Romans 6:14 'You are not under law, but under grace.'
Acts 20:24 '…the gospel of God's grace.'
Grace: God's 'givingness'
When we talk about 'grace' in a Christian context, we don't mean moving around elegantly,
like a ballerina. We're talking about the whole basis upon which God deals with us.
So what exactly is grace?
Grace is the love of God in action towards the totally undeserving. It is his help,
his provision, his generosity, his 'givingness' to us who, if we deserved anything,
deserved only his judgment because of our sin and self-centredness.
Grace is central to God's nature; he is 'the God of all grace' (1 Peter 5:10). That's
what we mean when we say God is 'gracious'. He's not the grim god of Judaism or the
unsmiling and tyrannical god of Islam. He's a warm-hearted Father, an open-handed
and smiling God of grace, who loves to give!
Saved by grace
Suppose an intruder broke into your house and you arrived home to find him sprawled
on your settee scoffing the contents of your food-cupboard. You could call the police
and have him prosecuted. If you decided instead to let him off with a few strong
words, that would be mercy—not giving him what he deserved. If you made him dinner,
gave him £100 and some clothes and invited him to call again whenever he was in need,
that would be grace—giving him what he did not deserve.
In Christ, we have received both God's mercy and God's grace. He spared us what we
deserved: his wrath. And he generously gave us what we didn't deserve: his love and
Salvation simply can't be earned or worked for. It's a free gift of God's grace.
It costs us nothing—because it cost Jesus everything:
Ephesians 2:8-9 '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.'
Romans 3:24 'We are justified freely by his grace.'
John Newton was an 18th century slave trader, making money out of human degradation.
When he became a Christian he was so overcome by God's love and forgiveness towards
him that he wrote the famous hymn, Amazing Grace.
Sustained by grace
But God's grace doesn't end once we are saved; it continues to flow towards us throughout
our lives. In other words, God continues to give to us, the undeserving, what we
don't deserve. He remains full of love and forgiveness, provision and generosity.
Even though you're now a Christian, you still can't buy anything from God. He doesn't
sell-he only gives. No matter how much you pray, read your Bible, help others, give
sacrificially or serve in the church, you won't draw out of God's heart any more
of his love and acceptance towards you. Why? Because you have it all already! It's
his free, ongoing gift to you for Jesus' sake. It's a limitless reservoir, and he
wants us to tap into it daily so that we are sustained by it in our Christian lives:
Acts 13:43 [Paul and Barnabas] 'urged them to continue in the grace of God.'
Drawing on God's grace is so vital that the apostle Paul both begins and ends every
one of his letters with a phrase like, 'Grace and peace to you…' (Romans 1:7) or
'The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you' (Romans 16:20).
John Newton understood that grace had saved him—and that it would continue to sustain
him, as the third verse of his famous hymn clearly shows.
Grace and law
The opposite of 'grace' is 'law'.
There's a place for law, of course. Without the laws of the land society would lapse
into anarchy and chaos. Without the laws of football the game would end up as a brutal
free-for-all. But in the Christian faith grace rules supreme. In this it's different
from every other religion in the world. All the rest are based on law, with a heavy
list of do's and don'ts and penalties for every infringement.
Sadly, even some Christians can slip back into a law-based approach to life. The
Galatian believers did this and Paul had to write them a strong letter to put them
Galatians 3:10 'All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written:
"Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of
Galatians 5:4 'You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from
Christ; you have fallen away from grace.'
God's grace is to be our motivation in all that we do for him. Take reading your
Bible, for example. It's a good thing to do it, but why do you do it? If it's so
that you can notch up another Bible-reading session and feel virtuous about it, or
if you do your reading at 6 o'clock in the morning because that seems more spiritual
than doing it at 7 o'clock, you're back under law. You've lost sight of grace and
are tied up with self-imposed rules and regulations.
Grace gives you a completely different approach. You say to yourself, 'God has been
amazingly kind to me. Thank you, Lord, for your love. I want to learn more about
you, and I want to hear you speak to me, so I'm going to read the Bible for a while.'
Whether you do it at 6.00 in the morning or some other time is neither here nor there.
Living by law is…
Doing everything by human effort
Living by rigid rules and regulations
Trying to earn God's approval
Living by grace is…
Relying on the power of the Holy Spirit
Trusting the Lord to direct your life
Rejoicing that you already have God's approval
Approaching the throne
Sometimes you feel utterly weak and useless. You'd like to serve God better but your
human weakness gets in the way.
This is where grace comes into its own. You reach the end of your own resources and,
in desperation, cry to God to meet your need. He replies, 'My grace is sufficient
for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness' (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)—and he
comes up with the goods. That way, of course, God gets all the credit because everyone
knows you couldn't have achieved what you did by your own efforts.
At such times of need you may feel reluctant to come to the Lord for his help. You'd
prefer to do the job yourself. But isn't that foolish when there's an endless supply
of grace at your disposal? The Bible says:
Hebrews 4:16 'Let us…approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may
receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.'
Because of what Jesus has done, God no longer sits on a throne of judgment as far
as you're concerned; he sits on a 'throne of grace'. He's never too busy to receive
you, never stingy with his love and provision. He loves to welcome you. So approach
his throne 'with confidence'! Learn to appreciate his grace, and let it be your only
motivation for living as a Christian.
Gracious like God
Ephesians 5:1 'Be imitators of God…as dearly loved children.'
You will inevitably become like what you worship (Jeremiah 2:5; Psalm 115:4-8). So
as you worship the God of grace you'll become gracious yourself. How can you co-operate
with God in this happy process?
Spend time with God. Let his character rub off onto you through regular fellowship.
Be generous, like God. Give your time, your money, your effort unstintingly to bless
Romans 5:17 'God's abundant provision of grace…'
Ephesians 1:7-8 '…the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us…'
Humble yourself, because:
Proverbs 3:34 'God resists the proud but gives his grace to the humble.'
You humble yourself by saying 'Thank you', by worshipping the Lord, by developing
a submissive spirit, by serving and by giving.
Set your stall out to live the whole of your life in the lovely atmosphere of grace!
Learn by heart
2 Corinthians 12:9'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect