AMAZING GRACE

By Elder Jim Shedd

 

INTRODUCTION:  As I began to think about the subject of GRACE, I first looked at what we  normally mean when we use the term, and how we most often  understand it.  (it may seem somewhat old fashioned, as we don’t use it a lot except in Christian circles and contexts where it is a word rich and full of meaning).  It seems that generally the term GRACE means something like “Unmerited Favor” or a “Totally Undeserved Benefit” freely granted to someone. We also use it in the sense of the avoidance of certain accidents and disasters — “There but for the grace of God go I” — meaning that we could have very easily have been in the wrong place at the wrong time as well. So the term GRACE does indeed have some everyday relevance to us.

 

Perhaps to put some meaning to GRACE and characterize it in an everyday sense, consider the case of your two neighbors; one on each side of your house.  One neighbor is really great, (picks up your mail, watches your house, etc.), and we find ourselves acting the same way toward them repaying good for good and favor for favor – a beneficial and hopefully a natural code of conduct between civilized people.  Note, however, that our response to this neighbor, as great as it is, is not really GRACE, but a “bargain” (aka fairness) type of  relationship (they deserve our goodness and regard and we deserve theirs).  Now what about your other neighbor, perhaps a real a jerk – not openly hostile, but he does nothing for you, and ignores you completely.   How do you respond to him?  The natural instinct is to act toward him just as he acts toward you, a fair bargain right? Generally, society would not fault you for responding in this way; your neighbors get the regard they deserve.  If we look at God’s idea of   GRACE, however, we find that it calls upon us to help and benefit our neighbors regardless of their actions toward us.  GRACE is not based upon either the idea of fairness or a bargain type relationship (giving someone what they deserve), but rather it may seem somewhat “un-natural” because it concerns our overall responses and attitudes toward other people regardless of their attitudes and responses toward us.  GRACE in our lives has to do with  who we are and who we are trying to serve.

 

Two questions therefore come to mind:  (1) Where do we get this idea of GRACE; how are we to define and understand it and is there a model or example we can use for it, and (2) once we have such a model, what difference should it make; how should our understanding of GRACE be applied to our lives and affect our conduct.

 

GRACE – THE BIBLICAL MODEL:  To truly understand what real GRACE is, we must look at the biblical model; what God has done and continues to do in his relationships with mankind.  More importantly, perhaps, what He has and continues to do in our individual lives; for us, that’s where the “rubber meets the road”.  We find that the biblical picture of God’s GRACE not only gives us an understanding of what real GRACE is, but also shows us much about God’s character; who He is.  Moreover, we see that an essential part of God’s character is His extension of GRACE to us rather than treating and responding to us on the basis of what we deserve or have earned.  Consistent with His character, God’s GRACE (if we choose to accept it) freely allows us the privilege of entering into and having a relationship with Him as adopted children; members of His family. Solely due to His GRACE, this relationship gives us; (1) assurance of our future with Him (Salvation) and (2) provision for living of our lives in the here and now (Sanctification).

The biblical model of God’s GRACE, therefore, provides us with both a secure future AND power to live in today’s world in accordance with His character which He develops in us.  So what is this biblical model of God’s GRACE; what are we told about it, and where do we find it?  Consider the following passages:

 

 

John 1:14, 17

The Word (Christ) became flesh (human) and dwelt among us; He came from the Father full of GRACE and truth; God’s GRACE and truth came to us through Jesus Christ [We are given no other expression or example of God’s GRACE]
     

 

 

Rom 3:22-24

Righteousness from God comes to us through faith in Christ to all who believe; there is no difference between us (Christians-those who accept His GRACE), as all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His GRACE  through the redemption that came by Christ.  [We are allowed to be considered  righteous (as if we had never sinned) before God – a free gift; we never can deserve it]
     
 

Rom  6:23

Likewise, as all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,  The wages of sin is death, but the gift (GRACE) of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ; [we need help; God’s fairness says that we deserve death, but His GRACE gives us a chance and offers us life]
 

 

 
 

Jn 14:6

I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes  to the father except through Me.
 

 
 

Acts 4:12

Salvation is found in no one else but Christ, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved [Christ is the only source and provision  for us to receive God’s GRACE]
 

 

 
 

Rom 5:8

God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet  sinners, Christ died for us. (the Model of God’s GRACE)
 

II Cor 5:17

Because of God’s GRACE, If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone – the new has come [God’s GRACE makes us NEW – not perfect, but new]
     
 

Jn 14:16, 15:4

The Holy Spirit abides (lives and remains) in us [one aspect of newness]
     
 

I Cor 6:19

Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in us whom we have received from God
     
 

Rom 5:1-2

Because we have been justified by faith, we have Peace with God through Christ, through whom we have also gained access by faith into this GRACE in which we now stand.; an introduction into GRACE. [Without His GRACE, we are at enmity (war) with God and under a death sentence, but now we can approach Him as FATHER]
     
 

Eph 2:19

We are members of God’s household
     
 

Acts 20:32

Now I commit you to God and to the word of His GRACE which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.  [Yes, God’s GRACE is that powerful]
 

Gal 3:26

You are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ
     
  Gal 4:4-6 God sent His son to redeem (literally purchase or buy) us so that we might receive the full rights as sons.  Because you are sons, God has sent the spirit of His son into our hearts; since you are a son, God has made you also an heir
     
  Rom 8:17 Now if we are children of God, then we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ
 

 
 

Titus 3:6-7

He saved us not because of righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy – so that being justified by His GRACE, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
     
 

Heb 12:6-10

As members of God’s family, we are reminded that  God’s GRACE is not some soft, fuzzy, warm pillow.  His love for us can also be manifested as  “tough love” from a caring parent, as he “disciplines (trains, corrects) those he loves, and punishes (correct/trains) everyone He accepts as a son”.

 

     
  Rom 6:4-6, 14-16 We are buried with Christ, and no longer slaves to sin; sin no longer has to master us because we are not under law, but under GRACE
     
 

Rom 4:4

When a man works, his wages are not given to him as an act of GRACE, but as an obligation (bargain relationship)
 

 

 
 

Gal 5:4

You who are trying to be justified by law (works) have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from GRACE
     

 

These various bible passages (supported by our Christian experience) show us the wonderful blessing of God’s GRACE; what He has freely offered and given to us.  They also reveal aspects of His character of the deepest and purest love.  What we see in the biblical model for GRACE is God’s unmerited favor toward mankind where, for the sake of our faith in Christ, He renews us, considers us cleansed before Him, and adopts us into His family with full rights thus guaranteeing our eternal salvation.  God also places His spirit in us to enable and sustain us to live as His people in this world, and develop a character in accordance with His own character (sanctification). This model, therefore, answers our first question; “(1) Where do we get this idea of GRACE; what is the model or picture we can use for it”.  So what now; are we to just receive this GRACE; do we just enjoy and revel in it, or is there more to it?

 

GRACE — OUR FITTING RESPONSE:  As we go on looking at this biblical model of God’s GRACE, we find that the knowledge and understanding of it is intended not only to bless us in a relationship with Him, but perhaps more importantly this GRACE is also meant to equip and prepare us to serve Him and show Him to others. God’s word goes on to define how he expects us to respond to His GRACE which answers our second question; (2) “having such a model, how should it affect us and be applied to our lives and our conduct”.

 

 

 

Eph 2:5-10

God made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our sins; it is by His GRACE that we have been saved through faith in Christ, and not from ourselves. God raised us up with Christ so that in the coming ages he might show  the riches of His GRACE.  Our salvation is the GIFT of God, not by our efforts so that no one can boast, for we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works. [we have a mission and a purpose]
     
  II Tim 1:8-9 The power of God has saved us and called us to a holy life  – not for anything we have done, but because of His own purpose and GRACE
  II Cor 9:8 God is able to make all GRACE abound to you , so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work
     
  Gal 5:22 As our body is the temple of the Holy spirit (I Cor 6:19), the Spirit bears fruit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
     
  II Cor 12:9 My GRACE is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness [It is God who does the work – His power in us enables us to do the works showing His GRACE to others]
     
  Rom 12:6 We have different gifts, according to the GRACE given us; prophecy, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, showing mercy, leadership these are to be exercised and applied.
 

 
 

I Peter 4:10

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others faithfully administering God’s GRACE in its various forms [we are called to administer God’s GRACE]
     
  II Cor 8:7-9 Just as you excel in all things  like faith, speech, and knowledge, see that you also excel in the GRACE of giving. [in the context of responsible stewardship]
     
    We see that God intends to show the riches of His GRACE through us; through using the gifts He has given us and our works as He empowers us.
     

 

 

Acts 4:33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to Christ’s resurrection, and much GRACE was upon them [the Holy Spirit also uses our testimony to convict and draw people to Christ]
     
  Rom 1:5 Through Christ we received GRACE and apostleship to call people from among all the nations to the obedience that comes from faith. [although God actually does the calling, our witness is the method He often chooses to use]
     
  Eph 3:7 I (Paul) became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s GRACE given to me through the working of His power; this GRACE was given to me to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.
     
     
     
  Jas 2:15-20 Our faith, if truly real, must be accompanied by action.  Our faith is shown by the deeds that accompany it; faith without works is useless.
     
  Matt 5:43-48 Christ’s illustration and teaching (see Bible)
     

 

As Christians, therefore, we are called to exercise GRACE toward others.  This has nothing to do with their merits, but rather as our response to the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives.  Our acts of  GRACE show God’s love to others.  We see that God intends us to not be passive receptors of His GRACE, but rather respond to it by passing it along to others using His power in our lives. What a great blessing occurs in us as we respond to the Holy Spirit in extending God’s GRACE to others regardless of their actions and attitudes towards us.

 

I’d like to end on citing how both Peter and Paul define us as Christians, and How Christ Himself described our works as Christians as we are obedient to his will.

 

  • In II Cor 5:17-20, Paul talks about us as new creations in Christ, and in this way God reconciled us (brought us into a right relationship) to Himself and GAVE US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION (we are to pass God’s GRACE along). He goes on to say that because of having this “ministry”, “We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.”  Consider an Ambassador; he represents his home country while living in the host country.  Although he walks about and lives in the host country, he always represents his home country.  Everything he does reflects upon his home country, and his primary responsibility is to the ruler of his home country.  I Peter 1:17  we are to “live our lives here as strangers” and in  2:11, he reminds us that we are “aliens and strangers in the world”.  Paul in Phil 3:20 says it well when he reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven”

 

  • In Jn 15:5, Christ reminds His disciples that without Him, they can do nothing. This idea is carried over in Matthew 5:15-16  where He tells them that they are “the light of the world”, and that they should “Let their light so shine before men that they may see your good works and praise your father in heaven” –  perfectly appropriate for the acts of an ambassador – bringing credit upon his home country and his king.

 

This  was also written for us; We are to show and bring God’s GRACE  to others as His ambassadors!!  We are to live our lives and exhibit God’s GRACE  as part of our growing character so that others see God in us and focus on Him.

 

FINIS

 

Simone Weil (1909–43), French philosopher and  mystic. “

Humanism is not wrong in thinking that truth, beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but rather in thinking that man can get them for himself without the GRACE of God.

PASCAL wrote;  “Man is full of natural error that cannot be eradicated except through God’s GRACE.  Nothing shows man the truth; everything deceives him including his reason and his senses.  Our Reason is deceived by our senses through false appearances, and our senses are also disturbed by passions which produce false impressions.  They both compete in lies and deception.  The way of God, however, instills faith into our (minds with reasoned arguments and into our) hearts with GRACE.” – and – “Scripture’s prophecies, miracles, and proofs of our faith are not the kind of evidence that are absolutely convincing.  It is not unreasonable, however, to believe in them.  There is evidence and obscurity to enlighten some and confuse others, but the evidence exceeds that which is contrary.  It is not our reason that decides us against following the faith, however, but rather our own lust and wickedness of heart.  There is enough evidence to condemn and yet not enough to convince, so that it is obvious that those who follow it are prompted to do so by GRACE , and not by reason.

 

Retirement

Learn to live well, or fairly make your will;
You’ve played, and loved, and ate, and drunk your fill:
Walk sober off; before a sprightlier age
Comes tittering on, and shoves you from the stage:
Leave such to trifle with more grace and ease,
Whom Folly pleases, and whose Follies please.

Alexander Pope (1688–1744), English satirical poet. Last lines of Imitations of Horace, bk. 2, Epistle 2.