Understanding “grace” is essential in the life of a professing Christian. Understanding it accurately makes a significant difference in having a growing relationship with Christ and victorious God-glorifying life. Grace is one of the most essential concepts in the Bible. John Gresham Machen says, “The very centre and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.”
Let us begin by defining “grace”. The most broadly used definition is “God’s grace is His unmerited favour”. In fact, the whole gospel message is the good news of “grace” and reveals an essential part of the character of God. Theologian Louis Berkhof defines grace in this manner, “the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, effected through the agency of the Holy Spirit.” Amen! Grace is not a one-time event and not just unmerited favour, but it is God’s favour on a sinner who deserves the full wrath and judgment of God. Since grace is not a one-time event, it must be active in our life every moment. We must stand in grace, be empowered by grace, be strengthened by grace, and grow in the grace and knowledge of God.
Saving grace is what reconciles sinners back to God through Jesus Christ. It is the unearned favour of God. By ourselves, we can never approve ourselves to God. The Bible teaches us that no one is righteous, no one understands, and no one seeks God (Romans 3:10-11). By the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in His sight (Romans 3:20). Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The wages of sin is death, but God’s free gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). This grace is what saves a person. An unsaved people have their minds darkened by sin and cannot understand the truth; our wills are dead. We cannot choose or seek God because there is no one capable of doing good, so we remain under the curse of the law, eternal death. In essence, we cannot save ourselves or even try to save ourselves because no one seeks God.
In our fallen state, we are utterly unworthy of salvation and are subject to eternal wrath. Ephesians 2:1-3 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Since we are not capable of coming to Christ using our ability, salvation is an act of the sovereign grace of God. God in His sovereignty and graciousness predestines us to salvation. Ephesians 1:5-6 says, “he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” God in His sovereignty has chosen those He saves through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for salvation. Romans 3:24 says, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,’
So, Grace is not dependant on merit. It is not based on what someone deserves or doesn’t deserve, or anything in the slightest of being worthy of something. Instead, it is entirely based on one thing: the sovereign purpose of God and His eternal graciousness and goodness. This means that no work is required to receive grace. Grace no longer becomes grace if it is given based on our merit. Likewise, grace is no longer grace if once we receive it, if we are obliged to do some sort of work to maintain grace, then it is no longer grace. We must understand that any good works that result from grace are the fruits of God’s saving grace.
There is nothing we can do by ourselves to contribute to our salvation, and so Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “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.” This is God’s doing and a free gift of His choosing. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” It is ultimately a sovereign act of God.
Notice, just because grace is unmerited, and nothing we do can alter God’s grace toward us; it does not mean that grace is a licence to sin. Using “grace” to sin is a perversion of His grace. Romans 6:1-4 says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Instead, grace must lead us to holiness and godliness. Titus 2:11-13 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,”. Someone who has experienced the grace of God in their lives is motivated to do everything to glorify God. This motivation is a result of their love toward God. If you have experienced grace, you will give up your fleshly life to follow Christ (Luke 9:23). Grace must lead to a life of sanctification. Sanctification happens to those in Christ, and by the sacrifice of Christ, God is perfecting forever those being made holy (Hebrews 10:4). Amen!
Likewise, grace is also not legalistic. In other words, not falling into the trap of thinking you are being saved because of how good you are in keeping the law of God. Or even to believe that God might have seen some small good in you, and so you have experienced salvation. It is a good thing to try to please God and do His will according to the word of God. The difference is if you depend on your work to receive the grace of God and his approval, then you have not really experienced grace, and you are still relying on yourself. Instead, in all things, rely on God. If you do good, then it is only possible because of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Amen!
In conclusion, grace is the unmerited favour of God in our lives, and it is the power that enables us to live holy lives (2 Corinthians 9:8, 12:9). It is the good news of the gospel to set us free from sin, from its power, and its consequences. We receive salvation because of His grace, and this should lead us to fall in love with Jesus Christ, doing all to glorify Him in every area of our life.