The Grace of God and Departures From It -- By: Gary D. Long
RAR 3:1 (Winter 1994) p. 79
The Grace of God and Departures From It
The writer of Hebrews instructs believers: “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them” (13:9).
This verse is immediately preceded by the words: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The context makes it clear that the hearers of this Epistle were to remember those who had ruled over them and taught them the Word of God, namely, about Jesus Christ. And the warning of verse nine is that they are not to be carried about or away with strange doctrines (i.e., teachings which are foreign to biblical truth and practice and, especially, in this context, which lead away from the person of Christ). In order to prevent being carried about by such strange or false doctrines, the heart must be established by the principle of grace. It cannot be established by continued observance of empty rituals of an old religious order—the old covenant order which has been fulfilled and, thereby, done away with as covenantally binding by the resurrected Christ through the blood of the everlasting covenant (v. 20).
It probably is not an overstatement to say that all departures from the grace of God have at their beginning a departure from the doctrine of Christ, especially His cross-work which is the focal point of redemptive history. The apostle Paul believed this when he exclaimed: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).
There is widespread misunderstanding within present-day Christianity over the lawful use of God’s law (1 Tim. 1:8) in the Christian life. The misunderstanding does not exist over the doctrine of the cross proper, but over the role that God’s law and its covenantal use has in relationship to sanctification of the new covenant believer. That the sanctification of the believer is vitally linked to the cross of Christ is freely admitted and confessed by all who are
RAR 3:1 (Winter 1994) p. 80
evangelical in the faith. Differences (within Reformed theology in particular) over the Christian’s relationship to the law and the gospel are not a willful departure over the nature and design of the cross-work of Christ; rather they are a departure resulting from misunderstandings of God’s law as it relates to the flow of redemptive history, especially the meaning of “law” in the Epistles of Paul. It is no understatement to say that Paul’s understandin...
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