Does God’s grace give us the power to live in victory?
The famous missionary Hudson Taylor struggled with the same feelings that many Christians wrestle with today. While in China, he experienced bouts of anger, frustration, and discouragement. He wondered how he could possibly be a leader of others when he himself was not a “victorious” Christian.
One day, a Godly friend sent him a letter, and the Holy Spirit illuminated Hudson Taylor's heart and mind to understand what it really meant to abide in Christ. He suddenly realized that it was not his job to struggle and strive in order to be a good Christian but rather to simply abide in the vine, and the life-giving energy from the vine would produce the fruit in his life. This life-giving energy is the power of God’s grace, which is accessed through our faith, as Paul explains: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1–2).
“If ye keep my commandments…”
The concept of the vine and the branches is also significant because it relates to the commands of Christ. Jesus said: “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you…. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:7, 10). The teaching of Jesus centers around the commands that He received from His heavenly Father and taught to His disciples. (See John 15:15.)
The Greek word translated keep in these verses means “to keep the eye upon.” Those who sail the seas have an expression: “keeping the stars.” They keep their eyes on the stars and use them to navigate a course to their destination. This is the same concept that Jesus used when He told His disciples to “keep” His commands, which are fixed “lights” that can be trusted to guide us through the storms of life.
The Basic Seminar Message
When the Basic Seminar began in 1964, it was simply an explanation of Mr. Gothard’s experiences in trying to apply the commands of Christ and of God’s amazing rewards to the extent that he was able to do it.
He learned that Christ’s commands are not suggestions or man-made rules but the means by which God reveals Himself to us and works powerfully in our lives. As Jesus states, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).
Our relationship with Christ must be one of love and fellowship. The Lord accepts us as we are, but He teaches us practical ways to love Him and others through His commandments. As He said, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15).
Additional verses about His commands include these:
- “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:3–4).
- “Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (I John 3:22).
- “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments” (I John 5:2).
- “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).
The Definition of Grace
Does the grace of God contain the power that we need to live the Christian life? It is significant to note that in the Old Testament, they were continually told to “keep [which means to carefully watch] and do [which means to obey]” the commandments. However, in the New Testament we are instructed to simply “keep” the commandments because the Holy Spirit will give us the power to do them. Scripture states, “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
It is for this reason John states that “his commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3). Additional verses that affirm the power of grace include these:
- “For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ…. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord…. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under [the reign of] grace” (Romans 5:17, 21 and 6:14).
- “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11–12).
- “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Corinthians 15:10).
- God’s grace is freely given but can be resisted: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).
Grace is certainly God’s unmerited favor. However, is this all that grace is? God gives us grace to keep us from sinning, and He gives us mercy when we do sin. Grace and mercy have different functions and are listed separately in Scripture. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16; see also I Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4).
A Historic Document on the Power of God’s Grace
One of the most revered documents in church history is the Westminster Confession of 1646. In it, the authors affirmed the teachings that were universally held as God’s truth. On the matter of grace, they write: “When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good…” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter IX, “Of Free Will”)