The Gospel of Grace is Offensive....
In Luke 4 we are told that Jesus went into the synagogue to read from the book of Isaiah and they were offended with His gracious words... they were offended with His words of grace. Why? Because His words INCLUDED the Gentiles. Grace INCLUDED the outsiders of THEIR covenant with THEIR God! And then Jesus reminds them of God's goodness towards two specific Gentiles. Two who were according to them "intrinsically impure" outsiders… the widow of Sidon and Naaman the Syrian.
God's heart has ALWAYS been for ALL people and for EVERY nation... Jews AND Gentiles. He doesn’t have insiders and outsiders. He only has SONS!!
Or to put that into language we understand and speak in the church today… God doesn’t see believers AND unbelievers, church people and worldly people, or even saints and sinners… He only sees SONS!!
Jesus tells them that there were MANY widows in Israel and a great famine in the land, BUT God sent Elijah to minister grace and provision to an unclean Gentile widow in a place that was FULL of idolatry and rebellion. This was absolutely offensive to them! And then His next example was not just offensive, but absolutely impossible to their natural carnal reasonings! Jesus tells them that there were also MANY lepers in Israel BUT none of them were healed except Naaman the Syrian. That was too much for them to comprehend!! Naaman wasn't just an unclean, Gentile sinner, he was the captain of the Syrian army. The Syrians oppressed Israel. They were enemies of Israel. Much in the same way that the Romans were the oppressors of the group sitting and listening to Jesus.
Surely Jesus wasn't asking them to be a light and a blessing to their oppressive enemies, was He? YES!! Because God's heartbeat is for ALL mankind.
And He was so intent on showing the Israelites His love and compassion for ALL people that He chose one of the most hated men in Israel at that time to prove it.
God, in His great mercy and love, pursued Naaman.
These two examples of God's eternal covenant with ALL, of His favor, acceptance, and approval of ALL mankind, enraged the listeners that day. It says they were filled with wrath, rose up, thrust Jesus out of the city, and then attempted to throw Him off a cliff! Wow! They were filled with wrath when they heard that God isn’t a God of wrath and judgment but inclusion and love! The word filled is pletho, meaning COMPLETELY full or filled to one's individual capacity. In other words, they weren’t just mad or even angry… they were COMPLETELY FILLED with wrath. They thought life in covenant with God meant that His favor was solely on them. And therefore His revenge or punishment would be upon their enemies… upon those who came against them. They believed that His defense of them (as the chosen ones, the faithful ones) trumped His mercy on those that weren’t in covenant with Him (all non-Jews). And so they were enraged with Jesus' description of what covenant life with God looked like.
We in the church have also had a misconception about what covenant life with God looks like. We've erred in our understanding of this "new" covenant life. We've also had an “us and them” religious mentality. We've made the New Testament teachings about sin, instead of it being the teaching of the end of ALL sin for ALL time. We've preached a sin conscious gospel to those we label as unclean, sinners, and outsiders of God's covenant because they haven't prayed the prayer or come to the altar.
When all along, God has said to call no one unclean or an outsider of His covenant (Acts 10:15).
And He remembers sin no more (Hebrews 8:12).
So why do we in the church continue to see people as unclean? And why do we focus on sin when He chooses not to remember it? The truth is, He has reconciled ALL men to Himself. ALL are justified and reconciled according to Romans. He is the Light that has given life to ALL men. He brought life and immortality to light through the gospel… to ALL men. This is just as offensive to us as it was to the Jews in Luke 4! And while you can't throw Jesus off a cliff (like the Jews attempted to do)... there are those who will throw people who preach and teach this message of grace off the cliff!! Removing them from prayer meetings, various Christian groups, church, etc. The Gospel of Grace is that offensive to our carnal, natural minds!!!
ALL are INCLUDED in God’s eternal covenant of peace. And the ALL included is NOT provisional based on anything we need to do. There is no “us and them” in God’s logic…. there is only ALL! I challenge you to take off your “provisional/conditional” lens when you read Scripture. Just read the ALL’s and allow Holy Spirit to reveal the FULLNESS of what ALL means. William Tyndale defined the Gospel as the good, glad, happy news that makes a man jump for joy! But we've preached a Gospel that tells men they were born with a sin nature and therefore are separated from God. And all we need to do to receive forgiveness of sin is confess that we are a sinner that needs saving. And then because we've repented and prayed this "sinner's prayer,” Jesus will come and live in our heart, we will have eternal life, and we will miss hell.
But is that the Gospel that Paul preached? Is that the good news of the New Testament? Is this truly the new thing that God said He was doing? NO! The Gospel of grace is the message of ALL mankind’s union with God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). It is the message of Christ IN you!
In Colossians 1:26-27, Paul is talking about this message of Christ in the Gentiles... in the unclean, sinners, who were not in covenant with God (according to the Jews). He said it was the mystery hid for ages but now revealed to the saints. The word revealed is phaneroó, meaning has become apparent or graspable. They mystery of Christ IN all men has become graspable… it's been made plain, clear, and apparent! He goes on in verse 27 to say that God’s desire is that those who have awakened to that truth make known to the GENTILES (those we in the church label as unbelievers, heathens, sinners, unrighteous, unclean, etc.) the glory IN them (not among like some translations say – it is the Greek word en). What is the glory IN them? He goes on to say it is CHRIST IN them (just as He is IN you).
CHRIST IN ALL MEN! This was the mystery of the Gospel now revealed, now made graspable and apparent!!
Paul's message was: INSIDE YOU IS CHRIST! He used the phrases "in Christ," "in Him," and "in Whom" over 130 times in his writings. And he described his conversion as being awakened to the reality of Christ IN Him. What!? Saul was the chief of sinners!! He was a murderer and rebellious to the plans and purposes of God!! But there was no altar call, no prayer of salvation, no "asking Jesus to come into his heart." Galatians 1:15-16 says, “It pleased the Father.... (16) to reveal His Son IN (Greek: en) me. That I might preach Him IN (again the Greek word en) the nations." Christ already IN him was revealed, made graspable and clear to Saul! And Saul effortlessly became Paul!
When Paul shared his awakening of Christ IN him with King Agrippa, Festus interrupted (Acts 26:24) and said in a loud voice, "You're insane (or raving mad) Paul! Your great learning (or too much studying) has driven you out of your mind." The Message Bible says, "That was too much for Festus: He interrupted with a shout: "Paul, you're crazy! You've read too many books, spent too much time staring into space! Get a grip on yourself, get back into the real world!" BUT according to Paul this is his (and our) real world!! He was FULLY persuaded that this Gospel he preached is how we are to live our new lives IN Christ — WHOLE in every area of our lives: spiritual, mental, physical, social, and financial; nothing missing, and nothing broken!
Paul’s message to ALL mankind was — “WAKE UP! You're not in sin, you're dead to sin because you died IN Him, you are COMPLETELY resurrected, and your new life is ONENESS, your identity is AS HIM! WAKE UP from your carnal slumber!"
Paul had been an extremely zealous “us and them” religious man... to the point of killing those who had already woken up to what Jesus had done! But now he had awakened to Christ IN him and was zealous about this gospel! He now realized that the Gospel of Grace, this ETERNAL Gospel of WHOLENESS, was for ALL mankind. It revealed a new (FULLY restored) humanity, a new creation no longer in Adam but IN Christ. In other words, mankind now no longer identified with Adam but ONLY with Christ! He preached a gospel that revealed that ALL of Adam died at the cross, and no part of him survived. Christ did a COMPLETE, FINISHED work that changed ALL of mankind (believers AND unbelievers)! There is nothing more needed except to awaken! To wake up to who we are IN Him. And that's something the Father takes great delight in — waking us up by revealing Christ IN us, just like He did IN Saul (Galatians 1:15-16). We've made the New Testament teachings about sin and behavior. But the New Testament message is that IN Christ, we have NO association with sin and death.
Paul didn't preach a Romans road TO salvation (sozo - wholeness), focusing on sin consciousness.
He taught a FINISHED road OF salvation (sozo - wholeness) focusing on son consciousness.