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For many believers, the concept of grace goes little beyond the basic definition of “unmerited favor” or “the free gift of God,” but since grace is at the very heart, indeed, the very foundation of true Christianity, it is extremely important to think more precisely and have a better grasp of this important word and its truth.
The ramifications of God’s grace to us in Christ affects our lives on every hand. Throughout the New Testament the effects of God’s grace are emphasized. Everywhere we turn, we run into this word (114 verses in the NASB, and 104 references in the NIV; the differences stemming from different translations of certain passages). In fact, the Lord Himself is described as the very epitome and manifestation of God’s grace (Tit. 2:11).
The doctrine of God’s grace in Christ is multi-sided. Grace touches every area of truth or doctrine in one way or another. Every aspect of doctrine is related to grace. It is no wonder grace is an important word and one that Paul desires to be experienced by all.
The Greek word for grace is caris. Its basic idea is simply “non-meritorious or unearned favor, favor or blessing bestowed as a gift, freely and never as merit for work performed.”
Grace is “that which God does for mankind through His Son, which mankind cannot earn, does not deserve, and will never merit.”5
Grace is all that God freely and non-meritoriously does for man and is free to do for man on the basis of Christ’s person and work on the cross. Grace, one might say, is the work of God for man and encompasses everything we receive from God (cf. Eph. 1:3 with 1:6 and John 6:27-29).
(1) Grace stresses God’s character and man’s sinfulness, while mercy stresses God’s strength and man’s helplessness. Grace finds its necessity in the fact of God’s holiness and in the sinfulness of man; in the nature of God as the creator and man as the creature.
(2) Grace is opposed to and excludes any idea of works for merit, works done as a means of blessing or as payment for what is done. Grace means you never deserve it nor can you earn it even by the old fashion way. The moment one adds works to gain favor with God, you go from grace to meritorious living (Rom. 4:4; 11:6). Note: Eph. 4:1, in a manner fitting, not in a manner that merits God’s love.
(3) But at the same time, grace is the fountain from which good works are to be produced in the Christian’s life when appropriated by faith (Tit. 2:11; 2 Tim. 2:1; 1 Cor. 15:9-11). In other words, Grace gives power and motivation for Christ-like living (Rom. 12:1; Eph. 4:1; 6:10; 2 Tim. 2:1). Titus 2:11 teaches us that God’s grace in Christ is a dynamic means of instruction on the Christian life. It literally teaches us how we should live.
(4) Though grace is the New Testament way of life, it still contains rules and imperatives that God expects us to live by not as a means of merit, but because of and through God’s grace; in other words, grace is not antinomian or anti-law (1 Cor. 9:21; Rom 6:14; 8:1f). As Titus 2:12f teaches us, God’s grace in Christ demands the denial of the wrong things in life and direction and obedience toward the right things. It becomes quite evident from this that grace never means unbridled living or doing as one pleases for there is the Grace of God (Rom. 5:20-6:1f; Gal. 5:13). As Ryrie has wisely put it, “The final cause of the revelation of the grace of God in Christ is not creed, but character.”7
(5) Grace glorifies God because it reveals God’s person, His glory and excellence (Rom. 4:1f; Eph. 1:6; 2:8, 9; 2 Pet. 1:2-4). God’s gracious salvation and work for man in Christ is to the “praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6).
(6) Grace guarantees the believer’s salvation. It makes it impossible for any man to get out of the plan of God positionally. Why? Because salvation depends on the character and work of God in Christ and not on man’s record for no matter how hard man tries, he always falls short of God’s holy character (Rom. 8:33-39).
(7) Grace guarantees us of God’s love and provision for anything we might face in life (Rom. 8:32-39).
Covered here are four main areas or blessings of God’s grace.
(1) Though sinful and deserving of God’s wrath, grace means the Blessings of Acceptance (Eph. 1:6). Grace means we are completely accepted because of the perfect work of Christ which redeems us (Rom. 3:24), reconciles us (2 Cor. 5:19-21), forgives us (Rom. 3:25; Eph. 1:6,7), delivers us (Col. 1:13), justifies us (Rom. 3:24; 5:1), and glorifies us (Rom. 8:30). Note 1 Cor. 1:29-30.
(2) Though weak and without capacity for spiritual things, grace means the Blessing of Enablement, spiritual power and capacity to live the Christian life (1 Cor. 15:10; Phil. 4:13). Special divine ability is secured for the believer under and in the grace of God which is ours in Christ. This is stressed by the following: (a) No longer under Law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14; 2 Cor. 3:6-13). (b) Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). (c) Baptized and circumcised in Christ unto new life potential (Rom. 6:4f; Col. 2:11). (d) Indwelt by the Spirit of God for power or ability to live the Christian life (Rom. 8:2f).
(3) Though in Adam and dead in sin, grace means the Blessings of a New Position (Eph. 1:3; 2:1-5). The believer in Christ, under grace, has a new position in Christ which brings into the believer’s life every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3; Col. 2:10). This means the gift of such things as: (a) Every believer a priest—members of a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5,9). (b) Citizens of heaven and thereby left here on earth as ambassadors for Christ (Phil. 3:20; 2 Cor. 5:20). (c) Children of God, members of God’s family (Eph. 5:1). (d) Adopted as adult sons with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities (Gal. 4:5). (e) Gifted for ministry (1 Pet. 4:10; 1 Cor. 12:4-7).
(4) Finally, though cut off from God and bound for hell, grace means the Blessings of an Eternal Inheritance, one that is imperishable, undefiled, that will not fade away, and reserved in heaven for believers (1 Pet. 1:4).
The great need is grace orientation and its multiplication (1 Pet. 1:2f) This comes through the knowledge of the Word and faith.
The great hazard is grace disorientation. But what does that mean?
(1) The Hazard Defined. Grace disorientation occurs when we fail of the grace of God (Heb. 12:15). When we fail of God’s grace, we always turn to our own solutions, strategies, and methods for handling life which range all the way from humanism and legalism (ignoring God’s Grace we depend on self [Gal. 5:1-5]) to the opposite pole, license (using God’s grace as an occasion for the flesh [Gal. 5:13]).
(2) The Hazard Depicted. Biblical pictures to warn us of the danger. The Bible has a number of word picture which portray this constant problem with man: leaning on the arm of the flesh which leaves one in desert like conditions (Jer. 17:5), hewing out broken cisterns that hold no water (Jer. 2:13), warring according to the flesh or using human weapons against spiritual forces (2 Cor. 10:3), leaning on the staff of a sharp reed of man’s solutions that pierces the hand (Isa. 36:6), walking by our own firebrands to light our path (Isa. 50:10-11).
(3) Forms this Hazard Takes.
HUMAN STRATEGIES FOR LIVING
Overwork, extreme business
Loss of control
(4) Consequences of the Hazard. When we fail of God’s grace, we fail to exercise faith in God’s provision which leaves us operating in our own strength. This nullifies the power of God in one’s life, dishonors God, quenches the Spirit’s power, results in the production of the works of the flesh (mere human good and carnality), and general misery (Rom. 4:4; 11:6; Gal. 3:1f; 5:1-5).
The Greek word for peace is eirhnh. It apparently comes from eirw which means “to join.” It means a state of untroubled tranquillity where there is no war or dividing faction or enmity. It means a state of harmony and well being. But in the use of this word and its application in Scripture, there are several aspects of peace which God’s grace gives.
(1) The Peace of Reconciliation, Peace with God. It may refer to the peace of salvation where man is brought into a right relationship with God through faith in Christ (Rom. 5:1; Gal. 6:12-16). In Ephesians 2 Christ is seen as the peace maker (Eph. 2:14-18).
(2) The Peace of Fellowship, the Peace of a Conscience Void of Offense. This is the personal peace which God gives to the individual through fellowship with the Lord, through walking in concord with God with all known sin confessed and turned over to God’s grace and knowledge of all things (1 John 1:9; 3:19-21; Gal. 5:22; 1 Tim. 1:5; Acts 24:16).
(3) The Peace of Assurance, the Peace of God. This is the peace that comes from being confident of God’s supply, that God is in control. This is the peace that settles our nerves, fills our mind, and allows us to relax even in the midst of uproar around us (Phil. 4:6-9; Gal. 5:22; Ps. 119:165; Pr. 3:13-17).
(4) The Peace of Harmony, Peace with Others. This is the peace of unity and oneness in the body of Christ; oneness of mind and purpose (Eph. 4:3; Phil. 2:2-4; 1 Thess. 5:13). God reaps a harvest of peace where there are believers sowing and watering their minds with the Word. But Satan, the agent of disunity and strife, seeks to reap a harvest of discord through hurt feelings, unwillingness to forgive, and selfish ambition when people refuse to operate on the principles and promises of the Word (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6-11; Mark 9:34 with vs. 50; Phil. 2:1-4).
(5) The Peace of State, Public Peace. This is a society without war or turbulence. It comes through good rulers or government acting in accord with the principles of the Word and through a strong nucleus of godly citizens who apply and live by the truth of Scripture (Acts 24:2; 1 Tim. 2:2; Rom. 13:1-7; Compare also the early chapters of Isaiah).
(7) The Peace of Orderliness. Refers to doing things decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40).
(8) The Peace of Pronounced Blessing. Refers to the wish and prayer for spiritual and physical prosperity, security, and safety for others (cf. most of the salutation of Paul and John 20:19,21,26).
(1) The peace of eternal security with the assurance of our salvation.
(2) The peace of good conscience, of no known sin unconfessed.
(3) The peace of knowing God’s will, of God’s direction.
(4) The peace of knowing that God will supply.