The New Living and the New International Versions of Romans 7:25 interpret the word “flesh” (used in all other English translations) as our “sinful nature.” Based on this interpretation an argument might be made against Paul’s own teaching about the power of God’s grace. It concludes that somehow sinning is natural even for Christians. This idea approaches a condoning of sin. It is because of this theology that Christians are said to have 2 natures: the old and the new, but Paul was talking about old behavior that needed to end [Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24]. Sinning must end! God has given us new hearts after His [Jeremiah 31:31]. Paul’s discussion of the flesh is a study in carnality, a lifestyle, habits, behavior, ejusdem generis—not our nature.
We have been wanting to explain why Christians sin—even occasionally. And if they do, why does God forgive us but exercises vengeance on everyone else!
Some very astute intellectuals have pointed out the problem fitting together forgiveness and vengeance, for example (2 words applied to God but that seem to be mutually exclusive). Christians have also been selective in listing sins: homosexually is a sin but divorce isn’t? Neither one honors the monogamous, one man, one woman definition of marriage. Turning a Biblical truth so that it is oriented in the proper perspective or has a correct meaning or sense in our language that fits consistently with the entire Counsel of God is indeed challenging. Most Christians simply honor those few Scriptures that support some denominational distinctive without a serious study that could expose blatant inconsistencies. Some believers avoid any serious study of God’s truth lest it demand a life style they might not be comfortable living!
Are not rewards, as another example, handed out for excellence in something accomplished? And since such “excellence” brings the reward, does it not sound reasonable to say that the reward was “earned”? How is this idea to be placed into the picture of God’s grace? It simply doesn’t fit!
There are 5 pieces to our puzzle, we need to look closer at, that need to “pattern match” our boundary pieces (what God knows about the heart) and at the same time be oriented to fit grammatically and theologically in place with other pieces (Biblical words and principles) in order to correctly represent the Biblical idea of God’s grace. Said simply: we must take care not to force an idea on scripture that contradicts grace!
When grace as a free gift from God is misunderstood, it becomes a self-justifying principle, which concludes that since we are natural sinners, only saved by grace, God’s salvation does not require anything of us in turn. It concludes that no matter what evil man proposes or acts upon, God’s grace will rectify it. When we say we are justified or declared righteous by faith alone, some well-meaning believers correctly point out that a true salvation is following Christ. They correctly argue that faith and faithfulness both are part of our salvation.
Paul faced this idea with some of his Jewish countrymen: Romans 3:8 “You falsely imagine I am saying, “Let’s do evil things that good things may come of it.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian Pastor who was martyred for his faith, pointed out that although grace is free it is not cheap! There is not only one Kingdom of God we want to get to but there is only one path by which to get there—following Jesus! “No man comes unto the Father, but by me” Jesus told us [John 14:6]. Francis Godet reminded us: This argument “has always been sought to justify the greatest crimes in history by representing the advantages in which they have resulted to the cause of humanity.” Grace is not a license to do evil.
If God works all things for the good [Romans 8:28] or , as with Joseph of old, “what man intended for evil, God purposed for good” [Genesis 50:20]—if these be so—is it just or right for God to judge? If He created the Torah only to accuse us of an evil, of what by nature we had become, have we not made Him more glorious by contrast? Why His wrath then?
One can see how divine grace has been abused. Ultimately, God, who has no favorites must save everyone, though, we know this is unscriptural. What has been forgotten is that restoration is always preceded by true repentance. Repentance is turning around and returning to God. And this means a restored relationship with our Creator or reconciliation. “…we know that all things do work together for good,” Paul noted, but the caveat is “to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” Grace is not a divine entitlement.
Grace is therefore not a Favoritism.