God’s Great Grace

                                   

The word “grace” (chen in Hebrew) is closely connected with the idea of “favor.”  That connection is still seen in modern Hebrew.  When Israelis speak of “finding favor” with another person, the expression “matza chen  is still used.  These are the identical Hebrew words used of Noah in Genesis 6:8:  “But Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the LORD….”  This happens to be the first occasion that the word “grace” is used in scripture.  Although Noah was a righteous man, the favor or grace of God was still unmerited.  God’s grace is always unmerited.

We find numerous examples of unmerited grace in scripture.  Many people found grace although they had terrible problems in their lives.  Think of the sons of Jacob.  Judah, leader of the tribes, sinned horribly with his own betrothed daughter in law, thinking she was but a prostitute (Gen. 38:1-30).  Still, we can certainly say that Judah found grace in God’s eyes. His tribe later brought forth the Messiah. Then there was Levi, that one who was to bring forth the priesthood in Israel, and who was to be the progenitor of the great Moses.  Levi killed men in his anger and was therefore scattered in Israel (Gen. 49:6-7).  Yet he found grace in the eyes of the Lord and was later given responsibility for the priesthood and the Tabernacle.  Then of course there was the great David who committed adultery and murder.  He still found favor with God and was given an eternal messianic kingdom.

The inescapable conclusion before us is that grace is for sinners. We also must never think we deserve anything that the Lord has done for us.  His favor or grace is totally unmerited.  God says in Exodus 33:19: “…I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

GRACE, A PART OF GOD’S PERSONALITY

Grace is part of God’s personality and nature.  It is even a part of his name.  In Exodus 34:6-7, the Lord made a personal appearance to Moses and proclaimed his great name.  Here is what he said: “…The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin…”  Yes, part of God’s very name is “gracious.”

The Bible is full of God’s gracious acts, flowing forth from his name. He delivered Israel from Egypt and gave them the Promised Land, but not because of their own goodness (Deut. 9:5-60).  It was solely an act of God’s grace.

It was God’s gracious act to later restore the nation of Israel after they had been sold into Babylonian captivity for seventy years.

GRACE IS SUPREMELY REVEALED IN JESUS

Of course, the supreme act of God’s grace was to give his Son, Jesus for our redemption.

In the Old Testament we have man seeking to find grace, but in the New Testament we have grace seeking to find man.  That grace is revealed in Jesus Christ, who is in search of fallen man.  That grace has now come into our world to bring salvation to us.  John says of him: “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” (Jn. 1:14).  Indeed, a few verses later John says of him: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  Thus we see that Jesus was and is the very embodiment of God’s grace.  In Titus 2:11, Jesus is even referred to as “the Grace of God.”

Grace was a word often on the tongues of the earliest Christians.  The word was regularly used as a greeting and a salutation in many New Testament epistles.  It seems that these early Christians simply could not get over the wonderful grace of God that was so freely given to them in the Messiah.  They were totally immersed in God’s grace.

GRACE IS INDISPENSABLE TO SALVATION

In the last analysis, salvation is a gift of grace.  In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”  We must realize that our salvation only comes because God is gracious to us.  It never comes because of our worthiness or because of our works.

So to put it simply, we are all sinners, naturally lost and cut off from God (Rom. 3:23).  God loved us anyway and had mercy and compassion on us.  Because of his great grace he decided to send his Son.  His Son, Jesus, came to live in this wretched and fallen world.  In the end, he offered up his life on the cross and shed his blood as a sacrifice in order to procure our salvation.  By believing on him and his perfect sacrifice, we can now be saved from our sins and from ourselves.  That well-known verse in John 3:16 says it all: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  This is perhaps the purest and clearest picture of grace in the whole Bible.

We see in scripture that grace not only initiates salvation but grace sustains it. We cannot be Christians in our own strength and by our own wisdom.  In Acts 20:32 Paul says to the church: “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

As a part of his great saving program the Lord also sends us his Holy Spirit to live within us.  This is another of those free gifts, not based on our own works or worthiness.  We see in Hebrews 10:29 that even the Lord’s Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of grace.”

So grace is a free and wonderful gift from heaven, available to all people.  It is available regardless of the sins a person may have committed.  But we see in scripture that grace must be accompanied by faith.  In other words we must believe and accept that which God has given.  God is so gracious he will even help us to believe.

                                                                                                                – Jim Gerrish

Publication date, 2003