The word “grace” is quite difficult to define. Classic definitions are often, “God’s unmerited favour” or “free gift of God”. For the Christian, this definition forms the foundation of our faith and this concept separates Christianity for every other religion. Christians believe that they are no longer accountable for their wrongdoing as they have received the “free gift” of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Whilst recognising that we are sinners and deserving of God’s righteous wrath, we have been imparted with the righteousness of Jesus, making us acceptable to God. This is God’s amazing grace!
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 is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:7-10 NIV, emphasis added)
This cannot be earned by us – it is simply an undeserved and unmerited gift of God. One preacher used the word GRACE to form the acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. The payment or debt that we owed to God for our rebellion towards him was willingly paid by Jesus Christ when His blood was shed on the cross. The assurance that the debt was completely cleared and “paid in full” was demonstrated perfectly with Jesus’ resurrection from death. This event uniquely displays that the power of death has been permanently defeated in Christ and this power and privilege can be accepted by anyone who chooses. Therefore, forgiveness through Christ can be the ONLY way to salvation as no other religion deals with the issue of sin.
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24 NIV)
While the definitions and descriptions of grace above are certainly true – the way in which the concept of grace is received by believers can often be incomplete and rather simplistic. This can lead to people viewing grace as simply calling on the name of Christ but not then surrendering their lives to him. It appears that across the evangelical landscape there has almost been a diluting of the idea of grace which leads it to be seen almost like a “get out of jail free card” from the judgment of God. This “grace theology” can dilute the depth of grace in our understanding and lead to a licentious lifestyle that does not display the holiness that results from a more humble and reverent understanding of grace – something that dramatically cheapens the unfathomable price that Jesus paid on our behalf and a view that the Bible clearly does not support.
In the Bible, grace is on many occasions contrasted with the law. (See verse below and others, for example, Romans 4:16, Galatians 2:21).
Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17 NIV)
It is important to remember that grace does not just replace the law – grace fulfils the law! The law of God is still intact and operational. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the requirements of the law and could therefore legitimately pay the punishment for our disobedience on our behalf. Receiving grace from God through repentance leads to a permanent lifestyle change rather than a simple departure from being accountable for our actions.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18 NIV)
Grace is not just a noun, it is a verb. Grace is not a momentary experience or commitment that then remains dormant. It is an ongoing, active and dynamic transformation that galvanises and powers our lives thereafter! Titus (quoted below) gives a beautiful picture of grace:
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14 NIV)
There is, therefore, a transformation that takes place in the believer in Christ that leads to two things. Firstly, our standing before God is transformed so we can have confidence that when God looks at us, He sees Christ’s perfection in us – He no longer sees us a sinner and we, therefore, have access to God which was impossible beforehand. Secondly, we should totally surrender our lives to Him as the passage from Titus above describes and our life should never again look the same. The presence of the Holy Spirit causes this transformation. This transformation results in a relationship with God that should characterize our lives from the moment of conversion. This surrender to God is described by the apostle Paul:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin– because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 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. (Romans 6:1-12 NIV, emphasis added)
This is not to say that we then live perfect lives from the moment of conversion onwards. It means that sin should no longer RULE our lives. It could be summarised by saying that a Christian will at times “fall” into sin, but should not continue to “habitually” sin in the same way they did before they repented and accepted Christ. Once a believer has given their life to Christ, they have embarked on a three-stage process: justification, sanctification and then glorification.
Justification becomes a past event and occurs at the moment we repent of our sins and trust in the work of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Romans 5:1 NIV)
Sanctification is the present state in which we exist and is the process of living out our lives in obedience to God, trying to cultivate a life of holiness and purity with the illumination and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2 NIV)
Glorification is what we look forward in the future when either we die and go to meet The Lord or Jesus Christ returns to “rapture” or snatch-up His true followers where we will be given new heavenly bodies to dwell in – whichever comes first!
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20-21 NIV)
What an amazing journey for those that confess their sin and place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ! This is the meaning of grace – that while we were/are dead in our sins, destined to an eternity of separation from our father God, we now have the opportunity to accept this free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. We can then begin a relationship with our wonderful Creator, resting in the promise that when our time on earth comes to an end, or if He returns before the end of our lives, we will then be in the eternal presence of God in heaven. Although this grace is extended to us as a free gift, we are still required to accept this gift and make a response through repentance to and acceptance of Jesus as Lord. This promise is available to anyone who will respond and we would urge you to consider and accept this free gift of grace to secure your eternity – have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Read our How To Be Saved article – why wait any longer!
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NIV)
- GotQuestions.org – What is the definition of grace?