Grace Is Not A Four Letter Word

Grace is not a four letter word! One would think, nowadays, that in many circles one could sooner curse God´s name and get away with it than to extol his grace in the salvation of sinners. If we talk about God´s sovereign grace to sinners, we are told they are not favored merely out of God´s good pleasure, but because God foresaw they would use the power of free will, that is given to all sinners equally, more wisely than those who choose to remain in their sins and perish. If we talk about God´s blessings of grace that are freely given to his children in the course of their Christian lives, we are told that these blessings are ¨rewards¨ for our obedience. They can´t be gracious gifts of God, freely given to those who deserve anything but blessing; they must somehow be the result of human effort. The truth is, God has not promised his children physical and material blessings, and all the spiritual blessings we have experienced, are now experiencing, and will ever experience have been granted us as a gift of God’s grace in consequence of our union with Christ. I am not denying the believer’s responsibility to exert himself. I am denying that we exert ourselves to obtain blessings. Instead, we exert ourselves because we are blessed by grace.

The New Testament message is “Look what you have in Christ by God’s free grace. Now, act accordingly.” That is altogether different from saying, “In regeneration, God has given us a bag of tools. Now, if we are diligent in obeying his commands, we can earn rewards.” One is the message of grace. The other is the message of human merit.

The word “grace” is used in different ways in the New Testament Scriptures. At times, it means gracious, as in Colossians 4:6. “Let your speech be always with grace, i.e., gracious. . .” or beauty (see–James 1:11).

At times, it refers to the enablement God grants us to live a life that pleases him, “He gives more grace” (James 4:6).

It is used of acts of Christian virtue, e.g., “Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you-see that you excel in this act of grace also (2 Cor. 8: 6-7).

On occasion, it refers to gratitude as in 2 Cor. 9:15 and Hebrews 12:28. “Let us have grace, i.e., gratitude, through which we may serve God acceptably. . . .”

More often the word is used to express God’s free, unmerited gift of blessing and favor given to those who deserve his wrath and curse. It is a free gift given to those who not only did not merit it and could not repay it, but it is given to them though they actually deserved just the opposite. “It is by this grace we have been saved.” See Ephesians 2:8-9. Every aspect of this salvation, from eternity past to eternity future is by the grace of God. God’s choice of his people is by grace. “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11: 5-6). It was grace that moved Jesus to humble himself to give himself for our redemption (see- 2 Cor. 8:9; Hebrews 2:9). We are called to salvation by grace (see- 2 Tim. I:9; Gal. 1:15). It is God’s grace that perfects, establishes, strengthens and settles us. “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Pet. 5:10). Nothing good happens in the believer’s life that does not happen by grace. We are chosen by grace, cleansed by grace, called by grace, cultivated by grace, and we conquer by grace. We are more than conquerors, but it is all through him who loved us.

There is nothing to fear in the grace of God. It should not be our dread but our delight. Perhaps Phillip Dodderidge, in 1740, best described what should be in our hearts when we think of God’s amazing grace. He wrote,

Grace, ‘Tis a charming sound,
Harmonious to the ear;
Heaven with the echo shall resound,
And all the earth shall hear.

Grace first contrived a way
To save rebellious man;
And all steps that grace display
That drew the wondrous plan.

Grace first enscribed my name
In God’s eternal book.
‘Twas grace that gave me to the lamb
Who all my sorrows took.

Grace taught my heart to fear,
And made my eyes o’erflow.
‘Tis grace that kept me to this day.
And will not let me go.

Grace led my roving feet,
To tread the heavenly road.
And new supplies each hour I meet
While pressing on to God.

Grace all the work shall crown,
Through everlasting days:
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise.


3 Responses to “Grace Is Not A Four Letter Word”

  1. November 27, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    In answer to your question, I think we should first take a couple of steps back and explore some other issues.

    1. God does not grant anything to anyone in Election. Election is involved in his predestined plan according to which he enables the elect to believe.

    2. It is not my business to answer why God has done what he has done. The only reason the Scriptures give us is that he wanted to do it that way. 2. Do you believe God chose anyone for salvation? Paul told the Thessalonians “God has chosen you from the beginning to be saved.” Whether you understand that as a result of foreseen faith or God’s sovereign will, the number of those who would be saved was fixed before the world began. Unless you are an “open Theist,” you must believe God’s purpose has not changed. If you don’t believe God has chosen anyone to salvation, namely, to be conformed to the image of Christ, then obviously this verse fits well into your scheme. The issue for me is that there are quite a number of other verses in both the Old and New Testaments that indicate that God is sovereign in the salvation of sinners.

    3. I believe we should derive our Theology from doctrinal passages in which a particular doctrine is being explicitly considered, not from hortatory, comforting or historical passages.

    4. What was the purpose of the passage you have cited? It is to explain to believers why God’s promise of judgment has not yet been executed on the ungodly. Hasn’t God run out of time in terms of executing his promise of judgment? In the context, he is telling believers “God is patient toward US, not wishing that any should perish.” It would be easy to believe in this context that the all in view are those God has chosen. This is especially true when we consider that later in this same chapter Peter tell us the result of this longsuffering is salvation. In other words, all on whose behalf the judgment of God is waiting will come to repentance. Romans nine indicates that God’s longsuffering toward the “vessels of wrath fitted for destruction” is intended to show his wrath and power.

    5. There is a difference between God’s declared will and his decree. God’s decreed will is concealed from us. It can only be known after events have occurred. We are never to seek to govern our lives according to His decree. It was this decree Paul had in mind when he wrote, “. . .who has resisted his will.” The answer is, “no one, yet God still holds us responsible for our actions since those actions are free, voluntary and either in obedience or disobedience to his declared will.

    6. God’s declarations of his desire to save sinners springs from his holy nature. Since he is holy by nature, he cannot but wish that all his creatures be holy as well. Since that is ultimately what salvation is about, in that way God desires that all be saved.

    7. The same Bible that states God’s sincere and published desire that all repent also states that his eternal purpose will inevitably be accomplished. This is God’s decreed will.

    8. Though we may not always be able to reconcile these two stated truths in our minds, there is no real contradiction between them. These truths are set side by side in Scripture. I don’t waste my time trying to reconcile them any more than I try to reconcile the two natures of Christ in one person–100% God yet 100% man. There is not question both these truths are set forth in Scripture. The same is true of the Trinity, the doctrine of biblical inspiration, divine sovereignty and human responsibility and a number of other inscrutable mysteries. I hope you don’t think this is an evasion of your question.

    Sent from my iPad

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