Gordon Bennett, famously known as “Butch” around the school campus, has been working with the students at NTBI Jackson since 1987, fulfilling the role of both dean and teacher during that time. He has thoroughly studied and continues to study the Word and Christian life principles, and is known for understanding and teaching many doctrines including grace, walking in the Spirit, identifying with Christ, and other important positional truths. The following is a brief glimpse into what he has found biblical grace to be.
Q: What is grace?
A: Unmerited favor. That means there is nothing I could do for it and I am unworthy of it. No one is out of the reach of grace; no sinner is out of bounds. And what it provides is the highest favor anyone could have in the sight of God. We go from the bottom of the pit to the highest heaven. That is what God does for sinners. There is nothing greater God could do for sinful people.
Q: When did you first begin to explore the concept of grace?
A: It was important for me the day I got saved, because of the wreck I was – I was a hopeless situation. I wasn’t religious or a good person, I would never have anything to earn favor with God; I knew I was no good. So it was either grace or nothing.
Q: What motivated you to study grace in the Christian life so much?
A: It’s [grace] a whole way of life, so in just studying the New Testament, I found it. I was attracted to grace because grace is fitted to sinners. When the Christian life is contrasted with Israel in the Old Testament, it is walking with the Spirit instead of a long list of dos and don’ts. God loves us based on our position, not on what we do. The letter kills, the Spirit gives life. They are complete opposites.
Q: When do you believe the concept of grace first appeared in the Bible?
A: It is there throughout the Old Testament. I would say it first appears in Genesis 3:15 with the promise of the seed of the woman. God made a promise of redemption and restoration, that He would do it. It would be His effort regardless of man’s unworthiness. He would do the work necessary for redemption.
Q: How does God dealing with us in grace differ from his dealing with us through the Old Testament Law?
A: It is no longer “obey to be blessed,” but “you are blessed, now obey”. In the OT there was no divine enablement to keep the Law, but they had to keep the law in order to be blessed. And we see failure after failure in their lives. But now in the NT, we have been blessed with everything we need for life and godliness.
We’ve been given the Spirit which enables us to obey God. The Law kills, the Spirit gives life. It’s phenomenal.
Q: Does grace in any way minimize Old Testament principles?
A: God’s purpose is different under Law than grace. The purpose of the Law was to expose sin and show man his sinfulness. It was never designed to help man be better, but to show his need for God. The Law did not destroy sin but stimulated it. This opens the door for grace. Once you come to Christ He provides what you need for service, not the Law. The Law is holy, but we are not. The Law demands everything but gives you nothing. Under grace, you are given everything in order to live
Q: How does grace motivate us to not sin?
A: It creates in us a love for God. The Bible says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” So if I truly love God, I will lay my life down and do his bidding. But in order to love God, the Spirit must be in me to enable me to do so. It is a growth process, so I am gradually growing in grace and knowledge of him. It is a cycle; God dispensed grace which includes the Holy Spirit. The Spirit produces in me love for God, and love for God spurs me on to obedience. He wins my affections, and at that point there is nothing I won’t do that He asks me to do. But this does not happen overnight. Jesus consistently asked the disciples if they loved Him, but they always fell short. It wasn’t until after grace and the Holy Spirit that they grew to be completely sold out for the Lord.Q: How would you answer someone who says that too much grace leads to licentious behavior or turning a blind eye to sin?
A: It’s not too much grace that’s the problem. It is misunderstanding grace.Paul says that the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness (Titus 2:11-14). Grace teaches us to live godly. It is the abuse of grace that causes license. You can’t get “too much grace.” You can’t get more than what you’ve already got. It is just tapping into what you have been given. So whoever says that has a misunderstanding of grace; they think grace means, “do whatever you want.” Well, if my heart and thinking is lined up with the Word, I can do what I want, because it will be to please God. But again, that is a growth issue. We are gradually being lined up with the Word.Q: How do grace and rules interact? Does the existence of rules always mean legalism?
A: I would say no. Grace produces the character of God in us, and God does all things decently and in order. The idea of rules has to do with structure and organization. God has rules, like gravity and magnetism; there are all kinds of rules that run the universe. These laws keep things functioning according to their purpose well. Legalism is an abuse of order. We don’t throw out order because of legalism; we reevaluate our thinking. Legalism is trying to do good works to please God, but we can’t. There is a misconception that throwing out rules equals grace. Well, then God is the biggest legalist in the universe I guess, because he has more rules to govern this world than anyone.
Q: What are some signs of someone thinking they are in grace but are actually in legalism, or in grace but actually in license?
A: License would be Christians that are happy and content and have a sense of well-being while violating God’s Word and moral principles.
It is masked by their happiness and emotional state. It is just a shallow happiness.
Legalism would be the mindset that the more rules and regulations I keep, the holier I am.
Like the Pharisees, they are whited-washed sepulchers; they will outwardly look righteous, but inside are dead men’s bones. Their hearts have deceived them. They have order and rules, yet no joy – there is no rest in their hearts.
Grace has nothing to do with either one of those conditions-that is all flesh. Grace looks like true righteousness with the joy of the Lord as your strength. It looks like the fruit of the Spirit. You have both order and joy.
Q: How should grace affect my daily life?
A: Grace would constantly be showing you your real condition. You’d be acutely aware of your faults and shortcomings, and acutely aware of your strengths and enablement of the Spirit.
The weaknesses are there to keep you close to the Lord. It is tempting to be distraught over them, and some people will try to overcome them. But “getting rid of our weakness” leads to hypocrisy and deceit. You may push them down but they are still there. You must walk in the Spirit regardless of weaknesses.Your weaknesses will still be there, but you won’t live them out or let them control you.
God’s grace enables us. We will be weak in ourselves but able through Christ.
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Anna Wishart is a graduate of Ethnos360 Bible Institute and continues to seek ways to be involved with missions through writing. She currently lives in Winchester, Virginia, and enjoys biking, art, friends, the mountain views, and attending Fellowship Bible Church.