Our dispensation in God’s eternal plan is commonly known as “the age of grace,” although it seems few understand the ramifications of this wonderful gift from God. Most use it as a way of explaining how they are “saved by grace” but give little thought to why it’s referred to as “Amazing.”
Even from the beginning God freely gave grace to humans by saving Noah in the sixth chapter of Genesis, as he and his family were spared from the ravages of the worldwide flood in which the rest of the world perished, “But Noah found grace (favor) in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). Actually, the word grace or its synonym, such as graciousness or the often-used favor, appears 20 times the New King James Version of the Old Testament.
Favor or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that same person deserves. Grace is one of the key attributes of God. The Lord God is “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” <Ex. 34:6>. Therefore, grace is almost always associated with mercy, love, compassion, and patience as the source of help and with deliverance from distress.
6And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
Same God, different covenant
Erroneously some people associate the God of the Old Testament as harsh and vindictive, while seeing Him as the God of grace in the New Testament. God’s nature has never changed (Mal. 3:6), although He’s dealt differently with human beings at times because of our unruly natures, particularly those living under law, or without it, prior to the giving of the New Covenant. Let’s briefly examine several references to grace, besides Noah, under the Old Covenant:
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, but Lot found grace and escaped. And Lot said unto them, ‘Oh, not so, my Lord: behold now, Your servant has found GRACE in Your sight, and You have MAGNIFIED YOUR MERCY, which You have showed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape there…’ ”(Gen. 19:17-20).
Moses himself found grace in the eyes of God, when he pleaded with God on behalf of the children of Israel after their grievous sins of debauchery and idolatry, which they had committed while Moses was receiving the law on Mount Sinai for forty days and nights.
“And Moses said unto the Lord, ‘See, You say unto me, “Bring up this people”….Yet You have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.” Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You, that I may find grace in Your sight: and consider that this nation is Your people….For wherein shall it be known here that I and Your people have found grace in Your sight?’ ” (Ex.33:12-16.)
God extended His grace freely to individuals and nations who humbly sought His favor in Old Testament times. God granted His grace to Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the children of Israel, the Ninevites, David, and even kings Ahab and Manasseh when they repented of their wickedness.
But certainly because of the death of Jesus Christ, His wrath was removed for everyone who would accept Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of their sins:
Ephesians 2:8-9 Amplified Bible (AMP)
8 For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; 9 not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation].
Please note several important facts about this wonderful Scripture:
- It is grace that draws you to God; you can’t come on your own accord.
- We are delivered once and for all from God’s judgment and given eternal life.
- Included in this remarkable verse is the fact that it isn’t our faith that is exercised initially, but it’s also a gift that is given to us that we may respond to God with the measure of our faith (Rom 12:3).
- God didn’t leave room for humans to boast about it nor take credit for any aspect of it!
Grace upon grace
This grace is multiplied in many ways as “grace upon grace.”
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’”16 And[e] of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Grace isn’t just a nice token of God’s presence in our lives – it is the power through which we live. Actually, you can sum up grace as working in three ways – Saving grace (we call this act justification), Sanctifyinggrace in which we are changed into Christ’s likeness and Serving grace, through which we serve God.
- Saving grace– “By grace are you saved through faith...” (Gal. 2:8-9).
- Sanctifying grace– “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified”(Heb. 10:14).
- Serving grace– “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me”(1 Cor. 15:10).
Like Paul, God works in us by His Holy Spirit to do what He wants. Our job is to avail ourselves of this grace:
2 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Phil 2:13 NIV).
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, grace in us can be frustrated, failed and resisted.
- Frustrating grace– (Gal. 2:21) by putting our emphasis on works. Most people do this through a “works mentality,” either because they try to mix grace with law and rules, or they are ignorant that their own efforts often block the grace of God:
“Therefore, I do not treat God’s gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose]; I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate andnullify 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 andto no purpose andin vain.” [His death was then wholly superfluous.] (AMP emphasis added).
- Fail the grace of God– (Heb. 12:15) by the root of bitterness. Bitterness directly opposes the grace of God in us through our hatred, resentment, jealousy, etc., which is rooted in unforgiveness. It should be noted that bitter people also send of “vibes” that defile others.
15 See to it that no one falls short of God’s grace; that no root of resentment springs up and causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; (Heb. 12:15 Amp).
- Resist grace– (James 4:6) by our pride: “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble”(James 4:6 KJV).
Pride comes in many forms. As Derek Prince once wrote, pride comes in four ways: 1) pride of race; 2) pride of place or position; 3) pride of face, beauty or handsomeness; 4) pride of grace or religious pride. In all these, God can resist us, because without humility concerning what we have received or accomplished, He will resist us. Why? So through our understanding of the sin of pride, we can repent and receive MORE grace!
The attempt to mix works with grace to attempt to get more “brownie points” with God is a horrible mistake. The Apostle Paul made this very clear when he wrote that if it’s one, it’s not the other:
“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace, but if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work”(Romans 11:6).
Wearing humility like apron!
Particularly in the church, those under elders, must be careful to exercise humility, especially toward elders, lest Satan is given an opportunity to attempt to “devour” those who refuse to do this:
1 Peter 5:5-6 Amplified Bible (AMP)
5 Likewise, you younger men [of lesser rank and experience], be subject to your elders [seek their counsel]; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another [tie on the servant’s apron], for God is opposed to the proud [the disdainful, the presumptuous, and He defeats them], but He gives grace to the humble.6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time… 8 Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour.
Living by grace
My premise is that we indeed live by grace. Consider the following:
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Col. 4:6 NIV)
Power to witness
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all (Acts 4:33 NIV)
They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. (2 Cor. 8:5-7 NIV).
Empowerment in all things
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Cor. 9:8 ESV).
Joe Beckham is the author of Deeper Water for Thirsty Souls and Overcoming Bipolar Disorder: A Christian Perspective
Get the print version today at https://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=overcoming+bipolar+disorder+%26+Other+mental+difficulties&type=. The print version also will soon be available on Amazon, ITunes and other book distribution websites along with the epub version, which is already available. Joe is also the author of Deeper Water for Thirsty Souls – http://amzn.com/1493781286