Grace

Described

God’s grace refers to these aspects of His nature and character which delight in expressing great kindnesses to people who have not merited these in any way.

God’s grace is Him giving Himself to undeserving humans.

The grace of God is His totally undeserved favours given free of charge to humans He loves.

Note that because so many legalists try to twist the Biblical teaching on grace into forms of earning or meriting things from God, I will sometimes call grace “unmerited grace” or “undeserved grace” through this book. I will do this even though grace by its very nature is totally unmerited and unearned.

 

Unconditional and conditional unmerited grace

 

God’s grace is totally unmerited or undeserved. But note there are two types of His grace:

 

         One is unconditional. God’s unconditional grace manifests when He acts with unmerited kindness towards believers or unbelievers regardless of their attitudes to Him and their actions.

         The second is conditional. God’s conditional grace is exhibited when He acts with unmerited kindness towards humans only when or after they fulfil certain conditions He has stated in His Word. Such conditions can be faith and/or repentance and/or obedience to some specific command.

 

The unmerited results of fulfilling conditions under God’s grace

 

The New Testament emphasises that the primary cause of God being gracious towards us in His granting of blessings, is His love (see Ephesians 2:4-7 and John 3:16). But the New Testament also reveals that God conditions the manifestation of some aspects of His grace on various human responses. Examples of these human responses are having faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, sowing to the Holy Spirit, loving God and forgiving. But note these human responses are not means of meriting or deserving God’s gracious blessings. Instead they are means of receiving God’s grace.

By nature, God’s grace is totally unmerited. So it is a dreadful deception to believe you are meriting or earning God’s grace by fulfilling the Biblical conditions related to these.

In Romans 5:1, Paul used the word “therefore” to show the fact that as an unmerited grace consequence of our being justified by faith, we have peace with God or are no longer His enemies: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Greek, the word “therefore” is “oun” which in this context means “so consequently, accordingly…”. [1] Louw and Nida say that in many contexts “oun” is an indicator of “result”. [2]

Here is a list of the totally unmerited consequences of various actions of faith done under the grace related to the New Covenant:

(This table looks way better in the the printer friendly version ...webmaster)

CONDITION TO BE FULFILLED                  UNMERITED GRACE RESULT

 

If we have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord…………………we will be saved (see Acts 16:31).

If we repent and are converted……………...…………...our sins will be blotted out (see Acts 3:19).

If we receive Christ……………………………………...we will become God’s child (see John 1:12).

If we fear God and work righteousness as a post-...…….we will be accepted by Him (see Acts 10:35).

conversion fruit of this fear

If we sow to the Holy Spirit…………………………….we will reap eternal life (see Galatians 6:8).

If by the Spirit, we put to death the deeds of the body….we will live (see Romans 8:13).

If we love God and keep His commands………………..Jesus Christ will manifest Himself to us (see

                                                                                          John 14:21).

If we are God’s children………………………………..we are His heirs by grace (see Galatians 4:7).

If we refuse to be anxious, and in everything by……….the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds

prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let our         through Jesus Christ (see Philippians 4:6).

requests be made known to God,

If we marry………………………………………………we become one flesh with our spouse (see

                                                                                          Matthew 19:5-6).

If we seek first His Kingdom and righteousness………..our needs for food, drink and clothes will be met

                                                                                          (see Matthew 6:33 and Luke 12:31).

If we ask for God’s wisdom in faith, without doubting…He will give us this wisdom (see James 1:5-8).

If we ask according to God’s will……………………….He hears us and will grant our requests

                                                                                          (see 1 John 5:14-15).

If we forgive……………………………………………..we shall be forgiven (see Luke 6:37).

If we give generously……………………………………God will give to us (see Luke 6:38 and

                                                                                          2 Corinthians 9:6).

Note the fulfilment of some of the above grace consequences are immediate at the point we fulfil the condition. Other consequences occur in God’s way at some time after we fulfil the condition.

 

A perfectly gracious God sitting on a throne of grace

 

Unbelievers and even many Christians have little understanding of how gracious God is. In fact, all of us need a far deeper revelation of this aspect of His wonderful character. [1] In 1 Peter 5:10, Peter calls Him “the God of all grace”.

John 1:14 reveals both God the Father and Jesus Christ are full of grace: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Hebrews 4:16 shows God’s throne has grace as one of its most important features: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

The New Testament continually emphasises how gracious God is by using expressions such as “abundance of grace” (see Romans 5:17), “grace abounded” (see Romans 5:15 and 5:20), “exceeding grace of God” (see 2 Corinthians 9:14) “riches of His grace” (see Ephesians 1:7) and “exceeding riches of His grace” (see Ephesians 2:7).

The teaching on God’s grace in the New Testament is so important that most of its Books use expressions such as “Grace to you” or “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” at or very near to their beginnings or endings.[2] Note also even the last verse of the Bible – Revelation 22:21 – stresses the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

God is gracious in nature, character and actions

 

Some people may wrongly think they have to pressure or subtly manipulate God into being gracious to them by praying much, fasting much, giving to the poor, giving offerings to the church or being good. Prayer, fasting and these other latter things are good Biblical practices, but it is sinful to use these things to try to manipulate or bribe God into being gracious. This is because God is already gracious by nature and character.

Because grace is a part of God’s eternal nature and character, He is continually acting in grace. In numerous ways, He is acting in grace towards the saved, the unsaved and His whole creation.

God delights in having a gracious nature and in acting accordingly. In Jeremiah 9:24, God emphasises He loves showing lovingkindness to others. He does not need to be pressured into being lovingly gracious to others.

 

Grace is totally free

 

I have heard some Christians talk about God’s grace as though it is deserved, earned or merited as a reward for godly character or good actions. But Romans 11:6 stresses how wrong this is: “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer works.” This above verse shows that if something can be deserved as a reward, it is no longer grace.

In Ephesians 3:7, Paul speaks of “the gift of the grace of God”. In Greek, the word “gift” above is a form of the word “dorea” which means “a free gift”. [3] Vine says the word “dorea” has a stress on “its gratuitous character”. [4] “Gratuitous” means “given free, not earned or paid for [5] or “free, granted without claim or merit”. [6] By linking the Greek words for “gift” and “grace”, Paul emphasises beyond doubt, grace can never be earned or merited or paid for by anything – even by good works empowered by the Holy Spirit.

In Ephesians 4:7, Paul says: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.” In Greek, the word “gift” here is also a form of “dorea”. So once again, Paul stresses that grace is totally free and cannot be deserved by good actions. Acts 2:38, 10:45 and 11:17 refer to the Holy Spirit as a “dorea” or free gift.

2 Corinthians 9:15 calls Jesus Christ “the indescribable gift”. In Greek, the word “gift” here is “dorea”. This means Christ is God’s free gift to us and can never in any way be merited or deserved. John 4:10 also refers to Christ Himself as God’s “dorea” or “free gift” to us.

In Romans 3:24, Paul says believers are justified by God freely by grace: “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” In Greek, the word “freely” here is “dorean” and “grace” is a form of the word “charis”. “Dorean” means “as a gift, without payment”. [7] Louw and Nida say “dorean” should be translated “without cost, as a free gift, without paying”. [8] The Greek word “dorean” is also used in Revelation 21:6 and 22:17 in relation to partaking of God’s water of life “without cost” (N.A.S.B.) or “freely” (N.K.J.V.)

Romans 5:15 emphasises that God’s grace involves a totally free gift: “But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.” In Greek, the expression “free gift” in the above verse is “charisma” and the word “gift” is “dorea”. As stated earlier, “charisma” means “a gift (freely and graciously given)”. [9]

A Greek word closely related to “dorea” is “doreomai” which means “to give freely”. [10] Forms of “doreomai” are used in 2 Peter 1:3 in the expression “His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness” and in 2 Peter 1:4 “by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises”. These two marvellous promises of God are related to His totally undeserved grace and cannot be merited as rewards for good works.

Matthew 10:5-15 records that Christ commissioned the twelve Apostles to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and salvation. In verse 8, Christ revealed that salvation was a totally free gift when He said: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” In Greek, the word “freely” used twice here is “dorean” which means in this context “as a gift, without payment”. [11] As stated earlier, Louw and Nida say “dorean” is to be translated as “without cost, as a free gift, without paying”. [12] So no aspect of salvation for believers under the New Covenant can be earned or merited by any type of good actions or works even those empowered by the Holy Spirit. [13]

Note Matthew 10:8 shows that physical healing, deliverance from demons and being raised from the dead are totally free gifts and cannot be merited by good works like giving or be earned by any other means.

Romans 11:35 expresses there is no good or godly thing we can ever do for God that results in Him owing us something: “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him.” Job 41:11 speaks similarly: “Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.” (N.A.S.B.) Even the rewards believers obtain in heaven are in one sense based on undeserved grace. [14]

 

God is not obliged

 

In terms of His perfect justice, God is not obliged to act in grace or kindness towards any human. Just because He has created us does not mean He should be lovingly gracious or kind towards us. If He had an evil selfish nature as Creator, He could choose to treat us badly. No one could stop Him from doing this.

But because He has a totally good, perfectly loving and astoundingly kind nature, He longs to express love, mercy and undeserved kindness towards us. Exodus 33:19 emphasises God’s grace is a choice of His own will, not something He is obligated to do: “Then He said, ‘…I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’”

In terms of His perfect justice, God owes no human anything. This is especially since all humans, prior to their conversion, choose to not love, trust and obey Him – their rightful Owner.

There is only one sense in which God is obligated to be gracious to us. This is in the sense He has promised in the Word to be gracious to us.

 

God’s grace is based on His love

 

John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 show that God is gracious to us because He loves us.

The loving gracious heart of God is seen in the fact 2 Timothy 1:9 reveals that before time began – before the Universe was created and first humans had fallen – God has already decided to be gracious to us through Jesus Christ: “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” Here we see God had a wonderfully gracious nature and character even before it was manifested after the Fall of the human race.

 

Grace is God giving Himself

 

God’s grace relates to Him giving natural blessings and gifts to humans – both believers and unbelievers. His grace also involves Him giving eternal salvation to believers in Christ. But His grace relates primarily to Him giving Himself to humans.

 

 

 

 

The Gospel emphasises God’s grace

 

The Gospel or good news about Jesus Christ is centred on an expression of God’s loving grace towards all self-centred, sinful human beings. This is why Acts 20:24 calls it “the Gospel of the grace of God”.

 

Faith illustrates the nature of God’s grace

 

The fact God’s grace can be received by trusting faith further underlines the truth His grace has nothing to do with dependence on self or self-effort. Faith in God and His Christ involves not depending on ourselves but aiming to rely totally on Him in all areas of our lives. Dependent faith in God is the only appropriate response to His undeserved grace.

 

God’s grace is a graphic declaration of human inability

 

God’s grace manifested through Jesus’ death is His dramatic declaration to every human that they are unable to please Him or win His approval because of their sin and evil. If humans had been able to please God by their characters, thoughts, words and actions, Jesus’ death would have been unnecessary.

 

God’s grace is without limit

 

Some people wrongly talk about God’s grace as though it is limited. His grace has no limit. This is because of two reasons:

 

         God’s nature has been infinitely gracious from eternity past.

         As Supreme Ruler and Judge, God decided that Jesus’ death would make available infinite grace for humans for whom He substituted.

 

Superlative generosity

 

God’s grace expressed to humans through Jesus Christ can be called superlative generosity. This is because God’s grace involves Him being almost unbelievably kind to humans who had rejected Him – their Creator – and who therefore deserved only eternal punishment.

Ephesians 2:7 emphasises that in future, many will marvel at how exceptionally kind and gracious God was to those who received salvation through Jesus Christ: “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” It is little wonder John 1:16 says: “For out of His fullness (abundance) we all received – all had a share and we were all supplied with – one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, and even favor upon favor and gift (heaped) upon gift.” (Amplified)

 

The New Covenant is the most complete manifestation of God’s grace

 

The New Covenant is the most complete manifestation of God’s grace. The Old or Mosaic Covenant expressed God’s grace, but it also stressed the unyielding demands of the Law on human beings. The relative difference between the two is seen in John 1:17: “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

In Ephesians 3:2, Paul calls the New Covenant the dispensation of grace. The word “dispensation” in the original Greek is a form of the word “oikonomia”. “Oikonomia” means primarily “the management of a household or household affairs”. [15] So the New Covenant is an awesomely gracious manifestation of God managing human affairs.

The Old Testament prophets taught much about His grace and saw it expressed many times during their lifetimes towards themselves and others. But they also prophesied of the more complete expression of His grace which would accompany the New Covenant commencing after Christ’s death. 1 Peter 1:10-11 states: “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”

 

Jesus’ death is the perfect expression of God’s grace

 

The death of the Lord Jesus Christ – God manifested in human nature – is perfect proof of how lovingly gracious God is towards humans who have rejected Him (see John 15:13). Hebrews 2:9 declares the following about Jesus Christ: “…that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” God the Son willingly chose to take the death penalty every one of us deserved because of our sins. He did not have to do this.

 

Jesus’ death did not change God’s character and nature

 

One wrong view teaches that Jesus’ death has changed God’s character from being harsh and ungracious to being kind and gracious. Another view falsely suggests Christ’s death caused God to become more gracious and merciful than He was in Old Testament times.

The truth, however, is Jesus’ death is an expression of how exceptionally gracious God’s nature and character has always been. Christ’s death would never have occurred if God was not remarkably gracious and merciful. God the Father would not have accepted God the Son’s offer to die as a substitute for all humans if the Father had been less gracious and merciful. Also God the Son would have never offered to die if He had been less gracious.

God’s character and nature have never changed under any of His covenants. Each covenant is only a partial expression of His nature and character. In addition, note Jesus’ death relates to every covenant, not just the New. This is even though the New Covenant is the epitome in the expression of God’s grace.

 

Pre-conversion grace

 

The Scriptures also teach God acts continually by His grace in His attempts to lead sinful undeserving humans to Himself. Some Bible teachers call this prevenient grace because it occurs before conversion. I prefer to simply call it pre-conversion grace.

Before conversion, we were controlled by sin and Satan (see Romans 3:9-18 and Ephesians 2:1-3). God’s pre-conversion grace is expressed in Him sending Jesus Christ to die in place of us even before we turned to Him. 1 John 4:10 and Romans 5:6-8 relate to this. The pre-conversion grace of God is also seen in God moving on the hearts of unbelievers by His Spirit prior to their conversion. John 6:44, 16:8-11 and Acts 16:14 refer to this. Without God’s grace moving on believers’ hearts, it would be impossible for them to turn to Christ (see John 6:44).

 

Faith actively receives but does not merit God’s grace

 

In his writings, John Calvin made many fine Biblical comments about grace and faith. But one of the errors he made occurs in part of his following statement, “If election were dependent on man’s faith and good works, grace would not be free, and in fact would cease to be grace.”[16]

It is true our faith and good works do not earn or deserve God’s grace of salvation (see Romans 11:6). It is also true good works are not even a means of receiving God’s grace. Instead good works are a result or fruit of God’s grace and our faith. But note our faith is the means by which we humbly and thankfully receive the totally free salvation God is giving.

Let us compare this to a human example of me giving my son all I own. If he regards this gift as something he deserves or has earned through his good behaviour or works over many years, my “gift” cannot be regarded as a free gift or grace. It is instead like wages earned. But if my son humbly and thankfully receives my gift while not thinking he has merited my gift by any good thing he has done, his faith acceptance of my gracious gift does not change it into a form of deserved wages.

Faith is a humble means of receiving and is not some type of meriting or earning device.

It is impossible for anyone to have faith that receives God’s grace in Jesus Christ unless God imparts this faith to them (see Romans 12:3, Hebrews 12:2 and Acts 18:27). But God is willing to have His Holy Spirit impart such faith to any person who merely says “yes” to Him after He has convicted the person of his sin and his condemned state and after He has revealed Jesus Christ and His death as the sole solution to these awesome problems.

Before a person is converted, God frees the person’s will from its total bondage to sin for a period of time to test to see if the person is willing to receive the grace of salvation offered to him in Christ Jesus. If under this state of Holy Spirit influence and pre-conversion grace, the person thankfully says “yes” to the Holy Spirit’s gift of grace through Jesus Christ and His death, the Holy Spirit will then impart the faith needed for the person to receive the complete grace of salvation related to conversion.

If, however, an unconverted person says “No” to the Holy Spirit’s gracious gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, this resisting will result in Him after a period of time deliberately allowing the person’s will to return to its prior state of complete bondage to sin.

Whether the Holy Spirit will take the person through this same process of experiencing pre-conversion grace and conviction again is up to the Holy Spirit to decide. It is probable most people will go through a number of these periods of conviction and experiencing pre-conversion grace. But verses such as Isaiah 55:6 and 2 Corinthians 6:2 show how dangerous it is for people to resist the Lord when He moves on them in these ways.

Luke 8:11-12 is another way of explaining the experiencing of conviction and pre-conversion grace: “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” In these verses, additional facts are mentioned. The first is unsaved people hearing the Word of God related to salvation. The second is the unbelievers experiencing the Devil’s attempt to convince them to reject salvation. The Devil and his demons do this evil work before the people receive Holy Spirit-inspired salvation through Jesus Christ.

 

Our whole Christian life must be based on God’s grace

 

2 Timothy 2:1 emphasises we must be strong in the grace God has given us in Christ: “…be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” This applies to every aspect of our lives. In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul said: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Here Paul also revealed that what He did in His life after conversion was empowered by God’s grace.

Ephesians 2:8-10 shows we do not earn or deserve God’s grace by our good works but such glorious grace will result in good works through Jesus Christ living in us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God’s grace is a complete way of life in which we rely on Jesus Christ living in us by His Spirit to enable us to live as He commands.

 

Grace as a power or ruler

 

In Romans 5:21 and 6:15, Paul refers to grace as being a power or ruler in the lives of believers. Romans 5:21 says: “…even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Grace only reigns over the lives of those who have received Jesus Christ as their Lord. Those who do not have Jesus as Lord still are under the reign of sin and not God’s grace. In Greek, the expression “might reign” in the above verse is a form of the word “basileuo”. “Basileuo” means “be king, rule”. [17]

Romans 6:15 states: “…Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” Note in Greek, the two usages of the word “under” above are “hupo”. Bauer says that in the context of Romans 6:15, “hupo” means “under” in relation to “power, rule, sovereignty, command”. [18] So Romans 6:15 teaches believers are under the rule of grace and not sin. Paul says that because we are under subjection to God’s grace as a power or ruler, we are not forced by our flesh to commit known sin.

 

God’s grace gives us Jesus Christ’s power and abilities to do God’s will

 

The New Testament contains a power-packed revelation of how God’s grace through Jesus Christ provides us with His power and abilities to be able to obey whatever the Scriptures reveal is His will and what the Holy Spirit has given us specific guidance to do. 2 Corinthians 1:12 refers to conducting our lives in this world by the marvellous grace of God: “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God…”

Hebrews 12:28 states: “…let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” We can only serve God acceptably through the marvellous grace of God. By grace, He gives us the strength to stop lying, stealing, smoking, taking drugs, getting drunk, being bitterly angry, being fearful, worrying, being unforgiving towards others, being sexual immoral, looking at pornographic literature and being bound in any other way.

His grace is available to enable us to have a better marriage, to love and discipline our children better, to run a business in a more godly way, to personally witness to others, to understand the Bible and to do whatever else He has called us to do in life through Jesus Christ. God’s grace is therefore also His call to all of us to abandon our proud self-reliance and to live by His power every day.

 

Grace to endure suffering and stress

 

In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul shows that God graciously helps and empowers us by His grace to endure suffering. One of the best prayers we can pray is “HELP me, Lord” when prayed in trusting faith in Him. God will answer such prayers in the best way and timing possible. Such ways and timing may be different from what we think is best.

The writers of the Psalms honestly mention their distress (see Psalm 4:1, 18:6, 107:6, 107:13, 107:19, 107:28 and 118:5) and great troubles (see Psalm 6:2-4, 27:5, 34:17, 37:39-40, 46:1 and 69:17). But note the same Psalm-writers knew it is only through God’s grace and mercy that they could be freed from these things or empowered to overcome them (see Psalm 4:1, 27:5, 34:17, 37:39-40, 46:1 and 118:5).

 

Spiritual gifts are by grace

 

One common wrong view suggests God gives His spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues and interpretation, a Word of wisdom, a Word of knowledge and discerning of spirits on the basis of how godly, spiritual and good the receiver is. In 1 Corinthians 1:4-5, Paul stresses such gifts of utterance and wisdom are given on the basis of totally undeserved grace: “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge.”

In Greek, 1 Corinthians 12:4 and 9 call spiritual gifts “charisma”. Remember “charisma” means “that which is given freely and generously”. [19] “Charisma” or spiritual gifts are totally free.

So do not make idols of those who have received many manifestations of spiritual gifts from God. The Bible reveals they did not deserve or earn these by any supposed personal goodness or greater spirituality. By being more godly and spiritual, we can mostly perceive better what God is saying to us by the gifts of a Word of wisdom and so on. But our godliness and spirituality never make us deserving of such gifts.

 

Our ministries are free gifts and must be based on God’s grace

 

In 1 Corinthians 12:28, 30 and 31, Paul calls the ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, teachers, helps, administrations and so on by the word “charismata” – a form of “charisma” meaning a free gift. Romans 12:6 refer to gifts such as exhortation, teaching and ministry as “charismata”. 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 also refer to Timothy’s ministry gift as “charisma” or a free gift. 1 Peter 4:10 uses “charisma” when it shows God has freely given ministries to all believers: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” All of our ministries are free gifts we have not deserved in any way.

The New Testament emphasises our God-given ministries to others must also be operated on the basis of His grace. In Ephesians 3:7, Paul said: “Of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” Other verses related to this are Acts 14:26, 15:15-16, 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, Galatians 2:9 and 1 Peter 4:10. If we base our ministries on aiming to deserve things from God or on relying on own abilities, we are not operating by His grace.

 

Complete grace revealed after Jesus’ Second Coming

 

1 Peter 1:13 demonstrates when Jesus is revealed at His Second Coming, there will be a complete expression of His grace: “…rest your hope fully upon the grace that is brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Jesus’ grace will be manifested to those who have received Him as Lord and Saviour. He will accept them as His own, will not eternally punish them and will reveal many other marvellous aspects of Himself and His kingdom to them.

 

Non-saving grace

 

The main type of God’s grace referred to in the Scriptures relates to our eternal salvation. But the written Word of God also teaches much about God being gracious to humans in other ways. We can call this non-saving grace.

Jesus spoke of God’s non-saving grace in Matthew 5:45: “…for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Here Jesus teaches God gives natural blessings to all people, regardless of whether He regards them as righteous or not. God provides air, water, food, materials from which to make clothes and houses, fuels to create warmth, beauty in nature and multitudes of other things as acts of grace towards humans who do not deserve any of these things. God does these things because He loves people.

If God treated all humans according to His perfect justice and holiness, He would not do any of these things for them but instead would have to kill them immediately. This is because even one sin makes each of them deserve all the terrible curses listed in Deuteronomy Chapter 28:15-68. These curses relate ultimately to producing physical death. Romans 6:23 declares the wages or deserved punishment for sin is death – part of which is physical death.

Such non-saving grace to unbelievers is a wonderful expression of God’s perfectly gracious, loving and kind nature. It is only because of Jesus’ eternally planned death that God could manifest such non-saving grace to unbelievers without being unjust.

Another aspect of God’s non-saving grace is He has given all humans a conscience through which they can know the difference between right and wrong, justice and injustice.

God’s non-saving grace is also expressed in Him promoting human governments throughout the world as a means of restraining the wickedness of humans against each other. Paul regarded the pagan Roman Governments of the time, whom God knew would later persecute Christians and kill Paul himself, as God-ordained authorities. In Romans 13:1-5, he even calls the Roman rulers and magistrates by the expression “ministers of God”. 1 Peter 2:13-15 relates to similar matters.

The non-saving grace of God is also manifested through His Holy Spirit putting limits on the spread of the influence of wicked rulers in the world. God’s Spirit prevents demons and humans from bringing every country in the world into a state of being like a Nazi concentration camp every moment of every day.

 

New Testament Greek words for God’s grace

 

There are four main words used in the New Testament for God’s grace. These are “charis”, “charisma”, “charizomai” and “charitoo”. Louw and Nida say “charis” can be defined as “that which is given freely and generously”. [20] Perschbacher says “charis” means “free favor, free gift, grace, John 1:14, 16, 17; Romans 4:4, 16; 11:5, 6; Ephesians 2:5, 8; 1 Peter 3:7; free favor specially manifested by God towards man in the Gospel scheme, grace, Acts 15:11; Romans 3:24; 5:15…”. [21]

Bauer said the following in relation to “charis”, God and Christ: “the context will show whether the emphasis is upon the possession of divine grace as a source of blessings for the believer, or upon a store of grace that is dispensed, or a state of grace (i.e. standing in God’s favor) that is brought about, or a deed of grace wrought by God in Christ, or a work of grace that grows from more to more”. [22]

Colin Brown defines “charis” as “grace, gracefulness, graciousness, favour” (page 115). Brown also states that in Romans 4:2, 4:4 and 4:25: “The ideas of grace (“kata charin” in Greek) and as debt (“kata opheilema” in Greek), i.e. a reward for work accomplished, are mutually exclusive.” [23] In other words, God’s unmerited grace is the opposite of deserved rewards.

The word “charis” is used in the New Testament 155 times, mostly in Paul’s letters. He uses “charis” or forms of it 100 times in total. He used it most frequently in Romans (24 times), 1 Corinthians (10 times), 2 Corinthians (18 times) and Ephesians (12 times).

The word “charisma” means “that which is given freely and generously” [24] or “a gift (freely and graciously given)”. [25] This word is used in various forms in Romans 1:11, 5:15, 6:23, 11:29, 12:6, 1 Corinthians 1:7, 7:7, 12:4, 1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6, 1 Peter 4:10 and other verses. Romans 6:23 says: “…the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Forms of the word “charizomai” mean “give freely or graciously” [26] or “give freely, bestow graciously” [27] in the context of verses like Romans 8:32, 1 Corinthians 2:12 and Philippians 1:29. Romans 8:32 says: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Paul says here all things are given to believers as free gifts. We do not earn them by faith, prayer, fasting, giving or other good works. 1 Corinthians 2:12 states we have been given the Holy Spirit so “…we might know the things that have been freely given by God.”

Note in Luke 7:42, Jesus used a form of “charizomai” when He spoke of someone freely cancelling the debts of a person who could not repay him. This is grace. It cannot be earned or merited by anything.

Forms of the word “charitoo” are used in Luke 1:28 and Ephesians 1:6 and means “to show kindness to someone, with the implication of graciousness on the part of the one showing such kindness” [28] or “favor highly, bless”. [29]

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.         What is the difference between God’s unconditional grace and His conditional grace?

2.         What is the primary cause of God being gracious towards us?

3.         What are some of the human responses on which God conditions manifestations of some aspects of His undeserved grace?

4.         List 10 of the unmerited grace results of various actions of faith done under the grace related to the New Covenant. Also list the relevant conditions which God requires for humans to fulfil in order that the above unmerited grace results will manifest.

5.         Which New Testament verses refer to the riches and abundance of God’s grace.

6.         Why is it sinful to try to manipulate or bribe God into being gracious?

7.         Which New Testament verses reveal that God’s grace can never be deserved, earned or merited as a reward? Explain why three verses you quote proves this.

8.         In terms of God’s perfect justice, why is God not obliged to act in grace or kindness towards any human?

9.         Why does the fact God’s grace can be received through trusting faith illustrate the nature of His grace?

10.     Why is God’s grace a graphic declaration of human inability?

11.     What do Ephesians 2:7 and John 1:16 reveal about God’s grace?

12.     Of what does Hebrews 2:9 teach Jesus’ death was an expression?

13.     Is it wrong to say that Jesus’ death changed God’s character and nature?

14.     Which verses refer to God ministering to unbelievers by His grace?

15.     What is right and wrong with the claim, “If election were dependent on man’s faith and good works, grace would not be free, and in fact would cease to be grace”?

16.     What do 1 Corinthians 15:10 and Ephesians 2:8-10 teach about God’s grace and our Christian living?

17.     Romans 5:21 and 6:15 refer to grace being a power or ruler in the lives of believers. What does this mean?

18.     What does Hebrews 12:28 teach about God’s grace?

19.     Explain what 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says about what God empowers us to endure.

20.     Can we deserve or merit the operation of God’s spiritual gifts in our lives or ministries?

21.     What does 1 Peter 4:10 reveal about the ministries of all believers and God’s grace?

22.     Explain what Ephesians 3:7 reveals about the foundation on which our ministries must be based.

23.     What is God’s non-saving grace?

24.     What does Matthew 5:45 teach about God’s grace?


 


[1] Every act of grace by humans towards others is a small expression of what God has put into human hearts created in His own image.

[2] See Romans 1:7, 16:20, 16:24, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 16:23, 2 Corinthians 1:2, 13:14, Galatians 1:3, 6:18, Ephesians 1:2, 6:24, Philippians 1:2, 4:23, Colossians 1:2, 4:18, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 5:28, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 4:22, Titus 1:4, 3:15, Philemon 3, 25, Hebrews 13:25, 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:2, 3:18, 2 John 3, Revelation 1:4 and 22:21.

[3] Vine, page 264 and Perschbacher, page 109.

[4] Vine, page 264.

[5] Concise Oxford Dictionary, page 537.

[6] Modern Home Dictionary, page 448.

[7] Bauer, page 210.

[8] Louw and Nida, page 568.

[9] Bauer, page 878.

[10] Perschbacher, page 110.

[11] Bauer, page 210.

[12] Louw and Nida, page 568.

[13] The only exception to this are the rewards which New Covenant believers receive in heaven and a possible earthly reward associated with Ephesians 6:2. But even these are only slightly deserved.

[14] Refer to Chapter            “Rewards 1” for more details.

[15] Vine, page 174.

[16] Philip Schaff, “The Creeds of Christendom with a History and Critical Notes”, 3 Volumes, 1:453.

[17] Bauer, page 136.

[18] Ibid, page 843.

[19] Louw and Nida, page 569.

[20] Louw and Nida, page 569.

[21] Perschbacher, page 436.

[22] Bauer, page 878.

[23] Colin Brown, page 120.

[24] Louw and Nida, page 569.

[25] Bauer, page 878.

[26] Ibid, page 876.

[27] Vine, page 265.

[28] Louw and Nida, page 749.

[29] Bauer, page 879.

 

 


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