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Lesson 7: Grace That Justifies

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, we were saved, not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of God’s own mercy. We were saved through the baptism of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit God lavished on us through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that we might be justified through grace and become heirs to the hope of eternal life. This is doctrine you can rely on. I want you to be quite uncompromising in teaching this. Then those who now believe in God will keep their minds occupied doing good works. These things are excellent and beneficial to everyone.

– Titus 3:4-8 (TIB)

Devotion: Read Colossians 2:6-23. What a wonderful passage to conclude this week’s study of God’s grace that justifies and launch us on next week’s focus on grace which helps us become increasingly more like Jesus (grace that sanctifies). We create these neat theological categories of grace, but the truth is life with God is not easy to categorize. These forms of grace interweave in biblical writings just as they do in our lives. Paul swings back and forth between the call to grow in Christ and celebrate salvation through faith in Jesus. As we turn toward sanctification, we must never forget that what we achieve by being “united in love” or having “understanding” is always in response to God’s initiating and justifying grace. Christians are not better than other people. We are loved and forgiven. The Church should invite others who are loved and broken to join us in receiving God’s grace. What are we saying about God when we act superior to others? When do you struggle with pride? What aspects of worship helps us maintain both humility and healthy self-esteem?

Personal Worship Option: Read Proverbs 16:18-19. What attitude does God want us to have toward others? Reflect on your past week. When did you have that attitude? When did you not?

Dig A Little Deeper:

2:6 We must not only receive Jesus’ gift of forgiveness but increasingly live out his teaching (2:19). What criteria can we use to determine if we are living and growing in Christ?  How might “thankfulness” be as a criteria of growth (3:15, 17; 4:2)? How can we measure it?

Paul’s first argument against false teaching is that it strays away from what they were first taught. Traditions and teachings handed down to us are not always right, but followers of Jesus must not ignore the experiences of those who have gone before us.

2:8 Paul warns readers against those who teach that certain works or philosophy are necessary to attain or complete salvation: abstaining from foods, rituals, angelic worship, visions, etc. What are the superstitions and intellectual double-talk popular today?

2:9 “Fullness” refers to the early church hymn quoted in Col 1:15-20. God’s fullness is already present in our lives. Christ has accomplished this for us, but we must receive it. We must not allow hollow and deceptive teaching to prevent us from living this out.

2:11 Christian Baptism is the New Covenant equivalent of circumcision. This sign-act of initiation connects us to Jesus’ death (“buried” in 2:12) and resurrection (Rom 6:3-11), as well as transferring us into the reign of God from the demonic powers of this world (Col 1:13; 2:15).

2:15 Jesus’ sacrifice brings about forgiveness and new life by establishing God’s victory over the spiritual and human authorities of the world which claim power over us.

2:22 What modern “regulations” come to mind when you read this section? What are healthy ways to promote ritual, worship styles, or visions without promoting arrogance or salvation by works?

2:23 Self-imposed piety, abstinence, visions….there is nothing wrong with these things. However, there is a problem if we claim these experiences provide or complete salvation. Focusing on these experiences rather than Jesus is just another form of self-indulgence, valuing our views and accomplishments more than God’s actions for us.

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