“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1-6).
Not long ago a young man asked me to be his accountability partner. When I asked him if accountability had kept him from sinning in the past, he answered in the negative. While I was fine with the role, I explained that accountability generally serves not so much as a deterrent but as a confessional after sinning. The fact that confessing to me is intended to be more uncomfortable than just confessing to God does not change the result.
CCM used to publish a cartoon diagram showing sin as a cliff with God’s grace as an ambulance at the bottom. Truly, God’s grace does restore broken sinners (like and ambulance), but more importantly, it is God’s grace in the active work of the Holy Spirit that guards us from sinning in the first place. In this sense, this young man’s commitment to confess to me is more like falling through thorn bushes on the fall downward than keeping his eyes on the path in the first place. The best and only reliable accountability partner is the Holy Spirit.
In the first six verses of Paul’s introduction of his letter to the Romans, he summarizes both the gospel (verses 1-5) and its effect (verse 6). In the latter, he explains that God’s grace was given for apostleship(Paul sharing the good news) and obedience to the faith. He includes us in the gospel and promise as those “called of Jesus Christ.” So, grace has the positive benefit of saving us both from judgment and for obedience. As you read the Scripture, look for the number of times that God presents His grace in life-giving and positive terms. God’s purpose is to conform us to His Son through the work of His Spirit. Therefore, we should not be surprised to see this theme regularly repeated.