Christian Words, Part Four – Grace

Grace – Unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
–Ephesians 2:8-9

Next in our series of Christian words comes another difficult word to define – grace. In the dictionary definition above, I believe their are two words that are essential in our understanding of this word – unmerited assistance.

Let’s take the first one and see how that applies. For grace to exist in our world, we need to first understand that grace, as granted by God, is something given to us even though it is unmerited, or undeserved. Now I know that I have spoken in many ways about this concept in previous blog posts. I often point out our fallen nature as humans and God’s grace given to us as a gift. Usually, I will point to Jesus Christ, and his ultimate sacrifice. But is that really where God’s grace began? Surely not.

I think it is very comforting for us to rely on the New Testament and Jesus Christ as our basis for grace. After all, the message of Jesus is so full of concepts and emotions that we all want to hear about. Many people see the New Testament as being alll about love, mercy, forgiveness, and yes, grace. In many cases, the Old Testament is the God of the Law, judgement, and contains some stories that we sometimes want to ignore. The times of the Old Testament were sometimes very brutal, and as Christians it can be difficult to come to terms with that part of the Bible.

“Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
–Genesis 2:15-17

Nope. Grace did not start with Jesus my friends. It started at the very beginning. I think we all know the story. God created the heavens and the earth. Eventually He created man and woman. He put them in the Garden of Eden, and gave them everything they needed. He just gave them one rule. Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge, the tree of good and evil. All man and woman had to do was take care of God’s creation. It was true utopia.

Did man deserve this utopia? What had man done to deserve this great garden, this great place that God had created just for us? Nothing. So here we have the first instance of God’s grace. Yet there was this little thing called free will. God gave us the power to choose. You see, there is another very important component of grace, something that is essential for the granting of grace. God required us to trust him. That trust – or faith – required that man stay away from knowledge of good and evil. When we broke that trust, we fell out of favor with God – out of grace. Yet His love for us is unconditional, and while sin entered the world because of our actions, God would continue to grant His grace to those who trust in Him. Eventually, His grace would bring His son, as the ultimate act of grace, to save us from that sin.

Later in Genesis, we learn about Abram and Sarai. By reading their story, we learn that God chose an old man and a barren woman to be the founders of Israel, His chosen people. What did these two people do to deserve this gift from God? Again, nothing. Yet He chose them anyway, asking them again to trust in Him. We see the consequence of their disobedience which led to the birth of Ishmael. Yet God’s unending love for His people, and His promise to rise up the people of Israel was not broken, leading the birth of Isaac. Abram would be renamed as Abraham, and led by His faith, would fulfill God’s promise. Again, we see trust and grace working in unison, teaching us how to love and fear our God.

“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
–Isiah 53:1-6

There are many passages in the Old Testament that told of the coming Messiah. Yet the one in Isiah 53 seems to be the one that most look to as the most powerful. It was pretty obvious to the Old Testament prophets that the world was corrupted by sin. They knew God would find a way to redeem His people. They were in need of a Savior. Here we see the ultimate example of God’s grace for His children. God’s love could not allow us to be consumed by sin without offering us a way out, an escape. Again, we did not deserve His grace. Our imperfect, fallen nature is what got us in this state to begin with. God owes us nothing. Yet we are ruled by a loving God, who came down as a man, to die for our sins – the greatest act of selflessness ever seen.

My hope is that the act of grace and love our God grants us is not lost on us. We walk around as Christians, doing the right things most of the time. We go to church, give to the poor, treat our neighbors kindly – all the right things. But if we really stop and think about grace for a moment, we realize that our walk as Christians is really more than that. In fact, while we are called by our Savior to do all those great things for our fellow man, we are reminded that nothing we do on this earth will ever earn our way to eternal life. The grace we receive from God is given to us as a gift, not through works, but through our faith. It is our faith in Jesus Christ, that brings about our desire to do these works, not the other way around.

It is all about grace, my friends.

“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”
–Romans 11:6