BLOG: The Grace of God and the Righteousness of Paul



WRITTEN BY MELISSA H. STRAUTMAN, LMT

The Grace of God and the Righteousness of Paul
Companion Blog to “I Give Thanks” from our series To the Church of God: A Letter

I’m so excited that our pastor is starting a whole new book of the Bible.  I love expository preaching because you get to open up every verse and figure out what God is saying.  There’s history, intrigue, and hallelujah-I-got-it!  It’s never a feel-good message.  It’s all meat!  You never leave a chapter without life-altering truth that stimulates your mind.  You see and feel spiritual correction and sanctification happening to yourself as you grow in the knowledge of the Lord.[1]

Pastor Wilson starts with a first century, historical recap of the fascinating metropolitan city of Corinth; complete with a fantastic video.  Fun fact: The city had 36 wine shops.  He takes us on an abbreviated journey with Paul through Acts and the start of the Corinthian Church.

Paul must have been alone and terrified as an exiled Jew in this wild pagan city.  He was carrying a message that could have gotten him killed.  Paul was, as my southern husband would say, “elbow-deep-in-a-greasy-thing!”  Thankfully, God made it clear to him that He was still with him and would keep him safe while he was doing his job.

Acts 18:9-11
And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Sovereign Election

It’s interesting how God reminds Paul of the sovereign election of the saints by telling him, “I have many people in the city.”  It wasn’t Paul’s job to save people.  It was simply to preach; so that those “many people” would come to believe.  That is the call to all believers.  We do our job declaring the message, and those that God already has will receive the Word and come to believe.  God knows who are His own, before Paul or they themselves know.

The Children of God…
They are there before they hear
They are His before they believe
They believe because they hear
They believe because they are His” –  Pastor Steve Wilson

Once the church at Corinth was planted, Paul left to continue planting other churches.  Within five years he received word that the church at Corinth was headed down a nasty road.  It was sin, chaos and division, run amok.

1 Corinthians is Paul’s response (letter) to the church body concerning this debauchery.  Instead of the believers in the church at Corinth going out and influencing Corinth, they let Corinth influence them.  Instead of the believers going out into Corinth and calling people to repentance in Christ, they allowed Corinth to come into the church and lead people away from Christ.  We still face this threat today.

Paul’s letter begins with God’s grace.

1 Corinthians 1:4
“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is writing to the believers within the Corinthian church.  They are just like every other Christian that has ever been saved by the grace of God in Christ Jesus.  He was thanking God for giving them what they obviously didn’t deserve; a legal pardon for their sins (justification).[2]  That’s what “grace” means: something you obviously don’t deserve.  You can never deserve salvation.  Salvation is a gift in which God is the only moving part.[3]  He does this alone so that this tremendous heart-regenerating work can be accredited to only Him.[4]

Even though grace is a gift, it is never free!

[enter rabbit hole]

I feel like I have to pause my introduction of 1 Corinthians because I don’t think we think enough about grace, where it comes from and what anchors it. Paul apparently had this in the forefront of his mind as he wrote 1 Corinthians.

The grace that is given to us as our salvation is an extension of mercy and mercy is the price that God (Jesus) paid to provide us with the gift of grace.  God is holy, and we are sinners.  A holy, just and righteous God cannot just let us off the hook for our sins.  That would be unholy, unjust and not righteous at all.  It is Christ’s righteousness that anchors our salvation.

Right – Righteous – Self-Righteous – Imputed Righteousness

“Doing the right thing” is subjective.  We all have an opinion as to what that might be in any given situation. “Doing the righteous thing” is carved in stone.  It is adhering to a previously set standard without fail.[5]  The sentence for all human sin is set: immediate spiritual death, impending physical death and an eternal death/separation from God.  We don’t deserve someone else paying our penalty and setting us free to live with God forever.

God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  He hasn’t changed the righteous standard He instituted from the beginning, and He isn’t going to.  That makes Him righteous and us the benefactors of grace.

Often when a Christian expresses a Biblical truth, like Paul is going to do, they will be labeled as self-righteous.

Hackle-Raising Examples

  1. “You must worship God (Jesus/Holy Spirit) to go to heaven.”
  2. “You cannot be enjoying an active homosexual lifestyle and call yourself a professing believer in right standing with Christ.”
  3. “It is a sin to have an abortion, but Jesus can forgive you of that sin.”

Let’s explore the nature of these statements.

  • The world might say the person speaking is convinced of their righteousness[6] because they believe their moral standards are perfect[7] (i.e., self-righteous).

The Christian might respond that they are convinced of Jesus’ imputed righteousness[8].  He alone lived a perfect life and died a prophetic death.  It is God’s grace that takes Jesus’ righteousness and puts it on us at the day of our judgment so that we may be forgiven entirely.  We do not deserve this blessing and are not righteous ourselves.

  • The world might say the person speaking is smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others[9] (i.e., self-righteous).

The Christian would not be intentionally confrontational to any person(s) in the first place.  They would not be irritated at the subject, argue, boast of their biblical knowledge or speak arrogantly.  They would not rudely insist on their own way in the conversation.  The Christian endures all things because of the love of Christ[10] and seeks to live at peace with all people[11](Preaching to myself here!)

Sort it out before you decide about Paul

So is the speaker in the above three examples right, righteous or self-righteous?  To answer these questions we have to determine the speaker’s authority, understand the commands of peaceable behavior, and make sure we are coming from a place of love.

The people in the Corinthian church and you the reader are going to have to determine where Paul is coming from in his letter.  In the upcoming chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul boldly exposes their sin.  Will they listen?  Will they get defensive?  Will they repent?  Will the church be restored?

Righteous Anger

Paul will get very testy with them in the upcoming chapters.  It seems fair to say he is angry.  But this isn’t a sinful anger, it is called “righteous anger.” [12] Yep, there is such a thing!  You can be angry and not sin or be counted as self-righteous when you express non-angry anger.

“Does God allow his people to express anger?”  Yes, He does.  But only under these circumstances:

  1. You are reacting against actual sin
  2. You are more concerned with the offense against God than the offense against yourself
  3. You are expressing your anger in ways consistent with Christian character.[13]

 So think about how this applies to your own life and how it applies to what Paul is going to be telling us in this series.  When God’s words are spoken in any situation, is it…

  1. Right?
  2. Righteous?
  3. Self-righteous?
  4. Righteous Anger?

 Next week we will finish up I Give Thanks [14] by analyzing three other aspects of grace in 1 Corinthians 1:1-4:

  • A grace that equips today
  • A grace that ensures tomorrow
  • A grace that comes from a faithful God

Please share and subscribe to this blog to continue the building-up of the saints and exposing potential new believers to timeless and practical Biblical truth.

   


[1] 2 Peter 3:18

[2] Read more on our beliefs: The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 11 Justification

[3] Ephesians 2:1-5

[4] 1 Corinthians 1:28-30; Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 3:27-28; Galatians 6:13-15

[5] Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23

[6] Merriam-Webster

[7] Urban Dictionary

[8] Also read: Views from the Pew, Always Sinningfrom April 27, 2017

[9] dictionary.com

[10] 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

[11] Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14

[12] Also read/listen to What Is Righteous Anger?  from RickThomas.net

[13] Three Marks of Righteous Anger by Tim Challies

[14] We will start at audio mark 16:44 of I Give Thanks