Almost three years ago I started a Grace category for this blog. I started the category with a four part series. In that series I wrote that; “Grace is the most important concept in the Bible, Christianity, and the world. It is most clearly expressed in the promises of God revealed in Scripture and embodied in Jesus Christ himself.”
Dictionary definition for grace;
a. unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b. a virtue coming from God
c. a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
The kindness or favor God gives to all mankind, believer or not.
Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV)44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Emphasis mine)
The provision of salvation through Jesus
Romans 5:15-17 (NLT)15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
The favor of God by which the Christian's salvation is kept secure in spite of sin.
John 10:27-29 (NKJV)27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.
Grace given at special times of need, especially during adversity or suffering.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV) And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Sanctifying grace works within the true believer causing them to grow and mature and progress becoming more Christ-like.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
The Spiritual Gifts that believers have been given by the Holy Spirit are serving grace. The Greek word translated grace, charis is the root of the word charisma which is the word Paul used for spiritual gifts.
Ephesians 4:7 (NKJV) But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.
Today I read an excerpt from The Grace of God by Andy Stanley. The excerpt, The Story of Grace, was in an email from Devotions Daily. One of my posts is Grace Doesn’t Excuse Sin It Empowers Righteousness. The excerpt from Andy’s books expands that post and says that “Grace acknowledges the full implication of sin and yet does not condemn...But not just any grace. The grace of God.”
To purchase a copy of the book The Grace of God click this LINK, the one above or the picture of the book at the end of this post.
The Story of Grace
from The Grace of God by Andy Stanley
It’s what I crave most when my guilt is exposed. The very thing I’m hesitant to extend when I’m confronted with the guilt of others — especially when their guilt has robbed me of something I consider valuable.
Therein is the struggle, the struggle for grace. It’s this struggle that makes grace more story than doctrine. It’s this struggle that reminds us that grace is bigger than compassion or forgiveness. This struggle is the context for both. When we are on the receiving end, grace is refreshing. When it is required of us, it is often disturbing. But when correctly applied, it seems to solve just about everything. Contrary to what is sometimes taught, the opposite of grace is not law. God’s law is actually an extension of grace. The opposite of grace is simply the absence of grace.
To say that someone deserves grace is a contradiction in terms. You can no more deserve grace than you can plan your own surprise party. In the same way that planning voids the idea of surprise, so claiming to deserve voids the idea of grace. You can ask for it. You can plead for it. But the minute you think you deserve it, the it you think you deserve is no longer grace. It is something you have earned.
But grace can’t be earned.
To earn something is to find an equivalent. There is no equivalent where grace is concerned. Grace is birthed from hopeless inequity. Grace is the offer of exactly what we do not deserve. Thus, it cannot be recognized or received until we are aware of precisely how un- deserving we really are. It is the knowledge of what we do not deserve that allows us to receive grace for what it is. Unmerited. Unearned. Undeserved. For that reason, grace can only be experienced by those who acknowledge they are undeserving.
From the beginning, the church has had an uneasy relationship with grace. Yet history has shown that the church and Christianity in general fare best when characterized by grace. The church is most appealing when the message of grace is most apparent. Yet grace is often an early casualty in the world of organized religion. The gravitational pull is always toward graceless religion. Instead of defining itself in terms of what it stands for, the church often takes the less imaginative and easier path of defining itself in terms of what it is against.
The odd thing is that when you read the New Testament, the only thing Jesus stood against consistently was graceless religion.
The only group He attacked relentlessly was graceless religious leaders. So we should not be surprised when we get to the end of the Gospels and discover that the people who crucified Him were those who claimed to know God but knew little of grace. In doing so, they confirmed everything He said about them.
As we are about to discover, grace is not a New Testament idea. Grace didn’t begin with Jesus. But it was certainly personified by Him. John tells us that He was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14; emphasis added). Not the balance between, but the embodiment of. John speaks of “the fullness of his grace” (John 1:16), the idea being that in Jesus we get as clear and as close a look as we will ever get of what grace looks like in an otherwise graceless world.
In Jesus there was no conflict between grace and truth. It is that artificial conflict that throws so much of Christianity into disarray. It is our misunderstanding of grace, as modeled and taught by Jesus, that leaves us feeling as if grace allows people to “get by” with things.
But grace doesn’t dumb down sin to make it more palatable. Grace doesn’t have to.
Grace acknowledges the full implication of sin and yet does not condemn.
Grace is understood best within the context of relationship. After all, it is only within the mystery and complexity of relationships that grace is experienced. It is a story that begins in the beginning. It is a story that traces its way through every book of the Old and New Testaments.
The story of grace includes a broad range of characters — rich, poor, powerful, and powerless. For all of them, it is God’s grace that tips the scale in their favor. In some ways these stories are our stories. For like the individuals who populate the pages of Scripture, we, too, need grace.
But not just any grace. The grace of God.
Excerpted with permission from The Grace of God by Andy Stanley, copyright Andy Stanley.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.