Listening this morning to the recording of CJ Mahaney preaching at Southern Baptist Seminary on February 10, I was convicted that my pride tends to blind me to the truth of sola gratia—that it is by God’s grace alone that I am saved… and that I even am. For “What do [I] have that [I] did not receive?” Sola Gratia, in the end, isn’t just the truth that God saves sinners by grace alone (which is what this Latin phrase means), but it is that Grace is alone. There is nothing besides Grace. It exists alone. Because there is nothing in the Universe, besides God, that has not been given by God. Hence, all is Grace.
Since this is one of those truths which lie at the very heart of reality itself, I have to conclude that when I am proud—as I frequently am—I am in fact believing a lie. I am believing in that moment that I have something I did not receive. As CJ reveals, the more we have, the more we have in reality received and thus, the more we owe. Who then can be proud of how much we owe?
I got a phone call this morning concerning a home I own in another province—which I have been trying to sell for 5 years without success (the value of the property has declined faster than I have been paying down the mortgage, so the more I pay off, the less I own!). A utility company was looking for a way to collect money they are owed by my tenant. But I am also owed money by our tenant, so much so that I am put in a difficult situation as a result. Meaning that what I own—a mobile home on a lot—in fact increases my debt. The longer I own it, the more my debt becomes a burden to me. This is, however, a small thing when compared to the debt I owe to God. To be proud of anything is to believe the lie that I did not receive that thing of which I am proud. Pride then is out of touch with reality itself. And that’s the definition of insanity. I’m glad for the phone call this morning which reminded me of my true reality before God. That phone call, difficult at the time, is another gift from God to keep me sane—in touch with the reality of Sola Gratia.
What difficult “phone calls” has God been using to keep you sane? What burdens or gifts in your life are in fact gifts of God to remind you that all is Grace? I hope you will read this passage of Scripture and listen to CJ preach on it, and hear God’s voice gently restore you, as He did me, to humble, grateful, sanity.
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
(1 Corinthians 4:6-13 ESV)
Tom Schreiner’s new commentary on Galatians is what CJ jokingly referred to in the intro to his sermon as the first commentary on Galatians for athletes. Humour aside, CJ recommends this commentary and, having read some of Tom Schreiner’s other work, I hope to be adding it to my library as well.