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The Grace of God
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound!
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I’m found;
Was blind but now I see.
More than anything else, you and I need the grace of God. But what is grace and how does it apply to mankind and to me as an individual? Since grace is so important and so precious, you can well imagine there are many ideas about it and some are, I am afraid, inconsistent with the Scriptures. PLAIN TALK About Grace is to help us sort through some of the things we hear about the grace of God and arrive at a balanced, Biblical view. The topic of salvation by Grace Alone is so widespread and so important that we attempt to deal with it in another article.
Grace is often defined as the unmerited favor of God. The dictionary states that grace is favor, kindness and mercy. Combining these thoughts, we would say that grace is the favor and the kindness and the mercy of God given to those who are completely undeserving. God is under no moral or legal obligation to save man. In the beginning He warned man that if he sinned he would die. Salvation is based on the love of God.
How is grace related to the person of Christ?
For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ (John 1: 16, 17)
Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of grace. Grace and truth were received through the person of Christ not a system of law. This is not to say that there was no grace and truth under the law but that grace and truth were so preeminently revealed in the person of Christ as to eliminate comparison. He is the substance, the reality, and the ultimate truth at which the law only hinted. His sacrifice was final, once for all. By the grace of God Jesus tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2: 9). The sacrifices of the Law merely pointed to Christ. The priesthood of Christ is after Melchizedek, which was shown to be superior to that of Aaron in that Father Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek and the priesthood of Melchizedek is based on an oath of God and the endless life of Christ. This grace was made available to all men in Christ.
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. Romans 6: 14
It is impossible to be under law and grace simultaneously. Law is conditional and as such imposes obligation on both the Lawgiver and the subjects of the law. The obligation of the subjects is obvious; they are required to do the requirements of the law. But the Lawgiver is also under obligation. If the subjects should keep the law He is obligated to fulfill the agreement and give the reward. Grace can be no part of such an arrangement.
Sometimes it is said that God gives the law through His grace and now it is our responsibility to keep it. But this cannot be, because that would be a serve-debt arrangement.
The grace of God springs from the goodness and kindness of God. God gives grace out of love, not from necessity or obligation. When grace was extended to man, man was alienated from God in sin and rebellion. God owed man nothing but gave him everything (Titus 3: 4- 7)
Unfortunately, we can. If not, then the Apostle Paul was mistaken when he wrote, You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Galatians 5: 4). See The Perseverance of the Saints for a more complete discussion of this topic. We do not fall from grace when we sin; we fall when we stop trusting in God.
Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. Romans 4: 4
But if it is by grace. It is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. Roman 11: 6
We cannot earn what God gives; it is not payment. God’s commandments are expression of His kind intent to instruct us, to correct us when we falter and help us. Salvation is a gift of God.
The old covenant, with the nation of Israel, is based upon conditional agreement, a binding legal contract between God and His people. If grace flowed from an agreement the reward would be of obligation and reckoned as a debt.
For then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for the earth is Mine; and you shall be a kingdom pf priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel. So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words, which the Lord had commanded him. And the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord. Exodus 19: 5- 8
So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord. Leviticus 18: 5
And admonished them in order turn them back to thy Law. Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to thy commandments but sinned against Thine ordinances, by which if a man observes them he shall live. And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen. Nehemiah 9: 29
On what are the new covenant and the grace of God based?
They are based upon the promises God made to Abraham.
And from you father’s house
To the land which I shall show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the ones who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
The covenant was secured by another promise?
And He took him outside and said, now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15: 5, 6
Is our relationship with God and our inheritance based on law or promise?
For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. Galatians 3: 18
That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. Romans 9: 8
For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself. Acts 2: 39
And this is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life. 2 John 2: 25
The righteous man shall live by faith. Galatians 3: 11
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, that no one should boast. Ephesians 2: 8- 9
Absolutely not! We will never be able to present ourselves righteous before God on the basis of our works. We cannot save ourselves by our works. Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. The same is true of us today. A work is a conditional response practiced or done in order to secure a result. A work is based on obligation not promise (Genesis 15: 6).
Absolutely it is, if the obedience is of faith in God.
And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of disciples continued to increased greatly in Jerusalem and a great many of the priest were becoming obedient to the faith. Acts 6: 7
Through who we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake.
Romans 1: 5
But now is manifested, and by the Scriptures by the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith. Romans 16: 26
Dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1: 8
If faith is compatible with grace, and it is, then the obedience that flows from faith is also compatible. In the Scriptures obedience is an essential factor in the salvation of man. Admittedly, obedience is not an essential factor in the minds of many theologians, but then, they did not die for you.
And having been made perfect, He became to all that obey Him the source of eternal salvation. Hebrews 5: 9
God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4: 6).
This is not because God gives to some but withholds from other. God pours His grace upon all men (Titus 2: 11). If you can think of man as a vessel, the proud are so full of themselves that they cannot receive grace when it is poured out on them (2 Corinthians 4: 7).
Romans 6: 14 states, For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. The gist of the seventh chapter is that we have been made to die to the Law through the body of Christ and thus are freed from the Law. Paradoxically in 1 Corinthians 9: 20, 21 Paul speaks of being under the dominion of the law of Christ. This difficulty can be resolved by remembering that the law of Christ is a law of faith, while the Law of Moses is a law of works. In essence then Paul’s teaching is that we are not under dominion of a law of works such as the Law of Moses but we are under the dominion of grace. This great benefit makes it possible for us to escape the domination of sin.
How does law and grace operate or function?
The law is intended to control the actions of those under its authority. Acceptable response is defined in Leviticus 18: 5; “So you shall keep my statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord.” Fear of punishment is the motivation. The standard of acceptability under Grace is found, among other places, in Romans 1: 17. “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” “Do and live” or “those that believe live.” This is the contrast that is set before us. The motivation of those under grace is love. When we come to believe the tremendous sacrifice God has made for us we can only react in gratitude. We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4: 18, 19
For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one can boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2: 10)
This verse tells us that grace is the ground and basis of salvation and that faith, not works, is our connection with grace. Martin Luther is to be highly commended that He recognized this principle in the difficult historical situation he was in. Unfortunately, in my view, he added the embellishment of “faith alone.” Saving faith, justifying faith is never alone. Alone, faith is dead and useless (James 2: 14-26).
The gift of God probably refers to the whole grace-salvation-faith complex. Individually, grace, faith and salvation can be shown to be gifts of God.
Is salvation of us? Certainly not! Man is in a desperate situation. He is lost and he is lost because of his own doing. He cannot save himself. God initiated His purpose to save man, carried it out over thousands of years and provided the power through which salvation is accomplished. Does this mean that man has absolutely no role in his salvation? Evidently not, because Paul wrote, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2: 12, 13) Jesus said, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me (Revelations 3: 20) Man’s role is one of acceptance and cooperation because of the love and gratitude we have toward God, because of what He has done for us. Man is not capable of saving himself
What folly to suppose that obedience to God’s commands are works of righteousness but what folly to pervert the gospel of Christ into works of law.
Certainly God’s grace is available to all
Reading these verses it is difficult to understand how people could come to the conclusion that God’s grace is limited to the elect. See Limited Atonement for a further discussion.
How is the grace of God made available to man?
We have access to grace through faith (Romans 5: 2) This faith is never alone and always obeys (Hebrews 11).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor and Nazi resistor, who was eventually killed by SS guards in 1945, coined the term. A quote from His writing will give the flavor of the
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
He seems to be saying that “cheap grace” is the view that we can enjoy the favor of God without regard to any of the requirements of God that would change our lives. This, of course, is a pseudo grace. It is a grace that fails to acknowledge that grace instructs “us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” (Titus 2: 12) It is the idea that we can accept God’s salvation without making changes in our lives
Is grace “God’s part” and obedience “our part”?
Certainly grace is from God but obedience is not “our part.” First, obedience is submission to the will of God. We are doing His bidding, His will, not ours when we obey. Second, it is important to recognize that our access to God’s grace is first through faith and secondarily through obedience. The just shall live by faith. Obedience is essential but secondary to faith. Obedience proceeds from faith, not faith from obedience. Third, this view suggests that our obedience is completely of man; Paul tells us that our obedience is God working in us both to will and to do. Fourth, this view does not address motivation. Paul tells us that that which avails in Christ is faith that works through love. Love is the goal of the commandment.
Paul addresses this question in the epistle to the Romans 6: 1. Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? His answer is short and to the point. May it never be so! Don’t you know that when you were baptized into Christ, you were baptized into His death? Our old self was crucified with Him. We should consider ourselves as dead to sin. If we are dead to sin then do not desire to sin and make no provision to sin. Romans 6: 1, 2
We have heard the expression, “Do your best and God will do the rest.” Meaning that in this view the grace of God is intended to make up deficiencies in our performance. This view completely misses the point, that God clothes believers at baptism with the righteousness of Christ (Galatians 3: 26, 27). This righteous is in no way deficient. It is true that God works in us both to will and to do in regard to working out our salvation but it is not because the imputed righteousness is deficient (Philippians 2: 11-13). Grace was given because God loved us and we cannot save ourselves.
Grace is through faith that obeys through love. Our obedience to God is a demonstration of God working in us not only to will but also to do. Obedience is submission to God.
This is the view that at baptism God forgives our past sins and we are in the grace of God. If we should die at that moment we certainly would be saved. But any future sin places us out of the grace of God and if you should die at that time, you would be lost until we repent. According to this view we are constantly in and out of the grace of God. Each time we sin we fall from grace and are restored after confessing, hence the term yo-yo grace.
“But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.
1 John 1: 7-8
I believe the yo-yo view of grace misreads this verse. If we walk in the light the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us from all sin. This verb is in the present tense, which has the meaning of an on going cleansing. If we walk in the light, His blood continues to cleanse us from all sin. To walk in the light is to continue to live by faith in God, to continue to trust God. If we are living by faith we will continue to confess our sins. We know we sin; if we deny that we make God a liar, but we do not fall from grace when we sin, we fall from grace when we stop trusting in God and trust in ourselves and our abilities to keep God’s commandments.
Grace is a beautiful concept and in the Scriptures is often associated with another beautiful concept, peace. I pray that you have found peace with God through His grace.
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Last Update 09/26/12