"...A GRACE and LOVE revolution!" So proclaims the pastor as he shares "deeds of grace" that someone did, as supposed examples of Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace are you saved..." People are really "into" it....but their love and grace is something they SAY as they FEEL spiritual, holy, and Oh SO WONDERFUL. For a person who is "in the know" they swoon and have a warm fuzzy feeling as they piously purr "Graaeeesss." It is the source, cause and solution for everything, from decisions about a parking spot, to choice of classes enrolled in school....invoking the word, "grace."
GRACE. It is the VERY ESSENCE of faith in Christ and of salvation... And yet, the topic causes church splits and divisions among so-called christians. It is that about which Paul wrote to the legalistic Galatians "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel" (Gal 1:6). It is that which Jude warns regarding corruption by stealth, "For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4).
It is so important a doctrine that Paul issued a double curse (Gal 1:8-9) that any person who would pervert the doctrine, "let him be accursed." Those who pervert this doctrine are in jeopardy of eternal life!
WHAT IS GRACE? "Grace" is one of those words with multiple meanings. Going to the original words does not shed light as to which definition to use, as the Hebrew and Greek use one word for all their applications, and also have several definitions. Thus, context makes the determination.
While the O.T. is full of examples of God's grace, beginning in the Garden of Eden, and has been God's primary manner of relating to man throughout history; due to limited space, we will confine this discussion to the New Testament applications
In the N.T. there are two (2) essential definitions for "grace." The first indicates "joy, pleasure, sweetness, charm, loveliness." Such as: "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt..." (Col 4:6). Out of 120 incidents of the word "grace" in the N.T., approximately six (6) fit this definition.
The predominant teaching on grace in the N.T. is "good will, loving-kindness, unmerited favor, merciful kindness. The recipient is unworthy to receive, and the giver is not required to give...but of His own accord the giver CHOOSES to give. In Scripture the 'giver' is God, the 'recipient' is sinful man."
Grace ORIGINATES with GOD and is the gift of God. "For by grace you have been saved...it is the gift of God" (Eph 2:8). "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:24). Easily half of all references use terminology such as "Grace of God" or "Grace...of Jesus Christ."
Grace does NOT originate with man, and cannot. "...not of yourselves...not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph 2:8-9). By definition, if we could do the works, it would not be grace. "...then it is no longer works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace..." (Rom 11:6).
God's grace also indicates His INFINITE LOVE..."God demonstrates His own love toward us, ...while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8). "God SO LOVED the world that He gave His only Son" (John 3:16).
We were floundering, unable to save ourselves, when Christ redeemed us "For when we were still without strength...Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom 5:6).
It is God's grace which DECLARES sinful man "RIGHTEOUS." At the end of "Schindler's List," Mr. Schindler rants and raves, bemoaning the fact that he "should have" sold his car to save a few more Jews. "How many more" would the pawning of his gold Nazi collar pin have saved? As the survivors and descendants bestow honor on his grave with the rocks, the credits indicate that the Jewish commission had "declared" Schindler a "righteous person." (A moving moment!) Man bestowing grace upon another man. Forgiveness for some of the offenses that he, even, had committed. While forgiven, Schindler was dead...in the grave.
"Having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him...having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life...through our Lord Jesus Christ...we have now received the reconciliation" (Rom 5:9-11). "By Man (Christ) came the resurrection of the dead...in Christ all shall be made alive" (1Cor 15:21-22). In these passages the terms grace, reconciliation, and justification are all melded together to illustrate the saving and redemptive work of Christ.
It is UNFATHOMABLE GRACE. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor 2:9).
God's Grace has NO LIMITS. "As far as east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Psa 103:12).
WITHOUT GRACE we cannot be saved. "O foolish Galatians!...are you now being made perfect by the flesh? ...only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham (saved)...you who attempt to be justified by the law...have fallen from grace" (Gal 3:1,3,7; 5:4).
DOES GOD'S WORD TEACH "deeds of grace" and matters of "being gracious?" Most emphatically, YES! We have already quoted earlier from Colossians 4:6 regarding gracious speech, "seasoned with salt." Ephesians 4:32 encourages us to "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you." "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).
Dorcas, in Acts, is illustrated as a person of good deeds. The early disciples continually did "deeds of grace" as they sold their assets and shared, all in common. James discusses the absurdity of claiming faith without the deeds which demonstrate that faith..."if a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" (James 2:15-16).
These brief examples barely scratch the surface of Scriptural teachings on "deeds of grace" and "graciousness." But, are these the Scriptural teachings on "Grace?" NO!
Christians must accurately hold to the teachings on each subject. Each is a legitimate concern, and of great importance. We must firmly stand against Satan's onslaughts to water down the gospel of God's REDEMPTIVE GRACE. We must differentiate between Ephesians 2:8 and Colossians 4:6.
A POINT TO PONDER: When God extends His GRACE, He does so "graciously." "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28-30).
To fathom the full magnitude, a discussion of GRACE must also include an accurate understanding of SIN. See previous article: "Grace: the Sin Question"
(Scripture quotations are from the NKJV)