Faith, God, Grace

Understanding God’s Grace

One of the most important and yet controversial topic of the Bible is the grace of God. But if we can fight our way clear in understanding and applying God’s grace, we will experience a close relationship with God and consistent victory over sin (cf. Rom. 6:14).

God’s grace permeated the Apostle Paul’s thinking. Christ’s promises to him as recorded in 2 Cor 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” had an abiding effect upon Paul’s mind throughout his life. One scripture scholar writes, “Paul could not think of Christian truth and conduct apart from God’s grace”.

Let us take a look at the classic definition of grace: God’s grace is His unmerited favour. Grace means that God showered favour and blessing on those who did not in any way deserve or earn it. They deserved His judgment and wrath. But He showed them favour instead.

Today God’s pure grace gets polluted by two very different schools of thought. One school teaches a system of merit-salvation, where you have to add your works to what Christ did on the cross in order to go to heaven. This was at the heart of pharisaic, legalistic religion in the times of Jesus and Paul. Although Paul was once a Pharisee, his understanding of grace and salvation was quite different. In Eph 2:8-9 Paul says: “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, so that no one may boast”.

The grace that saves is the free, undeserved goodness and favour of God; and He saves, not by the works of the law, but through faith in Christ Jesus. Grace in the soul is a new life in the soul. A regenerated sinner becomes a living soul; he lives a life of holiness, being born of God: he lives, being delivered from the guilt of sin, by pardoning and justifying grace. Sinners roll themselves in the dust; sanctified souls sit in heavenly places, are raised above this world, by Christ’s grace. The goodness of God in converting and saving sinners heretofore, encourages others in after-time, to hope in His grace and mercy. Our faith, our conversion, and our eternal salvation, are not of works, lest any man should boast. These things are not brought to pass by anything done by us, therefore all boasting is shut out. All is the free gift of God, and the effect of being quickened by His power. It was His purpose, to which He prepared us, by blessing us with the knowledge of His will, and His Holy Spirit producing such a change in us, that we should glorify God by our good conduct, and perseverance in holiness. None can from Scripture abuse this doctrine, or accuse it of any tendency to evil. All who do so, are without excuse.

God’s grace also gets distorted by the other school, which mistakes the grace of God for licentiousness (cf. Jude 4; 2 Peter 2). Many professing Christians wrongly think that God’s grace means that He gives out free passes that allow us to sin, with no consequences for disobedience. If you emphasize the need to obey God’s commandments or do good works, they call you a legalist. If you warn them that their sloppy view of sin will result in God’s discipline, they don’t want to hear it. Their mantra is, “I’m not into your rules kind of religion. I’m under grace, not law”. For them, grace means permission for sloppy living.

If only they care to read all 23 verses of Romans Chapter 6, they will stop letting sin reign in their mortal body but offer every part of themselves to Christ as an instrument of righteousness (cf. Rom 6:12-13). Verse 15 alone is enough to throw their mantra out of the window. “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” that’s what Paul says in Rom 6:15.

Christ says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). This is the only proper evidence of love to Jesus, for mere profession is no proof of love; but that love for Him which leads us to do all His will, to love each other, to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and to follow Him through evil report and through good report, is true attachment. The evidence which we have that a child loves its parents is when that child is willing, without hesitation, gainsaying, or complaining, to do all that the parent requires him to do. So the disciples of Christ are required to show that they are attached to Him supremely by yielding to all His requirements, and by patiently doing His will in the face of ridicule and opposition (cf. 1 John 5:2-3).

Let us now take a look at a passage from Paul’s epistle to Titus and see how the text corrects both of these serious misconceptions of God’s grace. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14).

The doctrine of grace and salvation by the gospel, is for all ranks and conditions of men. It teaches to forsake sin; to have no more to do with it. An earthly, sensual behaviour suits not a heavenly calling. It teaches to make conscience of that which is good. We must look to God in Christ, as the object of our hope and worship. A gospel behaviour must be a godly behaviour. See our duty in a very few words; denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, living soberly, righteously, and godly, notwithstanding all snares, temptations, corrupt examples, ill usage, and what remains of sin in the believer’s heart, with all their hinderances. It teaches to look for the glories of another world. At, and in, the glorious appearing of Christ, the blessed hope of Christians will be complete: To bring us to holiness and happiness was the end of Christ’s death. Jesus Christ, that great God and our Saviour, who saves not only as God, much less as Man alone; but as God-man, two natures in one person. He loved us, and gave himself for us; and what can we do less than love and give up ourselves to him! Redemption from sin and sanctification of the nature go together, and make a peculiar people unto God, free from guilt and condemnation, and purified by the Holy Spirit. All Scripture is profitable. Here is what will furnish for all parts of duty, and the right discharge of them. Let us inquire whether our whole dependence is placed upon that grace which saves the lost, pardons the guilty, and sanctifies the unclean. And the further we are removed from boasting of fancied good works, or trusting in them, so that we glory in Christ alone, the more zealous shall we be to abound in real good works.

In verse 15, Paul instructs Titus: “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you”. The great and necessary truths and duties of the gospel, especially, these speak and exhort, parakalei, press with much earnestness. Ministers must not be cold and lifeless in delivering heavenly doctrine and precepts, as if they were indifferent things or of little concern; but they must urge the people with earnestness suitable to their nature and importance; they must call upon persons to mind and heed, and not be hearers only, deceiving themselves; but doers of the word, that they may be blessed therein. And rebuke; convince and reprove such as contradict or gainsay, or neglect and do not receive the truth as they should, or retain it in unrighteousness—those who hear it not with such a believing and obedient mind and heart as they ought, but, instead of this (it may be) live in contrary practices, showing themselves stubborn and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate. Rebuke with all authority, as coming in the name of God, and armed with His admonishments and discipline, whoever make light of which will do it at their peril. And perhaps in the background of this stirring admonition of the aged master to his disciple, placed in so difficult and responsible a position, there is the anxious warning again: Yes, but show all diligence too in your words and doings, so that every word of yours may have its full weight, that none may despise you on account of your life.

In conclusion, God’s grace saves us and then it trains and motivates us to be godly people in this present age, zealous for good deeds, as we look for the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us.

Let us praise God with the song “Amazing Grace”:

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