Reformed/Charismatic/Missional Conference - Session 5 - Elliot GrudemSaturday, March 05, 2011
The Gospel of Grace
ELLIOT GRUDEM is the network coordinator for the Acts 29 Network and a pastor at Mars Hill Church. Prior to his work with Acts 29, Elliot served as the senior minister at Christ the King Presbyterian Church, a church he replanted in Raleigh, NC. He has worked for an urban ministry in New Orleans. He worked for a Fortune 100 company prior to seminary. He is the editor of Christian Beliefs, a book he completed with his father Wayne. Elliot holds degrees from Miami Univeristy (BA, History and English) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.).
What is most noticeable in this one of many meals we see in the gospels, is that the meal with Jesus provides an opportunity to experience God's grace. This just what we observe in the meal between Jesus and the Pharisees in Luke 7.
36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table.
37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,
38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner."
40 And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "Say it, Teacher."
41 "A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
43 Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly."
44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.
46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven-for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."
48 And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?"
50 And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
This story is unique to Luke's account of Jesus' life. Like most stories there's conflict and resolution, peppered with conversation. There are two conflicts in this story. First, there is a conflict over Jesus relationship with sinners. Second, there is conflict over Jesus' authority to forgive sins. Both conflicts are resolved in the gospel of grace, summarized like this: "God saves sinners...God saves big sinners." No matter where we are in our spiritual journey, God will reveal something about ourselves and His gospel in this story.
Resolving the Conflict of Jesus' Relationships
In verse 34 Jesus is said to be a friend of sinners...friends with gluttons and tax collectors. Yet how ironic is it that in verse 36, Jesus is asked to have dinner with Pharisees, the very same people who hated His relationships. They were men who defined themeslves by their scrupulous adherence to God's laws...separating themselves from those unfavored, from sinners. As a result, they hated those who didn't measure up to their standards. These were high and lofty standards, to be sure, totalling some 613 additional principles and standards accessorizing the law.
For example, they were rigid about their generosity. They knew God required giving 10% of their harvest. So just to be saved, they tithed from their spice cabinet. And in whatever they ate, they made sure it was tithed off of. And when they ate, they saved 10% of what they were eating for the priests. Yet how strange that they never invited to their table to eat those who really needed food to eat: the ritually unclean, the morally unclean, the sinners, the marginalized, those on the fringes. So Jesus is accused of being a glutton and drunkard, a friend of prostitutes and tax collectors, and He comes to the table of a Pharisee's house and does nothing to help His reputation at all.
A prostitute decided to visit the house while Jesus was eating there at the table that night. She came in and broken open an expensive jar of perfume and anointed Him with it. However, she was demonized by the Pharisees as they idolized their holiness and righteousness. Mark Driscoll says that when we idolize one thing we must also demonize something else by necessity. The Pharisees idolized their view of God's Word, and therefore demonized Jesus and the people He hung out with.
This woman was a "woman of the city," and it appears everyone in town knew who this woman was. But she complicates things when, in verses 37-38, she opens up this jar of perfume and anoints Jesus' feet, and stood there weeping, her tears wetting His feet...a veritable rainstorm of weeping on His dirty feet. So she wiped His feet with her hair, and kissed His feet, and then anointed His feet with the perfume. Luke is very, very careful to describe this scene act by act for the singular purpose of contrasting her treatment of Jesus with that of the Pharisees.
If you're a guest at this meal, you're feeling very awkward at this moment. It even appeared erotic no doubt, to the Pharisees. He engages in a scandalous intimacy with the profoundly immoral. This is why Luke records the thoughts of the Pharisees in verse 39. They call His prophetic ministry into account by wondering whether or not He even realized who this woman was and what she is guilty of, thinking that if Jesus really knew He wouldn't be allowing this. But He knew. And this is where we find the inherent disturbing scandal of the gospel.
Jesus came to reconcile profoundly, unholy sinners to a profoundly, holy God. Jesus knew her reputation. He says in verse 47, "her sins which are many." He knew all about it, and He was approachable by sinners. Sinners knew this, and when they looked at Him for forgiveness of sins, they experienced it and responded in love...the kind of scandalous love that displays itself in humility and generosity. Who wants to interact with a woman like this? God does. Jesus did.
Resolving the Conflict of Jesus' Authority to Forgive
So Jesus tells the Pharisee a story in answer to his thought. He does this to present an opportunity to contrast the Pharisee's lifestyle with that of His own, in the story of the money lender and the debtor. In this story, there are two persons, niether of whom can pay what they owe. So which one person would love Jesus MORE? Simon the Pharisee answered correctly: the one who had the bigger debt.
So Jesus turns to the woman, but is really speaking to Simon. He compares what this woman did with what Simon did. The contrasts were amazing and many. Washing, cleaning, anointing were all done by a prostitute, none of which was done as a good host by the Pharisee. They weren't required, and Simon didn't do them at all. The prostitute wasn't required either, but she went overboard. Going overboard in love shows a heart filled with forgiveness for a life filled with overboard sin.
Hospitality wasn't the issue here, for Jesus. It simply provided an opportunity to describe the state of one's heart. It's an opportunity to respond with thanksgiving, as we are reminded of His promises. Simon responded with no treatment at all, except judgmentalism, despite his love for the law of God. The prostitute responded with overflowing love and worship, despite her sin against the law of God.
Simon was offended for one simple reason: all of this revealed his own self-righteousness. This led him to demonize God's scandalous, disturbing, amazing grace. Simon didn't see his sin as offensive. He didn't believe God was offended by his sin. He was in love with his own righteousness and saw no need of God's grace. But if God is offended with Simon's self-righteousness, he stands in need of the very same thing the prostitute does. But her response, saying nothing about her forgiveness, simply stands as a manifestation of the forgiveness she knows she has already received.
Jesus' assurance of her forgiveness is troubling to the other Pharisees at the table, according to verse 47. He is the One most offended by all of the sin at the table, and therefore is the Only One who can offer forgiveness to anyone He desires. He gives it to those who know they need it, and in response we see stories like this of this prostitute's response. This is why Simon responded the way he did. He remained blind because he would not turn his shoe over to discover that he had the same waste on the bottom of his shoes that the woman did. She realized it and wanted forgiveness. He didn't realize it and did not want forgiveness, because he didn't think he needed it.
Jesus came to save profoundly, unholy sinners to a infinitely, holy God. In order for your debt to be forgiven, your sins forgiven, several options are available, though only one is realistic. It is the option which says, 'I simply can't pay it.' And that option earns forgiveness of the debt. Otherwise, the person is left owing what they owe and having to pay for it on their own. But if Jesus paid the debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay, then in Jesus the wrath of God against our sin was satisfied and forgiveness can be offered freely.
Grace is meant to be scandalous. If it doesn't appear scandalous, then our sins do not appear equally as scandalous in contrast to a holy God. The scandal is that my scandal has been written off and forgiven when it justifiably deserves wrath. This scandalous plan of forgiveness finds men like the women here, blind and helpless to do anything about their plight, and wipes their slate clean, reconciles them to God, and awards them with the wealth of heaven.
GOD saves sinners. Sinners do NOT save themselves. It's by GRACE you've been saved, through FAITH, which is a GIFT of GOD. This makes grace disturbing, as it is meant to be. God saves sinners, not because of what they will do or want to do, but because of what Christ has done. He didn't save us out of a good look into our future with the realization that we were gonna be a great guy one day. He took a good look at our present reality and saw a life that was an affront to the infinite holiness of God.
At the new member interview Elliot does in their church membership process, each candidate took two vows, both of which publicly acknowledged the need for grace (because of sin) and the means of grace (Jesus' death). These vows are representative of the person's actual need to see their actual condition so that they can receive the only actual solution to their problem.
In the end we must ask ourselves: "Would we or could we respond like Jesus to that woman?" That's the wrong question to start with, however. The right question to start with is the one asked to Simon: "How are you gonna deal with Me?" The prostitute is not the issue here, nor his response to her. The issue here is Jesus Christ and Simon's response to HIM!
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