“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).
We were all assembled at the main archway of the great Library, checking our gear and supplies as we readied ourselves for our onward journey to a place called Grace.
“May I ask a question?” a timid young man said, raising his hand as though he were still in school.
“You sure can,” I replied, in a tone that put him at ease.
“Does it really matter all that much that we distinguish between God’s grace and His kindness? I mean, when you get right down to it – isn’t it really all the same?”
A few other travelers looked stunned; one could tell they concluded the young man had not been listening very well. But I felt it was an honest question, especially in light of the fact that we have been taught otherwise for so long.
“This is not a quick fix,” I said to everybody. “We are dealing with a widespread, deeply held belief. It has been promoted and unchallenged for so long that it now requires much patience on our part as we seek to help others see the truth for themselves.”
A prophet of old said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). Clearly, it matters whether we know the truth or not.
Turning to the young man, I said, “Let’s look at what Paul told us, and perhaps we all can better understand why getting our thoughts right about Grace matters so very much.”
“All over the world,” Paul wrote, “this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth” (Colossians 1:6).
The church in Colossae was a significant accomplishment for Paul. He had never been to Colossae himself, but had met a businessman from there while on a trip to Ephesus. The man’s name was Philemon.
Paul shared the Gospel with Philemon and he was converted. Beaming with new life and a great enthusiasm for telling others about it, Philemon returned to Colossae and started a church meeting in his home!
It grew rapidly, gathering many of the greater community into fellowship with the Lord Jesus. When news of Philemon’s success reached Paul he knew, just like Barnabas in Antioch, that “the hand of the Lord was with them, and great grace was upon them all.”
Paul the Apostle, the ultimate church-planter, now from a distance watched with great delight as a new church thrived in much fruitfulness – apart from his direct involvement! This confirmed his own conviction that “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes – Jew and Gentle alike” (Rom.1:16).
God’s grace was upon Philemon to start a church in his home. God’s grace was upon the church, and it grew with influence in the city of Colossae. What is God’s grace empowering you to do?
Our world is in dire need of the Grace of God. Perhaps more to the point – the Church is in even greater need of it. By failing to distinguish between grace and kindness we have wandered far off course and, as a result, there is widespread barrenness in the lives of many true believers.
Many of the Lord’s people are “being destroyed.” The root meaning of that word is “to be brought to silence.” Could this be the reason much of the Christian church has no voice in today’s world. We are experts at “preaching to the choir,” but stumble over our words in trying to share Christ with an increasingly pagan world.
The success of the Colossian believers reveals a colossal truth. Their fruitfulness in the things of the Kingdom began, according to Paul, “from the day they heard and understood God’s grace in all its truth.”
The same applies to us today. We must “hear and understand the God’s grace in all its truth” so that the same fruitfulness experienced by the Colossians will also happen to us. This is why it matters; why it matters very much!
“Thank you!” the young man said excitedly. “This really helps me a lot!”
Alright, then; if there are no other questions, let’s leave the Library and get back on the Road. We are not far from our destination. Not far at all.