A favorite Scripture for those who follow the religion about Jesus is John 1:17 “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” As recently as last night, I heard a very well known pastor teach that Jesus eliminated the Law.
Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, from a literal standpoint, there are groups of people who still devoutly practice the Mosaic Law.
Second: Jesus, in his own words, explains that he didn’t come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. In Truth, Jesus presented with a model for living that cooperated with the Law. By example, he showed us how to fulfill God’s Law through cooperating inwardly with the Law.
Finally, one of the salient characteristics of God is His consistency, His faithfulness. To suggest that one man “changed” God expressly contradicts the very idea of Spirit, “with whom there can be no variation or turning” (James 1:17). Either God is unchanging or not; you cannot have it both ways.
Before we explore what grace might mean in the religion of Jesus, let us back up and talk about Jesus’ unique concept of God.
Jesus Had a Unique Concept of God
Each person has a unique concept of God; and no one’s concept of God is God. Yet, each person — atheists included — is prone to believe that his concept of God is who and what God is. The vast majority of people go through life never realizing that how they think about God is simply how they think about God — no more, no less.
For Jesus, “God was not an object of worship but a Presence dwelling in us, a force surrounding us, and a Principle by which we live” (Butterworth). There are many places in the Gospels that can be studied to grasp Jesus’ concept of God. But one that I like and that many people overlook is his Sermon by the Sea, which appears in Matthew 13.
In this collection of parables, Jesus lays out what heaven is like. And, if you can put aside the dogma of the religion about Jesus long enough, reading these parables with fresh eyes will reveal a concept of heaven (or God) that is quite revolutionary. He talks about God in both masculine and feminine terms. He explains the increasing power of God. And, He lays out how we must interact with God on a daily basis.
The Bible Contains A Multitude of God Concepts
These passages are separated by 4 centuries of writing and thinking about God. Once they are compiled into a single canon of Scripture, later students who have not been taught how to read the Bible and who do not read it in its original languages when they do, conflate the stories.
This conflation of God concepts happens over and over and over again. We read the ideas David had about God and assume that they are the same ideas that Elijah had about God or that Jesus shares the same ideas about God that Paul has. They do not.
Have You Examined Your God Concept?
Butterworth writes: “Most of us have grown up with a primitive concept of God — a big Man, big and good, but still a big man, managing the world from the outside, a kind of absentee landlord…The God concept that dominates most Christian theology is the primitive concept of pre-Mosaic Israel.”
But what do you think about God? That’s what really matters.
In his book The Ten Commandments, Emmet Fox writes “the question is sometimes asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’ But that question and its answer can have no meaning until you say what kind of God you believe in. Then it has meaning.”
Here’s why you need to spend some time considering what you believe about God: “Whatever your idea of God is, whatever idea you really believe in, that is what will be expressed in your life. A limited God will be limited, a cruel God will react on you cruelly and without love…If you believe in a human God, you will have all the trouble you would have if a human being really could run this universe…However, if you believe that God is spirit, and think what spirit means, and if you believe God is love, and intelligence and life, and wisdom, and think what these things mean, and really believe it, you will get the result of that kind of God” (Fox).
And, if you have difficulty discerning what you believe, then simply look at your life. What do your experiences say about your inward belief in God? Incidentally, this is why I believe even atheists have a God concept. It isn’t that they believe in a god per se, but they have a conception of the universe and how it works. And, that conception becomes their god.
Jesus Did Not Teach the Trinity
The only thing “holy” about the trinity is that it was wholly made up by the church.
As Butterworth explains, “the Council of Nicaea was called by Constantine in AD 325 to secure unity in the Christian fold for his own political support. The council was called for the purpose of hammering out a concept of God that would be acceptable to all factions…Votes were taken, and with a narrow majority what came to be known as the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity emerged.”
In the religion about Jesus, the holy trinity is deeply important. Inherent in the concept of the Trinity is the idea of a god located outside of you. This concept is a far cry from Jesus’ conception, as expressed in John 4:24 — “God is Spirit and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
In the religion of Jesus, the emphasis is on inner connection with the Christ, our indwelling Lord. “You can never be separated from God because you are an expression of God…God cannot forsake you any more than gravity can forsake you” (Butterworth).
Prayer Looks Different in the Religion of Jesus
In the religion of Jesus, prayer becomes about inner change. Prayer is not for God; it is for you. “You pray, not to change something in God-Mind, but in your own” (Butterworth).
In order to fly, pilots do not have to pray to the Law of Aerodynamics in order to get the plane into the air. Provided they (and the machine they are piloting) cooperate with the Law of Aerodynamics, all shall go well.
We must pray with a confident spirit in the religion of Jesus. All the namby-pamby, “if it be your will” prayers go out the window. You are working with unchanging, fundamental spiritual principle. You may have anything offered by the storehouse of Absolute Good, provided you supply the consciousness to have it.
Nothing for your highest good shall be off limits to you.
So Where Is Grace in All This?
What part does grace play in the religion of Jesus? If Spiritual Law has not been abolished by the Grace of God, then what’s its purpose?
Defined, grace is good will, favor, aid from God (Revealing Word).
As a gift from an unchanging God, that means that grace always was, always is, and always will be. Through his example, Jesus revealed this concept of Grace in a way that the ordinary person could experience it. To read John 1:17 (Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ) as if grace were not previously present is to believe in a changing God.
We must consider Jesus’ unique concept of God against the backdrop of prevailing Hebrew thought about God. In the Hebrew mind, God was distant, far away, blessing and cursing somewhere arbitrarily. And, this peasant comes along and suggests that I am more than a friend of God. I am the son of God.
Just as the Law of Aerodynamics has always been, God’s Grace has always been. Jesus simply demonstrated how to experience it. “Beloved, we are God’s children now” (I John 3:2).
Grace Is On Your Side No Matter What
“Grace, the divine favor, the activity of God’s love, works for us constantly” (Butterworth). You can’t turn it off and God will never turn it off. It is the endless fount of Absolute Good always streaming through you to you.
I love the way Butterworth expresses it: “God’s desire in you to express perfectly through you is so great that you never completely reap the harvest of error, and always reap more than you sow of good.” The Psalmist expresses the same when he writes: “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).
His Grace is forever on your side no matter what.
So, Now What?
Well…we have a choice. We can continue believing as we always have. It is our right to do so. But, if we’re up for the work, we can choose to study and follow the religion of Jesus — a spiritual practice that calls for you to be an active participant in your own salvation.
It calls for you to avail yourself of the Grace of God which has always been. To rest in the awareness that all is well, all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well. Are you ready?