Thursday, December 21, 2006

Limited Grace

In a previous post, I mentioned that we tend to reduce grace to a deposit in some cosmic bank account. We say that it is “God’s unmerited favor” and limit that favor to getting signed up for heaven.

The Bible has a much richer concept of grace.

In the following Scriptures, grace seems to refer to God’s power:

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them.
Hebrews 13:9

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:6–7

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.
Acts 6:8

In these passages, grace seems to refer to spiritual gifts or special abilities that God gives people:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. Romans 12:6

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
Ephesians 4:7

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
Romans 12:6

Here grace appears to be a capacity that God provides which produces maturity in a follower of Christ:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 3:18

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:1

In these two instances, grace seems to mean God’s care:

From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.
Acts 14:26

Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.
Acts 15:39–40

In these passages, Paul addresses the role of God’s grace in his life:

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 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. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
1 Corinthians 15:9–11

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for
my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s
grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
Ephesians 3:7–8

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Romans 12:3

I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:15–16

The first two, seem to be using the term to refer to God’s power at work in his life. The other three seem to use it to refer to his office as an apostle.

If you are still thinking that grace refers only to the substitutionary atonement, this verse should resolve the issue:

And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
Luke 2:40

Of course, the child is Jesus. God’s grace was upon him. And in this case, the favor was not “unmerited.” This suggests a richer meaning for John 1:14:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
May the love of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Spirit be with you this Christmas season.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

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