Paul said that it is a good thing the heart be established with "grace". The most important AND most misunderstood doctrine involves salvation.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Our salvation depends on "faith" and "grace".
I have covered FAITH in previous posts.
The current definition of GRACE used by most "Christians" is "unmerited favor". This definition was given to us by Martin Luther roughly 500 years ago. This definition did NOT exist during the time of the apostles. This doctrine of GRACE is NOT God's doctrine, it is man-made tradition...and therefore contradictory.
The apostles' doctrine of GRACE can be attained through the definition of the Greek word "charis". With the exception of one verse (James 1:11), every time the word "grace" occurs in the King James version of the New Testament, the word is "charis".
CHARIS, 5485 "the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life" (Strong's Concordance)
Let me be clear...the Greek word "charis" has many meanings depending on usage. In some cases it is translated into English as "thank", "favor", and "gift". Where it has been translated into "grace" (except for James 1:11), its definition is "the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life".
This is the ONLY non-contradictory definition that fits all the verses containing "charis" translated as "grace"!
(Some people claim that Aristotle defined "charis" as "unmerited favor". However, this is Aristotle's actual definition: "that which is freely bestowed with no expectation of return; an act which finds its only motive in the good heartedness of the giver". Notice anything? This is actually "love". This definition doesn't fit the Apostles' doctrine of "grace", it would lead to contradictions in several other applications of "grace"...but it fits Jesus' and the Apostles' definition of "love". I wrote about this before that people take the definition of "love" and use it for "grace"...then they have a contradictory definition of "love". How many contradictory answers will it take before people pursue the truth?)
(Let me be clear about this: Aristotle's definition gives the CAUSE of the value as the good heartedness of the giver. Luther gives the CAUSE of the value as "our need". Luther changed the CAUSE of the giving of the value. It is a subtle point that has huge ramifications: I believe God loves everyone...God gives to everyone out of the kindness of His heart...whether we need it or not. I believe God influences everyone's heart and it is our choice to let it reflect in our life or not. Calvinism (man-made tradition) believes that God's love (can't define) and grace (unmerited favor) are ONLY given to those who will go to heaven BECAUSE they need it...and there is nothing the person going to heaven can do about it...the salvation of the individual is completely out of the control of the individual. THIS leads to "One Way Justice".)
There is no way to make "grace" into "unmerited favor" without introducing man-made tradition. There are two key points here for those who oppose this definition. First, this person needs to show why "grace" doesn't mean "the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life" for a specific verse without resorting to man-made tradition. Second, this person needs to show how they arrived at the definition of "unmerited favor" for a specific verse without resorting to man-made tradition.
It is sad to argue this point with modern day Pharisees...the lengths they will go to in order to hold to tradition!
1. Newer versions of the Bible of the Bible interpret "charis" into other words in some passages in order to remove the contradictions created by "unmerited favor"! Even these people realize "unmerited favor" doesn't fit every use of "charis". Realize ALL of the usages of "charis" were done in a very narrow window of time...during the time the New Testament was written. The meaning of this word DIDN'T change during this time. Also, they had ALL the other Greek words to choose from...if they wanted to say "unmerited favor", they didn't need to use "charis".
2. People argue that words have several meanings and are not precise enough tools...and they do this with words (hypocritically like a Pharisee). We've covered this arguments contradictions in the post called the Importance of WORDS.
3. People redefine "grace" from "unmerited favor" to "the giving of a value without expecting a return". THIS is the non-contradictory definition of LOVE from Jesus' mouth! LOVE is a GREAT DOCTRINE but now the person can't define LOVE. Love is certainly an EFFECT of GRACE, but to panic and wreck the doctrine of LOVE in order to maintain the tradition of GRACE is UNSOUND DOCTRINE.
4. The majority says GRACE is "unmerited favor". Paul wrote that we all should hold to sound (non-contradictory) doctrine and that at the end there will be people who try to sway us with unsound doctrine. In fact, he said people will HEAP teachers to themselves to support their tradition-based doctrine. "Unmerited favor" is NOT a doctrine Paul taught, so this is not a doctrine Paul was writing about. Second, being in the majority is more likely to result in unsound doctrine.
Besides, "unmerited favor" violates justice! Why is it that people are ONLY for one way justice? If something bad happens that the person didn't cause, EVERYONE believes they deserve to be compensated. However when something good happens that the person didn't cause, MOST people don't think the person OUGHT to pay...like "unmerited favor"...a man-made idea that completely violates justice and results in contradictory (unsound) doctrine.
Let's look at the Ephesians verses that opened this section and answer the following questions:
1. Do you deserve credit for your salvation? If your answer is "yes" then that is WORKS. The verse said salvation is NOT of WORKS, so you don't deserve credit for your salvation...it is a gift from God.
2. Are you responsible for your salvation? If your answer is "no" then this is "unmerited favor" (and sovereignty and predestination...man-made doctrines created by John Calvin!). Martin Luther was so convinced we were not responsible for our actions that he thought it was okay for a married man to have affairs...after all, God made men to have a high sex drive AND THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT. This unsound doctrine results in God deciding who goes to heaven and who goes to hell...ALL completely against the will of the individual. Currently, people who don't like THAT result are saying EVERYONE has grace AND NO ONE can resist it...so NO ONE goes to hell! Do you want to embrace THIS man-made doctrine (tradition) over God's doctrine?
The answer is that we don't get credit for our salvation but we are responsible for it. The ONLY non-contradictory explanation is CHARIS!
God works through us and our ONLY responsibility is to humble ourselves and choose to allow God to work through us!
I've had someone explain it like medicine. The medicine cures us. However we are responsible for choosing to take the medicine. When we choose to take the medicine how ridiculous would it sound to claim, "I healed myself!" No, the medicine healed you.
There are several passages that can ONLY be CHARIS. I've covered them more here:
Grace and Works
My Grace is Sufficient (This one is the ONLY non-contradictory explanation for Pauls' thorn in the flesh. EVERY sermon on this topic is currently contradictory.)
Looking back at the Ephesians passage, Paul is ACTUALLY telling us how EVERYONE who will be in heaven got there! EVERYONE who makes it to heaven did so because they let God influence their heart through faith. This removes the contradictory answers we currently give to "How did people get saved BEFORE Jesus?" They chose to let God influence their heart and allow Him to work through them.
Salvation is dependent on RIGHTEOUSNESS. Whenever salvation is mentioned in the Bible, righteousness is the requirement. Some people think salvation is dependent on lack of sin. EVERY human (except Jesus) who makes it to heaven will have sinned. Clearly, that is a contradictory explanation for the doctrine of salvation that only leads to more man-made explanations of Jesus' sacrifice. Unfortunately, it also leads to people thinking THEY can stop sinning...which only wears them out once they do sin AND actually takes them further from the doctrine of GRACE!
In fact, there are tradition-minded people who think GRACE covers every sin! Jesus said there is no repentance for blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. James says: "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." (James 4:6)
Grace is unable to overcome the sin of PRIDE. This is because GRACE is "charis" and God CANNOT influence the heart of a person who isn't humble enough to follow God's influence instead of their flesh. What other explanation is there? Why do these modern day Pharisees focus so much on sin and make GRACE the abstract reason we go to heaven?
The Pharisees had this SAME doctrine of sin! They created their own traditions and taught them as commandments from God. They focused people on removing sin in order to control them and keep them frustrated. Jesus was focused on righteousness!
Let's close this section with a verse that will bring this all together:
"For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20)
Righteousness has two sources: God and ourselves.
The Bible says OUR righteousness is as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6)
Therefore the ONLY righteousness that gains us salvation is God's righteousness...CHARIS.
Reread the passage from Matthew...the Pharisees shall NOT enter the kingdom. Otherwise, Jesus would have said except our righteousness meets or exceeds. Why would we need MORE righteousness if the righteousness of the Pharisees was enough?
ALL we need is righteousness from God...and even the littlest bit is MORE than ALL the righteousness from the Pharisees. A robber hung on the cross next to Jesus...his one act of letting God flow through him EXCEEDED the righteousness of the Pharisees.