The Grace of God
Defining God's Grace
What are we talking about when we talk about the grace of God? There are many wrong ideas about grace amongst those who claim to be Christians. People talk more and more nowadays about God’s grace and completely miss the justice of God, and in so doing create an idol. Some use the concept of the grace of God as a license to sin, which is clearly spoken against in scripture. How God’s grace works alongside His justice and His hatred towards sin is an important thing to learn if we are going to draw closer to God and to see how desperate we are for Him.
Simply put, in speaking about this attribute of God, it means that God shows favor and kindness to us in spite of our deserving the opposite. We don’t in any way deserve it, but He still offers it freely as a gift. It is most often defined as unmerited favor. It is the favor of God shown to those who not only are unworthy of forgiveness, but who are thoroughly deserving of death and hell.
Whenever we think of the grace of God, what usually comes to our minds? Salvation in the New Testament. People think of Jesus as the one who revealed that part of God's character. Most people do not look at the God of the Old Testament as being a God that is gracious. But this may surprise you, God's grace, graciousness, mercy, or loving-kindness is mentioned more in the Old Testament than the New Testament. Most people completely miss God’s grace in the Old Testament because of all of the times where God shows His justice under that covenant.
"The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness"
"Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him."
"...rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster."
GOD'S FIRST ACT OF GRACE IN THIS WORLD: CREATION
Creation of man is a work of God's Grace. God was not lonely and decide that because He was lonely He would make this world and put men in it. He didn't have to do it. But because He did, you and I could not only have life, but everything else that we have. Paul says God gives us life, breath, and all things. In Him we live, move, and have our being. The reason we have light, food, water, plants, air to breathe, people (family and friends) that we can be close to, etc. is because God has been gracious and allowed it. The reason why we have any purpose in life whatsoever is because God has given it. These are all things that we tend to take for granted, but we need to remember that God is the one who graciously gives them. I think it is safe to say that nothing that we have did we get on our own. Nothing. Either God allowed it or made it happen by His grace.
GRACIOUS IN "LAW" GIVING
Whenever we think about God’s grace, we usually don’t think about all of the laws and commands that He gives us in His word. People today tend to look at God’s commands as being a burden and that if you even mention the idea of the law of God; you in some way nullify His grace. But this notion is ridiculous.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. (NASB95)
God gave His law to His people under the Old Covenant, and He gave us commandments and laws in the New Testament, for our good.
"So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. (NASB95)
He gives us His laws by His grace so we can know what He expects of us as His people. He also gives us His laws by His grace so we can stay away from things that can be harmful to us. It is like the common illustration of a mother commanding their child not to touch the hot stove. The command was given by the loving mother so the child could be saved from unneeded pain. The same is the case with God’s commands for His people. They are indeed for our good always. God gives them to us to graciously protect the relationship we have with Him.
GRACIOUS TOWARDS SIN- PATIENCE
God was also gracious in His treatment of sin in the Old Testament. This one may surprise you. Yes, it is true that God called for the slaughter of thousands of people (young and old) in the Old Testament because of their sin. But we tend to overlook all of the grace that God did show towards sin. First, what did God tell Adam and Eve would happen to them when they sinned? He told them they would die. And the truth is, God would have been completely righteous in killing them both and starting over with a clean slate. Instead, he was gracious and only pronounced curses on mankind and on creation.
Think about this. God has every right to kill everyone every time they sin, including you and me. No one would have the right to complain if He did. But He doesn't. He is longsuffering, merciful, and full of grace. And this is the attribute that He showed the most in the Old Testament, and continues to show till today.
Also think of God's grace and patience that He showed towards Israel. In , we see that over a period of time, God brought many judgments on His people. He didn't have to be so patient with them. He could have destroyed them and sent them to captivity when they sinned and wouldn’t listen the FIRST time, but He did not in His grace.
GRACIOUS TOWARDS SIN – FORGIVENESS OFFERED
God showed His grace by being willing to set up a system to bring cleansing and atonement for His people. God by His grace gave His people a way to receive forgiveness of their sin in the Old Testament through animal sacrifice. Even before the Law of Moses, animal sacrifice was present in the patriarchal system. God killed animals to cover Adam and Eve. Abel brought an animal for a sacrifice. This continued through the patriarchs until Jacob and his family went to Egypt.
Then at Sinai, God instituted a system of sacrifice designed to sanctify His people. All of these things we have looked at so far are talking about things God did to display His grace in the Old Testament!
But, all of these displays of God’s grace under the Old Covenant have a purpose. They all point forward to the GREATEST display of the grace of God, which happens in the New Testament.
While we were still the enemies of God, Christ died for us. We were completely helpless and without hope.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace”
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
We were dead in our sins and deserving of wrath. And one thing is true about dead people. They cannot give themselves life. The reason why we can have life in Christ is because God is gracious and was willing to allow Jesus to die in our place. He raised us out of our death. He made us alive together with Christ. All of this was by His grace.
How would you answer the question, “Why are you going to heaven?” Because you are a good person? Because you obeyed the “plan of salvation?” If you would answer in these ways, you are answering the question wrong. There is nothing you and I can point to and say “I am going to heaven because I did this!” Our works will never earn our salvation. We need to stop focusing on ourselves and what do so much! The only reason anyone is going to heaven is because God by His grace raised them from their state of spiritual death and made them a new creation.
There has been debate for many years about the relationship between faith and works and grace and works. Some say that you must do works to earn your salvation. Some say no effort on your part in any way brings about your salvation and if you say you need to do something to be saved, you are teaching works righteousness. I believe both of these ideas are equally wrong. The are over-reactions to the others position.
First, teaching we can earn our salvation through works is wrong!
who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace
Teaching that you need to earn the grace of God by doing works is a heretical teaching. But if we say that if there is no action that we must do to receive God’s gift of eternal life, we are just as wrong. You must ignore too many verses in which the Apostles of Christ gave commands to lost people about what they must do to be saved. The “faith alone” doctrine came about during the Protestant Reformation because of an over-reaction to the false teachings of works righteousness by the Catholic Church, and it contradicts clear passages of scripture. We need to be careful of creating doctrines in reaction to false teachings. So if both of these are false beliefs, what relationship does grace and works have? There is a middle ground when it comes to the relationship of grace and works.
So I ask 3 questions? First, are we saved by the grace of God? The answer is yes. Question two: Do we have to do anything to be saved? The answer is yes. But the most important question that we can ask is “Why do we do these things?” Why is it that you obeyed the conditions that God gives in scripture to be saved? If you did it to earn your salvation, you are wrong and may still be in your sins.
The scriptures are clear that the reason why we come to Christ is because of the grace of God. God graciously gave you the opportunity to hear the gospel and to come to repentance.
God’s word convicts us to fulfill the conditions god gives to receive his grace. And when this happens, God raises us into new life and we are born again. makes it clear that we were dead in our transgressions; and God made us alive together with Christ. He raised us from this death we were in. The big question we must ask is, “When does God do this?” tells us that God raises us into new life and makes us alive together with Christ when we in faith are baptized into Christ.
11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions
At baptism, God graciously forgives us of our sins through the blood of Christ.
GRACE AFTER BECOMING A CHRISTIAN
After becoming Christians, we still need to guard ourselves from thinking that because we are living faithfully we deserve to go to heaven. Our works before and after becoming Christians are not the reason why we are going to get to heaven. We can be guilty of teaching works righteousness if we say we remained saved because of our works. We need to be faithful to God and obey God, but we don’t do it so we can remain saved. This is why so many Christians question their salvation and ask whether or not they are doing good enough to make it to heaven. We need to desire to be faithful to God and obey God because of what He has done for us and because we love Him and his word. There is not a point in your Christian life that you can say that you are doing good enough to make it to heaven. It is only by God’s grace that even as Christians we continue to be cleansed by the blood of Christ when we come to God in repentance, confessing our sins to Him. We are just as desperate for the grace of God now as Christians as we were before we became Christians.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Whenever we trust in the grace of God, we have a reason to have great hope. Then our works that we do will be a result of our trust in God’s grace, not our trust in ourselves.
So how would you answer the question, “If you died today, would you go to Heaven?” If you as a Christian answer this by saying “well I sure hope so,” you need to get into God’s word and study about His grace for yourself until you can answer this question, “By the grace of God, I will be there.”