Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being HEIRS TOGETHER OF THE GRACE OF LIFE, that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
In the chapter containing the title-verse above, Peter first exhorts wives to be in subjection to their husbands, adorned with a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. (See 1 Pt. 3:1-6.) He then urges husbands to give honor and consideration to their wives, recognizing that they require the protection and provision that normally comes from the male spouse. This should be most impressed on husbands as they realize their own utter dependency on the protection and provision that comes from God above.
By recognizing their own weaknesses and needs, husbands should become all the more sensitive to similar weaknesses and needs resident in their wives. By carefully attending to meet those needs, honor is bestowed on the wife as the “weaker vessel” (physically speaking)—“a most delicate vessel,” as rendered in one translation (NKJV, GW).
This honor should then return to the husband from the wife. The husband supplies the wife’s need; the wife supplies the husband’s need. The husband completes his wife; the wife completes her husband. Thus, they become gifts to one another. In the process, a balanced spiritual equality emerges between them, for they become “HEIRS TOGETHER OF THE GRACE OF LIFE”—or, as the God’s Word translation renders it, “THOSE WHO SHARE GOD’S LIFE-GIVING KINDNESS” (1 Pt. 3:7 NKJV, GW).
THE SPIRITUAL APPLICATION
The natural application of this verse mirrors the supernatural counterpart—the relationship between the heavenly Bridegroom and His earthly bride. As we yield to His Lordship, He in turn becomes our Protector and Provider. Just as He meets our needs, so we are called to meet His. As He brings us to completion spiritually, we are called to bring Him to completion.
He gives honor to us, fully aware that we are the “weaker vessels.” He feels our infirmities and is always minded toward rushing to our rescue when we are tempted—because He, too, has “suffered being tempted” (Heb. 2:18). The Scripture even states that “by the grace of God” Yeshua (Jesus) ‘tasted death’ for every person (Heb. 2:9). Surely, it was also through the grace of God that He arose victorious. So if the One who was perfect needed grace to emerge triumphantly from His earthly sojourn, how much more do we imperfect ones require this good and perfect gift from above.
In a much higher sense, therefore, it can be said of the heaven-sent Bridegroom and His earth-born bride that we are “HEIRS TOGETHER OF THE GRACE OF LIFE.” Having received this precious outpouring from the Father above, both the Savior and the saved have become gifts of grace to one another—for time and eternity.
This, too, is a gift beyond words…a gift of inestimable and indescribable worth…precious beyond telling.
THE DEFINITION OF GRACE
This rich Biblical word can be defined four primary ways:
1. Grace is unmerited love from God (Eph. 2:8-9).
2. Grace is divinely imparted ability (1 Cor. 15:10).
3. Grace is the abundant generosity of God (2 Cor. 9:8).
4. Grace is the sum total of all the activity of God in our lives (1 Cor. 15:10).
Strong’s Concordance succinctly explains that grace is “the divine influence on the heart and its evidence in the life.” Another source states that grace is “the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.”
A more in-depth explanation declares grace to be:
The gracious or benevolent disposition of God toward sinful mankind and, therefore, the divine operation by which the sinful heart and mind are regenerated and the continuing divine power or operation that cleanses, strengthens, and sanctifies the regenerate.
So how could grace cover so much territory? How could it be unmerited love and divinely imparted ability—simultaneously? Consider a simple analogy.
When a man and woman come together in marriage, their physical union is first an expression of love. However, once the consummation of the marriage takes place and conception results, what began as an expression of love ends as an impartation of ability. Imparted to the fertilized egg in the mother’s womb is the potential ability to be a fully functional human being: one who sees, hears, smells, walks, talks and thinks.
In like manner, when grace made its entrance into our lives, it began as an expression of love from God, but it ended as an impartation of ability. When God’s love flowed our direction, a spiritual ‘conception’ took place (we were begotten of the Word), then a birth (we were born of the Spirit). At that moment, each of us received the potential ability to be a fully functional child of God: one who sees truth, hears God’s voice, speaks in His stead, thinks His thoughts, feels His emotions and walks in His light. For this cause Paul claimed, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).
So broad and comprehensive is this term that one source concludes: “grace becomes almost an equivalent for ‘Christianity,’ viewed as the religion of dependence on God through Christ.”
Paul complained to the 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). So the gospel and grace are simply one and the same, so much so that it is even called “the gospel of the grace of God” (Ac. 20:24).
Paul and Barnabas urged the Jews who embraced the Messiah to “continue in the grace of God” rather than legalistic religion (Ac. 13:43)—an exhortation all believers should embrace:
For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them. (Hebrews 13:9)
Mere doctrines, creeds, traditions and rituals: sometimes these “foods for the soul” are beneficial, but quite often they are “foods” that don’t profit. On the other hand, the grace of God provides a far more sumptuous and satisfying feast. Religion imparts the ‘letter of the law,’ but grace imparts relationship. We know that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”—and grace is the “Spirit” of authentic Christianity. (2 Cor. 3:6, See 1:12.)
BRIDGING THE UNBRIDGABLE GAP
Two great acronyms define grace excellently:
God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense
God’s Righteousness And Corresponding Enablement
These two acronyms together show that grace is inseparably tied to the cross, for it was at “Christ’s expense” that we are made partakers of all that God is and all that God has. This marvelous and magnanimous treatment of the lowly and the lost is the very essence of what grace is:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
He descended that we might ascend. He became what we are that we might become what He is. He was made to be “sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). He did this that “grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life” (Ro. 5:21).
In his definition of grace, William Barclay spanned the huge chasm between sin-prone human beings and our flawless Creator:
“The word grace emphasizes at one and the same time the helpless poverty of man and the limitless kindness of God.”
The bridge across this ‘impassable gulf’ was reared by God, not by man—it was His idea, not ours—constructed with two heavenly ‘materials’ of the highest quality:
The Word of His grace (Ac. 20:32)
The Spirit of grace (Zec. 12:10)
Through His grace-filled Word and by His grace-filled Spirit, God lowered this spiritual bridge into the wretched, dark depths of our inherited depravity. Then He urged us to rise up and cross over, returning to a heaven-on-earth paradise of communion with Him. He promises that no matter how challenging things may get, “THE GOD OF ALL GRACE, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered awhile” will “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Pt. 5:10). So grace will always win in the end. The grace that initiates this work in all of us is the grace that will also bring it to completion—in greater glory than when we started.
It is quite fitting that John Newton—once a slave trader, a cruel abuser of other human beings—was used of God to celebrate this most essential element of true Christianity when he authored one of the most beloved hymns of the church:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found;
I was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear;
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!
Remember, it was not a saintly person with few blemishes who wrote these words, but someone who desperately needed the very thing he wrote about. Maybe that’s half the reason it so resonates with multitudes of believers who have learned to trust in Calvary and not their own religious works.
We do not earn grace. The Scripture is very strong in asserting this truth. Salvation is “not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:9). “Otherwise grace is no more grace” (Ro. 11:6). Yet even though this marvelous gift is freely given, three attitudes of heart are required—which place us in a receptive position:
Faith—“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
Humility—“God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble” (1 Pt. 5:5).
Sincere Love—“Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” (Eph. 6:24).
All three of these attitudes of the heart must be woven together for grace to flow powerfully and effectively into our lives; one is not enough. For instance, a person may be full of faith, fully confident of the promises of God, yet be prideful and rebellious concerning an area of personal sin—and grace becomes aloof, restrained and distant.
On the opposite pole, a person may be full of humility and sincere love toward God and yet lack the necessary element of faith: swallowed up by guilt, self-condemnation and depression over personal failures. This too can hinder a person from receiving grace through the self-emasculating attitude of unbelief.
Only God knows where the line is drawn and how far grace will reach. However, we do know a “three-stranded cord is not easily broken”—faith, humility and sincere love—binding our hearts to the very heart of God (Ec. 4:12 CJB). When all three are present, any child of God can truly be “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”—unbeatable and unconquerable by anything he or she faces in this valley of the shadow of death (2 Tim. 2:1).
GRACE IN THE FIRST TESTAMENT
The Hebrew word translated “grace” is chen (pr. khane); it stems from the word chanan (pr. khaw-nan’) which means to bend or stoop down in order to show kindness to one who is inferior.
Chen occurs sixty-nine times in First Testament. Its foundational meaning is favor. The first appearance is in Genesis 6:8: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” So it was not personal righteousness alone that earned Noah and his family a deliverance from the flood; on the highest level, it was grace—the unmerited love of God.
Forty times the word chen is translated grace in the KJV; twenty-seven times it is translated into the word favor (such as Genesis 39:21—“But the LORD was with Joseph and…gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison”).
The concept of grace was not emphasized under the Old Testament as it is in the New. However, there are some powerful passages that should seize our attention, especially the following conversation between Moses and God:
Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:12-17)
According to these verses, there were five things that Moses felt were proof to Israel that they had truly received the grace of God:
–being shown God’s way;
–experiencing God’s presence;
–being separated from all other nations of the earth;
–receiving answers to prayer.
These same things should be proof to us as well—ample evidence that we too have become recipients of this marvelous gift that is “precious beyond telling.”
Many years later, the Jewish people learned the ways of the Canaanites, worshipped their gods and indulged in their sins. They suffered grievous consequences, and were enslaved by the Babylonians. In an effort to encourage the seed of Abraham, though, Jeremiah reminded them of God’s supernatural provision during their forty year trek through the desert, saying:
“The people who were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness” (Jeremiah 31:2)
Through an awe-inspiring display of divine intervention, they had survived the sword of Pharaoh. But then, wonder of wonders, these freed slaves soon rebelled and turned their backs on the very One who liberated them. Yet He gave them more grace, excessive grace—supplying manna daily from heaven and water out of the rock. Yes, the older generation did die off, but if God had not given abundant grace, they all would have died.
On the basis of this wondrous display of divine compassion, the prophet gave hope to those Jews suffering yet another time of degradation. In essence, he was saying, “If grace brought you out of that difficult stage of your existence, grace can bring you out again.” In the very next verse God assured His people:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
An everlasting love is a love with no beginning and no end. If such warm words of divine commitment could be spoken to Old Covenant servants of God, then surely, New Covenant sons and daughters can expect the same. The boundless grace—the magnanimous love—that brought us out of sin in the beginning will surely carry us through any times of faltering or spiritual drought, all the way through to our final destiny and purpose in the end.
GRACE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Though a small stream of grace can surely be found weaving its way through the pages of the First Testament, with one stroke of a nail-scarred hand, the dam of Adam’s curse was breached in the New, and a rushing river of grace was released in the New Testament era, ordained to eventually engulf the entire globe. This contrast is celebrated in John 1:17:
The law was given through Moses [the First Testament], but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ [the New Testament].
For those who are blessed to be living in this age, grace is much more than just a spiritual force or a theological concept; grace is a person—the Son of God—who truly loved us when, by heaven’s standards, we were quite unlovely and unlovable. If truth was so much a part of Him that He could say, “I am the truth,” then grace is so much a part of Him that He could also say, “I am the grace of God.”
The Greek word translated “grace” is charis (pr. khar’-ece). It comes from the root word chairo (pr. khah’-ee-ro) which means to rejoice, to be cheerful or to be full of joy. So being full of grace should result in being full of joy.
Notice that the word charis is closely related to the word charisma, which is translated gift or gifts seventeen times in Scripture (KJV). For all gifts of God are manifestations of His unmerited love and abundant generosity.
Charis is found 156 times in the New Testament; 130 times it is rendered grace (KJV). The other twenty-six occurrences are translated into a variety of words, such as: thanks, thankworthy, acceptable, gracious, gift, favor, joy, liberality, benefit and pleasure. In versions other than the King James, it is also translated into words such as: credit, commendable and appealing.
These varied uses of charis speak collectively that the gift of grace gives us favor with God and with man. It grants many benefits. It is poured out liberally on God’s people. It is both for His and our great pleasure and joy. It returns to God in the form of thanks. It is a credit to our account and commendable in the sight of heaven when we walk in the light of it—which should be very appealing to both God and His offspring.
THE INEXHAUSTIBLE SUPPLY OF GRACE
I often ask groups of believers when grace first made its appearance in their lives. Most assume it arrived the day they were saved; others contend that it began overshadowing them from birth, helping them to successfully reach their appointed day of salvation. Usually a startled reaction results when I voice the actual Bible-based answer. 2 Timothy 1:9 tells us that the “God of all grace” has:
…saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.
Wow! What an amazing statement! Before the earth existed, before this tiny orb was spinning on its axis traveling around the sun, God’s offspring were a part of His plan—anticipated with much affection and much forethought.
Long before the stars were scattered across the heavens…long before the hills and valleys were carved by the loving hands of the Master Sculptor…long before the tender grass sprang forth…God foreknew, in great detail, the lives of each one who would be included in His bride.
In His limitless knowledge, even before ‘you were you’—the Creator anticipated every valley you would ever pass through, every mountainous challenge you would ever face, every pit of human weakness you would ever fall into, and every strategy the evil one and his cohorts would ever raise against you. In advance, He gave you more than enough grace to make it through every negative or challenging circumstance in order to fulfill your God-given destiny.
So we need not beg God to give us grace to overcome our difficulties or fulfill our calling. Why ask God for something we already have? Instead, let us praise Him that abundant grace is actually our present possession. God’s elect will never face anything in life—either positive or negative—without having already received from God, far in advance, unmerited love and divinely imparted ability that will enable them, not only to survive, but to thrive, in every situation. He gave us a purpose before this world began, and He gave us more than enough grace to fulfill that purpose. What a powerful truth!
You may say, “More than enough grace—that’s hard to believe!”—but here’s a passage that sufficiently undergirds such a stupendous claim:
And God is able to make ALL GRACE ABOUND TOWARD YOU, that in everything, always having all self-sufficiency, you may abound to every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 MKJV)
This verse begs the question, “How much grace is ALL grace?” which leads to the related query, “How do you measure grace?” Certainly, being a spiritual ‘substance,’ it cannot be calculated in gallons, pounds or cubic meters. “So when do you know when you’re about to exhaust your supply?”
I would dare to respond that grace is actually inexhaustible just as infinitely inexhaustible as the omnipotent God who rejoices to impart this wondrous, eternal gift. Consider the following analogy:
When the children of Israel passed through the Wilderness of Sin, God supplied their need with water gushing out of a rock—an amazing display of supernatural power. It has been estimated it probably took about 12 million gallons of water a day to sustain them in their difficult journey. But what if a really hot day came and it took 24 million gallons? Would there have been enough water in the rock? “Yes, of course!” What if there was a sandstorm and everything had to be cleaned and it took 36 million gallons, would there have been a large enough supply? Again the response would have to be, “Yes, of course!” So logic demands a powerful conclusion—no matter how great the need was, the supply ALWAYS exceeded the need. And so it is with the grace of God.
Yes, the well of eternal grace is inexhaustible, just as the water that sprang from that “spiritual Rock that followed them” (1 Cor. 10:4). It will NEVER run dry. As long as believers maintain the three-fold attitude required by God—faith, humility and sincere love—this elixir of heaven will continue to overflow their lives. No wonder Paul, that great New Testament proponent of grace concluded in Romans 5:1-2:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Not only does grace enable us to come to the LORD Jesus. Grace enables us to stand, in good times and bad, for the rest of our lives.
GOD’S ONE-WAY-OR-THE-OTHER PLAN
I love to refer to grace as “God’s-one-way-or-the-other-plan,” because “one-way-or-the-other” God intends for the introduction of grace to bring absolute victory to us, both now and forevermore. The primary scripture that enshrines this idea is Romans 6:14:
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Sin is one of our most powerful adversaries. We human beings become “sinners” three ways: (1) by birth; (2) by nature; and finally, (3) by choice. We do not become “sinners” because we sin. Rather, we “sin” because we are “sinners”— from the very moment we emerge from the womb. (See Ps. 51:5.) Unfortunately it is part of the legacy that Adam handed down to his offspring. This overpowering and unpredictable darkness of the fallen nature is a formidable foe that no one can conquer by mere self-effort, will power or religion. Only Jesus, the LORD of grace, offers the weapons that are “mighty through God” to the “pulling down” of this stronghold (2 Cor. 10:4 KJV).
At the moment of salvation, when grace first made its appearance in our lives, we were cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus. Then, having been translated into the kingdom of God, we became much more sensitive in recognizing sin and abhorring its presence in our hearts and lives. At that time, thankfully, grace also strengthened us to live above sin, coaching us how to live in a God-pleasing way. Titus 2:11-12 reveals:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.
Not only does grace teach us to sanctify our lives, it also empowers us to accomplish this goal—by the indwelling of “the Word of His grace” and “the Spirit of grace” (Ac. 20:32, Zec. 12:10). Through the internal influence of the Word and the Spirit, the God of all grace awakens divinely imparted ability in those who have been begotten of the Word and born of the Spirit. By this dual, internal influence, He gives us the supernatural ability to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age.”
At this point you may cry out, “This is a wonderful theory, but I haven’t been able to live a perfect life.” None of us have. But there is still hope. If God’s offspring err—yet they express toward God the three required attitudes of heart (faith, humility and sincere love)—grace in a sense, ‘changes its face.’ Instead of divinely imparted ability, giving us power to live above sin, it manifests as unmerited love, giving us the power to recover from sin. So one-way-or-the-other grace enables us to overcome, as long as we maintain the heart-attitudes that God demands.
THE DELICATE BALANCE OF GRACE
There are two excessive interpretations that Bible believers tend to gravitate toward in their attempt to grasp this wondrous mystery of the grace of God. These two concepts are polar opposites. Both are erroneous outgrowths of a central core of truth. Both are condemned in Scripture, in no uncertain terms.
To the far right “Legalism” is discovered; to the far left, “Liberalism”—and there are powerful scriptures exposing both as imposters:
- LEGALISM—“Frustrating and invalidating the grace of God” (See Gal. 2:21 KJV, Amp.)
- LIBERALISM—“Insulting and outraging the Spirit of grace” (See Heb. 10:29 Amp, MKJV.)
Because both of these are serious doctrinal traps, they demand our attention. They must be understood if we are to achieve that proper and balanced view of grace that rests in the middle of these two extremes. Strangely, that’s usually where truth resides.
Frustrating and Invalidating the Grace of God—————————————————————
Paul referred to the Galatians as a “foolish” church (Gal. 3:1-3). He never addressed any other body of believers that way. Why the Galatians? Because they were “foolishly” reverting back to the rituals and regulations of the Old Covenant in their attempt to be justified (reckoned righteous in the sight of God). In refuting this legalistic error, the epistle-writer insisted, “I do not frustrate the grace of God, if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21 KJV). The Amplified Version of this passage adds even greater clarity:
…I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate and nullify the grace (unmerited favor) of God. For if justification (righteousness, acquittal from guilt) comes through [observing the ritual of] the Law, then Christ (the Messiah) died groundlessly and to no purpose and in vain [His death was then wholly superfluous].
Depending on mere religious trappings (holy days, repetitious prayers, sacred ceremonies, rigid rituals, religious clothing, high-spired steeples, ecclesiastical authority, denominational affiliation or even harsh asceticism) to establish us in righteousness before God is absolutely useless, hopeless and unproductive. The most terrible aspect of this legalistic approach is the fact that it robs the cross of its glory. This is a horrible injustice to the One who paid such an awesome price for our salvation. Faith in Him alone is sufficient. Anything less frustrates God and frustrates His grace.
The Scripture explains that we are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 3:24). So let it be reemphasized—to try and achieve a status of righteousness by strict adherence to some code of religious obligation invalidates the soul-delivering power of the crucified Savior, rendering the “promise” of cleansing through His blood to be of “none effect” (Ro. 4:14). Please note the following:
- God does save us because He is indebted to us. (See Ro. 4:4.)
- God does not save us because we fulfill the law. (See Ro. 4:14-16.)
- God does not save us because of our works. (See Ro. 11:6.)
One of the primary scriptures celebrated in this chapter claims:
By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Jesus reduced this issue to its purest essence, when He claimed, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (Jn. 6:29). “For he who comes to God must believe.” However strange it may seem, this is the key prerequisite in approaching the King of the universe, the Creator of all things, for “without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6).
Insulting and Outraging the Spirit of Grace———————————————————————
Ironically, this New Covenant mandate to simply believe can actually be carried too far (and unfortunately, often is). Though depending on faith can be spiritually exhilarating, it can also be spiritually debilitating—if not balanced with humility and sincere commitment to God. The writer of Hebrews warned that if those claiming to be Christians “go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth,” there is “no more sacrifice for sins” (in other words, no more access to that amazing grace available through the cross) (Heb. 10:26 Amp, KJV).
Some who purport to be “Christian” may exhibit all kinds of faith that the blood of Jesus is their only source of salvation, but if there is excessive worldliness, carnality and compromise in their lives—with no evidence of an intention to repent—such persons have “trampled the Son of God” and treated “the blood of the covenant” with which they were “sanctified an unholy thing” (Heb. 10:29 MKJV). That same passage goes on to say that those indulging in such hypocrisy are guilty of “insulting and outraging [the Spirit of grace]” (Heb. 10:30 Amp, KJV).
Jude also warned the church about “ungodly men,” purporting to be believers, who would try to turn “the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Ju. 1:4 KJV). The Modern King James Version describes them as “ungodly ones perverting the grace of our God for unbridled lust, and denying the only Master, God, even our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Amplified Version calls them “profane persons who pervert the grace (the spiritual blessing and favor) of our God into lawlessness and wantonness and immorality.” Jude exhorted that we should respond by contending “earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (Ju. 1:3).
Too often, the beautiful doctrine of grace has been manipulated to provide a loophole for a loose and licentious lifestyle. Some even push the boundary so far that in the name of grace they sanction as acceptable behavior some of the very sinful practices God has condemned in His Word. This is an affront to God. Jesus referred to this as “the depths of Satan” (Rev. 2:24). Did the angel Gabriel announce that Jesus came to “save His people IN their sins”? I don’t think so. Quite the contrary, he foretold that the Son of God would “save His people FROM their sins” (Mt. 1:21). There is a huge difference.
Finding the Balance————————————————————————————————–
So we can go too far to the right and be legalistic in our thinking, striving to be righteous by our own religious works. Or we can go too far to the left and throw all restraints to the wind, claiming it doesn’t matter. Actually, it does matter—greatly. Paul, the great proponent of grace still asked the pointed question, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Then he answered, “God forbid!” (Ro. 6:1-2 KJV).
The following three statements sum up this sub-theme concisely:
- We should not “frustrate the grace of God” because of self-righteousness.
- Neither should we “insult and outrage the Spirit of grace” because of unrighteousness.
- Rather, we should strive to live righteously with all our might, yet consider it primarily an act of devotion and worship toward the God of all grace who has so wondrously granted us the “gift of righteousness” (Ro. 5:17). We must never credit ourselves for some resulting ’status of righteousness.’ Only the blood of Jesus our accomplish that. Living righteously is our response of gratitude and the key to producing maximum fruit.
The Most Misunderstood “Grace” Passage in the Bible—————————————————–
For many years I have heard Galatians 5:4 referenced by Christians and non-Christians alike. For a long time, I never questioned their misapplication of this passage. Then I studied it carefully. I suggest that you slowly quote the following:
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
Most people think this idea of ‘falling from grace’ is descriptive of a Christian, especially a leader, ‘falling’ (backsliding) into immorality, drunkenness or some other kind of sin. However, that is absolutely the opposite of the true meaning of this verse. Notice that the person guilty of “falling from grace” is not a person indulging in carnal pleasures, but one who seeks to attain a status of righteousness by works of righteousness, by keeping God’s commandments, by fulfilling the law.
This was the spiritual emphasis in the Galatian church. They were depending on the law, things like feast days, Sabbath observances and circumcision, to render them righteous in the sight of God. Apparently, they did not fully comprehend that through “the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness” they had achieved a much higher degree or righteousness and a much greater acceptance in God’s presence (Ro. 5:17). For this reason Paul tried to ‘jar’ them out of their legalistic mindset, warning them that if they depended on religious rules and regulations for justification, “Christ is become of no effect unto you” (Gal. 5:4 KJV). These are strong words.
I believe the following Word-picture analogy will help you understand this concept:
Overwhelmed by the pain of darkness, a sin-stained child of Adam is struggling to climb out of the fiery abyss of the sin-nature. Then a ray of light lovingly strikes his soul from above and he realizes he cannot succeed on his own. He must cast his gaze heavenward. So he repents before God, casting his trust toward the Crucified One. Grace (unmerited love) rushes to his rescue. The cursed and embattled soul is immediately saved, regenerated and translated to the highest peak of a mountain called “Righteousness.” This crowning pinnacle represents a state of full acceptance in the sight of heaven—being “holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4).
Then unfortunately, the new believer begins to suffer doubts, afraid that he has not done enough to be worthy of such a lofty status. So instead of worshipfully and joyously celebrating the wonderful impartation of becoming “the righteousness of God” in Christ, the troubled child of God—gripped with spiritual anxiety—begins struggling religiously to try and earn the very thing that God has already given as a gift (2 Cor. 5:21).
Suddenly, he loses his footing. Sliding down the slippery slopes of ‘salvation by works’ to the low and treacherous valley of ‘religion,’ this unfortunate soul “falls from grace.” The joy of salvation takes its flight and once again, a painful, perpetual struggle ensues. Progress is slow and every little while, the weary pilgrim gazes upward toward the awe-inspiring mountain peak, wondering if it will ever be reached again.
So what is the moral of this story? The condition of falling from grace is not a result of unrighteousness, but rather, the result of self-righteousness—the attempt of a child of God to be righteous by works and not by faith.
GROWING IN GRACE
The Scripture describes grace resting upon the Messiah in his younger years: “the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace [charis] of God was upon Him” (Lk. 2:40). Then, when He reached about 12 years of age, it adds, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor [charis] with God and men. So Jesus grew in grace and favor—both vertically and horizontally, toward God and toward people. He walked more and more in His calling and purpose, and He was recognized by others who acknowledged the grace of God on His life. And so it should be for us.
In 2 Peter 3:18, we too are encouraged to “grow in grace.” This happens at least five different ways:
- 1. By yielding more to the purpose of God in our lives;
- 2, By yielding more to the character of God in our hearts;
- 3. By gaining more knowledge of God especially through His Word;
- 4. By receiving grace from others;
- 5. By giving grace away to others (becoming more gracious)—showing God’s love especially to the unloved, the unlovable and the unlovely.
John 1:16 explains that we receive “grace for grace.” In other words, the more grace we receive, the more grace we attract. The more grace we manifest toward others, the more grace is awakened within us.
All of the five means of growing in grace are important, but the fourth and fifth need elaboration.
Receiving Grace from Others————————————————————————————-
The fourth means of “growing in grace” is to receive spiritual deposits from others. This is especially possible through those who manifest an exceptional amount grace in their walk. Paul declared to the Philippians (and to us):
“You are all partakers of my grace!” (Philippians 1:7 MKJV)
As the early disciples heard Paul’s preaching, as they viewed his evangelistic fervor, as they were aided by his apostolic oversight, as they received his insights into the mysteries of the Kingdom—the grace on Paul’s life was transferred to them. They became “PARTAKERS OF GRACE” through another grace-filled vessel at the onset of the New Covenant era (Ph. 1:7 NASB).
How awe-inspiring it is that we of this last hour can reach back in time and partake, not only of Paul’s grace, but of the sum total of all the grace that has manifested through all of God’s representatives from the very beginning—from Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, all the prophets of the Old Testament, to Peter, James and John and all of the leaders of the early church, all the way up to great grace-filled leaders in the last six hundred years like Martin Luther, John Wesley, George Whitefield and more modern-day prophets. The combined sum of all this grace is heaped on us, as we benefit from all the truth, all the revelation, all the commitment, all the zeal, and all the fruitfulness they walked in.
We become partakers of Abraham’s faith, Jacob’s sense of values, Gideon’s courage, David’s passion for God, Solomon’s wisdom, Jeremiah’s tears, Daniel’s prayerfulness and the uncompromising steel-like will of Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego. Hundreds of small streams converge together into one mighty river of grace flowing into our hearts and minds.
In considering this, we, the church living in the last days, should be the most successful, most powerful and most victorious people of God to ever walk on the face of planet earth.
Giving Grace to Others—————————————————————————————-
God pours grace into our lives so that we can then pour grace into the lives of others. This is both our duty and our privilege. Two powerful passages explain:
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Ephesians 4:7 KJV)
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as GOOD STEWARDS OF THE MANIFOLD GRACE OF GOD. (1 Peter 4:10)
The Amplified Version enhances the last verse with some colorful words:
As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits] GOOD TRUSTEES OF GOD’S MANY-SIDED GRACE [faithful stewards of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor].
God’s gifts (Gr. charisma) are expressions of His grace (Gr. charis). They are given to us, not so much for our benefit, but for the benefit of others. These gifts of grace can range all the way from the five-fold ministry callings (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, See Eph. 4:11) to expressions of the Holy Spirit such as: healing, miracles, prophecy, exhortation, leadership, liberality, mercy and helps (1 Cor. 12:7-11, 28, Ro. 12:6-8). God even describes those who supply financial support for the poor and for God’s work as having received a special “grace” (2 Cor. 8:7). All of these gifts of grace are given to heal the hurting, to help the helpless, to mature, edify and bless the church, and to also reach those outside of a covenant relationship with God.
All these ministry offices and functions depend on communication. Your gifts often flow out to others through the words you speak. So make sure your words are full of grace, as the Scripture exhorts:
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:6)
A unique, Old Testament, Messianic prophecy beautifully depicts the Savior this way:
You are the fairest of the sons of men; grace is poured into Your lips; therefore God has blessed You forever. (Psalms 45:2 MKJV)
Whenever Jesus spoke, His words were with power, His words overflowed with grace—soothing the hearts of those who heard Him. In a far greater sense than Samuel, none of His words fell to the ground, useless and powerless. (See 1 Sam. 3:19, Pr. 3:19.) Therefore, He was blessed with eternal fruit because of His earthly sojourn. Psalms 22:11 gives a wonderful promise to those who seek to imitate the LORD in this way:
He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend.
I am sure you want the King to be your friend. I am sure you desire intimacy with Him. There is a key. Be watchful over your words. Make sure they are full of gracious, grace-filled attributes like love, peace, joy and faith, and you will surely find the LORD of grace in close proximity. When you show this kind of wisdom in your dealings with others, once again, you receive “grace for grace,” as revealed in the following verses:
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; she will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory she will deliver to you. (Proverbs 4:7-9)
To go through life wearing an “ornament of grace,” or as another version puts it, “a wreath of grace,” is wonderful (YLT). It means you have victoriously reigned, through wisdom and grace, over all the disappointments, hurts, failures and challenges you face in this often disappointing world.
Loving the Unlovely———————————————————————————————-
Remember, grace is unmerited love, when it flows from God to us, and when it flows from us to others. That means we are called, not just to show love to lovable people, but to the unlovely, the unloving and the unlovable.
This grace-challenge is actually hidden in the original Greek, in Jesus’ celebrated exhortation about loving our enemies. Though Jesus was described in the Gospel of John as being “full of grace and truth,” strangely, He is never quoted in the English version of the four gospels actually using the word “grace” in His teaching (Jn. 1:14). However, the Greek word charis, normally translated “grace,” does appear in the following passage three times, translated into the word “credit” (NKJV):
“But if you love those who love you, what credit [Gr. charis] is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.” (Luke 6:32-35)
Instead of “what credit is that to you?” another version of the Bible renders Jesus’ recurring question more literally, translating it:
“What grace do you practice?” (Ber)
Anyone can do good to those who do good to them. That is no accomplishment. To practice grace, however, is to reach out generously in compassion and mercy toward those who have mistreated us, wounded us, disappointed us, or simply those who are incapable of blessing us back in return. This is the very essence of what grace is. It is the excellency of the nature of our God and the excellency of the nature that He has challenged us to possess.
In Peter’s epistle this insight is expanded, in a passage where charis is translated into the word “commendable.”
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.
For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:19-20)
Other versions end verse 20 by explaining, “this is a gracious thing in the sight of God” or “it is a sign of grace.” (ESV, BBE)
So the greatest evidence of grace in believers concerns how they treat others and in how they react when they mistreated by others. You see, it is not enough to just believe in grace; to be genuine sons and daughters of God we have to “practice the grace of God.”
When we fulfill this aspect of grace, we are longer just HEIRS OF THE GRACE OF LIFE (inheriting the grace of God), we become GOOD STEWARDS OF THE MANIFOLD GRACE OF GOD (actively dispensing that grace to others). In fulfilling this role, we fulfill the calling to be THE GRACIOUS—God’s means of spreading His grace in this world (Ps. 18:25 Dar).
This completes the cycle and starts it all over again, because God has already promised that to “THE GRACIOUS” He will show Himself gracious (2 Samuel 22:26 Dar). So when we give grace away, it will be given back to us again—over and over. With the same measure we measure out, it will be measured to us again. In other words, God gives “grace for grace” (Jn. 1:16). This is the true confirmation of our calling in this area, for as the missionary E. Stanley Jones stated:
“Nothing is ever really yours until you share it.”
When Elijah complained that he was the only true servant of God left in the world, God protested, “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (Ro. 11:4). After relating this statement, Paul commented:
Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. (Romans 11:5)
God has always had a people in every era to whom He reveals Himself. He draws them close. He enlightens their minds that they might discern the difference between truth and error. Especially in these last days, as satanic activity increases, God will once again possess “a remnant according to the election of grace.” As Noah “found grace in the eyes of the LORD” during that former dreadful time of divine judgment, so there will be a people who find grace in His eyes in this hour.
In Acts 4:33 we are told that “with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.” During that initial move of God, the gifts of the Spirit were a common occurrence. The supernatural abounded. They experienced “great grace.”
Now we are living in the time of the “latter rain,” when the “glory of this latter house will be greater than the former” (Zec. 10:1, Hag. 2:9). This scripture out of Haggai was actually speaking of the restoration of the temple of Solomon. It had been completely destroyed when the Jews were carried away into Babylon. However, against all odds they returned to rebuild that famous edifice. Two anointed leaders, Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest, worked together toward this the restoration of God’s dwelling place.
At one point when it seemed the challenges were too great, God spoke through the prophet Zechariah to the governor of Judah, saying:
This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the LORD of hosts. “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!'”
In a similar, yet far more powerful way, the living temple of the body of Christ worldwide will surely be brought to completion in these last days—not my human efforts, but by the Spirit of the LORD. Even as the temple of Solomon was larger and more spectacular, once restored, than it was in the beginning, so will it be for the church of the living God. In a sense, God once again will bring forth the uppermost cornerstone—the capstone—at the coming of the LORD shouting, “GRACE, GRACE UNTO IT!”
2 Corinthians 6:1 urges us not to “receive the grace of God in vain” through worldliness or lack of commitment. Hebrews 12:15 warns us not to “fail” or “fall short of the grace of God” by allowing bitterness into our hearts (KJV, NKJV). For if we fail to extend unmerited love and forgiveness to others—even those who have wounded us—we “fall short” of the very nature of grace in our hearts.
The Scripture reveals a notable time, soon to come, when the Messiah will demonstrate grace this way, reaching out in great love to the very nation that wounded Him. At the close of this age, all nations will be gathered together against Jerusalem to battle, but God has promised to go forth and fight against those armies and subdue them.
Think of that! Many of the Israelites rejected Jesus in the beginning, and some even cried, “Crucify Him!” Since that time, many thousands of the seed of Abraham have refused the New Covenant and refused to accept Yeshua as their Messiah. Yet when it looks like the Jewish people in Israel will be destroyed by a united gathering of world armies, the Most High will rush to their rescue. He has already promised:
“…I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)
What a magnanimous display of love—revealing to them their Messiah, at a point when it will seem that all hope is lost! Dwell on that for a moment. If God would move in such a way for those who for the most part have not yet acknowledged His New Covenant plan, how much more will He will He pour out “the Spirit of grace” on those who have exalted Jesus as their Savior and LORD!
THE THRONE OF GRACE
Throughout history, God has approached and dealt with human beings three primary ways: through justice, mercy and grace.
- Justice means we get what we deserve.
- Mercy means we don’t get what we deserve, but…
- Grace means we get what we don’t deserve!
We could never approach God boldly if we came to a throne of justice. Justice would demand that we suffer the consequence of our sins (death). Neither could we be completely bold if we came only to a throne of mercy (as all those who visited the tabernacle in the wilderness: the blood-sprinkled “mercy seat” in the holy of holies). Mercy may cancel our sin debt, but we are still left incomplete and unfulfilled. Instead, in this glorious covenant, we are given an amazing invitation:
Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
At “the throne of grace” we will find “mercy” (not receiving what we deserve), but we will also find “grace to help” (receiving all the wonderful things of the New Covenant that we don’t deserve). But how do we come to the throne of grace “boldly”?
- By boldly believing that God has already “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
- By boldly praising Him in advance for the victory in every area of our lives.
- By boldly confessing that nothing can separate us from His love and no weapon formed against us shall prosper.
GRACE TO THE GRACE-GIVER
This wondrous work that the Most High has performed in our lives is not only for our benefit and the benefit of others; it is also for God’s sake, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). After this passage, the Scripture continues, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:6).
Redemption means being bought back and brought back to God by means of a purchase price. God redeems us, He looses us away from the bondage of our past and miraculously forgives us, dismissing our errors from His own mind. This whole process serves to reveal God’s character and prove the depth of His love toward us. The resulting praise stretches from time to eternity, as the Scripture explains:
He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come the immeasurable (limitless, surpassing) riches of His free grace (His unmerited favor) in [His] kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7 Amp)
We should be gripped with awe at such divine generosity. How can we sufficiently thank Him? How can we extol the depths of His love and the heights of His mercy? Maybe Paul gave us the best way to sum it all up. After encouraging the Corinthian church to be generous toward others in need, he joyously exclaimed:
Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15 KJV)
Interestingly, the word translated “thanks” in this verse is the Greek word charis. So if this passage was rendered literally, we would find Paul shouting:
Grace be to God for His indescribable, incomparable, inexpressible, unspeakable gift of grace toward us!
But how do you ‘give grace’ to God? By taking all the God-authored expressions of grace in our souls—like joy, peace and love—and generously, abundantly, returning them back to the Him in the form of thanksgiving, praise and worship—both now and forevermore. That God has actually enabled us to do this should fill us with indescribable awe. So let it be said again:
“Grace be to God for His…inexpressible…gift of grace toward us.”
By now it should dawn on us why the Old Testament ends with the word “curse” and the New Testament ends with the statement “the grace of our LORD Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Rev. 22:21, See Mal. 4:6.) For this truly is the sum of the whole matter:
“The grace of our LORD Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
G is for GIFT—the principle of grace
R is for REDEMPTION—the purpose of grace
A is for ACCESS—the privilege of grace
C is for CHARACTER—the product of grace
E is for ETERNAL LIFE—the prospect of grace
 Osbeck, Kenneth W., 101 More Hymn Stories (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982) under Still, Still with Thee, p. 250
Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, 1985 by Baker Book House Company, from PC Bible under “Gratia”
 International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. under “Grace”
http://www.reflections-online.net/en/spiritual_quotes_12.php, accessed 9/11/2012
www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/241779.E_Stanley_Jones, accessed 8/25/2012.