My wife, after reading my post, “Words With Histories,” thought it would be a wonderful idea if I continued to attempt to define words. Instead of words with histories that are rather undisputed, she offered words like: grace, mercy, holy, glory, and so on. Each word on their own should warrant a book of discussion given the depth of meaning in the Bible. I have been thinking about how to come at these words in a way that would make sense, that is, not from a systematic theology text book. So, my definitions will be more like a conversation to try to show the idea behind the word. Also, I will only discuss one word per post, which I hope will allow space to chat and think. For this post, I would like to look at the word grace.
There are many facets to the word grace. To cover all the tendrils that come out of the word, grace, I would like to say: God does it.
Grace is most often defined as unmerited favor, which is true, but I think we should put “unmerited favor” in a context to better understand it. I want to lay a foundation that speaks to our existence, and then from that show how grace is applied, and hopefully by doing this we will have a better understanding of: God does it.
In our society, in our democratic nation, we view not only other people, but ourselves as having value in merely existing. We call these, rights. I have rights, you have rights, everyone has rights. This works fairly well on a horizontal level, by which I mean a governmental, person to person level. If you impinge on anyone’s intrinsic values there are consequences, usually followed through by law. I am fine with democracy, it is probably the best governmental system fallen people can have. The problem with democracy is that we love it. Through our infatuation with it, we try to force God into a democratic system. God is not democratic. On a vertical axis, “rights” does not work. What would happen if God dealt with His creation in a democratic process? I tell you, salvation would never come to anyone, because no one has ever deserved it. If God acted like our government and gave salvation to me, then purely based on your existence He would have to give it to you. Likewise, if God chooses not to judge me, then there is no way God could judge you. It would not be fair and equal.
Before God we have no rights.
Romans 1.4-6 says,
4and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
Two things to note, among many in these two verses. Paul introduces the Gospel, and informs us that through Jesus Christ we have received grace (unmerited favor). This grace, we also see, is through God because we are called. The grace is ours because God has called us to belong to Jesus Christ. This grace is elected to you, if you are a Christian, by the sovereign will of God, which is effected through the death of Jesus Christ, by the foreordained plan of God, Acts 2.23. God is not democratic, He is authoritarian. God’s existence means He must deal with sin, that is, judge it and condemn it. God’s mere existence also gives Him the right to save people. We cannot save ourselves because our wickedness is thorough. God judiciously, out of His own will, gives grace to whom He will.
Think about this, you who are a Christian. Why did you choose to love Christ? How did you choose to love Christ? Honestly, what made you see the beauty of a bleeding, naked, pitiful man hanging on a cross?
On a very logical, level-headed reasoned notion, Christianity seems to be absolute foolishness, 1 Corinthians 1.23. What do you mean the Son of God (what does that even mean?) came in human flesh (what does that mean?) to minister to sinners until he was betrayed by his friends. Not only that, this Son of God was beaten, lashed, crowned with thorns, stripped bare, spit upon, punched, mocked, crucified, abandoned by God the Father (how did that happen?!), speared and finally buried. But that is not all. Three days later he rose form the dead (what!?) and later ascended into heaven. What do you mean, Jonah, that this man is the only way to salvation? How could that person ever be victorious?
See what I mean? It simply sounds ridiculous. So, to those who love Christ, why? Why do you believe that? How was your heart changed from thinking this magnificent man a complete looney, to your savior? What kind of savior does what he did anyway? How have people come to accept such a scandalous message? Answer: God does it. He removes your heart of stone, He sheds His light into your darkness, He calls to you and you cannot help but run to Him.
This is grace, that God sent His only Son to live and die and rise on account of your sin so that you may have everlasting life, and He has broken your hard heart and gave you eyes to see. God is irresistible when He calls you, you will cherish it.
When people say that God is unjust by calling you, but not that guy over there. They have not understood their own sin and wickedness. When you understand your sin and separation from God, you will understand grace. You will wonder why God even chose you, because honestly your sin was probably worse than that guy over there. You will feel like you don’t deserve God’s unmerited favor, because you don’t. No one does. We all deserve to be punished by His wrath for the sin we commit daily. But He chooses some, and brings to them grace.
Grace is God’s calling.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1.3-14. (Emphasis is mine.)