Law, Grace, & Believing in Jesus
By Larry Johnson/John14:6
I received many email responses from readers who read my article “What Does it Mean to Believe in Jesus?” I wrote that article because I suspected that there might be other people who had either lived the same experience in the past or were presently living with the same doubt & fears about their salvation hoping that some might benefit from my story. The many responses I received from readers confirmed my suspicions to be true. Almost all of the responses were from readers who told me they had lived a similar experience of doubting their salvation that I had written about. Most emails offered kind words of “thank you” to me for writing the article. There were several readers who asked me questions about related concerns; I did respond to those questions by referring to scripture & explaining their meaning as best I could based upon what I have learned from God’s Word in the 40 + years since I found the truth of God’s way of salvation. Also, two people expressed that they are currently living in the same fear & misery that I experienced over 40 years ago which was the main focus of my article; they reached out to me for help in finding the same peace that I found.
My purpose in writing this article is to respond to the subject a couple of those emails that seemed to be in somewhat of a disagreement with the scriptures I used. If I understood those emails correctly one of them suggested that since the scriptures I used were from the book of John & since the Jews were under the Law not under not Grace, & since the only place in the bible where the Gospel of Grace is found is 1stCorinthians 15:1-4 that my article was meaningless. Therefore I assume he/she was saying that the scriptures God used to show me the truth about “believing” were not of Grace but of Law. Another email suggested that I read Paul’s epistles about the Age of Grace in which we are now living. Also, a reply suggested that everyone was saved when Jesus died on the cross. Each person gave supporting scripture for his/her reply. I appreciate each & every email response sent to me about my article. The emails I am referring to here caused me to really think about the things they were saying; I found myself reading scripture & praying about it and re-reading those emails several times. No, I was not offended by these emails but I do feel compelled to respond to them by explaining in greater detail the way in which the Holy Spirit revealed to me the very truths of God’s Word that I needed to find the true grounds for having a settled peace with God. I will also share my thoughts, based on scriptures I found, about Law & Grace, and universal salvation.
I am going to share my experience again, this time I will give more detail about the scriptures I was reading at that time. For those who read the article “What Does it Mean to Believe in Jesus?” if you don’t want to read about my experience again then please skip down to the section “Law & Grace.”
I was raised in a Baptist church where every Sunday I heard sermons about sin, heaven & hell, Jesus’ death on the cross, & salvation by believing in Jesus. I knew that I was a sinner, that because of my sin I would spend eternity in hell if I didn’t repent & accept Christ as my savior. That is what I heard over & over in church; I knew that Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins and He would save anyone who accepted Him as their savior. At age 13 I went to the alter at church to be saved and I was led through the scriptures known as the Romans Road; I said a prayer asking Jesus to save me was baptized shortly thereafter. Basically I was relying on Romans 10:13 “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” for my salvation. Afterwards I did not read the bible; I just went to church. Later, as a young adult, I began to have doubts about my salvation which eventually led to a life of uncertainty, fear, & misery.
I did not understand how just saying a prayer “in Jesus’ name” would “save” someone. The miserable state in which I found myself living drove me to seek the truth about believing in Jesus. I read several books about how to have assurance of salvation written by some well known Christian authors like Dr. H.A Ironsides, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, & Dr. John R. Rice. Their explanation of salvation was basically the same thing I had already been told in church; that to be saved I must repent of my sins and accept Jesus as my savior by believing in Him. I found myself saying the “sinners’’ prayer over & over; each time I would have a sense of being saved but that “sense” or feeling would not last and the uncertainty would soon return with the fear & misery and a sense of doom; I thought that I would never know for sure that I was saved. Somewhere in reading those books I came upon a reference to Romans 10:13 -14 where I saw that we have to “believe” in Jesus before we call on Him for salvation. My confusion was then centered around what “believing in Jesus” meant.
I can remember that time a little more than 40 years ago as though it happened yesterday. It was probably the most important two days of my entire life. After reading books, saying prayers begging God to save me, going to the alter at church confessing my sins and accepting Jesus as my Lord & Savior, promising to follow Jesus, etc. the doubt & uncertainty & fear continued to dominate my life. Finally, I just gave up on all that I was doing to get saved. One night, as I lay down in bed to try to get some sleep, I looked up at the ceiling & out of a sense of having no hope, of not being able to do anything myself, and from a sense of desperation I said the following prayer “God will you show me the truth about believing in Jesus?” I went to sleep and slept better that night than I had slept in a long time.
The next day I opened our big family bible to the Gospel of John. The reason I chose John was that I had heard someone say that if anyone ever wanted to know about Jesus the Gospel of John was the place in the bible to read. As I started reading John 1:1 something was different from other times I had read in the bible; I was reading the words but something inside me was explaining those words to me as I read them. It was as though I was a blind person who suddenly could see. God’s Spirit turned on the light for me and I was understanding His Word for the first time in my life. I continued to read and understand about who Jesus is and what He did for me. Note: At this time in my life I did not know about the Jews being under the law; I knew nothing about Dispensations, law, grace, covenants, about 1st Corinthians 15:1-4, etc. All I knew was that more than anything I desperately wanted to know Jesus as my savior!
Next I read John 1:17 “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” In that verse the word “truth” really caught my attention because I was seeking the truth from God’s Word and I was finding it right there in John chapter 1. Another verse that got my attention was John 1:29 “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” He was talking about “my” sin right there in John chapter 1.
As I continued to read in the Gospel of John I realized that I was approaching John 3:16 which I had heard all my life, but just before I got to verse 16 I read John 3:14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:” I remembered hearing something about that story in Sunday School and that voice inside of me was telling that this verse is about Jesus going to the cross. Reading on I got to John 3:36 “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” and in this verse was the word “believe”; I really wanted to know what that meant so I continued to read on in the book of John. Next, I came to John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” There again the word “truth” caught my attention for I was seeking the truth. I want to repeat that during this time of reading in the Gospel of John my thoughts were about finding the truth about believing in Jesus; I had limited knowledge about the law and grace and I don’t think that knowledge of those 2 subjects would have made any difference in what was about to happen to me in just a few minutes. Two verses in chapter 5 really caught my attention as the light God had turned on for me was getting brighter & that voice inside of me was becoming even more clear as the Holy Spirit was convincing me the of truth about believing in Jesus that I was so desperately seeking. Those verses were John 5:39 Jesus said to them, “search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” and John 5:40 “And you will not come to me that you might have life.” That voice inside of me said to me “Jesus is talking to the Jews but He is also talking to you; He wants you to come to Him.” The Light was even brighter as I sensed that God’s Spirit was showing me exactly what I needed so that I understand how to really “believe in Jesus.”
I continued on into chapter 6 and when I read John 6:37 “Jesus said “all the Father gives me will come to me and anyone who comes to me I will not turn away.” and John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” And then in John 6:45 “it is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Right then I knew that God was drawing me to Jesus; God’s Spirit showed me that I must cease from all the things I was doing to try to be saved and to simply trust in what Jesus had already done at the cross where He died and shed His blood to pay the penalty of my sins; that my sin debt had already been paid “in full” by Jesus at the cross.” At that moment I knew what it meant to “believe in Jesus” for salvation for God’s Spirit had just brought me out of the darkness of doubt & uncertainty into the light of the truth of the Gospel. You see, when I saw that Jesus’ death on the cross where He shed His blood to pay the penalty for my sin was all that God required for my salvation and that there was nothing I could do but cast my hopeless helpless self upon that message immediately the fear & uncertainty was replaced with a total peace and an absolute assurance of salvation. At that moment my trust transferred from myself to Jesus. Yes, I did come to Jesus; I found myself talking to Him as though He was right there in the room with me. I was thanking Him for dying on the cross to pay for my sins and telling Him that I wanted Him to change my life His way. And yes, my life did change that day, forever. I will use another scripture here although at that time I knew nothing about it but it helps to explain what actually happened to me that day: Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” VS. 9 “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” God gave me the right kind of faith to believe just like this verse says, it is a gift of God. What is the “right kind of faith?” I’ll answer that question by explaining the “wrong kind of faith” which is the focus of “self” & “works“; all the things “I” was doing to get saved were the “wrong kind of faith.” The faith God gave me was focused on Jesus’ death at the cross; that’s the “right kind of faith” and it is “saving faith.”
Law & Grace
Paul’s Gospel of Grace in 1st Corinthians 15:1-4 states in vs. 1-3 that the gospel he had delivered to them how that Christ died for our sin according to the scriptures, and that He was buried and that He rose again on the third day according to the scriptures. According to what scriptures? How about the Gospel of John which states in John 3:14-16 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:” “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” and John 1:17 “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Isn’t this grace, found in the Gospel of John, the same Gospel of Grace that Paul described in 1st Corinthians 15:1-4? God showed it to me in the Gospel of John.
Yes, I am aware of the different gospels, the Gospel of the Kingdom & the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the gospel found in the book of John is the Gospel massage of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If I’m not mistaken about this, that is the Gospel of Grace.
I’m not a bible scholar and I don’t understand everything in the bible but I found some scriptures I would like to consider in relation to the Law. John 5:45 “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.” vs. 46 “for had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.“ and vs.47 “But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” Is not Jesus telling the Jews that although God gave them the Law through Moses that Moses also told them about Jesus? Was Jesus saying to the Jews of His day that He was the end of the Law? Also, in Ephesians 2:14 “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;” vs. 15 “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;” vs. 16 “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:” Does this mean that by Jesus’ death on the cross He brought the offer of salvation through God’s grace to both Jew & Gentile? And Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Here does “all men” refer to both Jew & Gentile? Consider Galatians 3:24 “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” and Galatians 3:25 “But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” Does this mean that the purpose of the Law was to bring all men to believing the Gospel of Grace?
Although the Jews were still under the Law in the 4 Gospels wasn’t Jesus offering them salvation through the grace of God through His death on the cross? If I understand correctly, the Jews thought that Jesus was their Messiah who had come to establish His earthly kingdom and that through his Kingdom they would be rid of the rule of the Roman Empire. But did Jesus not offer to them the message of the Gospel of Grace?
Is Everyone Saved?
I wish I could believe that everyone was “saved” 2000 years ago when Jesus died on the cross but if that is true then why John 3:14-16. Another scripture that comes to my mind is Acts 16:30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, “what must I do to be saved?” vs. 31 And they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Yes, the Gospel message tells us that Jesus died on the cross to pay our sin debt “in full”, was buried & rose again to defeat death; our salvation is secure in Him. But, Romans 10:17 says “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” and John 6:63 “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.“ Also, 2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Aren’t these verses saying that we must hear that message, that we must then allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of or sin & of our need to have our sins forgiven, & finally, that we must place our faith in that message; and that all of this must happen under the convicting influence of the Holy Spirit. Finally, Ephesians 2:8 says “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” vs. 9 “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” In other words, when we hear the message of the Gospel and if we allow the Holy Spirit to convince/convict us of our sin & of the need to be forgiven, then God will give us the faith we need to believe. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, THE FAITH GOD GIVES YOU, SAVING FAITH, WILL BE FOCUSED ON THE DEATH OF JESUS AT THE CROSS. IF YOUR FAITH IS FOCUSED ON ANYTHING YOU DO THEN IT IS NOT SAVING FAITH & GOD DIDN’T GIVE IT TO YOU.
My understanding of Law & Grace might not be correct BUT I know that my salvation is sure and secured by the death of Jesus on the cross where He shed His blood there to pay my sin debt “in full.” Yes, I had heard that message in church many times but my doubts & fears, my uncertainty of salvation, and the misery were all replaced with an absolute assurance of salvation and a lasting peace with God as I read the Gospel of John seeking the truth from God Himself. The faith that God gave me is in that message; it is not in anything I have done.
My last comment: When I found the truth that I was seeking I was living in the Age of Grace, when I was reading the Gospel of John I was reading it during the Age of Grace, therefore God used His message to the Jews, who were under the Law, to help me understand the meaning of believing the Gospel of Grace.
Hope this makes sense.