And of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. Jn 1:16
What is grace?
Perhaps the most famous Christian song in the world is the hymn ‘Amazing Grace.’ The words of this hymn were penned by John Newton, who was a foul mouthed sailor and slave trader who had denounced the existence of God and lived accordingly. The song recounts God’s grace toward such a sinner that he was and the song still rings true for the rest of us who have a similar story.
Grace is something that you can’t work for. The essence of the word ‘grace’ implies a gift that you cannot work for. If you could work for it, it wouldn’t be grace.
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. Rom 4:4
Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 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. Rom 11:5-6
If grace can be worked for than grace is not grace and work is not work. Work earns you something, grace gives you something freely. They can’t be mixed together.
There is, however, another way to receive grace. And that is by faith, that is, by believing what God says.
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness Rom 4:5
Here we see that FAITH and WORKS are opposites. But that’s another subject.
The dictionary definition of grace is: the free and unmerited favor or goodness of God. I think this is a good definition. Grace is God freely giving us something we don’t deserve. Whether that gift is righteousness, eternal life, favor, healing, spiritual gifts, natural abilities, strength, comfort, power in ministry, and the like.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Rom 12:6-8
Notice that this passage talks about the gifts we have received according to the grace given to us. God has ‘graced’ us with these gifts. That means God has freely given them to us out of His goodness.
To really understand the significance of the grace that God has shown us, we have to first understand how little we deserve it and then we have to understand how lavishly He bestowed it. The divide between our worthiness and His benevolence is very great.
First of all, God is sovereign. That means that He makes the rules and no one tells Him what to do. He is also more powerful than us. He answers to no one, and everyone and everything is powerless against Him. So even if we were perfect angels and did everything right, that still wouldn’t mean that God was obligated to do anything for us.
In America we all are so accustomed to having ‘rights.’ But why do we have any rights as Americans? It’s only because our sovereign government has bestowed them upon us, and that only because our government was powerful enough to fend off it’s enemies. What if Hitler had conquered the world? Would our rights have remained? Can you see how the most powerful government is the one that decides our rights?
In the same way, any rights bestowed upon us from heaven is solely at God’s pleasure. Fortunately, we have a God who is described as Love and Whose nature is benevolence. So He creates man, sets him in a beautiful paradise of a garden, gives him a beautiful wife, and even comes down to earth in the cool of the day to talk with him and fellowship with him. He does all this to satisfy the desire that He has in His heart to be good to someone. He does all this to demonstrate the abundance of Love that is in His heart. He wants someone that He can be good to, so he makes someone to do just that.
Did the man deserve any of this? No, God did it just to demonstrate His goodness and Love. I suppose the best way to understand this would think of a couple who desires to have a child. When the child comes, before he has done any good or evil, the parents choose to nurture the child and do good for the child. That’s the desire inside the parents’ heart. That is also the desire inside the heart of God.
That is grace, God bestowing goodness on the undeserving. Why? Simply because He wants to.
But God’s grace is even greater.
The man God creates rebels against Him. The man’s son kills his brother. Mankind departs from God’s goodness and, instead, runs after his own lusts. Violence covers the entire earth. There is none who does good, not one. God becomes angry with His creation, but even in His wrath He shows His love when He instead of striking His creation utterly, decides to strike His own Son, Who, in the same spirit of love, offers Himself willingly so that you and I can escape from the judgment of God. And He says to them, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned.”
But God’s grace is even greater.
Not only does God freely forgive, but He showers us with the gifts of righteous due to His righteous Son. He adopts us into His own family. He gives us His Holy Spirit as a comforter and a guide. He gives us perfect peace and inexpressible joy. He gives us purpose and destiny. He calls us to be servants and ministers and a holy priesthood. He washes us clean from our filth. He puts a gold ring on our finger, a robe on our back, and shoes on our feet.
But God’s grace is even greater.
He says to us, “I go to prepare a place for you.” He gives us that eternal hope which we look to. He prepares for us pleasures forevermore at His right hand. He builds for us a city of gold, the foundation of which is of precious stones. The tree of life is there, the same tree that He had to take away at the beginning. The tree is planted by the river of life that flows, crystal clear, from the very throne of God. All the saints are there, those who persevered in this life, and those who were murdered for their testimony of Jesus. There is no more crying, no more sorrow, no more pain. There is no more evil. Peace and safety will be ours forever and ever.
AMEN! This is why John says, ‘grace upon grace.’ God has heaped grace upon grace on us!
But there is much more to talk about when it comes to God’s grace, in particularly concerning our everyday lives. I’ll write about that in part 2.