The word grace has become an everyday church conversational word, until many Christians uses the words without truly understanding the weight behind it. Some Christians understand grace as God’s richest at Christ’s expense. Some as God’s unmerited favors towards undeserving people. Most of us uses grace as synonym to forgiveness of sin. But then, a lot of believers see grace as God’s additional help to add for the lack of perfection in our self-effort. Grace is what God gives to you when you tried your best but you fail. There is a popular saying that says, ‘God help those who help themselves.’ If these definitions of grace is true, then grace is not amazing at all.
It is very hard to define the word grace. But it is crucial that we have the right understanding of it.
Without the right understanding of grace, we wont be able to understand the fullness of God in the Bible.
Grace is ever present in every single page of the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, grace is the long thread that connect everything together for God’s glory. So without understanding grace correctly, we can have a distorted view of the One true living God. But when we have the correct understanding of grace, only then we can sing ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.’
In order for us to understand the amazing-ness of grace and the weight behind the word, Sam Storm in his book ‘Chosen for Life,’ writes 10 characteristic of grace. I hope these ten points will help us realize that grace is truly amazing.
- Grace presupposes sin and guilt. In another word, grace has meaning only when we realize that we are sinful and guilty. The main reason why people think so little of grace is because they do not understand the weight of their sin and guilt before the holy God.
- Grace does not contemplate sinners merely as undeserving, but as ill-deserving. Prior to salvation, we are not living in ‘neutral zone.’ According to the Bible, we are on our way to hell. It is not simply we do not deserve grace; we do deserve hell! We were once the enemies of God, if it not for His grace (Romans 5:10)
- Grace is not dependent upon the merit or demerit of its objects. Grace ceases to be grace if it can be earned by human merit. Grace ceases to be grace if it can be withdrawn by human demerit. J.I. Packer put it this way: “Grace is not treating a person less than, as, or greater than he deserves. It is treating a person without the slightest reference to desert whatsoever, but solely according to the infinite goodness and sovereign purposes of God.”
- Grace cannot incur a debt. Since grace is a gift, nothing can be done with a view to repaying God for it. The Biblical response to grace received is faith to receive more of it.
- With respect to justification, grace stands opposed to works (Romans 4:4-5); however, with respect to sanctification, grace is the source of works. This simply means that we are saved by grace for good works. Good works are the fruit and not the root of grace (Eph 2:8-10).
- Grace that saves is eternal but is manifested in the historical appearance of Christ. Grace comes and manifested fully in the person of Jesus Christ (2 Tim 1:9-10).
- Grace is free! The moment grace lost its ‘free-ness’, it ceases to be grace. (Rom 3:24)
- Grace is sovereign. Although God is gracious, He is not bound to give His grace to everyone. If grace becomes an obligation to God, grace would not be grace. God graciously saves some but not all, according to His sovereign good pleasure
- Grace is the foundation and the means of our election (Rom 11:5), our regeneration (Eph 2:5), our redemption (2 Cor 8:9), our justification (Titus 3:5-7) and the whole of our salvation (Eph 2:8)
- Grace is certainly free, but it is not always unconditional. Many of God’s acts and blessing are conditional. Eg: Eph 6:4; James 4:6, Psalm 103:17-18. But conditional grace is not earned grace. When God’s grace is promised based on a condition, that condition is also work of God’s grace. God graciously enables the condition that He requires (Phil 2:12-13). Our security is as secure as God is faithful.
Grace is indeed amazing. It does not originate from us but in God. We are only the undeserved recipients of grace, and thats what make grace so amazing. J.I. Packer expressed it this way:
“The grace of God is love freely shown toward guilty sinners, contrary to their merit and indeed in defiance of their demerit. It is God showing goodness to persons who deserve only severity, and had no reason to expect anything but severity.”