Todays readings… 2 Chronicles 33, Hosea 1, Acts 14&15


        In our New Testament readings we start to encounter the word “Grace” which in the original Greek is the word charis. We encounter it but rarely in the gospels and not at all in Matthew and Mark, the first two gospels to be written.  It starts to appear regularly in Acts as Paul starts preaching to the Gentiles.   Often it occurs as Paul encounters opposition from the Jewish believers in Christ who wanted the growing number of Gentile believers in Christ to also observe Moses’ law and also be circumcised, as we read today in Acts 15 v.5.

        As a result the Apostles and elders came together in Jerusalem and had “much debate” [v.6,7].  We read some details about this debate, and James’ summing up is of the greatest interest. This James is almost certainly the half brother of Jesus, because John’s brother James had already been martyred by Herod (12 v.2). James referred to the conversion of the Roman Centurion Cornelius by the act of God shown by giving them the Holy Spirit. He said, God “made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith” [15 v.9].  Is our faith such that it results in a cleansed heart? 

        He referred to the Mosaic Law as being “a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” [v.10].  Now note his final words, “but we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” [v.11].  

        Sadly human nature is such that it can abuse the loving forgiveness of God.  Today, as they did then, some speak and write as though God’s grace is endlessly given in every human situation!  “Once save, always saved” is the catch-cry.  Paul had to write warning against this, “are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it.” [Romans 6 v.1,2]

       Our aim is to “walk in newness of life” [v.4] and with prayer we will grow in spiritual strength to become more and more like our Lord. (Note Proverbs 4 v.18)   God has always been ready to show mercy and forgiveness, which is part of grace.  It is not just a New Testament teaching as our Chronicles reading today illustrates.