IT MAY NOT BE WHAT YOU THINK
What is grace? What do you think it is? There seems to be a pervasive spirit of misunderstanding about grace today. Some people seem to think that grace is similar to a cover all or a protective blanket. Others think of grace as some sort of essence, or ether that God pours out to surround and protect us from any eternal harm. In both these illustrations some people seem to act and think as though grace is some sort of substance. Others seem to think the grace is an era or age. For instance we are in the age of grace implying that God’s grace didn’t extend to ages before. All of these assertions miss the mark.
Let’s examine some key passages on grace and ask some important questions.
“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith and this not of yourselves it is a gift from God.”—Ephesian 2:8 (NIV)
Grace is a gift from God which He pours out throughout all His creation to envelop mankind in his love. It certainly does sound like some sort of a substance.
Grace is commonly defined as an undeserved gift. God gifts mankind with forgiveness by His grace. God’s gift is His attitude toward man. We deserve punishment, but God’s attitude is to spare us from the punishment. That is God’s grace in action. So we see that grace is God’s character not an essence. Grace is God acting with good intention toward man although we only truly deserve to be wiped from the face of the earth like some pestilence for we are corrupted beings corrupting all of creation.
Grace Realized Through Jesus Christ
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”—John 1:17 (NIV)
When we, as modern people, read John 1:17 we read it as though grace was not even around during the Old Testament times. Only the law was known. Due to that mindset I have heard others tell me several times that they felt extremely fortunate for having been born under grace and not under the law. Their deduction seems self evident, but I wonder; is it true?
Was grace available in Old Testament times?
To find out let’s ask some very simple questions.
Question: Did truth exist before Jesus Christ came to earth?
Answer: _____ (fill in blank).
Question: When God called Noah was it by His grace?
Answer: _____ (fill in blank).
Question: When God saved Noah and his family was it by His grace?
Answer: _____(fill in the blank)
Question: When God saved the Israelites from the Egyptians was it by His grace?
Answer: _____ (fill in blank).
If you’re really being intellectually honest with yourself the answer to these four questions is yes. So we see that grace and truth were in fact present in the earliest times of Old Testament by our own admission.
Ok, let’s now answer another question in context to the John 1:17.
Question: Was grace and truth given by Jesus when he came to earth?
Answer: _____ (fill in blank).
Again, if you answered honestly your answer was “No.” You had too answer “no” because if grace and truth had already been established by God beforehand then Jesus couldn’t have given it.
Some may say, “But that’s not what John 1:17 says. It says, ‘,,,Grace and truth CAME through Jesus Christ.’”
Doesn’t given by and came through mean the same thing? If grace and truth came through Jesus, doesn’t that mean he had to bring them in order for them to come through Him? And if he brought them then he must have given it. Right?
Again that sounds logical but the logic fails because we have to accept that fact that God had already brought truth and grace establishing it. If something has already been established and given then commonsense says that it doesn’t need to be given again.
Please imagine, if you will, that someone gave you a free pass to a movie. Now imagine your attending that movie and that same person now tries to give to you the same free pass while your watching the movie. It absolutely isn’t necessary. It doesn’t even make sense.
If grace and truth were already established and available even in the Old Testament times; How do we reconcile that grace and truth came through Jesus?
To answer that question we need to go the original text. Since the Bible wasn’t originally written in English we therefore need to look at the original language which is Greek. Below you will find the Greek transliterated. That means each Greek word is written in English. Then in the second table we see the Greek word translated. Finally we can know the meaning of each word.
What we find in the Strong’s Transliterated English is that, “… Grace and truth through Jesus were realized.”
This is construct is far different, than came by. We could and rather should say that the understanding of God’s grace came through Jesus.
Therefore what Jesus brought wasn’t in essence grace itself, but rather the understanding of it. It is not a security blanket as some think. Beforehand grace had gone unrecognized, but now even you the reader can recognize that grace had also been given to Noah. Therefore Grace was realized through Jesus. It is through Jesus that we learned of the concept of grace.
Because grace was made known through Jesus we moderns now recognize grace when we see it and know that it is part of God’s character.
What are the implications
During Old Testament times grace was first shown when God created Adam and Eve. He didn’t need to create them, but he did. His creation of mankind was by His good grace. Then God showed grace by not putting to death on the spot when they disobeyed. God also gave grace to Enoch by taking him to heaven, and then He gave grace to Noah and his family when He called him to build an ark to save them from the coming flood. Then God gave grace to Abraham, Moses and the Israelites and now to the whole world.
The point is that mankind has been in God’s grace since the beginning, but it wasn’t realized until Jesus.
The pattern that we see is that God’s intention was always to give grace to all mankind.
As was said befor many modern Christians think grace is a protective blanket so that nothing can deter them from gaining everlasting life through their faith in Jesus. Some, because of this, take a lackadaisical approach to sin or give into sin entirely because they think that they are under grace. “Oh well, don’t worry,” some tell them, “we’re under grace.”
Is this the kind of heart God wants from us? What does the apostle Paul say about this kind of attitude in his letter to the Romans.
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” —Romans 6:1-2 (NIV)
Many, many, people don’t realize that when they brush off the idea of conquering sin for reasons of being too hard or too lazy that they then are in effect sinning so that grace may increase which Paul admonishes against.
Paul shouts, “BY NO MEANS!” He then adds, “We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? —Romans” 6:3
Paul questions; how can we live in sin any longer? It’s a rhetorical question. How can this be happening? Meaning it shouldn’t be and that we should know that it shouldn’t! Which leads to his next question; Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? His question lends to the fact that the believers must have participated in baptism beforehand and knowing that at that moment they were dying with Christ and being buried with him only to be raised up to a new life.
The “or don’t you know” statement by Paul is ever revealing.
Don’t you know that baptism is participating in the death of Jesus? Baptism isn’t a picture or a symbol of something having already taken place. God by His grace is allowing us to participate with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection by faith.
“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” —Romans 6:3-4
Being buried with Jesus through Baptism into death is also by God’s grace. It’s His plan not ours and very similar to Noah’s circumstance when he built the ark. Him building the ark was by the grace of God. Beptism is when by God’s grace that we put ourselves to death by faith during baptism. Or don’t you know? Well now you do.
Finally it is also by God’s grace so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Did you get that? It is by God’s grace through baptism that we may live a new life. Or don’t you know this either? Well now you know it is when we enter into a new life through faith in Jesus by obeying His command in baptism.
Grace is God’s desire to interact with man. His interaction requires something from us and this is what is meant by Paul when he said, “… through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, …” —Romans 1:5-6
We enter God’s grace through faith in obedience to God’s word and just like any other gift a recipient can choose to whether to receive it or not.
Grace is God in loving action toward all mankind!
Please choose grace.