Until the good news of the grace of God seems too good to be true, we have not yet seen it in all its fullness. I once had an encounter with the Lord who showed me five wagons of spiritual blessing He wanted to release to the world. One wagon contained “deliverance from deserved consequences” and truly seemed too good to be true. Will God deliver us from what we deserve? Yes. God forgives and restores. If He didn’t, no one would be redeemed and no one would make it to heaven.
The Bible is clear: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). Jesus said, “I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5). These sobering words testify that we all need deliverance from what we deserve. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus provided the only way of deliverance from ultimate deserved consequences.
True repentance is the key to experiencing this forgiveness. We must turn not only from whatever deserves His condemnation but also toward God and renew our minds completely. Without both aspects of repentance we will never fully experience both the depth of God’s mercy and the breadth of His redemption.
The Apostle Paul: Grace Enlarged
Acts 7 introduces Saul of Tarsus as he approved the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Stephen, an original deacon, was full of the Holy Spirit and faith. He did great signs and wonders and incurred the wrath of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Acts 6:9). They could neither refute his wisdom nor withstand the Spirit by which he spoke, so they framed him, accused him of blasphemy, and brought him before the Jewish high council.
Stephen defended himself before the high priest. He outlined God’s plan through a discourse of the history of His dealings with Israel, beginning with Abraham and ending with the promise of the Messiah. Stephen rebuked them for having rejected the prophets of old and for killing the Messiah Himself. The council ground their teeth in anger as they cast him out and stoned him to death. Saul of Tarsus stood by, consenting to Stephen’s death.
Afterward, Saul began a focused attack on the believers in Jerusalem:
Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. (Acts 8:1, 3)
Saul gained letters of authority from the high priest and with demonic ferocity continued his vicious attacks. Then, miraculously, Jesus intervened on the road to Damascus. “As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads’” (Acts 9:3–5).
Jesus’ intervention in Saul’s life reveals the marvelous depth of the mercy and kindness of God. Saul had done so much harm, not just to the disciples of the Lord but to the Lord Jesus Himself, who took Saul’s actions personally: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Isn’t It Hard for You?”
I am shocked that Jesus appealed to Saul based on how difficult his life became as he persecuted the church. Jesus asked him, “Isn’t it hard for you to kick against the goads?” Isn’t it hard for you? How amazing is the heart of God for every person!
Jesus had a profound destiny for this enemy of the gospel. He conscripted Ananias, a man of real faith, to rescue Saul. Ananias knew well Saul’s reputation. But he overcame his apprehension, obeyed the Lord, found Saul, and restored his sight:
And Ananias . . . laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. (Acts 9:17–20)
Who more than Paul is the prototype of one delivered from deserved consequences? He was not just a sinner. He sought the destruction of believers in Jesus and the very faith Jesus suffered and died to establish. The apostle Paul constantly proclaimed this marvelous grace. He wrote: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Tim. 1:15–16).
The salvation of Saul of Tarsus is a primary example of how far the mercy of God is willing to reach. His mercy still reaches at least that far for anyone today.
The Importance of Grace
Grace has many manifestations but is most simply defined as “undeserved favor.” To qualify for it you cannot deserve it. Grace is the only basis of deliverance available to us. It only comes as a gift. We must trust God to experience the fullness of His grace. Jeremiah wrote about the significance of trusting God:
Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes [kjv: see good when it comes], but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. (Jer. 17:5–8)
Jeremiah concluded that to trust ourselves is to put ourselves under a curse. The effects of the curse is not that God stops helping us, but that when we trust anything other than the Lord we lose the capacity to receive the help He continues to freely provide for us! Trust the Lord for He will truly deliver us from deserved consequences!