A Living Picture of Grace (Aphesis and Paresis)

A Living Picture of Grace
Robert Wurtz II

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 Timothy 1:16-17)

It has been said that Paul was God’s representative of His long-suffering to a high-handed transgressor. Not that he had committed more sins than any other, but his sins were of a degree that placed him atop the list. If there had ever been a man who provoked God to wrath, it was Saul of Tarsus. In Galatians 1:13, Paul acknowledged God’s estimate of him in Acts 9:23 saying, “I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and wasted it.” 


This man was making a career out of persecuting the Church. Our verb tense shows continuous action; that is, He was relentlessly having people killed and compelling them to blaspheme Christ. Our word for “beyond measure” in Greek is huperbole, from which we get our word hyperbole. In other words, Saul moved in an exaggerated form of persecution. While in its infancy, he mercilessly attacked the Church and did everything in his power to snuff it out. This is a faithful account of the facts — worthy of all acceptance. 


Our Greek word makrothumia, translated as “long suffering” is very strong. In fact, the word thumos is an emotion stronger than anger.

“Thumos is a tumultuous welling up of the whole spirit, a mighty emotion which seizes and moves the whole inner man. The restraint implied in makrothumia is more correctly expressed by long-suffering. It is a patient holding out under trial, a long-protracted restraint of the soul from yielding to passion, especially that of anger.” (Weust)


God’s mercy towards Saul was not only a demonstration of His mercy in terms of forgiving a person of their sins, but of the restraining force He was moving in that was more powerful than Saul’s zeal to destroy the Church. In other words, God was moving in an exaggerated form of long-suffering as He looked over Saul acting out. Where sin was abounding — grace was super abounding. 


Given “Time” To Repent

Some might say, “Well, if God is righteous and just, why did He not strike Saul dead?” This question has a two-part answer. First, there are two primary Greek words for our English word forgiveness; aphesis and paresis. R.C. Trench gives this comment:

“These two words aphesis and paresis agree in that whether the one or the other occurs to you, no reckoning of your sins is made; they differ in that when the former is given, you never pay the penalty for your deeds, but when the latter is granted, you suffer no punishment for your deeds as long as he who has the right of chastising your transgressions decides to leave them unpunished.” 


If God were to judge people for their sins the moment they sinned, there would be no one left to save. Paul deals with this in Romans 3:25. It’s not that God is not just; it’s that His forbearance (long suffering) is giving people time to repent. This is what Paul told the people at Mar’s Hill: 


These times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:30–31 NKJV)


Notice the word ignorance in our passage. It denotes people who simply do not know better. They were blinded because of their love of darkness (John 3:1ff); by the god of this present evil world (2 Corinthians 4:4); and by God Himself (John 12:40). Theologians refer to this technically as the noetic effects of sin.  


Paul was moving in ignorance as well. He explained this in 1 Timothy 1:13 when he wrote, “Although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” This verse implies that Saul simply did not believe the claims of the Saints. This is not necessarily an obstinance in the face of the facts, but a genuine ignorance of who Christ truly is. This problem was solved on the road to Demascus. Had Saul continued to persecute after that event, his sin would no longer have been in ignorance, but would have been willfull. How we respond to Christ when He reveals Himself to us is the key. 


An End To His Blindness 


Paul was a living example of how the veil of blindness that is over the heart of many Jews is removed. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Corinthians 3:15–16 NKJV) When Saul finally “turned” to the Lord, as a consequence of the revelation of Jesus Christ on the road to Demascus, he fulfilled the requirements of Acts 3:19. He was also given the commission of duplicating that experience in the lives of others. 


For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:16–18 KJV)


Paul (Saul) was to testify of his experience at Damascus as well as other experiences he would eventually have. This was to bring about the same effect in the people who heard the testimony as it did in him when he experienced it. A witness is a person who has seen something they can testify about. When the Holy Spirit anointed him to tell his experience, the people had Christ set forth before their eyes. If the people respond rightly their eyes will be opened and they will turn in repentance and faith. If not, they will be hardened all the more. Paul gives the progression in Acts 28:27:


For the heart of this people is grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should turn and I should heal them.


Wrong Response


1. Harden the heart (towards God)

2. Refuse to hear (the witness)
3. Close the eyes (to the revelation)

Right Response


1. See 

2. Hear
3. Understand
4. Turn
5. Be healed  


God’s Long Suffering


There are people in the world who hear the Gospel and struggle to believe that God could ever forgive their sins. God set forth Paul as an example of His willingness to save even the vilest of people. He has tolerated and overlooked a lot of sin as proof that He is, in fact,  a loving and long suffering God. He sets on a throne of mercy — with rainbow round about. However, the day will come when the colors merge into a searching brilliant white, and the throne will be one of justice and judgment. If every transgression and disobedience are given a just repayment, how will we escape if we neglect so great of salvation? (Hebrews 2:1)   



Paul could have easily said, “while I was yet the Chief of sinners, Christ died for me.” He turned from his former life and received eternal life. This is the force of Calvary. Nevertheless, everyone who hears Paul’s testimony must likewise “see; hear; understand; turn; and he healed.” God has demonstrated His long suffering, but it will not go on forever. 

These times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. (Acts 17:30)

Corismatic Christianity (Corinthianism)

Corismatic Christianity (Corinthianism)
Robert Wurtz II


And when they had come to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:18-21)


Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. (Acts 26:19–21 NKJV)

In Acts 26, Paul had gone before Agrippa to give an account of himself and his ministry. He left Ephesus in Acts 20, and now the prophesies of trouble are coming to pass. During this inquiry, Paul tells Agrippa I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” We must consider this statement in order to appreciate fully the rest of his answer. Paul, the man who was responsible for spreading the Gospel more than anyone else, was acting under direct orders from heaven. This is highly significant. Paul was simply doing what he had been told to do. 


A lot has been preached and written about Paul and his missionary journeys; however, rarely is this passage in Acts 26 focused upon. In fact,  almost everything under the sun has been talked about concerning Paul’s ministry, except this essential fact. He is offering us insight into exactly what he preached on his missionary journeys. He states plainly and in clear conscience, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” “Works befitting repentance” implies “evidence of repentance.” To use an old cliche, if we were charged in court for having repented of our sins, would there be enough evidence for a conviction? 


What was the message Paul brought first as he traveled? It was a very simple, but highly unpopular message. In fact, it is one that historians would love to scratch out of the history books. Nevertheless, we have the biblical record. It has been almost 2000 years now. The message has not changed. However, turn on the Christian Television or the radio and try to find this simple message. After all, most claim they are “reaching the world for Jesus” or “taking the Gospel to the far flung corners of the globe.” What has been done with, “Repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance”? 




Agrippa Only?  


According to our passage in Acts 20, What did Paul preach from the first day he came to Asia? What did he proclaim and teach publicly and from house to house? In his own words, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” He reminded the Ephesians, who already knew what he had preached, because grievous wolves and politicians were coming to destroy the flock. Wolves and politicians are not humble, nor do they generally preach repentance. Nevertheless, Paul preached in humility and in tears the same basic repentance message as John the Baptist. Why? Because repentance and faith are the first steps in our journey with the Lord. They are what every person must do to prepare a straight path into themselves for the Lord to come in. If it was not necessary, God would not have anointed John the Baptist to preach it and commanded Paul on the road to Demascus to proclaim it. This is as clear as anything.

Prepared to Preach 

No minister gets famous by preaching repentance and faith. It was true in Paul’s day, and it is true today. What did he say? For these reasons, the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. Clearly, Paul meant to say that the Jews did not like the message of repentance and faith. Had he not meant it, he would have said something else. Herod beheaded John the Baptist, and the Jews tried on multiple occasions to kill Paul. This is the consequence of preaching Heaven’s Gospel. To go on ignoring this reality is to continue to be part of the problem rather than the solution. 


Corismatic Christianity


Although early Pentecostalism was born in the fires of the Wesleyian Holiness Revivals, in modern times, we have a wholesale “Corinthian” phenomenon going on in Full Gospel realms. We have multitudes who have skipped over repentance and holiness, and moved directly to faith and the gifts of the Spirit. We ought to pause and give that some serious thought. There is a proud Corinthian self-centeredness that glorifies the individual and their “giftings” rather than focusing on the Body of Christ as a unit. I have come up with a word for this by combining Charismatic and Corinthian to get “Corismatic.” A Corismatic is a person who never truly repented of the sins, brought forth fruits worthy of repentance, but went straight for the gifts of the Spirit. This is why so much of the Corinthian money grubbing, proud politics, alcoholism, and sexual scandal has plagued many full gospel ministries in the last 60 years. We received direct orders from Heaven through Paul, but the message of repentance is MIA. 


It is a hard saying, but I frequently wonder if God is going to wait for this entire generation to die off so He can raise up a generation that will preach the Gospel as in the beginning? He patiently did things like this under the Old Covenant. He waited out many decades of bad kings to set a good one on the throne. Nevertheless, I know it is a radical question, but we have a radical problem. I believe it is a question that all the devils in hell cringe to hear. Demons don’t care if we preach all of our pet doctrines and favorite subjects, as long as we preach a repentance-less and impotent Gospel that produces millions of nominal Christians. I believe the devil would anoint much of the evangelistic preaching that goes on today. Why? Because most of it does little more than ensure a person their place in heaven and does nothing to bring about repentance and true new birth. 

I have to ask, where would we be today if our methods had been used in the book of Acts? Would there have ever been a Church at all? What if Paul had been disobedient to the Heavenly Vision? What if Peter used similar evangelistic methods as are used in modern times? Would thousands have ever been added to the church? What if Philip would have led   the Ethopian Eunuch in a repeatable prayer or had him sign a pledge card? God help us. God open our eyes to this catastrophic blindness in which the blind are leading the blind by the millions into the ditch. Can a person who never repented preach repentance? Can a person who at no time brought forth evidence of repentance show someone else how to do it? How can a person who was never truly born again lead a person into a genuine born again experience? 


The Message of Mar’s Hill 


A lot has been said about Mar’s Hill. Ministries named after Mar’s Hill. What was Mar’s Hill really all about? Perhaps we can close this entry by simply allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us. This is the message that we desperately need in this crisis hour. Once we get this right, we can move on to the next thing; but not until then. Again, what did God, through the mouth of Paul tell the people at Mar’s Hill?


Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:30–31 NKJV)


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