What is Grace?

What is Grace?

In a sermon preached by Pastor Joplin Emberson of Crossway Church in Derby, Kansas, I heard the term ‘grace’, which all believing Christians receive as a result of professed belief, and faith, in Jesus Christ, described as a series of concepts named by the letters that make up the word grace:

G = Gift

R = Redemption

A = Access

C = Character and Change

E = Eternity

First, grace is a gift. Grace is a free gift of God the Father Almighty: it cannot be earned by works; it represents God’s unmerited favor toward us. As mankind, because of our corruption, sin and wickedness, what we truly deserve before God’s throne is condemnation forever to the lake of fire. There are many who believe that God is a merciful God, but what they in the same breath do not understand is that God is also a just God: because of His perfection, it is not possible for Him to tolerate sin, and in the Day of the Lord, at the end of days, He will put an end to it. Yet, because God so dearly loves all those that He has created, He has this mindset:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Thus God displays His love for us:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Jesus Christ was given to the world so that: 1) mankind would be redeemed from the sentence of death that it was under because of the Fall, and 2) to destroy the work of Satan. Jesus Christ testified to what God was doing for the sake of fallen humanity:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:16-21)

Jesus Christ proclaimed to the world what the work of God was:

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

Jesus Christ proclaimed exactly what He was:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Grace is described by, and attributed to, Jesus Christ:

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forebearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

Therefore,  just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21)

For all mankind’s salvation, the requirement is belief and faith in Jesus Christ… plus nothing.

Second, grace is redemption. Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sake, to redeem humanity from its sin, and to destroy the work of the evil one. The Psalms sing of the redemption that God offers:

He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever – holy and awesome is his name. (Psalm 111:9)

O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. (Psalm 130:7-8)

Paul speaks of redemption in compelling clarity:

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24)

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-8)

And you also were included with Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

In the book of Hebrews,  the eternal redemption that Jesus Christ earned is spoken of:

When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)

In the book of Revelation, His mighty accomplishment and perfect praises are sung:

And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

To redeem something is to recover ownership of it by paying a specified sum. Jesus Christ, through His sacrificial death on the cross, has recovered mankind from ownership by the evil one… for the privilege of presenting redeemed believers unblemished to the Father, Jesus Christ paid with His blood. There is no more eloquent verse of Holy Scripture than this one:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Third, grace is access. In the ages before Jesus Christ, a high priest had to make atonement before God for his own sin, and for the sins of the people. It was not possible for an individual to have access to God the Father before the throne of grace. However, in the Gospels it is recorded that, when Jesus Christ completed His work on the cross of Calvary, the veil that had traditionally (and always) covered the Most Holy Place in the temple in Jerusalem was torn in half from top to bottom. Symbolically (but also actually), Jesus Christ, by His selfless sacrificial death on the cross, paid the penalty of death and separation from God, which would have come eventually upon all of mankind, freeing it from the bondage of sin and the fear of death, and giving it the right to approach God directly before the throne of grace to receive His unmerited favor through belief in the One that He sent.

Paul speaks eloquently of the access that we have been given to a loving God:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-18)

Fourth, grace is change and character. When a person experiences a true conversion to belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Messiah, Savior and King, that person is irrevocably changed… Paul states what happens and why:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Such a person knows in the heart what must be done: the Holy Spirit, by the words and shed blood of Jesus Christ, convicts the heart:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

Offering these words as a practical example:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Such a person has a hunger for the Word of God, and an even greater hunger for His Son Jesus Christ; Paul speaks of how powerful this hunger is, and what it does to a person:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)

The inevitable result is fruit that not only the person who believes knows is present, but that others, even non-believers, can see:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)

Finally, grace is eternity. Jesus Christ promises that belief in His Name as the One that God sent leads to eternal life:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Paul explains further:

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23)

The testimony of Titus with regard to eternal life:

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

The Apostle John makes it abundantly clear what the testimony is:

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)

Jude provides a gentle admonition to all:

Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 21)

No other words than those of Jesus Christ, spoken to the thief who asked Jesus to remember him in His glory, provide a more powerful and truthful witness to the eternal life that awaits those who believe in His Name:

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

———————————————————————————————————–

This is an update to this post, dated March 21, 2013, following an updated sermon from Pastor Joplin Emberson of Crossway Church in Derby, Kansas on the subject of grace. In this latest sermon (to download the sermon itself, please navigate to the main page of this site, click the post The Word of God… Preached, and scroll the list of sermons downward to “The Power of Grace”), Pastor Joplin characterized, using the letter ‘P’, the attributes of grace. They are as follows:

It is a pursuing grace:

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ” ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'” (Luke 14:15-24)

Who, anywhere, would refuse a free, ‘great banquet’… such as one given by a king? Yet this is exactly what the lost, dying and unbelieving world is doing in response to the call of the KING of kings… Jesus Christ! There is no greater king, there is no banquet more grand, yet refusal resonates in the very air. Note from the passage that no one is excluded: everyone is freely invited. Jesus’ offer of salvation, His grace given to us through faith in His blood as the atoning sacrifice for all sin, His companionship for eternity… is open to all. Despite what we are, God pursues us!

It is a paying grace:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forebearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)

Justification that is free for us is a miracle of God’s love… because it was not free for the One who was nailed to the cross to pay the penalty of an agonizing death to allow we wretched and worthless sinners to be so considered before a just, pure, holy and righteous God. We have been redeemed by Jesus: which is to say that we have been ‘bought back’ by the blood that He spilled on the cross. The purchase price for our freedom was Jesus’ death. Jesus paid our penalty that we would be spared His Father’s just and awful wrath and instead be considered to be His precious children, blameless before Him.

It is a perfecting grace:

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)

The Apostle Paul, by his own admission, was a train-wreck of a man… a self-righteous, arrogant, pompous, self-proclaimed ‘Pharisee of Pharisees’, a relentless, merciless and heartless persecutor of both God and His church… he knew full well that what he truly deserved at the hands of God was a pitiless condemnation to the fires of an eternal hell for the person that he had been. However, he had started down the path of being perfected… but that was by God’s grace alone! In the same way, when we sinners turn to God and His Son Jesus Christ, we also are started on a path toward perfection by the power of God’s amazing grace. Only God can change the hearts, minds and souls of men like this… ONLY GOD! When we truly come to God for His forgiveness and mercy, when we confess to Him what we are and our need for His Son Jesus Christ as our Savior, Messiah, Lord and King, we are indelibly changed: and that change is visible and permanent, the fruit of the grace God freely gives to those who believe in the One that He has sent.

It is a protecting grace:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Jesus has paid it all… the penalty for our sin has been marked ‘paid in full’. How is it then that we can dare to even imagine that the grace of God through so great a sacrifice would not be sufficient to every one of our needs, and even abundantly beyond that? It has been said, and I truly agree, that the will of God will never take you anywhere that the grace of God will not protect you. How beautiful those words, and how comforting! It doesn’t matter how weak we are in any dimension… what does that matter when God’s strength is made perfect in those weaknesses? Our trust must be in Him, and in the provisions that He has made on our behalf… He will take care of all the rest. 

It is a prevailing grace:

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

The epitome of hope! God finishes what He starts. God never abandons or forsakes us, and His proof of that is how He carries on His good will for us throughout all the days of our lives, from the very first through the very last on into eternity. If you want more proof than what I have just said, consider the very best days of your life, and the very worst days of your life… it is easy to understand that God was with you on that mountaintop, but it is fulfilling to understand that God was with also you in that dark valley, because… you are still here! Are you not reading this? He has sustained you by His… grace.

May God’s grace, and His loving hands, be on you in a mighty way today.

About On A Journey

It's About Jesus!!
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