Summary: We can grow casual about God's Grace, and we can think we can earn it. Grace is examined by looking at the Christians in Corinth and in Galatia, and examining their differences and similarities in how Paul writes to them.
I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Grace
Dr. R.C. Sproul, a famous radio preacher, was assigned an Old Testament class of 250 freshmen. In his syllabus he clearly set forth the course requirements. There would be three small papers due by noon on September 30, October 30 and November 30. They were to be finished and on his desk by noon unless the student was physically confined to the hospital or a there was a death in the family. If they didn't submit it in time, they would receive a failing grade.
When September 30th rolled around and the first paper was due 225 students turned their papers in on time and 25 were late. These 25 were scared to death and with abject humility appealed to Professor Sproul, “Please don’t give us an 'F!'"
The begged for grace, wanting an extension.
"OK," the professor relented, "I'll let it go this time. But remember, on October 30 the next paper is due. Don't be late."
"We won't, Professor. Promise!"
October 30th arrived and only 200 papers were turned in on time. Fifty students came to class in terror. They pled with him with abundant excuses about it being midterm and homecoming. "Give us one more chance," they begged.
"OK. Just one more chance."
The class broke out into song, “We love you, Prof. Sproul, O yes we do.” Dr. Sproul claims that for the next thirty days he was the most popular professor on campus. But then November 30th came. This time only about 150 papers were turned in on time and a hundred students came into class without the paper, and this time without that much fear.
“Where are your papers?” Dr. Sproul demanded.
“Hey, Prof, don’t worry about it. We’ll get them done in a couple of days," came the relaxed response.
The professor took out the grading book, “Johnson, where's your paper."
"I don't have it, sir."
“Greenwood—I don't have yours either. F.”
Professor Sproul describes the response as "unmitigated fury."
“That’s not fair!” Greenwood claimed.
"I don’t ever want to be thought of as unfair or unjust. You want justice?”
"You were late last time, too. ‘F’ for that one. Anyone else want justice?”
Dr. Sproul wrapped up his story saying that by the third time, they not only assumed grace, they demanded it. They assumed he was obligated to be merciful. They had become accustomed to grace.
Ours is a history of grace.
God is so gracious to us that we take it for granted. The question we love to ask is “Why do bad things happen to me?” The question don’t want to face is this, 'Why has God been so kind to me?'”
Grace is a tough subject, because we end up expecting it for ourselves, and resenting it greatly when other people get it. C.S. Lewis wrote what many consider his greatest book, Mere Christianity, based on the fact that we resent when other people receive grace for their sins, and how we expect grace for our “Mistakes.”
Speeding ticket are a great example. I was speaking to a group of youth once on the topic of grace, and decided “wrongly” to use speeding tickets as a conversation starter for people receiving grace.
The overwhelming majority of teens, instead of grasping the concept of grace were deeply offended that someone would receive mercy. That’s not fair that the cop would let some people off, he should let them all off, or let no one off!
We resent grace when other people get it!
Paul’s Epistle lesson today, from Galatians 3, is all about the topic of grace. In fact, 5 of the 6 chapters in the epistle to the Galatians are firmly dedicated to the topic of the relationship between law and grace, and why we now need grace.
We have to keep before us, teaches Paul, the distinction of law and Gospel. But even after we become a Christian, after we are justified by faith, the law still has a significant influence upon us.
Which brings us to the question before us this morning, asked in v. 19 right before the epistle lesson begins, which Paul answers for us:
What purpose then does the law serve? (for us who are Christians)
The Apostle Paul here describes the law as a guardian or a tutor, or even a schoolmaster says the KJV, from which the Christian has been set free; yet, at the same time, he views the law as "holy and just and good." He affirms that only "the doers of the law will be justified," yet declares that all who are in Christ have "died to the law." Paul describes the law as both "spiritual" and "the power of sin."
And this is why so much is written about Paul’s teachings in this chapter of Galatians. Paul's seemingly conflicting statements on the law should be understood in the light that the law plays more than one role in its relationship to us, which is why Paul sounds different when he is writing to the Corinthians and to the Galatians. So it would be helpful here to review the problems of each city.