Grace is often defined as 'favour' given to someone by God and this I think is a very good description of grace for the start of this discussion. In a wider sense grace is 'Jesus Christ living in us and the result and benefit of that in our lives'. But for now we can use the simpler definition, that Grace is God giving us favour!You see we have all 'missed the mark' where living up to God's standards is concerned and that has brought upon all mankind the death penalty. To have a better outcome than death we need the 'favour' of God!
Rom 3:21-24 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Since we know that we were all sinners (we missed the mark) and not deserving of any favours from God it behooves us if we want God's 'favour' to find out how we can receive it! To this end a good place to start is in the book of Romans...
Rom 5:1-2 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
The first thing we notice here is that we have access to God's grace by faith. And the second thing we notice is that it's God's grace that enables us to 'stand'. That is to do God's will and be obedient to him. We see that there is a sequence of events which leads to obedience. First comes faith; then comes grace; then comes obedience. And if you check on obedience in the New Covenant it's always obedience to the will of God. The Christian follows a person (the Holy Spirit) who is in him, who shows him God's will and God's command in all circumstances. He does not follow a written code.
This starts to make perfect sense when we read the statement about faith made by the writer of Hebrews in Heb 11:6.
Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.It's impossible to please God through any show of obedience that is of ourselves, apart from faith. Faith gives us access to grace and it's through grace that we are enabled to do God's will and be obedient to his commands. This is because it's God who works in us to do his will as Paul points out in the book to the Phillipians.
Phil 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
It's God, through the Holy Spirit (Jesus Christ in us) who provides both the will-power and the ability to do what is pleasing to him and righteous in his eyes. If we try to be obedient to God in our own power the result is well documented failure! We can see this writ large in Paul's letter to the Romans in chapter 7 verses 18-19.
Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
This is the result that will follow if anyone, Christian or not, attempts to be obedient to God or Law in their own power. Failure! But Paul gives us the solution in verses 24 and 25..
Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The answer lies in reliance on Jesus Christ. In other words faith in Jesus.
Then with faith comes access to God's grace and 'God in us' works to will
and to do those good works that will please him!
David, probably thinking of the times of Abraham, says in Ps 32:1-2 that "Blessed is the man to whom God imputes no sin". Thus he recognises that the sinner is saved because of the 'favour' or grace of God. He recognises that the blessd man is the one to whom God lays no guilt or condemnation because of his sins, and who does not think in a fleshly way but according to God's spirit.
Psa 32:1-2 Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom Jehovah does not charge iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
David can look back on the life of Abraham, but we also have the evidence of Paul in Rom 8:1 - "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."
The scriptures effectively tell us that all those who called on the Lord and lived lives pleasing to God were put under grace because of their faith. Without faith they could not have pleased God, and without grace they could not have been obedient. It's grace (we are told in Tit 2:11-12), that teaches us to say 'No' to all ungodliness, and to live righteous and godly lives. Our necessary obedience grows out of grace and grace comes through faith. And since obedience is by grace we have nothing of which to boast!
We know of course that it is the Holy Spirit in us who is our guide and teacher and comforter and who brings to our remembrance the things we have learned of God and also teaches us new things so we can see the link between grace and Jesus Christ being in us through the Holy Spirit and the result of that in our lives.
Grace reigns in our lives through righteousness and this grace brings us salvation. We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus christ we shall be saved.
Eph 2:4-9 But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved), and has raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
The apostle John in John 1:17 also makes it abundantly clear that 'grace and truth' came by Jesus christ so it's not unreasonable to see the men of faith of the Old Testament times as ones living under the covenant of grace but out of time. This is in a similar sense to Paul seeing himself as an apostle born out of due time.
Because grace is so important in our daily lives you will notice that it's always near the top of the list of things that Paul put's in his salutations at the beginning of his letters. Grace is one of the things that we need 24/7 which is why Paul is always putting it in our minds! If we look at 1 Cor 15:9-10 we will see that Paul attributes the fruit brought forth in his life as due to the grace of God given to him, and he attributes the labours he put into the work of God as being not his own but the grace of god!
1Co 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and am not sufficient to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which was toward me has not been without fruit, but I labored more abundantly than all of them; yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
It's interesting to compare the different statements Paul makes about
Grace with those he makes about Jesus Christ.
Of course this dovetails with Paul's statements in Romans that of himself
he could do nothing good. What enabled hin to do the will of the Father
was faith in Jesus and the grace of God.
Col 1:3-6 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love you have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven, of which you heard before in the Word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you as it has also in all the world, and it is bearing fruit, even also among you, since the day you heard and fully knew the grace of God in truth,
Now these are people who did not come up through the Jewish religious
system and it's interesting to see to what Paul attributes their bearing
fruit to the gospel. It's not because they've finally been given the
correct set of laws to practice. Rather, he tells them that the word of
truth is bearing fruit in them since the day they fully knew the grace
of God in truth! The grace (favour) and truth that were
brought by Jesus Christ.
Rom 5:20-21 But the Law entered so that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, so that as sin has reigned to death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
As Paul says in Romans chapter 6 verse 14. - Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under Law but under grace.
Sin "will" have dominion over us though if we are attempting
to 'live' through Law keeping. The Law will hold us captive - in bondage.
The law can show that you are guilty. It cannot take away your guilt.
But through Jesus, who died on the cross taking away all our sins, we have
redemption and are freely justified by his grace. Now being justified by
grace we are heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
(Romans 3:24, Titus 3:7)
Gal 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith:.
Just to give an example. The man of law needs everything to be spelt out so that he knows what to do. As a result there are over 600 laws in the OT for a farming society! It give details of all the people, etc., individually that one should not have relations with outside of marriage for instance.
The NT says "A man must be the husband of one woman"; "If he lusts after anyone else he commits adultery"; "fornicators will not enter the kingdom".
The Holy Spirit leads the Christian to understand how the details are applied as situations arise in his/her life. He/she does not need it spelt out as to which relative he may not get involved with and have to refer to a list. He understands that pre-marital sex is a 'no'. He knows he is to marry one woman only.
Once we had a heart of stone and we tried to live by Laws written on
tablets of stone and could not. As Christians we have a new spirit and a
new heart of flesh and are led by the Holy Spirit of Christ who writes the
with the grace of God on the fleshly tablets of our heart and so we
follow Jesus' promptings in our spirit. On the other hand the man of law
does not trust the Holy Spirit to lead him. He insists on being led by law.
But, the law is not of faith. So insisting on following law means that you
have to do it in your own strength.
2Co 5:15 ...and he (Jesus) died for all, that they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again.We no longer live a selfish, self-centered, (soulish) lifestyle but live to Jesus' pattern of life. We can say as Paul also said in Rom 1:16-17...
Rom 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
So knowing the love that God has for us, let us live by faith in God and access the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ which is able to save us. Let us maintain fellowship with the Holy Spirit and build the kind of relationship with God that was exemplified by the men and women of faith who went before us. Let us walk in faith and live by grace.
Then we will truly apprehend that the kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. And there is no condemnation now for those who are in Christ Jesus.
May the love of God and the grace of out Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all forever.