The word “grace” is very difficult to define. Classic definitions are often, “God’s unmerited favour” or “free gift of God”. For the Christian, this definition forms the foundation of our faith and this concept separates Christianity for every other religion. Christians believe that they are no longer accountable for their sins as they have received the “free gift” of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Whilst recognising that we are sinners and deserving of God’s righteous wrath, we have been imparted with the righteousness of Jesus, making us acceptable to God. This is God’s amazing grace!
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:7-10, emphasis added)
This cannot be earned by us – it is simply an undeserved and unmerited gift of God. One preacher used the word GRACE to form the acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. The payment or debt that we owed to God for our rebellion against Him was willingly paid by Jesus Christ when His blood was shed on the cross. The assurance that the debt was completely cleared and “paid in full” was demonstrated perfectly with Jesus’ resurrection from death. This event uniquely displays that the power of death have been permanently defeated in Christ and this power and privilege can be accepted by anyone who chooses. The Bible claims and logic reasons that forgiveness through Christ can be the ONLY way to salvation as no other religion deals with the issue of sin.
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (Romans 3:22-24, emphasis added)
While the definitions and descriptions of grace above are certainly true – the way in which the concept of grace is received by believers can often be incomplete and rather simplistic. This can lead to people viewing grace as calling on the name of Christ but not surrendering their lives to Him – an experience that changes our standing before God but does not alter our ongoing condition before Him. It appears that across the evangelical landscape there has almost been a diluting of the idea of grace which leads it to be seen almost like a “get out of jail free card” from the judgment of God. This “grace theology” can dilute the depth of grace in our understanding and lead to a licentious lifestyle that does not display the holiness that results from a more humble and reverent understanding of grace.
In the Bible, grace is on many occasions contrasted with the law. (See verse below and others, for example Romans 4:16, Galatians 2:21).
And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:16-17)
It is important to remember that grace does not just replace the law – grace fulfils the law! The law of God is still intact and operational. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the requirements of the law and could therefore legitimately pay the punishment for our disobedience on our behalf. Receiving grace from God through repentance leads to a permanent lifestyle change rather than a simplistic departure from being accountable for our actions.
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)
Grace is not just a noun, it is a verb. Grace is not a momentary experience or commitment that then remains dormant. It is an ongoing, active and dynamic transformation that galvanises and powers our lives thereafter! Titus (quoted below) gives a beautiful picture of grace:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
There is, therefore, a transformation that takes place in the believer in Christ that leads to two things. Firstly, our standing before God is transformed so we can have confidence that when God looks at us, He sees Christ’s perfection in us – He no longer sees us a sinner and we therefore have access to God that was impossible beforehand. Secondly, we should totally surrender our lives to Him as the passage from Titus above describes and our life should never again look the same. The presence of the Holy Spirit causes this transformation. This transformation results in a relationship with God that should characterize our lives from the moment of conversion. This surrender to God is described by the apostle Paul:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. (Romans 6:1-12, emphasis added)
This is not to say that we then live perfect lives from the moment of conversion onwards. It means that sin should no longer RULE our lives. It could be summarised by saying that a Christian will at times “fall” into sin, but should not continue to “habitually” sin the same way they did before they repented and accepted Christ. Once a believer has given their life to Christ, they have embarked on a three stage process: justification, sanctification and then glorification.
Justification becomes a past event and occurs at the moment we repent of our sins and trust in the work of Jesus Christ.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1)
Sanctification is the present state in which we exist and is the process of living out our lives in obedience to God, trying to cultivate a life of holiness and purity with the illumination and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 1:2)
Glorification is what we look forward in the future when either we die and go to meet The Lord or Jesus Christ returns to “rapture” or snatch-up His true followers where we will be given new heavenly bodies to dwell in – whichever comes first!
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
What an amazing journey for those that confess their sin and place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ! This is the meaning of grace – that while we were/are dead in our sins, destined to an eternity of separation from our father God, we now have the opportunity to accept this free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. We can then begin a relationship with our wonderful Creator, resting in the promise that when our time on earth comes to an end, or if He returns before the end of our lives, we will then be in the eternal presence of God in heaven. Although this grace is extended to us as a free gift, we are still required to accept this gift and make a response through repentance to and acceptance of Jesus as Lord. This promise is available to all who will respond and we would urge you to consider and accept this free gift of grace to secure your eternity – have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Read our How To Be Saved article – why wait any longer!
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice (Philippians 4:4)