I barely slept at all last night. The implications of the shift we had made yesterday with our new understanding of faith and grace raced through my mind and pulsed through my veins. It wasn’t only about the case. It was personal. It was affecting my whole understanding of Holy Writ. As I tossed and turned, trying to convince myself that it was time for sleep, verse after verse surged through my mind with the true definitions inserted. Yet, even in the midst of this incredible excitement that was bubbling up from somewhere deep within, there was one thing nagging at me and I needed to put it to rest. I determined to get to the office early and find something I remembered having seen in the evidence box.
And so, it was that I arrived at the top of the stairs before dawn, only to find our office door ajar, and the sound of Mack mumbling to himself and rifling through papers coming from within. Why could I NEVER beat Mack to the smoking gun!
He had his back to me when I entered the room. Piles of papers were stacked on his desk and on the work table against the wall. He was elbow deep in the evidence box mumbling “I know it’s here!” Judging from the two cups of cold coffee on his desk, I would guess he had been here for some time. In fact, I was almost certain he was wearing the same clothes I had left him in yesterday, and considerably more rumpled.
“Mack? Did you stay the night?” I asked, at the same time that he exclaimed “HERE it is” triumphantly lifting the yellowed index card into the air. He answered my question without turning in my direction with a “Yea” as he tossed the card onto the middle of his desk.
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them
I looked up from the card on the desk to Mack, mouth open. “It’s what I came in to find.” I said. “Why were YOU looking for it?” he asked.
“Probably for the same reason you were. I remembered seeing that card in the box. Our next task is to reconstruct the scene on the day of the miracle. We will need to attempt to get into the head of our mystery woman. We need to know how she understood grace and faith, if that was indeed how the miracle was accomplished. I wanted to look at the verse in Greek and confirm that we are about to plug in the correct definitions. Is the Greek word for faith used in this verse indeed pistis? Is the word for grace charis? If so, let’s substitute the correct definitions and see how it reads!”
“Exactly” Mack replied. “And I also have some thoughts about verses 9 and 10 as well that I’d like to bat around with you.”
And then, without skipping a beat, in true Mack fashion, he began to rant. “Why are you so late? Let’s get to work! First of all, the words are pistis and charis, but confirm that for yourself. I found this in the storeroom,” he said as he dropped another heavy Greek/English Bible Lexicon ont0 my desk. “You take the words grace and faith and write the definitions on these.” With that he opened a desk drawer, withdrew a stack of index cards bound with a rubber band, removed a few, and tossed them onto my desk as well. “I’ll look up the words by, through, and saved and we’ll reconstruct the verse.” He was a man on a mission.
Pushing the Lexicon out of the way, I switched on my computer and waited for it to boot up. I could never convince Mack to move into the 21st century where information is at your fingertips. He said he still preferred to let his fingers do the walking. I accessed an internet Bible study site and before Mack had located his first word, I was already copying and pasting. I searched for Ephesians 2:8 and chose the option that would show the Strong’s numbers for each word. The Strong’s numbers are a system in which every English word is assigned a number, and that number is linked to a particular Greek (or Hebrew) word. This is how I could confirm which Greek words were used in Ephesians 2. Over the years, we had found on more than a couple of occasions, that the Bible translators were not always consistent in the way they translated a Greek or Hebrew word into English. What if we had been too hasty yesterday, and the specific Greek word translated as grace in this passage did indeed simply mean unmerited favor after all? It was difficult to believe that it could be possible that we had been taught wrong for all these years! It was important to know before we started running full speed ahead in the wrong direction!
Below is the result of my initial search. You can see the Strong’s numbers displayed next to the English words they represent.
Eph 2:8 ForG1063 by grace G5485 are G2075 ye savedG4982 throughG1223 faith;G4102 andG2532 thatG5124 notG3756 ofG1537 yourselves:G5216 it is theG3588 giftG1435 of God:G2316
I now know that I am looking for G5485 (grace) and G4102 (faith). Now, by simply hovering over the Strong’s numbers in question, the definitions will be displayed.
And just that fast, it was easy to confirm that the same Greek words we defined yesterday, charis and pistis, are the same ones used in Ephesians 2:8! Wow! I can’t wait to see it all laid out together! Plugging these definitions into this verse may change everything we thought we knew! Ephesians 2:8 is, after all, one of the primary verses cited as a proof text for separating grace from works, and we haven’t even had the definitions right!
I wish Mack would hurry, so we can put the verse back together. However, since I have the time and the passage already pulled up in the study program, I think I’ll just go ahead and look at the other words too. Kind of double checking him, if you will. Although, I must say, Mack is generally pretty meticulous in his research. Within less than 2 minutes I have looked at Mack’s words as well and know what he should be writing on his cards.
Now, I’ll transfer the definitions for grace and faith onto the index cards and wait for Mack to finish with his. (By the way, Ole Mack is still thumbing through the 5” thick Lexicon searching for his second word, grumbling under his breath with each page turn. I’ll just bake a cake while I wait.)
When he was finally finished, Mack came over to my desk cards in hand, mumbling something about mine being cleaner than his (true statement that!), and the reconstruction began as we assembled our index card puzzle.
With all the pieces in the right places, we stood back in amazement, staring at the reconstructed verse on the desk. It all made so much sense.
For indeed, it is by divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life (grace) channeled through the conviction of truth combined with obedience/yielding (faith) that you are delivered, protected, preserved, made whole, healed. (saved).
This confirms that a mathematical process is at work. The grace (His part) must pass THROUGH faith (our part) in order to result in a miracle!
It is more than likely that, during the timeframe of this miraculous healing of our mystery woman, no discussion with regards to the meaning of these words would have been necessary. It was only in relatively recent years that the definitions have become polluted and now require research and explanation. As in our H2O analogy, the formulas for both grace and faith have been altered, with vital elements removed, thereby depriving them of their life-giving power!
Excitedly, Mack wanted to move on to the rest of the passage, stating that he now believes that these verses have been grossly misunderstood as well, resulting in Paul having been misquoted. “Now M.J., Mack began. “I’ve been thinking about this most of the night, but I still am not sure I can communicate it well. So, please just be patient and hear me out before coming to a conclusion yourself. Let me try the best I can to explain.
Paul was NOT warning us against associating works with these miracles of preservation, protection, or healing. In fact, I believe he was telling us that works WOULD be associated with these miracles” He quickly wrote the rest of verse 8 as well as verses 9 and 10 on a card and deposited it on the desk.
and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
I know I must have looked puzzled, because I was! “What, Mack? What are you seeing?”
“Look, M.J., look! We’ve always been taught that this is a warning against associating works with salvation or redemption or healing. But is that what He is saying? Or is He pointing out Who it was that ORDAINED or pre-programmed the works? For instance, if someone tells you that you have pretty blue eyes and you blush and say thank you, for what are you accepting credit? Yes, the eyes are in your head, but did you have anything to do with producing or even choosing their color? Could this be a similar situation? There are works associated with both grace and faith, but He is the one Who preprograms them to occur! Look again at verse 10 where He says that we are His creations and were created unto good works before ordained that we should walk in them.”
I wasn’t following but I continued to listen. Sometimes it takes a bit for Mack to fully explain a concept. (Or perhaps, more likely, it sometimes takes ME a bit to fully comprehend a concept).
Mack continued, “I think He is pointing out that we cannot divinely influence our own hearts because, well, because we are not divine! And along with that divine influence comes works which he has before ordained that we should walk in them. Perhaps we could compare it to the fight or flight response implanted in the human psyche before any human was created. It is an automatic (pre-programmed) response to a particular kind of stimulus, and this protective response will occur unless purposely overridden. One example of this would be bungee jumping. When coming too close to the edge of a cliff, our automatic, preprogrammed fight or flight response activates. It is only through a conscious decision to override this protective response that people will strap on a bungee cord and catapult themselves over the edge of a cliff.”
He took a swig of cold coffee before continuing. “I believe that in much the same way, God has preprogrammed the human heart to automatically respond to His wooing (His divine influence upon the heart – his grace). That includes EVERY human heart, even the ones not seeking Him. That is why it is “not of ourselves, lest any man should boast.” He is no respecter of persons. He didn’t divinely influence our hearts more than that of anyone else because he “liked” us better, or we did something to “deserve” His attention. He is not willing that ANY perish! He has placed this “homing device” (preprogrammed to respond to Him), within EVERY human heart!”
Seeing the look of bewilderment still on my face, he turned and started searching for something in one of the disheveled piles on his desk. Finding what he was looking for, he turned back to my desk and placed it there. Now look at this, M.J. This one, THIS one is special!
Isa 65:1 I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. 2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;
“See, He is always wooing all people, passionately desiring them to come to Him.”
“Imagine this process like a train trip. God is the conductor and you are the switch operator. As switch operator, you are responsible for making certain that, when coming to a junction where two tracks converge, the train stays on (or changes to) the correct route. The tracks are built with a default and, if no action is taken by the switch operator, the train will stay on this default track. However, when approaching a switch, the switch operator has the opportunity and the ability to change the direction the train is traveling.
God starts you off at the train station on the route that has been preprogrammed to lead from Grace (divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life) to Salvation/Preservation/Healing. However, if you make the decision to forever remain at the Grace (divine influence) station, you will never reach your destination of Salvation. (Note that in this example the divine influence has now been altered and no longer includes the reflection in the life- thus removing all of your responsibility) Your journey has prematurely ended and can never reach its destination because there is another stop on the journey from Grace to Salvation. His divine influence, SHOULD lead you to the next stop – Faith (conviction of truth completed by obedience/yielding). If you ever want to reach your destination and be made whole, you will first have to stop off at the station of Faith!! Isn’t that what the verse says “By grace THROUGH faith are you saved?? And, remember, faith is not just a word or a feeling. This type of conviction of truth is, by its very definition, accompanied by the works/actions that are a natural, inseparable part of it!
Now that first part, the divine wooing – the grace part – you have no control over (“that not of yourself” lest any man should boast). It will happen. God will woo your heart and set you on the right track that will take you right through Faith and to Salvation/Healing. The prophet Isaiah explicitly records that Yahweh was found by those not looking for Him. This is because Yahweh woos ALL hearts for He is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). However, this is where free will comes in. Before you come to the station of Faith, you will encounter a switch where two tracks converge. You can pull the switch and change courses, completely bypassing the station of Faith. Alas, in so doing, you have changed destinations. You are no longer on the way to Salvation and healing! You are on your way to some other destination, not chosen by God!
SUMMARY – THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
The good news is that God has preprogrammed you to come to the point of Faith – conviction of Truth. The bad news is that you can choose to override this protective automatic response, pull the switch, buckle a spiritual bungee cord around your waist, and plunge off a spiritual cliff instead, ignoring God’s wooing – His divine influence upon your heart – His Grace. No one will perish by accident. It will be their own decision. And neither can we boast about the wooing or the response to it, because the Creator Himself has preprogrammed them both as a default! (the works that He before ordained that we should walk in them). All we must do is respond to His wooing and let Him choose our course, staying on the “track” He chooses.
“Ohhhh,” I gasped as the lights finally began wildly flashing like neon signs in my heart and soul.
And now we have discovered at least two more facts about our mystery woman. Her heart was divinely influenced, and His Grace did pass through her faith. Otherwise, her miracle healing could not have taken place!
I am excited for tomorrow! Perhaps our reconstruction will reveal how she had been wooed as well as how the touching of the fringe was a demonstration of her faith. We also hope to discover what truth she was convicted of! Was it a conviction of truth that she would experience healing? Or was it something else?
(Sorry, Minus. This is not the short report you had requested. I hope you will let it slide this time. It has been a long couple of days and we have a full day planned for tomorrow).
Report filed 04/29 by Investigators MJ and Mack