Summary: In 2 Corinthians 12:9 the Lord tells Paul "My grace is sufficient." If God's grace is all Paul needed to deal with the messenger from Satan, perhaps there's more about grace that we need to know and understand.
I have been reading 2 Corinthians 12 about the Apostle Paul and his pleading with God three times to handle “a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan” sent to stop him from preaching the gospel. The Lord’s response gives me goosebumps.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“Everything you need is found in my grace Paul,” the Lord says. “My strength is available to you through my grace. It’s all you need to change whatever needs to be changed in your life.”
If God’s grace is all Paul needed to deal with the devil Satan assigned to stop him, perhaps there’s more about grace that we need to know and understand.
In the New Testament, two words define and capture the essence of what it means to be a Christian – grace and faith. We generally refer to grace as the “precious, unmerited favor of God” and faith as “believing and trusting in God to take care of us.”
In scripture, grace and faith are inseparable and work together, for example, in Ephesians 2:8 to bring about God’s free gift. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Our faith accessing God’s grace is how we are born again.
Our faith gives us access to God’s grace and we need to understand more clearly what happens when our faith touches that grace.
For many years, I had a very narrow view of grace. Grace was simply “God’s unmerited favor.” God had given me something I didn’t deserve.
Grace was also the one thing that made me different from the Old Testament believers. I didn’t have to worry if I sinned – accidently or on purpose – because I wasn’t under the law. I now live under grace (Romans 6:14).
Like I said, my view of grace was narrow, and to be honest, really self-serving. I didn’t worry when I sinned because I was under my Heavenly Father’s unmerited favor. I knew He’d forgive me when I sin (not if I sinned). First John 1:9 told me what I needed to do if I sinned.
“If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful (even when I’m not) and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I was behaving as though God applied a different standard under grace than He did under the law. Folks, the standard never changed. Under the law, God demanded holiness and obedience. Do you know what God demands of Christians today? Holiness. Obedience.
Could our view of grace be off – just a little?
When we talk about grace, we usually associate it with God’s “feelings” for sinners and for error-prone and/or needy Christians (“There but for the grace of God go I.”). We also associate grace with His willingness to forgive. But is that all there is to grace?
If God’s grace is only about His feelings, then certain verses in Scripture would be difficult to understand. Take Luke 2:40 for example: “And the child [Jesus] grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him.”
Did Jesus sin? No. Was Jesus error-prone? No. Did Jesus need God’s forgiveness? No. Now turn to Acts 10:38.
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil: for God was with him.”
Do you see the similarities in these verses? Whatever this grace is, it’s more than just having God’s unmerited favor. Whatever this grace is, it will give us access to the same anointing and power that Jesus had when he was here on earth.
We need to see grace through new “glasses”.
In Acts 4, the religious leaders forbid Peter and John to preach about Jesus. They return to the believers and report what had happened. The believers “lifted up their voices in one accord” and praised God. You can read more about this in verses 24-30. Now look at verse 33.
“And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”
Verse 33 connects “great power” with “great grace”. Could it be that grace is more than God’s unmerited favor? Is it possible that grace is a spiritual force – a power – released by God into our lives to help us accomplish His will?
I believe the answer to both questions is “yes”.
The 20th Century New Testament renders “great grace” as “divine help” and presents an image that gives more insight into the real nature of God’s grace.