What About Grace?


The topic is “Law vs. Grace” but so far we’ve focused on the law. Here’s a short summary.

In “What is the Law?” we looked at some examples of natural and civil laws to see that laws aren’t to cause changes –instead they describe things and how those things work. We also saw that the same view is helpful for understanding the laws in the Bible. The “law of sin and death” describes our original condition as dead –separated from God. And the “law of the Spirit of life” describes how we can obtain new life –be forever united with Him. Working together these two laws describe how His salvation works.

Next, in “The Purpose of the Law” we saw what the Old and New Covenants’ laws were for. The former, with all of its rules and traditions, was instituted to direct the Israelites in their ministry as priests to the world. Whether they knew it or not, they were ambassadors who were given a collage of pictures to preach about Jesus (Joshua, Yeshua). Then He came and did everything written in it. It’s His biography so of course He did it all.

By the way, no other man would, or could, do it all –the Ten Commandments prove that. Paul explained that their Law was a tutor to lead people to Christ so that they would then leave it and live exclusively by faith in Him (from Galatians 3:22-26).

The Israelites’ covenant ended at the crucifixion of the One that their Law pictured. Then the New Covenant was put into effect and its law directs our message as His ambassadors. We are to tell the world that Jesus removed every hindrance preventing mankind from approaching God to receive His gift of life. Specifically, we are to convey that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them … we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” That’s what 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 describes –and it’s the fruition of what was predicted in Jeremiah 31:34.

Beginnings of Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

For us grace-lovers, one of the greatest faith-moments ever experienced was realizing that the law really wasn’t intended to be the guide for a believer’s life. It was such wonderful news that we began telling our friends about it –describing it as “grace.” But that’s as limited as telling a child about a rainbow –describing it as “red.”

A meager attempt at explaining grace is through this often repeated triplet. “Justice is getting what we deserve; mercy is not getting what we do deserve and grace is getting what we don’t deserve.” Although the saying is somewhat ambiguous, it does identify a progression of a believer’s life. First comes demanding justice. After realizing what we would get, it becomes the last thing we want. Then there’s understanding God’s mercy. It’s the threshold for grasping God’s love and it’s how He wants us to relate to others. Finally, there’s grace…

Living by grace begins when obedience to the Law ends.

In dance, grace describes smooth gliding movements across the floor. In music, grace-notes are the brisk accents that engagingly carry the listener between chords. In gatherings, social-grace is the ability to pleasantly (and inoffensively) join in conversations and activities with others. In nature, it’s the seemingly effortless motion of trees swaying, water creatures swimming and birds soaring –each in its own environment.

God’s grace for believers describes the smooth, gliding, engaging, pleasing, inoffensive, effortless transition from the time we’re saved here on earth to when we’re holding hands with our loving Husband –romantically gazing into each other’s eyes at the marriage feast in heaven.

The difference between graceful transitions and herky-jerky movements are constraints. There are physical constraints –like gravity affects athletes, wind gusts affect sailors or rough terrain affects hikers. And there are emotional constraints like the fear of disappointment affects children, failure affects workers or rejection affects new relationships.

Our initial understanding of God’s grace was that the law’s constraints on our behaviors were removed. However, as we grow in faith, we find that grace is a description of His total acceptance of who we have become –the bride of Christ.

Don’t Be Fooled

“I’m sorry, please have mercy and don’t give me what I deserve.” Essentially that’s what we ask when a policeman stops us for a traffic violation. And it’s what we begged from our parents, teachers and supervisors when we got caught doing something wrong. However, that can’t describe how we relate to God –not if we believe that Jesus really, already did everything to reconcile us. Asking for mercy is denying what He did –it’s falling from grace (Galatians 5:4).

“It’s just not fair, I deserve justice.” Sure it sounds right and it’s natural to feel that way after being wronged. We want everyone to know we aren’t guilty and we want that other person to suffer the penalty of our choosing. It’s what our flesh desires but it’s not God’s way. (That’s the subject of the remainder of Galatians chapter five.) Wanting justice is evicting God from His throne as judge.

God just wants us to trust Him –He’s working out every detail of this life for our good (from Romans 8:28).

Gracefully Maturing

“Grace and peace to you” is a greeting found in the first few verses of most of the New Testament letters. Together those two words describe God’s goal for a believer’s life. However, at least an introduction to grace must come before peace can be attained.

Until Jesus came, grace –and mercy– were a mystery that was only hinted about. When you read these Old Testament stories, notice that He’s also telling about His grace for you.

  • Enoch didn’t die and neither did Elijah. Grace is shown by their instantaneous transition to be with God. We’re in His kingdom while we’re also living here on earth –death doesn’t come first.
  • As the only good man on earth, Noah was chosen to begin a new world. God’s grace allowed him to bring along his wife and family. His story predicts Jesus bringing us –His undeserving bride– with Him as He begins a new creation.
  • God loved Abraham and inaugurated a kingdom of priests to the world through his offspring –they were former slaves to ungodliness. Grace is shown through the parallel –even though we were lost, dead in our trespasses, enemies to God –He gave us new life so we can be His ambassadors for Christ.
  • Moses was God’s friend –they met and talked daily face-to-face –and Joshua was there too. Grace for us is not being left alone to face our offensive, fleshly ways –our Savior has led us into His kingdom and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter while we wait to be with our best Friend face-to-face.
  • Gideon had wonderful exchanges with Him –and David was a man after God’s own heart. Grace for them was the same as for us. We can implicitly trust God regardless of our behaviors –and know that He loves us with His whole heart.
  • Two unworthy prostitutes appealed to King Solomon for a decision as to which of them should have custody of a three-day old infant (a reference to life through Jesus’ resurrection). They depict the two ways mankind relates to God. One demands His justice and gets it –eternal death, apart from Him. The other appeals for His mercy and grace and gets it –eternal life, resurrected with Him.

After Jesus’ coming, Paul talked about grace extensively –particularly in Ephesians chapter three and Philippians chapter four. In those two letters (and others), grace is described as a secure relationship between believers and God. It’s trusting that there is nothing you can do to mess things up between the two of you. You can relax and trust Him for His friendship, His companionship during your troubles, His provision for your needs, His work in the hearts of those dear to you, His Spirit’s presence in your every breath, His profound love for you. You are the love of His life.

Let’s not forget what changed. The time was over for pictures and hints from the Old Covenant. Jesus –the One who was pictured by it– was born, crucified and raised to new life. Now, God has revealed Himself so that we can understand and know Him personally –intimately. First Corinthians, chapter two says that’s why He has given us His Spirit.

God’s grace becomes more evident and indispensable as you learn about –and then experience– His unconditional love for you.

His proving ground for maturing you in grace is right here on earth. It’s achieved through experiences –individually, and as a family member, a worker, a neighbor, a friend, an ambassador of Christ. God isn’t proving how good or faithful you are. Instead He’s proving that He is totally trustworthy –that He is necessary and sufficient for every bit of your life.

As you go through your day and recognize Him at work on your behalf –not always doing things the way you want– you have an opportunity to increase your dependency on Him and experience a magnificent result –“the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension” (Philippians 4:6-7).