WHAT IS GRACE?
Grace may be expressed in the simplest terms as “undeserved favour.” It is a mercy which we do not expect and which we do not deserve. However, when studying the Bible, while this simple description may be seen as generally acceptable and all embracing, there are numerous subtleties of the meanings and uses of Grace throughout scripture. For example Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines grace as:
1) Of form or person (Proverbs 1:9; 3:22; Psalm 45:2).
2) Favour, kindness, friendship (Genesis 6:8; 18:3; 19:19; Second Timothy 1:9).
3) God’s forgiving mercy (Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:5).
4) The gospel as distinguished from the law (John 1:17; Romans 6:14; First Peter 5:12).
5) Gifts freely bestowed by God; as miracles, prophecy, tongues (Romans 15:15; First Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 3:8).
6) Christian virtues (Second Corinthians 8:7; Second Peter 3:18).
7) The glory hereafter to be revealed (First Peter 1:13).
A study of Grace is no simple read. Throughout the Bible, we find how God has extended His Grace to us all; for He has offered to us His Grace, our salvation, in the form of an eternal life with Him. What is more, it is free for the taking! There is nothing we have to do earn this grace of Salvation – this eternal life. Even if we wanted to do so, it is impossible for us to either earn it, or to buy it.
Simply by believing, that Jesus, God’s Son, died for our sins so we would not have to do so, we receive Salvation and eternal life. We don’t need to fully understand it; we don’t need to pass an examination on the theology of it; we just need to believe that Jesus died for our sins! In that, we receive Salvation through Him.
For Christians, God’s ultimate act of grace is a perfect example of how we are to extend grace to others; for God wants us to be quick to forgive others. We are to be hasty in extending kindness. We are to be generous in love, even when others do not deserve it. Matthew 6:12 both establishes and clarifies this level of Grace which Christians must extend to others, by including it is His model prayer, requiring us to: “forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.”He adds to this in v14 so we are not in any doubt, saying: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.“ In other words, if we do not forgive other, neither will God forgive us.
WHERE DOES GRACE COME FROM?
Grace comes for God. As Psalm 84:11 says “He gives us grace and glory. No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who do what is right.” Grace begins with God and is given freely by God. God’s graciousness to us is His example for our extending of grace and mercy to others. Grace cannot be earned; it is freely given. As Matthew 10:8b says “You have received freely, freely give!” Ephesians 2:8-9 confirms this saying: “God saved you by his special favor when you believed. It is by God’s grace that he decided to offer us the gift of salvation. There is nothing we can do to earn it. We simply receive it with faith and in thanks.”
While both the Law and Grace both came from God, we need to be clear that they are not the same, for as John 1:16-17 says “the law was given through Moses; God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.” In Old Testament times, God gave laws to guide the Israelites how to live until Jesus and the Holy Spirit came. However, in following these laws, one did not and could not, earn salvation; rather, it illustrated what a transformed life could be like. After Jesus, we no longer have to be slaves to the law, for by God’s grace, we have been transformed on the inside, such that we desire to live pure lives for him as Hebrews 4:16 explains “Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.”
HOW DO WE RECEIVE IT?
When we arrive at God’s very throne through prayer, we must linger to receive his grace.
WE ARE EXPECTED TO GROW IN GRACE, AND NOT MERELY ACCEPT IT AS A STAGNANT GIFT.
When we receive the Grace of God into our lived and He, in the person of the Holy Spirit, dwells within, we change. There is no doubt about that. As the Bible describes it, we take off the “old” man and put on the “new” man. Ephesians 4:22-24 explains this fully saying ”For you ought to put off the old man (according to your way of living before) who is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind. And you should put on the new man, who according to God was created in righteousness and true holiness.” As in the analogy of the new and old, so it is with young and old; for as the young grow naturally and growth is expected of them, so it is with the new-man in Christ. Growth is expected. In Philippians 1:6 Paul says on this “I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus returns.” But it needs effort, as Second Corinthians 8:9 says, for “You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus Christ was. Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. Grace involves self-sacrifice, giving something up in order to give it away.”
Yes, it takes effort to mature. As the adage goes: Growing is mandatory, “growing up” is optional. Such is it in the Grace which God has given us. We can accept it and use it or accept is and do nothing with it, allowing it to become worthless and to fall into atrophy. Daniel 9:18 warns of this situation saying “We do not ask because we deserve help, but because you are so merciful. Recognizing and requesting God’s grace takes humility, for we realize that we do not deserve it-which is exactly why we need it.”
PROMISES FROM GOD:
God has promises for His people and His grace is among His promises, as Psalm 103:8 of God: “The Lord is merciful and gracious; he is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love.” What a wonderful description of living and loving God.
But God also wants us to be the recipients of His grace and mercy; He wants us to live in His abundance as Paul in Philippians 1:6 writes “I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.”
Yes, God never stops working in us to bring us to maturity. We just need to accept Him and give our will over to Him. He will do the rest, and bring us into alignment with Him.
Amen and Amen.