We Still Need Amazing Grace (Letters to a Samuel Generation)

“Oh foolish Christians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”

Hard words. We can almost feel the frustration with which Paul writes; we can almost see his fist pounding the table in front of him. Yes, these are hard words—but they are also, when taken into our hearts and applied to our lives, words that impart the most incredible freedom! For those who did not recognize the above quotation, it comes from Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, chapter 3:1-3 (with a slight modification).

These words of Paul’s have spoken to me many times, and I hope that they might speak to you as well. They have humbled me, saddened me, and most of all, released me, for in them is the bountiful mercy and power of God revealed.

My struggle with grace dates back a number of years. Struggle? Oh, yes, I’ve struggled with the grace of God. And so, I suspect, have many Christians. The Galatians certainly did. I’m not sure exactly why grace is such a difficult thing to embrace, but it is. Perhaps it is our pride that gets in the way, that wants to claim some credit for ourselves. In Ephesians, Paul says that grace is the gift of God—not of works, lest any man should boast. What God wants to give us, our blind pride would rather earn. This may be why so many people have to hit rock bottom before coming to the Lord. Sometimes, it takes the absolute decimation of pride to make us able to meet God.

It was a number of years ago, while I was working in ministry, that I slipped into a belief that God expected me to earn my way into His good favour. Some of scripture’s more frightening passages tormented me, with their warnings of sheep and goats, of castaways and those who “fall from grace.” My works became a matter of desperately trying to keep my head up above water, instead of flowing from my love for and faith in the Lord of life. The harder I tried to work my way into God’s good books, the more aware of my own utter depravity I became. No matter how hard I prayed, studied, and worked for the Lord, I could not rise above my failings. My fellowship with God became hindered, and my work became crippled. I could hardly be effective for a God who must certainly be unhappy with me.

During all of this, I still held to the doctrine of salvation by faith through which I had come to the Lord in the first place. This other belief, this trying to perfect myself through the flesh, was a new development. At last I came to a place where I could take it no longer. I fell on my knees and cried out to God:

“Lord, I have to know what grace is, or I can’t go on anymore. I can’t keep serving You without this understanding.”

I felt impressed to read the Book of Romans, which I have always had difficulty in understanding. Feeling a bit as though I was being led to a dry well and told it was going to start filling up at any moment, I started reading. Every day I read a chapter and memorized a few verses in it to mull over for the day, and when I felt that I had come to an understanding of what I had read, I would move on to the next chapter.

What I learned in Romans would take a long, long time to articulate, and I’m not going to try and record it all here. Rather, I would like to tell you about the other scripture passage that God used to crystallize the concept of grace in my mind, and in my heart. It is found in John chapter 8, and to me it is one of the most moving passages in the whole book.

It is the story of grace.

In it, a woman is brought to the Great God of the Universe, embodied in a man named Jesus Christ. She is brought roughly before the Judge of the Ages, thrown down at His feet and accused as an adulteress. She is certainly guilty. She was caught in the act and brought here! She lays on the ground, her head hanging, not daring even to look at Him. This is the God whose fingers once wrote on two tablets of stone, who commanded for every person in every time that “Thou shalt not commit adultery!” This is the God who demanded the penalty of death for this crime. It is at His feet she now lies, and it is to His ears the challenge is thrown:

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. Now, Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”

For a moment the Son of God’s eyes sweep the crowd, and then He stoops down and begins to write on the ground. There is a moment of shock. Is He ignoring them? And then He looks up, and says quietly, “He who is without sin among you—let him throw the first stone.”

And He is back to His writing in the dirt. A very old man with a very white beard abruptly turns and leaves the scene. Others follow, some quickly, some slowly, with more reluctance. The Christ’s words have come to bear on every man. They stand all convicted; all guilty. So they leave.

And He is left.

The sinless One.

The Alpha and Omega, Judge of the Hearts of Men, the Great I AM, He who rained fire on Sodom and Gomorrah; the One before whom the angels cry, “Holy! Holy! Holy is the LORD of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory!”

His Law has been broken by this woman. His Rule has been mocked. Almighty God stands affronted.

His voice is gentle as He asks, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”

She raises her eyes, just a glimmer of hope beginning to warm her heart. “No one, Lord.”

And oh, so quietly He says words that cause the heavens to shiver, that cause all of creation to draw in its breath and gasp in astonishment.

“Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”

Did you hear it? Did you hear what He said? “Neither do I condemn you!”

Do we understand that God does not wish to condemn us? That though His justice must demand the ultimate penalty for our sins, it breaks His heart to do so? This is why He died! In that moment on a dusty bit of Israeli earth, the Messiah proclaimed His heart and the reason for His coming! He threw His mantle of protection, the ransom of His blood, over the woman and set her free.

This is not cheap grace, certainly! This is not something to be taken lightly! With His own life He bought grace for us. With His death He made mercy possible! It was on the promise of His full payment that David was forgiven his crimes, that Abraham and Moses talked with God, that Rahab was redeemed. Only because of His sacrifice does mercy reign in this world. Only because of His heart, the heart that broke and bled and stopped beating for our sake!

Understand! Every one of us who has come to God has come this way: thrown down to the ground, bloody and exposed and reeking with guilt. Every one of us has come with the voices of the Accuser and his demons cursing and taunting and shouting over our hanging heads, “The Law demands death. What do You say?”

Every one of us.

And to every one of us He has said it: “I do not condemn you. Go, and by my grace, sin no more.” His is the right to condemn, His is the power. And because of His sacrifice, He has refused to exercise His right. He has refused to condemn us!

I hear joy in His voice, joy of such depth that I doubt any of us have ever fully experienced it. This is joy to make the stars sing, to send the Spirit of the Son of Man leaping and skipping and dancing upon the mountains. “Neither do I condemn you!”

Only one thing is asked of us: accept this grace. Accept it, and go forth from this place of confrontation with your sin—go forth a free man, or a free woman, and sin no more. Enter into this love and joy of your God, and learn to live by His Spirit.

And when you fall again, grace is still there.

Don’t ever forget what He said.

“Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more!”

* * *

What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:31-39


This is an excerpt from Letters to a Samuel Generation, a book about knowing the mind and heart of God. I will be posting from this work until I finish Seeds 2 and can get back to writing new Matthew commentary later this fall. I hope it’s a blessing to you!


Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash




One response to “We Still Need Amazing Grace (Letters to a Samuel Generation)”

  1. William Tuck Avatar

    Very few go thru the narrow gate. Very few teach you how to go thru it. Sweet Words and Teachings Rachel Thank You!

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