Grace changes everything. But why grace in the first place? A thorough understanding of grace requires we get to its roots. This article will briefly examine the term “grace” as used in the New Testament, and then focus on three divine options for responding to sinful men and women.
Four meanings of “grace”
The term “grace” as used in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, has different meanings, depending on the context of its usage.
The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (Dictionary of the original Greek words) presents four ways the Greek word for grace is used in the New Testament.
- “That which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness” (Luke 4:22).
- “Good-will, loving-kindness, favor” (Luke 2:52, Ephesians 1:6).
- The effects of grace on a believer’s life. This is the “grace status” (Romans 5:2)
- Thanks for benefits, services, favors (Luke 17:9)
We will focus on the specific usage of grace as the favor of God bestowed upon man through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Grace that is in Christ
The thrill of grace is in its distinct usage in connection with the salvation of man from sin into the glory of God. In fact, this is where the “amazing” of amazing grace is found. It is inseparable from Christ, and has been called the:
- Grace of God that brings salvation to lost man (Titus 2:11)
- Grace that came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17)
- Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9, Acts 15:11)
The grace that is in Christ is what turns a sinner into a saint, a hateful man into a loving father, a lost sinner to a graceful pastor and shepherd, a murderer into the finest of men. This grace is the focus of our attention.
It is inseparable from Christ Jesus. It is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The excellences and wonders of this grace are endless if only we knew and believed every aspect of it. For there is no man who ever came to know this grace and believed in it that remains the same. Heaven becomes released into their lives and lifts them into a realm of more than conquerors in every aspect of life.
The Scope of grace
Grace captures God’s response to sinful man, deserving of judgment and death.
Though it deals with a divine response to the fall of man, it is the eternal purpose of God to give man His eternal life and reveal His glory in man.
This response is evident in the manner in which He relates to us, which ultimately, becomes our spiritual and physical experience. It might be subtle to realize, but it is fundamental to note that our experience as humans is a reflection of our relationship with God. When sin is not dealt with, for example, our human experience is that of restlessness, fear, shame, and guilt. The scriptures vividly states that there is no peace for the wicked( Isaiah 48:22)
The awfulness of the sinful state
Sin is not merely an error or a mistake. It is rebellion against our Holy and Righteous Creator and evokes His wrath and judgment. The gravity of sin is gauged by the wrath of God and His judgment against it. The writer to the Hebrews cautions them with these words
It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31 )
One of the most dreadful manifestations of sin is the pride that comes with it. It is one thing to get it wrong. It is another to defend our wrong and defy any obligation to submit to our Creator. Man is sinful and prideful in it. God will judge sin, and judge it very severely. The sinner is rebellious against God and under the weight of the fierceness of God’s wrath and judgement, except these are averted.
The beauty of grace is not in the darkness of the sin, but in the excellences of the Son of God. However, we will not fully appreciate grace, until we recognize the full doom and gloom in which we were found as sinners. Jesus stated this fact to the astonished Jews using a parable:
And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
“When they aware unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. Which of them therefore will love him more?”
Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.”
And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you agave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair.
“You agave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet.
“You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume.
“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:40-47 )
God’s response to sinful man
What will God do to and with the sinner?
Doing nothing is not an option
God is not only holy, but just. Man was created with the freedom to choose, and with that freedom came responsibility and accountability. Sin cannot not be punished and recompensed. Every human being, living on earth, needs to know this. Judgment against sin is not an option. We may live in this present life, with everything working perfectly as planned, as if there is no God who hates and rewards sin- but not forever.
If there is the slightest chance that there is a God, who truly said these things to us in the Bible, then it is the riskiest life adventure to make any personal assumptions on what will happen to us after death. This is one area of life you do not want to make assumptions. It might be better-off erring on the side of caution by preparing for this, rather than not, only to discover it was indeed true. There is abundant evidence that there is a God and the Bible is the Truth to those who want to see the evidence.
Responding with the Law
If no response is not an option, the next most logical response will be God pouring out His wrath and judgment upon man for his sin. This response to sin in wrath and judgment will then be seen in His relationship with man. God has given us a clear example of how this operates in His relationship with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament through the Law. A good understanding of the dynamics of the relationship between God and man under the Law will be extremely useful to understand grace.
The Law, given to Israel, gives us a picture of God’s wrath and judgement against sin and His blessing for obedience. Under the Law, the Lord gave Israel commandments to obey. Obedience was rewarded by blessings and disobedience by judgement. In other words, God was relating to the Jews, based on what they did with the commandments He gave them. And we know the end result of this. Israel is an enigma, by virtue of the blessing of God operating in them and the severity of judgments they have endured. There are few nations on earth today that have gone through the trauma the nation of Israel has experienced( Daniel 9:12).
It is needless to add that the physical judgements against the sin of Israel is not all there is to the full wrath and judgement of God against sin. There will be more than just physical disasters. In fact, the most dreaded judgements against sin is the eternal judgement called eternal death; that is eternal separation of God in the darkness of everlasting fire with Satan and his demons.
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; (Matthew. 25:41 )
“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew. 25:46 )
For the wages of sin is death..(Romans 6:23)
The Law was the first divinely instituted system of God, formally relating with a group of individuals-the nation of Israel. It is a manner in which God was relating with man, formally, based on performance on his commandments.
The final response-grace
But thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift in Christ! (2 Corinthians 9:15). Man has been given the chance for a completely different relationship with God. The Apostle John says:
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17 RSV)
Grace is presented in this verse in contrast to the Law given through Moses to Israel. Grace, rather than the Law, as presented above, is the divine response from which is built a relationship with sinful men. If you have understood the brief description of the concept of the law presented above, then you already know, at least generally, what grace is-it is the opposite of the divine response seen with the Law. Grace is God responding to man in kindness, rather than in judgment and wrath, against sin as seen with the Law. This promptly raises many valid questions including:
Has God changed His mind with respect to sin?
Is sin no longer sinful?
Is it right, or even spiritually correct, for God to respond kindly to sinful man, rather than giving him what he deserves?
How can God give His best gift to a rebellious, prideful, inept, and undeserving sinner?
God has not changed. Sin has not lost its sinfulness. Judgment and wrath against sin are not toothless bulldogs. God’s gifts to us are priceless and beyond our wildest imaginations and most pious spiritual efforts.
This is the astonishment of grace.
This is amazing grace.
The secret to understanding this mystery is in the value and worth of the Man Jesus Christ. He showed up and changed everything-forever. The hope of man is no longer determined by the fierceness of God’s wrath or the horror of his sin. Our hope is now anchored on who Jesus is and what He did for us. This is grace.
The next article in this series entitled “Grace 201-What is Grace?” will examine an amazing definition of grace from a Bible verse.
Read the Glory & Grace devotional for today and be inspired, encouraged and ready to face the day.
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