Col 2:6 (KJV) As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.
Grace has been defined as getting what you don't deserve, or more formally unmerited favor. Previously we looked at the unmerited part. But what is this favor? What do we get, specifically? For grace is not merely a legal description of deserving, it is a real reception of the very nature of God. More colloquially, grace is "God stuff" that we get freely from Him.2 Cor 9:8 (NIV) And 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.
Our focus in this study will be to look at grace as the living dynamic of the life of Christ IN US by the Holy Spirit. Grace is more than just a celestial transaction, it is an on-going reality--a point often missed by overemphasis on grace as a concept. Grace is the very power of God that our faith accesses. It is often spoken of this way in Scripture, as we will see. Grace is the ability, imputed by God, to live righteously now.Rom 5:15 (NIV) ...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!
Grace Upon Grace
If we are saved by grace through faith, that grace will result in good works. Stated another way, it is through faith that we access the power of grace to do what God requires of us.Eph 2:4-10 (NIV) But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The Order Is Important
Gal 3:2-5 (NIV) I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing--if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Good works come as a RESULT of receiving grace through faith. The order cannot be changed, and this is an essential point of Christianity. No man can do anything to earn God's favor or approval. Only Christ is approved by God. As His life is given to us by grace, we then (and only then) will be able to do works that are truly good from God's perspective. Only then will we stand approved before the Father.Gal 5:4-5 (NIV) You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.
Rom 11:6 (NIV) And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
Saved BY Grace, THROUGH Faith, UNTO Good Works
Faith, grace, and good works are like a three legged stool. If any one is missing, the thing will not stand. The leg of grace cannot be had by itself; it comes through faith or never. And grace is not only a receptive approach to the Lord, but also the ongoing power of God to do the right thing. God's grace in us, if we really have it through faith, will always result in good works. Minus the proof of good works--as James points out--our grace through faith is fundamentally flawed.
James 2:17 (NAS) Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
Luke 6:46 (NAS) "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"
2 Cor 13:5 (NAS) Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?
Gal 6:7 (NIV) Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
Thomas à Kempis: "Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience, withdraws from grace."
Fire Insurance: Conceptual Grace Run Amuck
In scripture, conceptual grace and actual grace are inextricably linked. The Bible has no idea of "fire insurance" where we can say a prayer and then live like the devil. On the contrary, this is warned about in no uncertain terms.Rom 3:8 (NRS) And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), "Let us do evil so that good may come"? Their condemnation is deserved!
Jude 1:4 (Wey) For certain persons have crept in unnoticed--men spoken of in ancient writings as predestined to this condemnation--ungodly men, who pervert the grace of our God into an excuse for immorality...
The term "cheap grace" (Heb 10:29) is often used to describe those who erroneously assert that you can be "saved" and continue on living in sin (1Jn 2:29, 3:9, 5:18). But most of those who believe this think very highly of grace in the conceptual sense. The problem, then, is an off-balance view of grace that focuses on the conceptual to the expense of the actual, thus cheapening grace to a vain thought-bubble. But in Scripture, we are saved by Jesus dying on the cross via His ultimate, conceptual grace; and then by His actual, "in us" grace as the Spirit empowers in ongoing experience. We must believe in and appropriate both ultimate and actual salvation to understand what grace really is. The problem of "cheap grace" is in thinking of grace as a mere concept--of receiving grace in vain. Instead, by believing in grace as we approach God we can then live and follow Christ by the power of grace in actual obedience and righteousness.2 Tim 3:5 (NAS) ...holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
Rom 6:1-15 (NIV) What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?.. because anyone who has died has been freed from sin... In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
God Stuff: From Concept To Reality
1 Cor 4:20 (NAS) For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power.
Php 2:12-13 (NIV) ...Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
By grace we receive His life into ours by the Holy Spirit--and if this transaction really occurs then His grace will work "in us to will and do His good purpose". We will "work out" what He has "worked in"... which is Himself.Eph 5:5-7 (NIV) For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
1 Jn 3:9 (NIV) No-one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
James 1:21-22 (NIV) Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Graduated From The School Of The Law
Gal 3:24 (Phi) The law was like a strict tutor put in charge of us until we went to the school of Christ and learned to be justified by faith in him. Once we have that faith, we are completely free from the tutor's authority.
The principle role of the law is to condemn us; to show us our abject need for the grace of Jesus Christ. The law should never be thought of as our motive force, or used as a carrot held dangling in front of us, or even as a push from behind; for we are not "under the law" anymore. But neither are we "above the law". It would be a shame to graduate from school and forget everything we had learned, even though by graduating we are no longer "under" the authority of that school anymore.Gal 3:24 (KJV) The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
From School To Real Work; and Our Alma Mater
Having graduated from the school of the law, we now do real work by the life of Christ within. Given this, should we then "chuck" the law, as if God were not serious about it? What is the proper way of thinking about the law outside of its principle role in condemning sin in us? Is there an ongoing utility for the law for those born again into new life in Christ?Gal 5:25 (NAS) If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Pr 6:23 (NKJ) For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light.
When the Spirit grants obedience to us by grace, we find ourselves doing what God wanted all along. At this point, the law illuminates the way in front of us, giving light to our path as we keep in step with the Spirit. Again, the law is not the motive force or power; the Spirit is. But as the grace of the life of Christ "abounds" in us, the law gives confidence to our steps as we walk in the Spirit.Ps 119:105 (NAS) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Obedience By Grace, In The Light Of The Law
For example, take the word of the law that says: "turn the other cheek". Well, we know this is what God wants, but focusing on the fact that we should react thus will not change our basic instinctive nature; instead, it will just show us how "off" we are. But suppose, by grace through faith, that you have just this reaction. Without the law, you might be tempted to think you were being a "wimp" or in some other way thwart the Spirit's power within you to do the right thing. Or suppose that grace through faith leads you to love your enemies. Now this will seem absurd to the flesh, but if the Spirit so graces us then we have the law lighting up the path along the way of the Lord. The law says: "It is OK, you can step there" when the world, the flesh, or the devil rise up in protest. The law gives illumination along the way of the Lord for the power of grace to walk in.Mat 5:16-20 (NAS) [Jesus:] "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."
Ps 143:10 (NIV) Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
Real Grace Works Out What God Has Worked In
1 Cor 15:10 (NAS) But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
1 Cor 15:10 (NIV) ... No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
1 Cor 15:10 (Phi) ... I have worked harder than any of the others--and yet is was not I but this same grace of God within me.
2 Cor 6:1 (NIV) As God's fellow-workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain.
Heb 12:15 (NIV) See to it that no one misses the grace of God...
Titus 2:11-12 (Phi) For the grace of God, which can save every man, has now been shown for all men, and it teaches us to have no more to do with godlessness or the desires of this world but to live, here and now, responsible, honorable, and God-fearing lives.
2 Cor 9:8 (NAS) And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.
Next: A Parable on Grace