The Grace of God

By Pastor Teck Uy

The legal principle of “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is enshrined in the Civil Code of many, if not all, democratic nations. This means that no one can use ignorance as a defense for their illegal actions. While this is also true with respect to our knowledge of God and his righteous requirements, there is grace that comes with it so that our transgressions are not dealt with accordingly. This was well explained by the apostle Paul when he said, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:13-14). Unlike men who expect us to know all the laws of the land, which is impossible to do, God gives allowances for ignorance and unbelief through his grace. He knows that we are but human, with many limitations.

But can we continue to claim ignorance and unbelief to justify our actions? No. The apostle Paul clearly declared, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). After having been born again, the proper response now is to repent and stop sinning. We cannot always avail of the grace of God and make excuses for wrongs done. While God is indeed gracious and merciful, we are told that we cannot abuse it. There is indeed a limit to his grace when the apostle Paul said, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” (Heb. 10:26-27). To keep on sinning deliberately is an insult to the Spirit of grace, treating with contempt the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that sanctifies us.

To illustrate God’s limit of grace, even to the point of Him going against his own promises, it is worth considering the life of King Manasseh of Judah. We are told in the Book of Second Kings that “the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to arouse his anger.  So the LORD said, ‘I will remove Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple, about which I said, “My Name shall be there”‘” (2 Kings 23:26-27). What did Manasseh do that angered the Lord so much? Manasseh committed the sin of idolatry. He went beyond the practices of his idolatrous forefathers by sacrificing his own son in the fire, practiced divination and consulted mediums and spiritists. Idolatry is one sin that God will not tolerate forever. He is willing to forget all his promises to punish those who continually indulge in it. Because Judah did not cease engaging in idolatry, the worst having been committed by King Manasseh, God eventually banished her from the land.

For those who keep on sinning and being enslaved by their stubborn spirit, God will certainly lose patience with them. The Book of Proverbs warned: “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (Prov. 29:1). We cannot take all these warnings from the Lord lightly. No one else will suffer but us if we ignore these warnings and choose to go on our own way. We cannot afford to be arrogant before God because this is like the evil of idolatry (1 Sam 15:23). The apostle Peter has a strong warning: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.  It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud’” (2 Peter 2:20-22). May we all heed the warnings of the Lord and be converted for the glory of God. Hallelujah!