Grace of God
Grace captures the goodwill, lovingkindness, and favor of God that is freely given to us so that we may partake in his divine life. Grace is God’s divine aid that supernaturally empowers you to be who he made you to be (see entry for Eph. 3:7).
God is love and love that stoops is called grace. Grace is what the unconditional love of God looks like from our side. Grace is love come down. The original noun for grace (charis, 5485) is related to a word (chairo, 5463) which means to rejoice, be cheerful and well off. The grace of God leaves us cheerful and rejoicing. It leaves us better than it found us.
Manmade religion portrays God as an angry and threatening deity who can be appeased with sacrifices and good works. But the God of all grace that Jesus revealed sits on a throne of grace (Heb. 4:16) and blesses us out of the abundance of his grace for no other reason than he loves us (see entry for 1 Pet. 5:10). Grace is the defining characteristic of Christianity. Grace is what makes the new covenant new and the good news good news.
The gospel of grace
There is no gospel without grace for the gospel reveals the grace that saves us (Acts 15:11, Eph. 2:8, 2 Tim. 1:9), forgives us (Eph. 1:7), justifies us (Rom. 3:24, Tit. 3:7), and raises us to new life (Eph. 2:5). It’s a great loss to think that grace is just for “sinners”, for Christians need grace too (see entry for Acts 13:43). We are defined by the grace of God that both saves us and keeps us (1 Pet. 5:10). Grace builds us up (Acts 20:32) and empowers us to do good works (Gal. 2:9). Grace trains us (see entry for Tit. 2:11), makes us fruitful (Col. 1:6), and prospers us (2 Cor. 8:9, 9:8). Grace gives us hope (2 Th. 2:6) and enables us to reign in life (Rom. 5:21).
There is no gospel other than the gospel of grace (see entry for Acts 20:24). The gospel of grace or the word of grace (Acts 20:32) is synonymous with the gospel of Jesus for Jesus is the embodiment of the Father’s grace (see entry for 1 Cor. 1:4). The grace of God comes to us through Jesus (John 1:14, 17), and we grow in grace by growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).
Prior to the cross, Jesus preached the law to those under the law. But as the herald of the new covenant (Mal. 3:1), he also revealed radical grace. He began his ministry by announcing the favor of God (Luke 4:19) and he concluded it by giving us the greatest demonstration of unconditional love the world has ever seen (Rom. 5:8). In between these two peaks of grace, he preached good news to the poor, he loved sinners, he forgave and healed those who had done nothing to deserve God’s favor (see entry for Luke 23:34), and he told stories of radical grace – of lost sheep and lost sons, and kings who invited beggars to banquets. Best of all, he revealed a God who loves us like a Father and who asks for nothing in return other than we trust him.
Grace comes by faith
Grace is a gift freely offered to all (Eph. 3:7, 4:7, Tit. 2:11) and is received by faith alone (see entry for Eph. 2:8). There is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace (Rom. 11:6, 2 Tim: 1:9). Keeping the law does not qualify us for grace but can cause us to fall from grace (Gal. 2:21, 5:4).
We make grace of no effect when we combine it with anything other than faith. “You are saved by grace but maintain your position through right-living,” is an example of a mixed-grace message. “God gives you grace so that you can keep his commands,” is another. These sorts of messages contain an element of grace but ultimately push you to trust in yourself and your own efforts.
Any mixed-grace message can be recognized by the presence of carrots and sticks. Carrots are the blessings you get for obedience; sticks are the penalties you pay for disobedience. Bite into any mixed-grace message and you will taste a bitter fruit. You will feel the pressure to perform and smell the fear that comes with failure. You’ll make promises to God and then you’ll break them. You’ll resolve to try harder only to fail again and again. Since a mixed-grace message puts the emphasis on you and what you have done, your identity will become defined by your productivity. You will start to think of yourself as God’s servant instead of his beloved son or daughter. Worst of all, you will end up distracted from Jesus and fallen from grace.
Another way we can miss the grace of God is to think that grace gives us a license to sin (Jude 1:4). God’s grace is greater than our sin and empowers us to say no to ungodliness (Rom. 5:20, Tit. 2:11-12). But if we use our freedom to run back into the prison of sin, we have missed the point of grace (see entry for Rom. 6:1).
Grace and works
You may have heard that God gives us grace in order to do good works, but this is misleading. God gives you grace because he loves you. The issue is not what you’ll do for God but what you’ll let him do for you. Will you trust him a little bit or will you trust him the whole way? Does his grace merely get you in the front door or does it keep you safe to the very end?
“Grace is irresponsible for it says we have no responsibility to do anything. We have a duty to serve the Lord.” In the mouth of a mixed-grace preacher, words like responsibility and duty are the cattle-prods of performance-based Christianity. They convey a sense of obligation that can leave you debt-conscious rather than grace-conscious. The idea that you are obliged to repay Jesus for his priceless sacrifice is ludicrous. What can you give him in consideration for his grace? There is nothing. The instant you give him anything, it ceases to be grace. Your part in this is to receive from the abundance of his grace. Your only “duty” is to say, “Thank you, Jesus!”
Others have said that grace is a soft gospel for soft Christians. “Grace promotes passivity and laziness.” This was not Paul’s experience: “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” (1 Cor. 15:10). Grace doesn’t make people lazy; it makes them supernaturally fruitful. In contrast with the law that provides no aid to those who trust it, grace makes us soar. As John Bunyan said, “Far better news the gospel brings, it bids us fly and gives us wings.”
In a mixed-grace environment you will feel the pressure to perform and live up to the expectations of others. But walk under grace and you find there is no pressure, only the freedom to be who God made you to be. Manmade religion will tell you that you have a responsibility to deliver results for the Lord, but your only responsibility is to shine as a dearly-loved child of God.
The hypergrace gospel
The New Testament epistle writers used big words to describe the grace of God. Paul spoke of the super-abundance of God’s grace (Rom. 5:15, 5:17, 2 Cor. 9:8) and often used the adjective huper– or hyper- when discussing grace (see entry for Rom. 5:20; see also Eph. 2:7, 2 Cor. 9:14, 1 Tim. 1:14). Hyper which means over, above, and beyond. To put it in context, Paul also uses hyper-words for describing God’s power and love (Eph. 1:19, 3:19). God’s grace is as great as his power. It’s as limitless as his love.
John spoke of receiving grace upon grace from the fullness of God’s supply (John 1:16). Saying God is full of grace, is like saying the ocean is full of waves. “Grace upon grace” means God can bless you with wave after wave of grace and never run out.
Peter wrote about the grace that comes from “the God of all grace” (1 Pet. 5:10) and prayed that his grace would be yours to the “fullest measure” or in increasing abundance (1 Pet. 1:2). Just as you can’t travel to the edge of the universe, you will never find the limit of God’s grace.
James, one of the most misunderstood writers in the New Testament, had a wonderful grasp of grace. He spoke of a God who gives and gives, which is a picture of unending grace (Jas. 1:17). “God gives a greater grace” (Jas. 4:6). The original word for greater is derived from the Greek word megas. God gives us mega-grace. James is literally saying that God gives us “exceedingly, great, high, large, loud, and mighty grace!”
To suggest that God’s grace is less than hyper is unbiblical, even blasphemous. It’s like saying God is good but he’s not that good, he’s wise but not that wise. Diminish grace and you diminish God. The gospel of grace declares that the One who sits upon the throne of grace is exceedingly rich in grace and his inexhaustible grace is never diminished no matter how much we draw upon it.
Everything about the grace of God is extreme or hyper because your heavenly Father loves you with a great love that cannot be measured (Eph. 3:17-19). Because his love is great, his grace is great (Eph. 2:4). His love for you is greater than you can conceive or imagine. If you think you have a handle on the grace of God, you don’t. His love and grace surpass knowledge. However grand or over-the-top you imagine his grace to be, his grace is greater still!
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