Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength by Bryan Chapell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Yes, that title is correct: Holiness by Grace! Have you ever heard of such a thing? Like me, you may have grown up listening to sermons and Sunday School lessons that seemed to press home some point, “step on your toes,” and challenge you to live a better life each and every week. If you really focused on making the specific changes that you were recommended, you may sooner drive yourself to the insane asylum or give up completely.
What then is this notion of holiness coming by grace? In the book, Dr. Bryan Chapell, president of Covenant Theological Seminary, seeks to answer that very question. In the book of Galatians, Paul talks about how we received salvation by no merit of our own and that it was completely a free gift from God by way of Christ’s work for us on the cross. Paul goes on to say that by this same way we also receive our righteousness and holiness.
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Who is God? Quite a daunting question if you take it seriously. I think it is safe to say that the infinity of God is more than any of us can grasp. Yet too often in these times we think of God in terms of what He can do for us, and what He has done for us.
There is really nothing wrong with that, except that it puts us first on the cast list and makes God second, at best.
Before God is our savior, before He is love, before He seeks a relationship with us, He is holy. God doesn’t need us and He certainly has no obligation to do anything for us. He has been from eternity past and will be for eternity future. He always was and always will be completely set apart and utterly independent.
At a Bible college I went to in St. Louis for a year, I had a series of talks with the professor of Old Testament Theology about the importance of keeping the rules of the college regardless of how ridiculous or irrelevant they were. They were good talks. I completely agreed with the importance of submitting under authority. But as the days went on, I began to see the impossibility of my actually keeping all of these unrealistic rules. I expressed my concerns to him and was answered with this statement: “Nobody said that holiness was easy.” I left crushed and defeated at his reply.
Later on I was thinking about this situation and what came to my mind was what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light
I couldn’t see how this reconciled with my prof’s adamant retort: even though holiness is extremely difficult, we must pursue to achieve it without wavering. Needless to say, my understanding of the gospel was rather limited at this time and in retrospect, I much more understand what was going on, namely that the gospel was absent. There was a lot of talk of holiness and righteousness and piety, but little (if any) of the atoning work of Christ on the cross for our sins.
So before I talk anymore about the goodness of the law or our need to pursue sanctification, I want to clearly explain what the gospel has to do with the question of “Why Should I?”
Morality is a strange thing. It’s something that I’ve consistently wrestled with over the past few months. The reason I’ve had such a struggle is primarily because my own sinfulness and the gospel in response to it have become much clearer to me as of late. When the gospel becomes clearer, the questions presented by Paul in Romans 6 begin to (and unquestionably should) pop up, summarized as: Why should I?
If all that the Bible says about being saved by faith apart from works, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then what’s the point of morality? If I can do what I want and it has no bearing on my standing with God, then why not? Why not give in to all of my pride, lust, and anger instead of vigorously fighting it? Why should I? I’d like to try to be a small help in the answer of this question in a short series aptly entitled, Why Should I?
The Gospel is beautiful. In fact it is so beautiful that it can shine out even in a dry and listless narrative.
“Holiness by Grace” is a sermon presented at a church called Grace Seattle by Jay-Thomas Hewitt way back on September 14, 2008. He begins by saying that in many churches “the Gospel… gets about a 45 second cameo at the end of the sermon.” The reason for this is that many pastors think that the Gospel is only for people who are not Christian and they reserve its telling for special weeks where they may emphasize bringing a friend or on Christmas and Easter when many more people show for a meeting.