In the western Christian theology, Grace has been defined, not as a created substance of any kind, but as “the love and mercy given to us by God because it’s God’s own desire for us to have it, not because of anything we have done to merit it”, “the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward the human race”. Grace is understood by Christians to be the spontaneous gift from God to man –“generous, free and absolutely unexpected and undeserved” – that takes the form of divine favour, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God (Courtesy Wikipedia)
Grace is the working of God himself, not a created substance of any kind that can be treated like a commodity.
If there is anyone on this planet earth who has benefited immensely from grace, I would not be wrong to say am the first candidate. When I was growing up as a kid, my parents always told me it took the undeserved grace of God for me to live.
I had fallen sick within three months after my birth and was admitted at St. Martins Catholic Clinic in Wiaga, a suburb of the Builsa district in the Upper East Region. To add salt to injury, my mother was also taken ill.
Doctors always advise parents to give their kids EXCLUSIVE breast milk, at least, in the first Six (6) months, ostensibly, because of the nutritional value and health benefits it provides to the kid. In my case, I was not only denied breast milk in the first six months, it extended well over some months, partly because of the ill health of my mom.
Measles is one the six killer diseases among children. This was the disease I had contracted less than three months after my birth. In fact, I have been informed that my mom was suffering from the same ailment.
For several weeks, my father would carry me, as tiny and weakling as I was, on his shoulders, walk as many as fifteen km on a daily basis to and fro the Clinic. The worst part was when I had gone into coma for several days and both the doctors and family members advised my old man to stop wasting his meagre resources on me because there was no way I would make it. Then I had spent several days without food nor water. But, just as the biblical Moses, God used my father to save me. Today, here am I writing articles and doing some stuff to change and transform many lives across the globe.
The secret is that grace found me when I had no idea what it is. I do not intend to write my autobiography in this piece, but I feel it would be unfair and ingratitude to rhapsodize about grace without a touch of some spices in the soup. My own story was a great epitome of undeserved grace. This is just a tip of the iceberg.
On numerous occasions, God has always demonstrated his grace towards me, right from birth through senior High school, the university to my present status in life. My story, I believe is not an exception because I know you have a better story.
In the next few minutes, I would be taking you through the scriptures, essentially the gospel according to St. Mathew, where I shall show you amazingly, how grace found a Samaritan woman, who ordinarily ( by tradition and rules) were ruled out of the blessings of God.
With time, you would appreciate how the activation of divine unmerited grace nullifies and renders null and void rules that would, ordinarily, have been great hindrance to many of human’s success.
The gospel according to Saint Mathew, Chapter 15 (especially verses 21 to 28) is probably one of the most inspiring chapters in the Bible. I am not good at telling stories, but reading the entire conversation that transpired between Jesus, his disciples and a poor Canaanite woman is really scintillating and inspiring.
Many biblical scholars have read different meanings into the conversation that transpired between Jesus and the poor Canaanite woman. My interest here is not to analyze what biblical scholars have done. What I intend to do in this piece, is to take you to an entirely different dimension delving deeper into Jesus’ divinity and his humanity that have culminated in the way and manner the poor woman was treated.
The fact of the matter is, Jesus has always responded to faith. Why then would the Lord Jesus treat this lady the way he did. How different was her case that warranted the kind of treatment she received.
Now notice this: “21 leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
Some kind of nerve! “24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.”
I want you to notice something that is quite peculiar to this text; very peculiar, because if anyone is used to faith, certainly Jesus is. However, notice this in verse 23: “Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
Then by the 24th verse, Jesus had two separate requests before him. First, “….have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly”; and the second request: “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
Now observe the verse 24: “He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” It does not say to whom he was speaking to. In other words, it is not clear Jesus was responding to the Syrophoenician woman’s request or to his disciples who had also asked him to send her away as indicated in the verse 23. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”
Determined as she was, she wouldn’t stop importuning. She talks to him again.
“26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” But, again, it does not say to whom he was speaking to here.”
At this juncture, Jesus’ disciples had stopped talking and apparently watching the drama between the poor woman and their masters as it unfolds. The woman wouldn’t throw in the towel, she kept demanding. And finally, Jesus talks to her.
It is important to note that, at first, he does not answer and when he answers, he hasn’t said anything to anybody, and finally she gets her breakthrough.
Now it is important to escape the trap of tradition because, in order to discover the truth of this deductive narrative, we have to ask a very bold question.
If we go traditionally, we would just deal with the issue of the woman perseverance until Jesus’ response. But for the more curious mind, the question is what is really going on here? Jesus has always responded to faith. Why was this lady being treated unfairly?
Jesus did not rush in responding to her desperate demand. The question that has to be answered, therefore, is who is having the problem? It seems as if she has not changed her intensity to receive a blessing. On the other hand, it seems as if Jesus is having a problem dealing with her.
Now let me embellish the thought here. In the 10th chapter of the same St. Mathew’s gospel, in verse 5, Jesus says to his disciples:
“5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.”
In the first place, per the rules, it wasn’t wrong for Jesus to have responded to the woman’s request the way he did. It is obvious from the Scripture we just read.
Weirdly, here is Jesus in a situation that he explicitly directed his followers “don’t get in”. And you know how the old Saints are: whenever you begin to make adjustments because of a new order or move of the spirit, they will jump in a minute and say “you are changing orders”. These are individuals who religiously follow rules.
If you focus on Jesus here, what you will unearth is that, in this particular narrative, Jesus is having a little Gethsemane experience, because if I focus on Jesus, one recognizes his humanity warring against his divinity as it relates to how he should deal with this woman. And his war now is, WHAT IS MY MISSION?
Obviously, Jesus was not sent to the gentiles, but to the lost sheep of Israel as indicated in Chapter 10 of Mathew’s gospel. Yet, still, here is a woman whose FAITH has, clearly, recognizes who Jesus was; and her intensity would not allow her to let Jesus go, and somehow, Jesus knows what he ought to do, but could not have ignored the woman’s importunity.
One of the lessons we can learn from this important narrative as Christians is, to hold on to what you want God to do for you no matter what. Your request may be ignored or delayed sometimes, you must not give up. Keep asking until you have an answer; an answer that corresponds to your request.
In Mathew Chapter 18, we are told not to be weary of our demands to the Lord. It does not really matter how long you have been praying. God will never forsake nor neglect you. Somehow, there will be an answer.
Jesus had gone into Tyre and Sidon, apparently a pagan country; he is right where he told his disciples not to go. Note: any time you see the adjective, “Canaanite” woman, anybody that is familiar with the Hebrew Scripture, it means “anything dangerous to the faith of Israel”.
Whenever Mathew uses the word “behold”, what he means is, “take a real close look at this because something queer is about to happen”. The word, “Canaan” got everything that is inimical; counter distinctive and anti-ethical to Israel. What Mathew is seeing here is a millennial struggle, because here is a Canaanite woman beseeching and attacking Jesus to change his Mission.
The disciples couldn’t stand her screaming. Bible indicates she was speaking so loudly and shouting voluminously and uncouth as possibly just to draw Jesus’s attention to her situation.
Notwithstanding, in her uncouthness and loudness, she was scripturally and ‘worshiply’ correct. “Oh thou son of David, have mercy on me.” Somehow, faith coached and taught her the right word or phrase in a circumstance such as hers. In fact, she does not necessarily have to be raised in a biblical school in Jerusalem in order to be connected to Jesus. Faith knows how to connect you to God at the right time.
Notice what she did: she raises him up to heaven when she says: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And sends him to hell when she says: “my daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” I know you are the God of heaven, but I don’t need you up in heaven now, I need you to descend and deliver my daughter from that demon tormenting my girl.
The lady came to Jesus with a situation in mind. She knew very well she wasn’t in any way qualified for the blessings she seeks, yet got the gusts to walk to Jesus and courageously demands same. She wasn’t really bordered about the rules. She didn’t care what people would say, she has a problem that needs fixing.
Have you for once found yourself in a sophisticated web, where you think, per the rules you do not qualify to be where you are; however, somehow grace tosses those so-called sophisticated rules to the dungeon eventually clearing the path for success?
When grace is activated, rules struggle for places to hide. Strangely, grace is absolutely unparalleled to rules. Rules dictate a certain pattern that must be religiously followed. Once you veered off the road, you are immediately jettisoned.
The woman was uncouth and loud, but her perseverance distinguishes her from the crowd. Faith tells her, here is my blessing. Jesus had ventured into her territory. She says; if you are not going to bless me, don’t come closer to me.
In order to stay connected, you have got to keep shouting, you have got to stay close. You have got to be resolute and uncouth as possible as you can sometimes.
As a matter of fact, this honorable woman needs to be given some humongous commendation. Here is a woman, legally, disqualified from grace; notwithstanding, maneuvered in coercing Jesus to torn apart all rules through an uncommon faith thereby paving the way for an uncommon victory.
One of the great things the coming and crucifixion of Jesus and his subsequent resurrection did to humanity is bridging the gap of rules with permanent gap of grace. In the Old Testament days, sinners were reprimanded and punished instantly. In fact, many of us would have been dead with our bones scavenged by ants and termites.
The question then is, how does one obtain this GRACE?
UNFORTUNATELY, grace is not something that one can work for or purchase with coins. Sad as this may be, it is the gospel truth.
The good news, however, is Scripture has given us some hint on how one could walk towards grace. I must emphasize that Grace is not something one can work for. It is bestowed from above. It does not really matter how self-righteous you maybe, grace can only be bestowed from our Lord through his son Jesus. It is unmerited.
As a matter of fact, there are no permanent rules guarding who qualifies for grace. Grace is one of the common gifts of God to the human race.
Now let us delve into the scriptures as I show you how one could work towards grace. A retrospective journey to the drama that unfolded between Jesus and the Canaanite woman shows that FAITH was the active ingredient that activated the unmerited grace Jesus showed her.
In the 28th verse, it reads: “28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.”
Notice this: “Woman, you have great faith!” A close analysis of this very verse indicates amazement on the part of Jesus. The phrase did not end with the normal ‘period’ or ‘full stop’, instead, it ended with an apostrophe; a sign that Jesus was indeed taken aback at the woman’s faith, something he did not see in the Jewish brethren.
In this case, it is obvious faith activated the grace. Don’t forget that per the rules in Israel, the gentiles were ruled out. Therefore, in order for someone like the Canaanite woman to receive a blessing from Jesus, she needed to demonstrate enough faith that will ultimately jettison the rules to the dungeon before she is able to partake in the Jewish blessing. This woman did exactly that.
In St. Mathew’s gospel, Chapter 10:5, Jesus uses the word ‘Gentile’ or ‘Samaritan’. It reads: “5 these twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.”
To understand our topic properly, we need to know who a Gentile or Samaritan is.
For the uninitiated, suffice it to say, the word Gentile is an English translation of the Hebrew word goyim (“people, nations”) and the Greek word ethne (“nations, people groups, people”). The Latin Vulgate translated these words as gentilis, and this word was then carried over into English as “Gentile.” The term refers to a person who is not a Jew.
From the Jewish perspective, Gentiles were often seen as pagans who did not know the true God. During Jesus’ time, many Jews took such pride in their cultural and religious heritage that they considered Gentiles “unclean,” calling them “dogs” and “the uncircumcised.” Gentiles and the half-Gentile Samaritans were viewed as enemies to be shunned (see John 4:9; 18:28; and Acts 10:28).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus alluded to the common association of Gentiles with paganism: “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:47, ESV). In another place in the same sermon, Jesus noted, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7, ESV). In both cases, the NIV simply translates the word in question as “pagans.”
However, the modern definition of a "gentile" as given in Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary is: "relating to the nations at large, as distinguished from the Jews."
In simple terms, the Gentile, ordinarily have no inheritance in the Lord’s blessings. It wasn’t therefore, for nothing that for a gentile to partake in the divine blessings of God, something extraordinary must be done in order to deactivate the established principle that hindered them from partaking in the blessings.
Now let’s get back to the fundamentals of our message. If faith is the one key ingredient that has the potency to activate GRACE, how does one get Faith then?
According to Hebrews 11, Scripture defines FAITH as the “substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.” From this text, it is also obvious faith itself, must be worked for. In order words, one does not obtain faith overnight.
In Romans 10:17, it states: “17 consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Faith is obtain only by hearing the word, and the word by Jesus Christ. What Scripture is saying here is that, by simply hearing the word, one is nurturing faith. Wow, this is interesting!
I am curious, though. Just by hearing the word, faith is developed? I think, quite frankly, this is debatable. If what the Epistle written by Paul to the Roman Church is true, Christians scattered over the surface of the planet earth have workable faith I guess. The same bible tells us faith without works, it is impossible to please God. So, we are talking about workable faith here, nothing else.
Searching deeper into the Scripture reveals otherwise; it is evident that by just listening to the word, it would be absolutely impossible to nurture faith.
“The wise and foolish builders” The above is how Mathew 7:24-27 is headlined. “24 ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’ 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things; the crowd was amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
In Romans, Paul tells us that there is only one way one could build faith, i.e. by hearing the word of Christ. In Mathew 7, Jesus did not only confirm the counsel of Paul but went further to liken it to a wise or foolish builder depending on how ‘wise’ or ‘foolish’ you do with the word when you hear it.
This means, there is one thing hearing the word of Christ and another thing applying the word when you hears it. Clearly, it is not enough to just hear the word without action.
It is also important I sound this warning to believers. It is not every word that one hears that must be taking serious just because you hear it from a preacher. There are false teachings out there with the intent to distort the real message of Christ. In Romans 10:17 the message is straight forward and self-elucidative: “17 consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (emphasis placed on WORD ABOUT CHRIST). In order words, the message that you hear MUST be Christ-centered.
One’s faith is solidified when we hear the word and positively applying it to our life. In that way, your faith is properly grounded in the word. It is only when Christians build their faith on God’s word that we are able to withstand the storms and streams of life.
We must, therefore, live our lives as the Berean Christian. According to the Book of Acts, Chapter 17 verse 11, Paul of Tarsus and Silas preached at Berea, and the inhabitants "... received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.", and many of them believed.
A Berean Christian is the type of believer who would not only receive the word blindly and devours it, instead, “... received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
To examine the Scriptures means, to thoroughly and painstakingly examine every word you receive in order to authenticate it veracity or otherwise before final consumption and mastication. A Berean bible student would not blindly crumble anything he hears. He does extensive diagnoses before surgery.
The good book says: “the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” The secret is the word, Christ based.
Many a times, believers think once you are a born again Christian; one must live a trouble-free life. On the contrary, it is directly the opposite. We are however assured once your faith is on Jesus Christ, no matter how severe the storms, streams of life may be, you will sail through. Little faith and some degree of patience, perseverance is all you need.
Quite strangely, in the 15th Chapter of Saint Mathew’s gospel, we are not told whether the woman had the opportunity of listening to the teachings (word) of the Lord. Mathew was silent. And we are not here to run into a debate as to whether the woman heard the teachings of Christ or not.
Faith is not only hearing the word and its concomitant applications, faith is meant to be exercised. Its potency is tested when we try to exercise it as epitomized by Samaritan’s woman.
Grace is actually activated when faith is put to a test. When all hope is gone; when you are bereft of options, it is when faith is applied that grace is activated.
So far what I have done is to demonstrate in great deal to you how crucial it is not to wail permanently over your predicaments. Some of us have unduly disqualified ourselves from the blessings of God. We have cultivated a certain lifestyle that obviously disqualifies us from many life changing opportunities. Notwithstanding, there is still hope for us. Grace is not as a result of good deeds.
Apparently, grace saw you through 2015, and I strongly believe the same grace will walk you through 2016. As you cross over to the year 2016 pray for grace, because where grace is activated, every human rule is deactivated. Legalism says God will love us if we change. Grace says God will change us because He loves us.
More blessings as you cross over to 2016. By: Analimbey, Adobe-Rah Chris Email: [email protected]
Contact: 0207992552 www.analimbeychris.blogspot.com
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