God’s grace in Christ has been revealed to us in at least 4 distinct dimensions which are closely related. We can be tempted to focus on one aspect and undermine the others. I call these different aspects, which form a framework to assist our understanding of grace, the “anatomy of grace.” Our perception of what grace is will be truncated if we do not see grace in its entirety.
The anatomy of God’s grace
There are four major aspects of the flow of grace from the Father to us that have been called “grace” in the scriptures. These are:
- The Divine response, which is the kindness or favor of Father God
- Grace revealed in Jesus Christ
- Grace executed by the Holy Spirit in believers
- The Human response to grace, which is our response to God in thanksgiving
Most of what is referred to as grace in the context of the favor of God shown to sinful man through Jesus Christ will fall under one of these four categories.
God’s grace-the divine response
That is where it all begins—God!
Grace is the kindness or favor of God to sinful men and women. It is fundamentally an attribute of the divine character. He is a gracious God from eternity past, and has always been, even before sin entered into the world.
Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and 1truth; (Exodus 34:6)
“Divine response” emphasizes the fact that the Father responded to the fall of man by sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins, which we did not deserve. Please note, however, God is not existing for us. His whole existence is not about man. Rather, we were created by Him and do exist for Him.
Interestingly enough, the gift of eternal life was not simply a response to sin, but God had pre-ordained in His eternal counsel to do so for man.
in the hope of eternal life, which God, bwho cannot lie, promised long ages ago (Titus 1:2 )
The divine response to sin in grace is kindness or favor.
Among them we too all aformerly lived in bthe lusts of our flesh, 1indulging the desires of the flesh and of the 2mind, and were cby nature dchildren of wrath, eeven as the rest.But God, being arich in mercy, because of bHis great love with which He loved us, even when we were adead 1in our transgressions, made us alive together 2with Christ b(by grace you have been saved),
and araised us up with Him, and bseated us with Him in cthe heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing ariches of His grace in bkindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:3-7 )
Rather than the due judgement against our sin, God Himself has paid the penalty for our sins and went further to lavish us with goodness we do not deserve by beautifying us with the excellences of His glory.
Grace is God’s choice, and we are the blessed and privileged beneficiaries of this choice. Grace is not our doing, but God’s. God has chosen to show man favor. Therefore, we should not be apologetic or feel unworthy to receive or enjoy its benefits. He wants us to receive His kindness and give Him glory, praise, and thanksgiving.
God’s grace- The manifestation
God’s response to sin is sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins.
And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
God’s response to sin was immediate after the fall of man. And that response is –Jesus!
Jesus is, therefore, the embodiment of the response of the Father to sin. He is the grace of God revealed to us.
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17 )
Grace came to us as Jesus Christ.
The life of a perfect, sinless man had to be sacrificed and offered to God for our sins to be dealt with.
how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit coffered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb. 9:14 NAS)
The grace that is in Christ, which has brought us salvation, is not simply the kindness of God. This grace could only be made possible through the unconceivable sacrifice of the Son of God. Man’s sins could not be forgiven, simply, because the Father wanted to show kindness to humanity and could declare from His authority as God to have man forgiven. That would be unjust, because the soul that sins must pay the penalty for sin, which is death.
Grace is God showing man kindness by paying the penalty for our sins.
God’s grace is not mere kindness; it is sacrificial kindness.
Grace is not free to God. Yes, it is free to us as the beloved and blessed recipients, but it not free to God. The price of grace is the life of the Son of God. We were bought with a price. It was a horrible price, but He did it for us. This is grace. This is why the two most important words in the definition of grace that is the foundation of our salvation are “in Christ” or “in the Beloved.” We will not know what grace is until we understand Jesus. God’s grace is encapsulated in the life and work of Christ.
God’s grace-The Execution
This is the third aspect of grace in this spiritual anatomic framework . The Father showed kindness to man by sending His Son to pay the penalty for sin on the cross and give us the free gift of life.
The work of grace is both finished and unfinished. Jesus has already paid the price for sin and obtained the gift of eternal life for everyone who believes. What He did is finished and completed. It is as though He now sits in heaven with these gifts in His hands. It is done. The Holy Spirit takes these gifts from the hands of Christ and works with man to receive everything for which Jesus paid. The Spirit ensures we become and obtain all that is in the grace package for us. This is an ongoing work and is unfinished.
Grace is the operation of the Holy Spirit in and through the believer to adorn the Church with the beauties of heaven. The Holy Spirit is not doing a new work. He came to execute the work of Christ. He is the “CEO of the grace of Christ” on the earth.
Grace is God at work in us to do His will. He makes us what He wants us to be, and empowers us to do what He wants us to do. It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes! This is the beauty of the Christian life and service. We can now live and serve by the power of God operating through us. The Christian life is Christ living His life and doing His works through us. It is no longer merely a command for us to go out there and obey. It is now a life that Christ lives through us.
Grace is the Lord Himself at work in the lives of men.
These are some of the work He does as the CEO of God’s grace on the earth
Conviction of sinners
He came to ensure every lost soul is brought to faith in Christ to obtain forgiveness and escape the judgement of hell. He convicts the sinner of sin. This is grace.
“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment;
concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; (John 16:8-9 )
Sanctification and perfection of the saints
The Spirit is supernaturally enabling the saints to purify the soul by the Word of God and grooming them to become mature in the things of the faith. He gives them power to live above sin in this present world. The believer is supernaturally enabled to do this, not by His or her strength. A believer has strength to be able to live above sin by the Holy Spirit. An unbeliever does not have these privileges. This supernatural enablement by the Spirit to become what God has commanded us is –grace!
How refreshing to know I am not left alone to figure out how to live a sanctified life as a believer. There is abundant divine support, available through the Holy Spirit. This is grace at work in us. Any attempt on our part to live for God, without tapping into this grace, is a recipe for religious disaster, frustration, burnout, and disappointments.
Empowerment for Christian service
There is work for us to accomplish, as God wants the believers to reach out to those who are lost with this good news of the grace of God. There is also work to be done in the house of God to build, equip, and care for the saints of God. This is the two-core feature of our Christian service to our Father. The Holy Spirit supernaturally enables us to be able to do, with divine strength and wisdom, all that God wants us to do.
He gives us strength to be able to serve. This is grace.
He gives us spiritual gifts, such as the gifts of prophecy and word of wisdom, to be able to serve others. This is grace.
God’s grace is divine ability working in us.
Revealing of the glory of God in us
The glory of God through us is the manifestations of divine attributes through us, as us. God has chosen to reveal Himself in this present evil world through His people. His attributes, such as His love, mercy, power, wisdom, and holiness, will be seen on the earth through His people. If there is one single excitement about Christianity, it is the glory of God, revealed in us, as us, on the earth. Can you imagine your neighbors seeing God’s wisdom on earth by looking at you, as it was seen in Solomon? This is what God is up to today. This is the glory here and now, and yet to be revealed to us when Jesus returns.
The Spirit is here to bring out the attributes of God from within us and cause them to shine forth. He will do this, not by human ability, but by the very power of God. This is God’s grace. All we have to do is yield ourselves and receive.
and whom He predestined, these He also bcalled; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also dglorified. (Romans 8:30 )
God’s grace-the human response
Whenever grace is received, it unfailingly produces a holy awe for God and an overwhelming sense of thanksgiving the soul.
Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity, And 1receive us graciously, That we may present the fruit of our lips. (Hosea 14:2 )
The calf of the lips is the sacrifice of praise to our God.
Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (Hebrew 13:15)
God’s grace provokes voluntary, unforced, and effortless praise and thanksgiving to God. This is why why praise, thanksgiving, and worship to God should never be forced. They become the spontaneous lifestyle of the recipient of grace. In fact, the scripture below shows us that when gentiles experience the mercy of God, they will glorify God perpetually.
and for athe Gentiles to bglorify God for His mercy; as it is written, “Therefore I will 1give praise to Thee among the Gentiles, And I will sing to Thy name.” (Romans 15:9 )
The revelation of God’s grace to an open heart of faith will change everything. It will cause you to be passionately in love with Christ, effortlessly and without religious coercion. Grace fills our hearts with joy. It produces a holy and righteous lifestyle without any religious drama.
You will not need a message to instill fear in the heart of the saints to make them turn away from sin. Grace will not only create the desire, but will also provide the empowerment for holy living.
When we approach God with the law mentality of trying to earn God’s acceptance, there will hardly be any joy or spontaneous praise. Rather, we will have a sense of entitlement. We may begin to see ourselves even better than those who do not seem to be performing as well as we do. On the contrary, grace creates a spirit of humility and holy reverence for God.
Give a man what they worked for, and they will demand their rights. However, give them what they do not deserve, their hearts rather open up in gratitude.
Fear of the contrary
I chuckle when I hear it said, “This grace message will cause people to sin.” There are two parts of this dilemma. There is the fear of the pious that immature Christians, or even unbelievers, will use grace as an excuse for leading an ungodly lifestyle. And then there is the immature believer, or the unbeliever, who might want to find solace in his or her ungodly deeds by twisting the message of grace. In whatever case, I think they simply do not know what grace is or have hardened their hearts to believe it. Grace will never trigger sin in a man or woman—never. Grace is not a teaching; it is the empowerment to live above sin. It makes us shun and overcome sin, and never the reverse.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,instructing us to deny ungodliness and aworldly desires and bto live sensibly, righteously and godly cin the present age, (Titus 2:11-12 )
I am yet to meet a believer, who has had the revelation of the grace that is in Christ and believed it without reservation, and who goes on to lead a lifestyle of sin. Rather, such believers are characterized by a passionate love for Christ, the “joy unspeakable and full of glory”, a holy reverence and awe for God, a perpetual and spontaneous lifestyle of praise and thanksgiving to God, etc. If grace will benefit any man or woman, they must know and believe what God says it is.
The flow from God to man
The anatomy of grace in the flowchart above beautifully shows us the flow of grace from Father God to man, through the work of the Son and the Holy Spirit. It moves from Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and then man. However, the result of grace is the glory of God revealed in man, which in turn, gives the glory back to the Father.
The destination of grace is the glory of God!
At might be a good time to take a deeper look at the definition of God’s grace from the bible itself. Please see this article on “What is grace?” for a closer look at the meaning of grace from the scriptures.
What dimension of God’s grace is the Lord revealing to you now? Please leave a comment below to share with other believers.
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