deeds performed, but by the Grace of God. However, this is only the beginning.

II. What does the Grace of God enables a believer to do?

This is the point where many people who say that they have been saved get of the train of salvation through faith by Grace. Whether they do it by purpose, or ignorance I do not know, nor can I judge (Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5). All I know is that when some people get saved, no matter how many warnings we can give to those new believers, those new believers get caught up and sometimes lured back into the world by the temptation of the devil and his devices. There is a clear issue about wills here. However, we will deal that at another time. The more relative question is what does the Grace of God enables a believer in Christ to do?

The Grace of God enables a believer to do one thing and one thing only: it allows a believer in Christ to Live for God. The Grace of God was not given as a gateway for sinfulness. Sin in the flesh is what Jesus came to die for (Romans 8:3). Why? So that we, believers in Christ, may have the opportunity to live for God like we have not ever known before. Before getting saved we did not have a personal relationship with God, now that we have been saved, we do. I had relationship with God before getting saved but it was not to the level of intimacy I have now with God. My relationship with God before getting saved was that of performance. Now it is of faith through God's grace. Does this mean that I stopped trying to do good and live right? Absolutely not. Consider what the Apostle Paul writes to the Roman believers:

"What we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? ....... Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." - Romans 6:1+2, 6 from the King James Version of the Bible

When we received the gift of salvation, we died to the sinfulness of the flesh so that we can live unrestricted holy lives in the Grace of God. A dead man can not sin, he is insensitive to it. So we too must become like a dead man and be insensitive to sin in our lives. If we do not, we frustrate the Grace of God upon our lives. In short the choice we each made to be saved also afforded us the opportunity to live holy and upright lives for God and God alone. Each of us who believe in Christ should be able to say with boldness "For God I live, for God I die." with the understanding that it is Grace that mad all available to us all the things that God has for us. The Apostle Paul again makes this point:

"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that it should obey it the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the Law, but under Grace."- Romans 6:11-14 King James Version of the Bible

Our problem is that we believers in Christ keep resurrecting the wrong man, the sinful flesh. We even try to revive some of our sins because to tell the truth, we still are having pleasure doing them. We can not see the overwhelming pleasure that comes from living holy for God as he has designed for us. We have been blinded by our fleshly desires and self-gratifications and we are just not ready to give them up. By our not choosing to become "dead" to the sins of our flesh we revive them. Simply ask yourself this: Would you not be more happier knowing that you have chosen to live holy for God and that pleased God more than you living in sin? It is not that God does not want you to enjoy life, He wants you to enjoy the life that He has designed for you to live. We have to have the attitude of Moses when he found his calling in God as written in the book of Hebrews:

"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward."- Hebrews 11:24-26 King James Version of the Bible

Moses saw the blessing that one receives from living the holy life that God designed for him and compared it to the life of luxury he was living as the son of Pharaoh's Daughter and judged that living holy for God was so much better. For it is far better to live knowing that you are doing God's will in a holy lifestyle, than to have all the riches and pleasures of the world at your disposal. Jesus said it this way:

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" - Gospel of Mark 8:36 King James Version of the Bible

Yet it was after that the riches of the Grace of God was revealed to Moses, he became God's man to lead the Israelites out of Bondage and into all that God had promised to them. He became God's administrator of the Covenant. Moses was a faithful servant in God's will.

"For every house is builded by some [man]; but he that built all things [is] God. And Moses verily [was] faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after" - Hebrews 3:4+5 King James Version of the Bible

For God could have chosen any man, but God in his Wisdom and Grace chose Moses. Why has God by his Grace chose to save you? Just to sit, and do nothing? Everyone who is saved by Christ is called to witness for Christ, every one who is saved by Christ is called to live a holy life for God in Christ Jesus. The Grace of God enables every believer in Christ to do this and more, if only we surrender our designs , our plans and exchange it for what God has designed and planned for us . The Grace of God enables all believers to get His will right in our lives in Christ. This leaves us with one question.

III. What does the Grace of God enables the sinner to do?

The Grace of God enables the sinner to do one thing: Repent from his sins. As defined in the beginning of this article, Grace represents God's kindness. God's kindness is also an expression of His goodness. God's kindness or goodness toward sinners is to show them how much God loves them. This expression of God's kindness and goodness is only a drop in the bucket of what God is willing to do for them if they repent. As it is written in the book of Romans:

"Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forberance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? - Romans 2:4 King James Version of the Bible

The average sinner also believes that this display of kindness by God through Jesus Christ and the Church is a sign of weakness or an opportunity to take advantage of Him and the Church. They are very much mistaken. For the Bible states:

"But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God;" - Romans 2:5 King James Version of the Bible

They forget that there is a Judgment Day coming, and the Church has a duty to remind them of it, when each of them will stand before God and be judged according to the deeds done and sins he has committed. They will be judged according to the Gospel and how they responded to God's invitation to Salvation through Jesus Christ. This Judgment Day is not afar off as some would suppose. It is as close as the day of death itself. For again the Bible states:

"And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the Judgment: " -Hebrews 9:27

Many of them also think that this Grace that is demonstrated through Christ's death and the Church's expression of God's kindness will stop if they stop living in sin. Hear me sinners: The Grace of God upon a soul's life that has not accepted the gift of salvation by faith in the finished work of Christ will not be available here forever. There is a day that the Church will be gone and they will be wishing they had accepted the invitation of God's Grace to be saved. As it is written:

"He, that is often reproved hardeneth [ his] neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."- Proverbs 29:1 King James Version of the Bible

I worked in a 5 and dime department store as an assistant manager. The manager of the store was an ardent unbeliever. In fact he mocked my faith in God every chance he got to do so. Another believer who was a costumer in the store said to him one day "God is going to judge you for how you are treating him" after she over heard him mocking me. He was hysterical, he continued his mocking of Christ and he made sure everyone heard it. I quietly prayed for his soul, "Lord do not kill him for mocking your anointed children". Soon thereafter the manager was hospitalized with a terminal sickness. His wife came to me and apologized in his stead for all the mocking he made of my faith in Christ, I told her that I had already forgiven him and is praying for his recovery. A few years later, after I had retired from being the assistant store manager, I met that same manager that had mocked my faith in Christ. He was a changed man, he spoke kindly to me and asked what church I belonged to. I told him and invited him to attend. That was the last time I saw him. I only could hope that he accepted Christ into his life, that my witness through my life was not in vain.

The point is that the Grace of God is even extended to sinners but for the sole purpose of getting them to repent. It is the Church's job to make sure that people know the fact of what the Grace of God has enabled them to do. If the Church fails to do so, how will they learn what they are enabled to do by the Grace of God?

"How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" -Romans 10:14 King James Version of the Bible

Every believer carries the testimony of Christ. How God saved each one of us. If we do not share our testimony. Who will hear the Gospel in the places the preacher can not be? Another translation renders the last phrase of Romans 10:14 "..And how shall they hear without a witness to tell them?" The First Church after the day of pentecost did not wait on the Apostles to share the testimony of Christ. No they all bore witness to the saving power of Christ, even under the threat and the perscution of the authorities. (Acts 2:1-11, 3, 4:1-31)

Some unbelievers have used the "hypocrite" excuse to reject the Gospel testimony from a believer. This is how I responded to that excuse: Since you know how to be better Christian, come to church and show us how it is done. Or since you know what it takes to be a Christian, why don't you just accept Jesus as your lord and Savior and show us how it is done. The point is there is no perfect people in the Church, and just waiting to get yourself together before you commit to Christ is a misperception of what the Salvation invitation is. People in church are sinners that are saved by the grace of God, not by the perfection of the performance of their lives. People in church are learning how to get God's will right in their lives, the only difference between an unbeliever of God and a believer in God is faith. So if you are an unbeliever all you need to do is repent and believe in the finished work of Christ. Accept Jesus as you lord and Savior. If you are a believer all you have to do is repent of the sinful living and live holy for God. Don't you think that God's Grace is worth living Holy for?

IV. In Closing....

What I hope to do in this article is to enlighten each believer about the enabling power of God's Grace. God already knows that we each can not live this Christian life to perfection on our own merits or efforts. So God gives us Grace, the enablement to get it right in our lives. Because of the blessing of living for God and doing His will far out weighs anything on this earth that we hold valuable. Let us not make the same mistake the rich young ruler made when Jesus told him to sell all he had and come follow him. The rich young ruler went away sorrowfully because he did not want to part with the worldly riches that he accumulated. What was Jesus really offering to the young rich ruler? A life of poverty? No. Jesus was trying to get him to experience the unfathomable riches of living holy for God. The rich young ruler only followed the Law to get rich, he did not want to live rich in God by living holy for God. The Disciples inquired about this and Jesus told them this:

"And he said unto them , Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and the world to come life everlasting"- The Gospel of Luke 18:29+30 King James Version of the Bible

What this means that Living Holy for God is not a wasted venture. That there is a payoff and better yet you don't have to die to get it. All you have to do is live holy for God and do away with your sins. You might have to leave some relationships behind, you might have to leave some investments behind, you may even have to let go some of your commitments. If those relationships or investments and commitments are not allowing you to live a holy life unto God, you are frustrating the Grace of God by not parting from them. The rich young ruler missed out on the greatest opportunity of his life, all because he valued his worldly riches that he accumulated more that living holy for God. Will you make they same type of mistake?