I was happy to hear the announcement that Dr. Bertrand Piccard and co-pilot Brian Jones had successfully circled the world in a balloon! Think of it; they traveled more than 29,000 miles with nothing more than the wind for propulsion! Although it took them about three weeks to achieve this feat, they are the first to go around in the world in a balloon. Cramped in a tiny gondola called the Breitling Orbiter they often raced along at speeds greater than 150 mph, while at other times they drifted slowly at a very frustrating 23 mph. When I heard the news of their victory, I thought to myself, "This is amazing!" Think about it. Two guys simply lofted themselves into a position where wind currents could propel them around the world! It sounds so simple doesn't it? Then why have so many failed?
But wait! The story does not end here. Now that the media blitz is over and the limelight is fading, I just learned that Piccard and Jones are donating half the million-dollar prize they won to charities for children. Evidently, the hearts of these two men were touched with considerable sadness as they silently glided over Earth's troubled cities. Jones remarked that as he looked down upon the Earth, he could not help but think about the millions of children who were suffering beneath them. So, both men decided to do something about the needs of children by donating half the reward money given to them for accomplishing this great feat. I thought to myself, "This is wonderful!" To be sure, Piccard and Jones could have kept the entire sum of money and spent it on many nice things for themselves or their families. Instead, they chose to follow their hearts – they had been deeply moved as they looked down on a world of children in need.
But wait! This incredible story is still not finished! The Piccard family is a most unusual family. Did you know that Dr. Piccard's grandfather holds the world's record for reaching the highest altitude in a balloon? I do not remember the exact elevation (five plus miles high), but he does hold the record. The ability to overcome great obstacles must run in the family because Dr. Piccard's father holds the world's record for diving to the greatest depth in a one-man submarine. That is right! Dr. Piccard's father was the first man to take a tiny submarine to a record depth of 33,000+ feet below the surface of the ocean. So, there you have it – three generations of Piccard firsts ! Consider their legacy – the eldest one went higher than anyone else in a balloon, the elder one went deeper than anyone else (in a lead balloon – if you will), and the youngest Piccard is the first to have successfully completed a journey around the world in a balloon. This is certainly an amazing family!
We Like Amazing Things
Human beings like to be amazed. A spectacle always draws interest and interest always draws a crowd. The Guinness Book of World Records is a spectacle book. It is full of the spectacular and the extreme. Why do we watch the Olympic games or conduct spelling bees or world-title contests of all varieties? People like contests and they like to be amazed. Whether we gaze on the ancient pyramids in Egypt and wonder how they were made, or whether we study the awesome construction and operation of the Panama Canal, or whether we watch athletes compete for world records, the experience we vicariously share is that "it can be done when it has to be done." Nothing recharges the human spirit like the possibility of achieving something that has not been done before! Our natural interest in amazing things brings this month's Bible study into focus. I would like to share a few thoughts with you about God's amazing grace. The more you understand God's grace, the more amazing it becomes. Conversely, the less we know about it, the less God's grace fascinates us.
Grace Revealed in Many Ways
God's grace for the human race is revealed in many different ways. God's grace is more than pardon from sin. God's grace is more than power over sin. God's grace is more than His offer of salvation to the worst of sinners. God's grace did not begin at Calvary, nor do we now live in an age of grace. God's grace is eternal. He is everlasting and so is His grace. Defining God's grace in one sentence is impossible. Yet if I tried, I would be sure to include the thought that God's grace is a benevolent attitude that permeates everything God does. God's grace includes much more than unmerited favor. God's grace is like a giant prism – it refracts the character of God into many dimensions so we can understand the essential elements that explain God's ways. So, come along for a moment. Let us rise above the clouds of confusion in a gondola called Faith and let us look at God's grace in operation on the face of Earth.
1. God's Grace Seen in Creation
When God created Adam and Eve, He put them in a perfect home and in a perfect world. He gave them everything they would need – even the ability to procreate. Life and all that God gave to Adam and Eve is our first glimpse of God's grace. Consider God's generosity. He did not create them to be homeless. He did not place them in a barren desert. He did not place them in slavery. He did not create them as infants who would need to face the challenges of growing up and the need to figure everything out. Instead, He created them as mature people in a mature world. In God's order, the mature procreate and bear the responsibility for making their offspring mature. In Satan's order, the immature procreate and abandon the responsibility of making their offspring mature. God did not create Adam and Eve as robots simply to manage repetitive or unpleasant tasks. No! God gave them a meaningful, purposeful life. God gave Adam and Eve a full range of emotions and a brilliant I.Q. so that they might understand their beautiful world. God placed no restrictions upon Adam and Eve except the fruit of one tree. God purposely made one tree holy so that Adam and Eve would recognize that though God's grace is generous beyond belief, His grace does not release His subjects from obedience. I will write more about this relationship between obedience and grace in a moment.
2. God's Grace Seen in Intercession
God told Adam not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or they would be executed that very day. (Genesis 2:17) Some time later, they ate the fruit of that holy tree. Immediately, Jesus stepped in the way of the executing angel and offered Himself to the Father as man's Substitute. The Father accepted Jesus' offer and the guilty pair were granted a reprieve from execution. On that very day, Jesus became man's Intercessor. The stay of execution and the promise of restoration through a Redeemer was a marvelous manifestation of God's grace. Yes, the immediate response of Jesus and the approval of the Father was complete, unmerited favor. No justification for what they did exists except that they acted out of love! This often leads people to say that grace is unmerited favor, but this is only partially correct. As you will see, God's grace is much more. Notice the issues involved: The Father accepted the offer of the Son on behalf of the guilty pair-a response based on love. (John 3:16) Also, notice this essential point. The demand made by the law (death by execution) was not set aside by God's grace! If God could have changed the law and its penalty, Jesus would not have had to be executed on Calvary. Do not underestimate the significance of this point. The fact that Jesus was murdered on Calvaryprovesthat God's grace could not change the demands of His law.Grace does not cancel the demands of God's law!On the contrary, God's grace provides a marvelous means by which man can be savedandthe demands of the law can be met . Read the previous sentence again because I rarely say anything profound.
Through the years I have received much mail from Christians scolding me for teaching that all human beings are under obligation to obey the Ten Commandments, including the fourth commandment that identifies the seventh day of the week as God's holy day. I also teach that obeying the Ten Commandments will not produce salvation. Somehow, this appears inconsistent to many Christians. Two things amaze me about the letters I receive. First, many writers claim that because of God's grace the Ten Commandments have been made null and void. Then, they turn around and agree with me, saying that nine of the Ten Commandments are obligatory. Second, many of these same writers agree with me that the coming judgments of God are justified due to the human race's degenerate, evil behavior. I find great irony in their comments because I believe the legal basis for God's forthcoming judgments (the seven trumpets and seven last plagues) is man's complete disregard for His Ten Commandments! If the forthcoming punishments by God are not justifiable by law, then what is the basis for God's coming wrath? Is God arbitrary? Is God an omnipotent Bully? No! Of course not! God is not moved by whim. The human race can carefully study His actions and see that they are always within legal (justifiable) boundaries. I am amazed at how many people have been led to believe that the Ten Commandments are void and use grace as the nullifying factor. So, here is the one dollar question: "How can we be under grace if the law has been made null and void?" Where there is no law, there is no sin. (Romans 4:15) If there is no law specifying the speed limit, why would I need grace to speed down the freeway?
3. God's Grace Seen in Global Destruction
After Adam and Eve's fall, God did not forsake the world only to come back 1,656 years later to see how wicked it had become. No! It was God's grace that allowed the Earth to reach such a terrible condition! It is God's grace that allows every man and woman the right to choose. If a person wishes to live a vile life, God allows it. If a person chooses to live a righteous life, God allows it. I do not have to tell you which choice God prefers. However, through grace, God extends the power of choice to every being and God allows us to choose whether we will become completely vile or righteous. God has made it clear, sin has a predictable course – sin leads to misery, embarrassment, sorrow, violence, hatred and ultimately death. When the human race reaches a point at which God sees that His patience has no redeeming effect, He justifiably steps into Earth's affairs and cauterizes the malignancy of sin. When divine patience ran out in Noah's day, He did not destroy the world in a sudden explosive rage of anger. Rather, the Bible says, "His heart was filled with pain." (Genesis 6:6) He was heartbroken. Even then, God waited another 120 years before sending the flood.
Some people claim that we now live in an age of grace, whereas before the cross, such grace was not available. Yet, the Bible plainly says,"But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord."(Genesis 6:1, KJV) God extended grace to Noah because Noah chose to be an upright person; he chose to walk with God. (Genesis 6:9) When we consider the enormity of God's grace, we need to think about both sides of the fence for a moment. On one side, God graciously gave man the power of choice at Creation, but Adam and Eve chose to do wrong. Unfortunately, their offspring continued to make bad choices until the whole world degenerated to the point in Noah's day when man's thoughts were evil continually. (Genesis 6:11,12) God knew that extending His patience (more grace) would produce nothing positive. So, as Sovereign God, He chose to destroy the whole world and start over. On the other side of the fence, God graciously provided a means of salvation for anyone who wanted to be saved from His coming wrath. He called upon a "faith-full" man to ignore the jeers and ridicule of scoffers to build a big boat. By doing this, God not only extended grace to Noah, He also extended grace to the whole world through Noah! (Hebrews 11:7) As long as the door of the ark was open, everyone was welcome to enter the ark. Remarkably, no one but Noah and his family believed that God would actually destroy the world with a flood. Of course, you know the rest of the story. I have often thought about the many workers, who for mere wages, labored under Noah's direction to build the ark. It is amazing to me that Noah's offer of salvation was despised. They did not believe God or Noah's message. Instead, they labored for money and the life boat they worked on meant nothing more to them than a paycheck.
Four Dimensions of Grace in Three Examples
From these three examples, we see then that God's grace has more than one dimension. First, God grants human beings the power of choice . This is a wonderful manifestation of grace. Second, when man sinned, God provided a legitimate way for man to be saved and the demands of the law met. This undeserving provision is also called grace. Third, in Noah's day, God granted man a period of warning (a grace period, if you will of 120 years) to see what their choices would produce. Last, through Noah's experience, we see that God's grace can cauterize the malignant growth of sin for the sake of future generations. That is right! As terrible as the flood was, it produced a beneficial effect for future generations on Earth. How appropriate then, for Jesus to use Noah's story as a miniature example of the end of the world. (Matthew 24:37) Today, we still have the power of choice. In a larger sense we have had a longer grace period than the antediluvians, but look at what a mess our world has become. For the future benefit of those individuals who will live throughout eternity, God is again going to destroy the world!
Is God's Grace seen in Death?
I believe we have all asked ourselves, at one time or another, why God allows death. Even further, why does He allow one person to kill another. I have personally experienced some consequences of war and have seen more death and dying than I ever want to remember. War is a passionate contest of wills. One night in Vietnam, I remember wondering why God granted man the power to kill another person. At this moment, we wonder why God allows horrible suffering to occur in Kosovo and Yugoslavia? Why did God allow the atrocities in Vietnam, Cambodia or Auschwitz to take place? Why does God allow thugs to murder innocent people? WHY? I have been asked these types of questions often and the best place to address them is within the context of God's grace. I believe God implemented death as the best short term solution to many problems that can exist in a rebellious world. My statement may sound terrible at first, but the reader needs to understand that if death is terrible, sin is much worse. Paul wrote,"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law."(1 Corinthians 15:56) So, what does this mean? It means that when we experience a loss caused by death, the sting we feel comes from the presence of sin. The inescapable consequence of sin is death because God has imposed this outcome by law. Follow closely, for what I am about to write is a hard thing to accept, but I believe it to be true.
When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, He imposed a temporary death sentence on them and their offspring. I say a temporary death sentence because one's eternal fate is not revealed until life resumes at one of the resurrections. At the time of sin God also imposed a comprehensive law upon the whole Earth to deal with the degenerative nature of sin. This comprehensive process involves a system of checks and balances that requires death for some so that there may be life for others. For example, within the animal kingdom, science calls this process the "balance of nature." Whereas lions and tigers were vegetarian before sin occurred, they were changed by God to become great flesh-eating hunters. (In the new Earth, they will again be vegetarian. Isaiah 65:25) At the same time, certain fowls became meat eaters, and some species of fish became carnivorous. Within the global economy of the animal kingdom, God divided creatures of all species into the hunter and the hunted. For man's benefit, He also identified these creatures as clean and unclean. Everyone who studies biology and zoology to any degree is amazed at the fragile balance that exists – something God put in motion. Of course, everyone knows this balance is sustained at a very high price. The weak of each species are food for the larger and stronger species. This is the economy of the animal kingdom. I remember as a child looking at a picture of a very large fish eating a smaller fish, and the smaller fish eating an even smaller fish, and on and on. As a small boy, that picture put the story together very quickly in my mind. I concluded that if I were a fish, I would want to get as big as I could so I would not be eaten by a bigger fish! Putting my childish thoughts aside, the end result of what God has done in the animal kingdom is called grace. Through the deadly, but beneficial balance of nature, God has sustained the animal kingdom from generation to generation for the benefit of the human race, although the pro-cess of death is sad to watch if you love animals. The consequences of sin are very hard to face. Yet even here, God's grace is at work. He provides a way for the animal kingdom to prosper through the ages, al-beit at a high price.
I am leading to the point that God also imposed a balance on humanity that is similar to that of the animal kingdom. The difference, of course, is that God deals with beings who have the power of choice. As I said earlier, God granted many powers to man at Creation. We have already observed that humanity has the power of choice. The presence of sin proves this point. Humankind can build and destroy. Humankind can plant and harvest. Humankind can produce children and destroy each other. These powers are self-evident. Even Cain, the firstborn of Eve, was a murderer. (Genesis 4:8) Is God responsible for Cain's deed? No, because Cain had the power of choice and he chose to kill his brother, Abel. Would it have been possible for Cain to kill Abel, if God had not given the human race the power to kill? No. People cannot do something that God prevents them from doing. Therefore, we clearly see that God has given man the power to destroy each another.
Solomon said there". . . is a time for war and time for peace."(Ecclesiastes 3:8) God permits war and the killing of human beings, under certain provisions, because it is the best short term solution for long term situations. (See Matthew 18:7) However, and this point is made in the same breath, each man will bear full accountability to God for his actions. (Ecclesiastes 12:14) Notice this text:"And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. 'Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.'"(Genesis 9:5,6)
If the power to kill is abused, as was the case in Abel's murder, appropriate consequences will be meted out at the appointed time. Cain will be resurrected at the second resurrection (which occurs at the end of the 1,000 years mentioned in Revelation 20) to suffer in the lake of fire until atonement for his deeds has been fully made. On the other hand, if the power to kill is used according to God's direction, then killing is justified and there is no guilt or wrong doing for those who do the killing. (See Numbers 35:27.) I know my conclusions may not set well with pacificists or those people who have a different view of grace, but consider closely the wisdom of God revealed in the Bible. Death temporarily resolves a host of problems that sin produces. For example, the death of one party can end an argument. (Hence, the phenomenon of war. A fight to the death is the only way to end an argument of the will.) When the devil is finally put to death, his arguments and accusations against God will finally be silenced. Try to understand this point: Nothing in all the universe can change the devil's heart because he hates the authority of God. Even if God was "extremely nice and generous" to the devil for another billion years, the devil's nature cannot be changed because the Holy Spirit refuses to live in his heart ever again (unpardonable sin). Therefore, death to the devil or to God is the only way to resolve their contest. One of them has to perish. The devil revealed his true character when he tried to kill God and seal Him in a tomb forever. Although Jesus died, death could not contain Him. He triumphantly shattered the tomb and has now returned to Heaven. Jesus proved that the devil is a liar and his clever arguments against God are without substance. No alternative remains – the devil must be permanently eliminated from the universe. This too, will happen at the end of the 1,000 years.
God granted human beings the power to kill each another because death brings transformation. When God destroyed the world in Noah's day, it became a much different place and the speedy malignancy of sin was dramatically slowed. When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, the spread of sin in Canaan was slowed. When the wicked city of Jericho was destroyed, its contaminating influence in Canaan was eliminated. Do not jump to conclusions – I am not saying that God enjoys seeing death. On the contrary, God does not like death among animals or humankind. Death is a temporary solution to the grievous problem of sin. God can see tomorrow and He is willing to do today whatever it takes to eventually accomplish the best for His Earth. As strange as it sounds, this intervention by God is His grace at work.
Although death may end a short term problem, it does not necessarily resolve larger problems. God foreknew this and this is why killing is acceptable to God within very strict circumstances. Let us look at a Bible example to confirm this point. Consider the implications of this text:"[Samuel said to King Saul]. . . This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'"(1 Samuel 15:1-3) Why did God insist that every Amalekite, even the infants and animals, be put to death? A wrong answer will make the God of the Old Testament appear very different from the God of the New Testament!
God's grace is a universal equalizer. In other words, God does not see the value of life within the limits of mortality as we do. God can instantaneously speak people to life or to death. So, His view of life and what is fair and unfair requires a higher understanding. By putting all of the Amalekites to death, God intended to satisfy the golden rule which states, "It will be done unto you as you did (or intended to do) unto others." (Luke 6:31) By putting all of the Amalekites to death, God was finally imposing justice upon a nation for something they had done. In Exodus 17, the Amalekites intended to destroy the unarmed nation of Israel when they came up out of Egypt, but God prevented it. (You may remember how Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses until the Amalekites were defeated.) Then," . . . the Lord said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."(Exodus 17:14) The execution of the Amalekites mentioned above came about 400 years later. Why did God wait almost 400 years? The Amalekites' cup of iniquity was not full until the time of King Saul. (See also the story about the Amorites. Genesis 15:16, Leviticus 18:28.) My point is that God planned to use King Saul and his army to carry out His righteous judgment upon the Amalekites by destroying every living thing in that nation. Again, God's grace was at work. Notice how this could have worked out: God saw that His continued patience with the Amalekites had reached the point where it was not producing any redemptive benefit. Therefore, He used Saul to destroy the Amalekites for their wicked ways, and even more, He wanted to give their houses and land to Israel, just as He had promised Abraham. (Genesis 17:8) Unfortunately, Saul did not do as God required and it cost him his throne and Israel did not receive the land held by their enemies. (1 Samuel 15:11) Let me hasten to remind you that when God executes His wrath against a nation or even the whole world, His heart, ever full of grace and love, is broken. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 33:11) I should also add that when God exercises His wrath in corporate ways, He will deal fairly in the resurrections with those individuals who are destroyed in ignorance. More about this in a moment.
A Bigger Picture
The Bible ever forces us to consider a bigger picture. On the one hand, God has clearly said,"Thou shalt not commit murder."(Exodus 20:13) On the other hand we have the record of God telling Saul to kill all of the Amalekites. This seems like a contradiction on God's part, but when you put all the evidence together, the conclusion becomes evident. God clearly forbids murder because it is within our power to commit murder. Further, God declares that all unforgiven murderers are going to burn in hell! (Revelation 21:8) But, God also uses human instruments as agents to cauterize the growth of sin. So, how do these ideas harmonize?
The Bible teaches that God only allows people to kill each another without incurring guilt under the strictest guidelines. The primary cause is murder. The doctrine of capital punishment originated with God. He informed Noah immediately after coming off the ark that murderers were to be put to death. (Genesis 9:5,6; Exodus 21; Numbers 35; Joshua 20) Should we take matters into our own hands today to avenge the wrongful death of a loved one? No, God has given all nations the civil authority for this purpose. (Romans 13:1-7) What about war? God grants people the right to defend their homes and their homeland without incurring guilt. (Exodus 22:2, 3) We live in a world of sin and the Christian has to deal with a host of issues that are not always well defined in Scripture. So, we have to look at the principles involved and try to apply whatever wisdom and understanding we have to best remedy the situation in each case. Sin produces a host of problems and issues that require divine wisdom to achieve the best outcome. This again is where God's grace comes into focus. God graciously grants wisdom for our needs. (James 1:5)
God Deals with Some Tough Issues
If you were an advisor to God's throne and you saw that two nations would hate each other for centuries, and at every chance, would declare war upon each other, what would you recommend to the Almighty? What would be the better course of action for the next 1,500 years? Destroy both nations when they became totally vile or allow millions within each nation to die in warfare during the next 1,500 years? Because God sees tomorrow, He knows what is best today and in His silent way, He is at work! God sets up kings and takes them down. (Daniel 2:21; 4:17) In spite of the suffering and calamity that we may see, we must trust that God's grace is at work. No matter how dark and hopeless the situation, no matter how sad and depressing the moment, no matter how senseless or insane the event, God's grace is at work, both on the corporate level, and also the personal level. Death itself is not to be feared because death inflicted by man in not a final event. Jesus said,"But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him."(Luke 12:5) The Bible is clear. There are two resurrections and each person's life will resume according to God's judgment at the time of each resurrection. (John 5:28,29; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) At the appointed time, payday is coming for every person. Everyone will receive their reward. Some will receive life eternal, the rest will receive their sentence of suffering and after fulfilling that obligation, they will receive eternal death.
Is Death Within God's Grace?
We return to the original question. Consider for a moment what would happen if people could not kill each other, what would happen in a passionate contest of the will (war)? What would happen to all the captives? In a world of sin, unrestrained passion and selfishness, how would endless hatred and rage be carried out? How much torture and suffering could men impose upon each other? Think about it. In the extreme, torture can be worse than death. Death can bring a merciful end to a bad situation. Most of us have not considered the power of torture. So, ponder this thought. Have you ever had to watch, day after day, a loved one who was suffering from an intense, painful disease? When death finally comes, you can only thank God for allowing the suffering to stop. Truly, death is not the worst thing in life! Sin can be torture! My point is that God granted man the power to kill one another under strict circumstances so that human life on Earth might not prematurely end. God did all He could to stop human conflicts by separating humans with huge mountain ranges, oceans, cultures and languages so that the powerful nations of the world would not destroy the weaker ones. God maintains a balance among the nations just as He does among the animals – and sometimes it seems the animals are more humane than humans. Therefore, since death is not final and two resurrections are forthcoming, because God holds everyone accountable for his actions, and because evil men would torture their subjects forever if it were possible, God's grace can be seen, even in death.
I want to end this section with a question? If Hitler were still alive today, what do you think his goals and aspirations would be? Do you think reason and kindness could change his heart? Certainly not, if he had committed the unpardonable sin. When the Holy Spirit refuses to live in a person's heart, there is no further recourse. There is no possibility of change. This is the case with Lucifer. Reason and kindness cannot transform a sinful heart where the Holy Spirit refuses to reside. The carnal heart is transformed only when the Spirit of God moves in and causes an internal transformation known as, "being born again." (Romans 8:6-7, John 3:6; Jeremiah 13:23) It is a pointless argument to insist that unlimited kindness produces repentant and well-behaved sinners. If this were true, then God Himself could be condemned for casting Lucifer out of Heaven, sending the flood in Noah's day or destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. God has had to deal with some tough issues and so do His children, because the consequences of sin are cruel and harsh. We can only thank God, because His amazing grace is sufficient for every test that comes. (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9)
One Last Controversial Point
I have probably written too much already, but I have one last point about God's grace that needs to be presented. No doubt, my comments will upset some Christians, but please bear with me for a moment. I would like to demonstrate a dimension of God's grace that is nothing less than amazing! I believe the Bible teaches that God has children in every quadrant of Earth, in every language and in every nation. I further believe the Bible teaches that God will resurrect billions who have never heard the name of Jesus and He will grant them eternal life! In other words, because of God's amazing grace, Jesus is going to grant eternal life to a host of people who have never heard anything about Jesus or the plan of salvation! They will ask, "Who is the One with the scars?"
Where do I find such a thing in the Bible? Two places. Notice the first text:"For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares."(Romans 2:13-16) In these verses Paul points out that God's grace is so inclusive that Gentiles, who are totally ignorant of God's way, yet who sincerely follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in their hearts will be saved through Christ's redemption! In other words, salvation does not come through a knowledge of God, it comes through submission to His Spirit. This does not diminish the importance of knowledge, rather it heightens the amazing grace of God.
The second text comes from Jesus. Notice what He said,"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."(John 10:14-16) Jesus clearly identifies sheep that are not a part of Israel as His sheep. He also predicts that a time is coming when there will be one flock and one Shepherd. I know many religious organizations claim they are the one true sheep pen, but I do not think this is so. One of these days we are going to see who are the true sheep and who are not and it is my opinion that no self-respecting church on Earth would have this group. (Remember who made up Jesus' core followers.) Time will soon tell whether my conclusion is true or false.
As I look down upon Earth from our tiny gondola of Faith , I marvel at the operation of God's grace in every sphere of life whether it is plant, animal or person. I marvel at the balances God put in place. I marvel at His goodness and mercies. I am amazed that He loved this tiny orb so much He died for it. I marvel at His government, His system of justice and fairness. I marvel at His creative wisdom and power. I marvel at how He continues to make lemonade out of lemons. In short, I find God to be AMAZING and His unchanging grace to be the same. As I look down upon the Earth, I can hear the words of Paul still echoing from the steps of the Areopagus in Athens, ". . .From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole Earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though He is not far from each one of us. 'For in Him we live and move and have our being . . ."(Acts 17:26-28)