Most, if not all of us, have heard the phrase, “There but for the Grace of God go I.” Today I’d like to explore what the Grace of God really means.
I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.
Our hymn today, Amazing Grace, speaks directly to the redemptive and restorative power of God’s grace in our lives. But, what do we really mean when we say, “the Grace of God,” or when we sing of His Amazing Grace?
In ecclesiastical terms, thefreedictionary.com defines Grace as:
a) The divine assistance and power given man in spiritual rebirth and sanctification
b) The condition of being favored or sanctified by God.
c) An unmerited gift, favor, etc. granted by God.
Biblically, the Old and New Testaments each encompass one or more of these aspects of Grace. The Old Testament word in Hebrew is translated as kindness or favor. The New Testament Greek word has a more spiritual meaning: the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life. (Strong’s Concordance)
The usage in the Old Testament generally implies grace is something we can earn. If we are good enough, or righteous enough, we earn God’s kindness and favor. It ties back to the mindset of the time – if we’re “good” God gives us wealth, land, status, power, good health, etc. If we’re “bad” God takes it all away, inflicts us with sickness, etc. For instance:
Numbers 32:5 says, “…If we have found favor in Your sight, let this land be given to Your servants.” In 2 Samuel 14:22, Joab knew he had earned the king’s favor when he said, “…Today your servant knows that I have found grace (favor) in your sight, my lord, O king, in that the king has fulfilled the request of his servant.” And Proverbs 3:33 & 34 says, “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just. Surely He scorns the scornful, but give grace (kindness, favor) to the humble.”
Throughout the Old Testament, God’s Grace, His favor, His kindness, was something to be earned.
For those of us who are Christian, the New Testament offers a much different view. God’s Grace is amazing because it cannot be earned – it is freely given to all who believe. And, rather than wealth, land, good fortune, and good health, the New Testament shows how God’s Amazing Grace is the gift of a changed heart – and a changed life. For instance:
Romans 11:6 tells us, “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 work.”
Ephesians 2:8 & 9 tells 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.”
In other words, our works do not earn us grace. Grace is freely given.
In the New Testament, Jesus never spoke of grace – He lived it and taught it. For Him, grace, i.e. kindness and mercy, is something not earned but freely given. Take a look at the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard found in Matthew 20:1-16. In His parable, Jesus tells us of a landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He offered to pay a denarius for their work, and they agreed. Throughout the day the landowner went back periodically and, finding more workers each time, offered them same pay. At the end of the day he instructed his servant to call all the workers together so they could be paid, starting with the last hired and continuing to the first.
As promised, he paid the last hired a denarius. As the payments continued, the first hired were a bit excited because they thought that, since they had been there all day, and had worked more than the others, they would be paid more. Their excitement, however, turned to disappointment when they received the same denarius as the others. In fact, they got pretty upset and started grumbling about how unfair it was that those who worked less got paid the same. The landowner, overhearing their grumbling, calmly reminded them that they had, indeed, been treated fairly – they were paid the amount that had been agreed upon. He also reminded them that it was his money to do with as he pleased, and he could be generous if he wanted to be. He even asked them if their “eye was evil,” were they angry and jealous, because he chose to be good?
In this parable we see the correlation between grace, kindness and mercy. We also see that kindness and mercy are not earned, they are freely given. As Romans and Ephesians told us, grace isn’t earned by our works – it is a gift that God freely gives through our faith. And, in the meaning of the original Greek, grace is a change in our hearts that is reflected in how we live our lives, and in how treat others.
Of course, parables were metaphors Jesus used to illustrate a point. What’s His point in this parable? The landowner is God; we are the workers, and His kingdom is the payment for our faith. Grace is the spiritual change in our hearts that occurs as a result of our faith, and it is reflected in how we treat others.
When we accept Jesus into our hearts, when we are born again in Him, His Spirit living in and through us should change us. His Grace, or Divine Influence, teaches us how to live, and that teaching is reflected in how we live and how we treat others. it is through Jesus that we truly experience God’s Amazing Grace. In the words of Paul to Titus (2:11 & 12), “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly.” Jesus is God’s Grace. His love, His teachings, and His guidance, are freely given to everyone; to save us from ourselves, and inspire us live and love as He did – fully, completely, and without compromise. And, like our parable, it doesn’t matter whether we’ve been believers for many years or we’re brand new to the faith – God’s Grace is the same for all.
In closing, I’d like to share today’s passage from The Daily Word. I hadn’t read this passage prior to writing today’s message; but, coincidentally, or not, the top of the page is titled “Grace.”
I Accept Grace With A Grateful Heart
Grace is woven into the very fabric of my being. it is the goodness of God at work in my life. I accept grace as the redeeming, uplifting, and transforming power of God working in and through me now.
Grace is an expression of God’s love, and I receive it every day with a grateful heart. I experience grace as a nudge to pay attention…as a second chance…as unexpected good or a better-than-expected outcome. When I allow room for God’s grace, good blossoms in my consciousness. Forgiveness, generosity, and love come naturally, and I am blessed.
Life is easier when I am open to God’s grace. Following Spirit’s lead, I no longer paddle against the current, but flow with the stream of divine life.
Finally, I’d like to leave you with the Scripture passage cited for the day:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. – Philippians 4:23
- Numbers 32:5
- 2 Samuel 14:22
- Proverbs 3:33 & 34
- Romans 11:6
- Ephesians 2:8 & 9
- Matthew 20:1-16
- Titus 2:11 & 12
- Philippians 4:23
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