Summary: The grace of God is an often misunderstood subject in churches today. Are we saved by grace or works? How does God's grace save the believer?
Defining God's Grace
What are we talking about when we talk about the grace of God? Grace is a word that has much used, much misused, and much abused word in Christian Theology. People talk more and more nowadays about God’s grace and completely miss the justice of God, and in so doing create an idol. Some use the concept of the grace of God as a license to sin, which is clearly spoken against in scripture. How God’s grace works alongside His justice and His hatred towards sin is an important thing to learn if we are going to draw closer to God and to see how desperate we are for Him.
Simply put, in speaking about this attribute of God, it means that God shows favor and kindness to us in spite of our deserving the opposite. We don’t in any way deserve it, but He still offers it freely as a gift. It is most often defined as unmerited favor. It is the favor of God shown to those who not only are unworthy of forgiveness, but who are thoroughly deserving of death and hell.
Whenever we think of the grace of God, what usually comes to our minds? Salvation in the New Testament. People think of Jesus as the one who revealed that part of God's character. Most people do not look at the God of the Old Testament as being a God that is gracious. But this may surprise you, God's grace, graciousness, mercy, or loving-kindness is mentioned more in the Old Testament than the New Testament. Most people completely miss God’s grace in the Old Testament because of all of the times where God shows His justice under that covenant.
"The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" Ex 34:6
"Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him." Isa 30:18
"...rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster." Joel 2:13
GOD'S FIRST ACT OF GRACE IN THIS WORLD: CREATION
Creation of man is a work of God's Grace. God was not lonely and decide that because He was lonely He would make this world and put men in it. He didn't have to do it. But because He did, you and I could not only have life, but everything else that we have. Paul says God gives us life, breath, and all things. In Him we live, move, and have our being. The reason we have light, food, water, plants, air to breathe, people (family and friends) that we can be close to, etc. is because God has been gracious and allowed it. The reason why we have any purpose in life whatsoever is because God has given it. These are all things that we tend to take for granted, but we need to remember that God is the one who graciously gives them. I think it is safe to say that nothing that we have did we get on our own. Nothing. Either God allowed it or made it happen by His grace.
GRACIOUS IN "LAW" GIVING
Whenever we think about God’s grace, we usually don’t think about all of the laws and commands that He gives us in His word. People today tend to look at God’s commands as being a burden and that if you even mention the idea of the law of God; you in some way nullify His grace. But this notion is ridiculous.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 (NASB95)
God gave His law to His people under the Old Covenant, and He gave us commandments and laws in the New Testament, for our good.
"So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. Deut 6:24 (NASB95)
He gives us His laws by His grace so we can know what He expects of us as His people. He also gives us His laws by His grace so we can stay away from things that can be harmful to us. It is like the common illustration of a mother commanding their child not to touch the hot stove. The command was given by the loving mother so the child could be saved from unneeded pain. The same is the case with God’s commands for His people. They are indeed for our good always.