Monday Reverb – 31July2023



The theme for this week is assurance of God’s fidelity.



From the TRANSCRIPT … 

Have you ever been accused of being stubborn?  I’m sure we’ve all had our moments.  My wife and I sometimes joke around about which one of us is more stubborn.  Truth be told, it’s me.

Stubbornness often gets a bad rap, and it is often equated with refusing to admit when you make a mistake. And that’s a problem. But when we look at the definition of stubbornness, we see there is a good side. It is defined as a dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something. Some positive words associated with stubbornness include persistence, resolve, determination, and tenacity.

When I talk about my love for my wife, children, or grandchildren, I’m proud to say my love for them is not determined by their actions, their emotions, or their words.  I have a stubbornness – a dogged determination to not change my mind about how much I love them.

I share this because when I think of God’s faithfulness, I see that same stubbornness.  He refuses to change his mind about how much he loves me and you.  He has a resolute commitment to his love to always have the last word.

Take for example one of the most stubborn expressions of God’s love found in the book of Romans.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  
Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)

God’s stubbornness toward his love for us is what gives us hope, courage, strength in times of trial, and the motivation to love him in returnStubbornness in his case includes faithfulnessWe can absolutely trust that we will never be separated from his love for us.

That’s the kind of stubbornness I’d love my wife and family to blame me for.  I’d just smile and remind them of my love for them – much like God does for us in this passage from Romans.

I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.



God Is For Us

Romans 8:26-39 (ESV)

It has been said that Romans 8 is the Gospel in a nutshell.  Paul is bringing the first part of his letter to a climatic conclusion in chapter 8, before dealing with the topic that was heavy on his heart — the rejection of Jesus by his own Jewish people.

Side by side, these two themes paint a heart-breaking picture for Paul.  Considering the astounding good news given in Jesus Christ, why on earth would anyone reject it?  And for Paul, the Jews rejection of Christ amounts to a rejection of himself.  If you remember, they sought to kill Paul on several occasions. For Paul, the rejection of Christ by his own people was extremely personal.

Maybe you can relate!  As Christians, our heart aches for those – especially our beloved friends and family – who do not seem interested in the least about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In fact, you may have experienced their rejection personally when trying to share the incredible good news that Paul has laid out in Romans 8.  Perhaps you have said what so many Christians say when observing all the pain and suffering in the world: “How does anyone make it through this world without knowing who God is?”  That question only comes from those who experientially know the difference between knowing the God revealed in Jesus Christ and the scriptures, and not knowing him while living in this broken, distorted, and evil age.  How does one deal with the incredible tragic losses so many must endure?  How do people face the threat of war, disease, and crime, especially when it appears in your own backyard?  How does one cope with one’s own weaknesses, shortcomings, failings, and heartbreak, and especially, one’s own inevitable death, without the abiding hope that only comes in Christ?  These are all questions that can come up when we see the gospel in all its beauty, alongside the visceral rejection of it.

But these are not the questions Paul puts to us in our selection of Romans for today.  Paul has been filling nearly every sentence in Romans 8, one way or another, with the good news that God is for us.  Perhaps that is the simplest conclusion we can state about what we see in Jesus Christ.  God is for us!  And that reality prompts Paul to ask a set of rhetorical questions that are all essentially asking, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  That’s a good question for us to answer today as we find ourselves swimming upstream against the currents of rejection on account of our faith in Jesus.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Paul seems to anticipate one answer to that question that we may not think to consider:


Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  (Romans 8:26-27 ESV)

Here we find that God is for us in such a way that we cannot even be against ourselves.  Our weakness is not taken away from us.  However, our lack of understanding what to pray for does not hinder us from our relationship with God.  Prayer can be viewed as the pinnacle of our relationship with the Father, a participation in a real communion that is taking place between the Father and his Son in the Spirit.  This is what we are brought into, and since God is for us, he gives us his Spirit, who will help us in our weakness, so it does not work against us.  We may all experience times when we struggle to articulate a prayer or find the words to express what we are feeling.  The Spirit helps with that as well, but it seems Paul has something deeper in mind.  Paul is pointing to a groaning that we can’t express.  We do not even know what our deepest needs and wants are, so we groan.  These groanings bear witness to a deeper reality of God’s will for us.  We can’t possibly fathom what God has in store for us, what he ultimately created us for.  If we only received what we asked for, we would get far less than God is willing to give.  So, God sends the Spirit to translate our groanings into a sanctified prayer that matches what God aims to give us in Christ Jesus.  Our heavenly Father is so for us that he will not even let us be against us.

He goes further in the next three verses to expand his point:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30 ESV)

Paul gives a sweeping statement that “all things work together for good.”  That all means we can include all our trials and suffering, all our weaknesses and shortcomings.  Paul does not mean that God causes all things, but rather he works in all things to bring about his good purposes for us.  Yes, our decisions do have real consequences, and our resistance to God is not a path to the abiding relationship with him that God intends.  However, even in our shortcomings we can trust the Father to still work towards our good.  So, for clarification, sin is not a good ingredient God uses for our good.  No, sin is our rejection of God, and we can trust that God will reject our rejection.  That is how God is working for our good, even when we are working against it.

The promise Paul is stating is that when we consider all the suffering that comes our way, regardless of its cause, we can face it knowing that God is working in it to add it all up to something good, namely our becoming more like ChristThis is how the Christian can face a world full of suffering and pain in hopeOur sufferings are not in vain.  That is one huge difference the believer has over the unbeliever when facing suffering.  We know our sufferings now can serve a purpose so grand that the sufferings pale by comparison.  We no longer suffer for suffering’s sake; our sufferings are bent into an instrument to further God’s work of bringing us into his glory.  We will never look back on our sufferings, no matter how deep the scars or searing the loss, and be disappointed in what God did in themIt will be completely worth it.  And we should add, that in the end, our losses are redeemed.  So, not only does God work in our sufferings and losses to bring us closer to his good purposes, but he also restores to us all that was lostPaul is not justifying our suffering with God’s good purposes.  He is reminding us of the redemptive love of the Father to restore us, including all that we have lost and suffered.

These verses have fueled theological debate for centuries over concepts such as foreknowledge and predestination.  But that is not Paul’s concern here.  His focus is not on these words here or elsewhere for that matter.  Paul’s aim is to assure us that there is no reason to worry or doubt our salvation.  These verses move from Paul’s previous encouragement of the Spirit’s involvement in our present lives, to God’s purposeful involvement in the pastIt was his plan to bring us into glory long before we ever appeared on the scene.  Paul here is even speaking about our being “glorified” in the past tense.  Paul is not raising the question about whether people can or cannot refuse the glory God offers.  So, we need not concern ourselves with such debates here.  Rather, we can take encouragement that our glorification, our becoming like Christ, was God’s plan from the beginning.  Basically, if we want God’s salvation and good purposes, we are assured God will bring us into it.

As we move into the remaining verses of Romans 8, we will see that God not only works in our present and our past for his good purposes for us, but he also does not allow anything in the future to prevent his plans for us.

Paul wants to encourage his readers, including us, in light of the fact that our immediate future will always pose the threat of hardships, especially for those who are in Christ.  It is here that he gives expression to the rhetorical question we have been working from — “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32 ESV)

The answer of course is quite obvious.  If God is for us, then no one can be against us.  Meaning that no one can succeed in their opposition to what God is doing in us.  But Paul does not give us this direct answer.  He will continue to point to who God is to answer the question.  He reminds us here that God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.  That is the God we see in Jesus ChristA God who does not hold back his very best from us.  He is not stingy or reluctant to give us all things.  We will never find a place in God’s character that will allow for us to claim that his promise of glory is held back from us.  The Father intends to keep his word because of who he is.  And we see that he already has.  In giving us his own Son, he has already graciously given us all things.  (Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 1:15-17)

Paul now has another rhetorical question for our encouragement.

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies. (Romans 8:33 ESV)

As Paul looks to the future, he can assure us that on the final day of judgment, there will be no one who can accuse us because God has already secured a not-guilty verdict.  As we anticipate this final pronouncement in the future, we can live into this reality in the presentEven when we fail, we can resist the evil one’s accusations that we are beyond God’s saving work.  Again, if God is for us, who can be against us?  Even the evil one will have to hold his tongue.

But the evil one may get others to do his dirty work.  How often do we accuse ourselves or fall prey to the accusations from others?  In response, we often attempt to justify ourselvesBut it is God who justifies.  We have not been given that authority.  The next time someone accuses you of something, no matter how heinous, you can rightly tell them, “Your accusation falls woefully short of my actual sin.  However, Jesus has stooped low enough to forgive it.”   There is no need to justify yourselfGod already has … in Jesus Christ.  And there is no need to receive an accusation that runs counter to God’s word.  As we trust in God’s word to us, that word can shield us from the darts of accusations hurled our way.

Paul continues …

Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34 ESV)

The death of Christ took on all our condemnation and nailed it to the crossNot only do we have Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, but we have Jesus, raised and alive, interceding for us for all eternity.  If Jesus doesn’t condemn you, everyone else must drop their rocks.

One final question from Paul …

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37 ESV)

Paul lists various difficulties, most which he personally experienced, that can tempt us to think God does not love us.  Paul even includes the reference of Psalm 44:22 to graphically portray the problem.  Paul’s list here not only covers everyday hardships that may come our way, but it also covers suffering that may come because of having faith in Christ.  Neither cause of suffering is elevated over the other.  And neither can separate us from God’s love.  Paul does not leave this question unanswered.  He gives us a bold and firm “no.”  And he goes further to claim that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  How does one become “more” than a conqueror?  The victory is not confined to simply conquering the suffering.  It’s not just that we got over the present trial or persecution that was once afflicting us.  It is that we have been given a share in Christ own victory in our sufferingsThe prize adds up to the eternal glory God has for us.  There is more for us than just being conquerors; we are given the prize of eternal glory that Christ has conquered for us.

Paul now concludes by exhausting the ink in his pen to answer the question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

Paul leaves no rock unturned in these two concluding verses.  You can sense his search to cover every possible objection we may raise to counter God’s love for us.  He ultimately provides a catch all “nor anything else in all creation” just in case he left something out.  This is God’s word for you today.  He wants us to know that the God we see in Jesus Christ is the God who loves you to the very endNothing will ever come between you and his love for youAbsolutely nothingAmen!


Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life  

  • Do you have a story of stubbornness you can share?
  • In what way can we speak of God as being “stubborn?”

From the Sermon   

  • Can you relate to Paul’s heavy heart of knowing Jesus while his own people have rejected him?
  • How does Paul’s rhetorical question “If God is for us, who can be against us?” strike you?
  • Discuss Paul’s statement that the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  
  • Do you have experiences you can share where you saw God working in something painful that was for your good?
  • How does our faith in God’s purposes for us help us through these times of suffering?
  • What comfort do we have in knowing that Christ does not condemn us?
  • Discuss what it means to be more than conquerors.


CLOSING THOUGHTS … based on Romans 8:26-39 …

Things to Take Away

1.  We don’t know always what to pray for. (Rom.8:26)

2.  God has a purpose. (Rom.8:28)

3.  God has a will. (Rom.8:27)

4.  God’s will is to accomplish His purpose. (Rom8:29)

5.  God’s will (stubbornness) is motivated by love.  (Rom.8:32)  

6.  There is nothing that God won’t do to make sure His purpose for us is accomplished. (Rom.8:32)  

7.  No accusation against us can stand … because it is God (who loves us greatly) who has justified us. (Rom.8:33)

8.  No one can condemn us … because Jesus Christ (who was condemned on our behalf) is our advocate. (Rom.8:34)

9.  Nothing (and no one) can separate us from God’s love. (Rom.8:35-37)

10.  If God’s purpose for us is motivated by love (Rom.8:29-30) … and nothing can separate us from that love (Rom.8:38-39) … then God’s purpose for us will be accomplished.


26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[b] for those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.  
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[c] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.

34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[d]  35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.






Excerpts from  Our Journey of Theological Renewal … by Dr. Joseph Tkach … which served as an introduction to Dr. Deddo’s essay on CLARIFYING OUR THEOLOGICAL VISION. 

As a denomination, our renewal began in the early 1990s with the transformation of our doctrines. That doctrinal renewal began with a new understanding of the nature of the covenant of grace that God, in Christ, has with all humanity, and how that covenant relates to the provisional Law of Moses and to what Scripture refers to as an “old covenant” and a “new covenant.”  Recognizing that Jesus fulfilled the covenant on our behalf (as grace and truth personified), gave us a clearer focus both doctrinally and theologically, with the result being the transformation of our Christology (doctrine of Jesus Christ).  By God’s grace we came to understand that Jesus is the center and heartbeat of God’s plan for humankind. In our minds and hearts, we became Christ-centered.

This renewal of our Christology led to asking and answering the vital question: Who is the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ?  The answer led us to embrace a theological vision that we now refer to as incarnational Trinitarian theology.  That theology (with “theology” meaning “knowledge of God”) is incarnational in that it is Christ-centered, and Trinitarian in that the God who Jesus reveals to us is a Trinity (one God in three Persons): Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We came to understand that in the fullness of time, God the Father sent his eternal Son into time and space to become human, thus assuming our human nature as the man Jesus Christ.  And when Jesus ascended, he raised human nature with him in glory and, with the Father, sent the Holy Spirit to be with us in a new and deeper way.  The self-revealing, sending God thus sent us both his Living Word and his Breath.

Part 1: Clarifying Two Key Terms: “All Are Included” and “Union With Christ”

As noted by Dr. Tkach in the Introduction, the goal of this essay is to clarify some of the key terms we use in communicating the wonderful truths of our incarnational Trinitarian faith.  As he also notes, though we’re not making significant changes, we are providing some clarifications to help us in our ongoing journey of theological renewal.  

All are included

A key understanding of our theology has to do with what God has accomplished for all humanity in and through his incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.  For many years, we’ve summarized that understanding (of our theology) with the phrase, all are included. By all we mean believers and non-believers, and by included we mean being counted among those who God, in and through Jesus, has reconciled to himself. We thus mean to say that God has reconciled all people to himself.  

This theological declaration is based on the biblical revelation that Christ died for all and that God has loved and reconciled the world to himself (Rom. 5:182 Cor. 5:14John 3:162 Cor. 5:19Heb. 2:9). 

Jesus is “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), and he is the “ransom” for all (1 Tim 2:464:10Matt. 20:28).  Because this reconciliation is accomplished, and thus a present reality, God’s desire, which is fulfilled by the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit, is for all people everywhere to come to repentance and faith so they may personally experience (receive and live into) this reconciliation and so not perish (2 Pet. 3:9Ezek. 18:2332).  Thus when we declare that all are included we are affirming several important truths:

    • Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of all humanity  
    • He died to redeem all  
    • He has atoned for the sin of all  
    • Through what he did, God reconciled all people to himself  
    • Jesus is the mediator between God and all humanity  
    • He has made all his own by virtue of his redeeming work  
    • He is for all and against none  
    • He is judge of all, so that none might experience condemnation  
    • His saving work is done on behalf of all, and that work includes his holy and righteous responses to the Father, in the Spirit — responses characterized by repentance, faith, hope, love, praise, prayer, worship and obedience  
    • Jesus, in himself, is everyone’s justification and sanctification  
    • He is everyone’s substitute and representative  
    • He is everyone’s hope  
    • He is everyone’s life, including life eternal  
    • He is everyone’s Prophet, Priest and King  

In all these ways, all people in all places and times have been included in God’s love and life in and through Jesus and by his Spirit. In that we rejoice, and on that basis we make our gospel declarations.  


It’s about relationship, which means participation

To avoid making unfounded inferences, it is important to note that when the Bible speaks about reconciliation (inclusion), what it is referring to is a relationship that God, by grace, has established in the God-man Jesus Christ between himself and all people.  That relationship is personal in that it is established by the person of the eternal Son of God, and it involves human persons who have agency, minds, wills and bodies.  This reconciliation involves all that human beings are — their whole persons.  Thus this personal relationship calls for, invites, and even demands, from those who have been included, the response of participation.  Personal relationship is ultimately about interaction between two persons (subjects, agents), in this case between God and his creatures.

By definition, personal relationships are interactive — they involve response, communication, giving and receiving.  In and through Jesus, God has included all people everywhere in a particular relationship with himself for just these purposes so that what has been fulfilled for us objectively in Jesus by the Spirit, will then be fulfilled in us personally (subjectively) by the Spirit via our deliberate, purposeful participation (response) as subjects who are moral, spiritual agents.  What Christ did for us, he did so that the Holy Spirit could work a response out in us.

When we understand that the person and work of Christ establishes or reestablishes a living, vital, personal relationship with all humanity, then the biblical teachings concerning inviting, admonishing, encouraging, directing, commanding and warning in regard to setting forth the fitting or appropriate response make sense.  But if the gift of reconciliation (inclusion) is understood as merely a fixed principle, an abstract universal truth (like the sky is blue, or 2+2=4), or as an automatic and impersonal effect brought about through a causal chain of events imposed on all, then the myriad directives in the New Testament concerning our response (participation) make no sense.


The indicatives of grace set us free to respond to the imperatives of grace

Many proclamations in the New Testament declare the truth of who God is and what he has done for us, including that He, in Christ, has reconciled all humanity to himself.  These proclamations are the indicatives of grace, which, by their very nature, call forth and set us free for a joyful response to the imperatives of grace that are also defined in the New Testament.  Here is a diagram showing how these indicatives and imperatives are related:

Our responses to the imperatives of grace, grounded in and thus flowing from the indicatives of grace, are made possible only because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who continues his work in the core of our persons (our subjectivities) in order that we might respond freely to God and his grace with repentance, faith, hope and love.

The Holy Spirit grants us this freedom to respond (even as we hear the imperatives) by releasing us from the bonds of slavery so that our responses are a real sharing in Christ’s own responses made on our behalf as our substitute and representative — our great and eternal High Priest.  This indicative-imperative pattern of grace is found throughout the New Testament.  For example, note Jesus’ first proclamation concerning himself and his kingdom (the indicative) followed by the imperative, which defines our response:

Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:14-15)

Note that the imperativerepent and believe,” is based on and made possible because of the indicative that “the time is fulfilled … the kingdom of God has come near.”  Because of who Jesus is and what he has done, people are given entrance into personal relationship with Jesus as their King and thus can respond by participating in his rule and reign.

At work here is a vitally important truth: because God loves us, he is interested in our response to him.  He looks for it, notices it, even tells us the kind of response that is fitting to the relationship he has already given us by grace (through reconciliation).  Moreover, by the Holy Spirit ministering to us on the basis of Christ’s completed work, our Triune God has even provided all we need to make that response.  We never respond autonomously, simply on our own.  Instead, by the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to begin sharing in Jesus’ perfect responses that he makes for us as our eternal mediator or High Priest.


Avoid two errors

There are two common errors in thinking about the indicatives and imperatives of grace.

  1. The first is to regard the indicatives proclaimed in the New Testament as fixed, impersonal principles or abstract laws — general and universal truths operating like the mechanical, so-called laws of nature, or perhaps of mathematics.
  2. The second error (which often accompanies the first) is to regard the imperatives mentioned in the New Testament as sheer, externally-imposed legal obligations that indicate the potential ways we can condition God to act or react to us in some way.  Embracing that false notion, we are tempted to think of the imperatives as setting forth terms of a contract with God: if we do certain things (fulfill certain contractual obligations) we will bring to pass the responses from God that we desire and to which he has contractually agreed.

Both of these errors presume legal, mechanical, cause-and-effect, force-vector-like actions and reactions instead of what is found in a real personal relationship.  These errors reflect thinking that is not grounded in the covenant of grace by which God has freely established a relational reality with humankind for the sake of dynamic, personal and interactive participation, communication, communion, fellowship — what the Greek New Testament calls koinonia.  

We err when we imagine we are somehow coerced slaves to God and to his imperious ways, or when we imagine we can manage a contract with God where we attempt to negotiate terms of mutual obligation agreeable to both parties.  Such imaginings are not how God operates.  He created us for real, personal relationship in which we participate, by grace, through Christ and by the Holy Spirit.  All our responses are real participation in an actual relationship — the relationship God has established for us for the sake of koinonia (fellowship, communion) with him in dynamic, personal ways — the ways of freedom in love.

We did not establish this relational reality by our responsesOnly God can create the relationship, and so He has, on our behalf, in and through Christ.  Note, however, that though our personal responses create nothing, they do constitute real participation in the relationship God has given us in Christ.  These responses are made possible by the freeing and enabling ministry of the Holy Spirit, based on the vicarious ministry of Jesus.  We have been included, through Christ and by the ministry of the Spirit, in a saving, transforming and renewing relationship with God — a relationship that calls for our response.

With this clarification in mind, we can see that we must not use the phrase all are included to say too little or too much — and perhaps, at times, we have said too much.  Yes, all humanity has been included in a saving, transforming and renewing relationship with God (referred to in Scripture as reconciliation with God).  But this particular kind of inclusion in Christ is not a fixed, impersonal, causal and abstract universal “truth” that is divorced from real relationship.  In fact, reconciliation is specifically for the sake of our response, and so it is for real, personal relationship.

What we can say is this: all have been reconciled (included) but not all are participating.  The God-given purpose of this relationship, established through reconciliation, cannot be fulfilled in us as long as there is little or no participation in the relationship — if there is resistance to and rejection of the relationship that has been freely given to us.  The full benefits of the relationship cannot be known or experienced by us if we do not enter into itif we are not receptive to it and its benefits.

Thus we must account for the difference between participating in the relationship, according to its nature, and not participating, thus violating its nature and purpose.  Non-participation does not negate or undo the fact that God has reconciled us to himself (that he has included us in the relationship he has established, in Christ, with all humanity).  To deny this reality does not create another reality.  Going against the grain of reality does not change the direction of the grain, though it might gain us some splinters!  We have no power to change the grain.

A good example of the difference between participation and non-participation is the elder brother mentioned in the parable of the prodigal son.  He refused to participate — to enter the celebration the father established and invited him into.  Note also this example in the book of Hebrews:

For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. (Heb. 4:2)

This personal and relational understanding of receiving the gift of grace freely given us by the whole God (Father, Son and Spirit) helps clarify many things in the New Testament that otherwise would seem inconsistent or even incoherent.  To think otherwise (in mechanical or causal ways) would be to ignore, or (worse) to dismiss, whole swaths of biblical revelation.  A personal and relational understanding of God’s grace helps make sense of the proclamation of the indicatives of grace and the proclamation of the imperatives of grace, the latter being the call to receive and participate in the gift of the relationship established in Christ that is being fulfilled by the Holy Spirit.



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