The Grace of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

The grace of God shines like a beacon light into the darkness of humanity's world of legalism, deception and despair.  In God's revelation of Himself in Christ Jesus we see His love, grace and good will toward all humanity; yet humanity, in its blindness, thinks God will cast everyone who disobeys Him into a torturing burning hell for all eternity.  We hear many sermons pertaining to being ready when the Lord returns; if we are not ready we will be left behind and suffer eternal punishment!  In contrast, how many sermons have we heard about the grace of God and His wonderful plan of redemption for everyone?   In God's revelation of Himself we see grace, truth and mercy! 

The word "grace" has a variety of meanings.  It is translated from the Greek word "CHARIS," and has a variety of uses. In W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, he says, "On the part of the bestower, (it is) the friendly disposition from which the kindly act proceeds,  graciousness, lovingkindness, goodwill generally, especially with reference to the divine favor or grace. It emphasizes God's redemptive mercy, and the pleasure or joy He designs for the recipients…It is set in contrast with debt, with works, and with the law." (Rom. 4:4,16; Rom. 11:6; John 1:17) In this study we will zero in on the aspect of God's marvelous grace to humanity.  

It is impossible to have grace without truth, for grace has to be extended toward someone who has a need, even though he may not be aware of his need.  Without truth we have no foundation on which to build, for lies are like an empty bottomless pit and therefore without foundation.  Lies try to negate truth, but it is impossible to destroy truth; lies can only hide truth and deceive us, for they are like an empty bottomless pit without foundation.  Grace and truth are very precious spiritual commodities, but they were unknown to the world before God communicated them to us through Christ Jesus.   Israel had the law, but grace was unknown to them because there is no grace in the law!  In John 1:17 we read, "For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ."

Israel, God's chosen people, thought that the law covenant was permanent, and that it revealed the nature of God. Therefore they thought they knew God.  Many Christians today also believe that.  However, we cannot know God through the law, because there is no grace, mercy, love or forgiveness in the law.  We can plead with the law and ask it to overlook our offense just this one time, and even promise never to commit this sin again, but it just stares at us blankly and says it does not know what we are talking about.  It can only pronounce the innocent or guilty verdict.  If we are guilty we need to pay the penalty!  

Even Israel's religious hierarchy was without the knowledge of God. Had they known grace and truth, they would not have crucified our Lord!  They only knew the law.  Since the fulfillment of the law required self-effort and its works, their whole religious world revolved around works FOR righteousness.  They thought they could fulfill the law by keeping all the commandments as well as their traditions. This idea was just as ingrained in them as it is in religious humanity today!  Although they might love the idea of grace, they couldn't understand how it could replace the self-effort that the law demanded.  Grace would supplant the law, and that would be unlawful!

The Jews knew the story of Abraham, and the fact that Abraham's faith was counted to him for righteousness. They knew it theoretically, but it had not penetrated their heart.  Can we empathize with them?  Do we understand that our works cannot make us righteous?  Do we combine works with grace?  For example, do we say that in order to be saved we have to make a right choice by choosing Jesus?  The scriptures tell us that we are chosen by God, and that our salvation cannot be obtained by works, for that would give opportunity for boasting. (Ephesians 2:9-10)   If we say that our salvation depends on our right choice, we have something to boast about. We are saved by faith, and Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith.  (Heb. 12:2)

To properly understand that our salvation is of grace, we need to see that the new covenant in Christ replaces the law covenant of Moses. The new covenant made the former covenant obsolete by nullifying it, just like a new will nullifies the old will.  In Christ the old covenant is no longer valid, and it is not to be confused or mixed with the new covenant of grace and truth.  The law is not to be mixed or lumped together with grace; it cannot be married to grace!  If we do not understand this principle, we will constantly be adding our works to the grace of God.  We will think that we are saved by faith, and sanctified by keeping the law of Moses and the laws of our church, and by participating in its programs.

We do not underestimate the necessity of doing good works!  "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."  (Eph. 2:10) We have been created in Christ - not by Him.  We have been created in the same understanding or consciousness that Christ had.  We are only one with Christ in our union with Him; in ourselves we are nothing. Our good works are birthed out of this union.  They do not bring us salvation; they are the result of salvation. We are to walk in works that are initiated by God.  How can we walk in good works? Our walk represents the things we do because of who we are. In Revelation we read of a street of gold (not streets, for there is only one divine nature), for gold symbolizes the nature of God.  The symbolism tells us that the things we do, testify to the divine life of Christ within us.  We have been created in Christ to do the works that testify to this nature. These are works OF righteousness!

Our salvation is the work of Christ! "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us."  (Eph. 1:7-8) "Even when we were dead in our transgressions made us alive together with Christ… for by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."  (Eph. 2:5,8-9) 

God's salvation for both Jew and Gentile comes through the grace of God.  There is no difference: the Jews do not earn their salvation by keeping the law, and neither do the Gentiles.  Both Jew and Gentile are saved by grace.  We were all dead in our transgressions, and no one can come into life except in Christ!   "But we believe that we are saved through grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (Acts 15:11)

Some may wonder if it is legal for God to forgive our sins on the basis of grace.  So we ask, is it legal to rescue a drowning person because he cannot help himself?  That is precisely the reason why he needs help!  That is also the reason why we need help! We were dead in our trespasses and sins, so we were unable to help ourselves.   Without a God of grace and a salvation of grace, we would have remained dead!  Only in Christ can we be resurrected out of this death.

The work of the enemy cannot overpower the abundance of God's grace! The increase of sin through the law brought about a revelation of the necessity and greatness of God's grace.  "The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 5:20-21)  The law brings forth a desire in us to disobey it.  The sign, "Don't touch the wet paint," causes us to want to touch it.  The story of a father, who told his son not to ride the goat during his absence, caused the son to try it.  The law reveals the rebellion that is in the human heart. 

Sin cannot deplete the grace and mercy of God.  Sin can never multiply to the extent that it exceeds the grace of God!The overwhelming power of His grace causes grace to reign through righteousness to eternal life. We cannot limit the grace of God!   His limitless grace overcomes everything in us that tries to obstruct righteousness.   

"Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?" (Rom. 6:1)  This question only comes to those who still love the deeds of the flesh.  Instead of desiring to overcome sin, they want to continue in it, so they reason that God's unlimited forgiveness will be revealed through their continual sinning and God's continual forgiving. This promotes an image of a powerless God.  God's forgiveness is foundational to living a victorious life, and His grace is magnified by His power to overcome the lustful desires of the flesh with its pride and glory in self-aggrandizement!   

Knowing the true essence of God is foundational to an intimate relationship with Him.  A false image of God produces a relationship that does not have foundation; it is built on imagination, and reduces God to human likeness.  We need to know that God is love and that everything He sends us comes out of His kind intentions for us.  Even our sufferings have a good purpose and are prompted by His love.  He is the God of all grace and the Giver of grace!  His grace was sufficient for Paul, and it is sufficient for us! 

We have a wonderful promise in 1 Peter 5:10. "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."  God has called us to His eternal glory in Christ!   What a glorious plan He has for us!  He wants us to be participants of His glory while we are still on planet earth!  Since corruption cannot contain His glory, we readily see our need to be cleansed by God's consuming fire of the Holy Spirit. God Himself is in charge of producing the changes that are needed to perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish us.  Suffering and difficulties are needed to bring about the transformation into the image of Christ.   

Often we are overwhelmed by the seeming impossibility of ever getting out of a horrible situation.  It feels as though God is too late to help us!  In times like these we need to remind ourselves that God's throne, symbolizing His rule and authority, is one of grace!  "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:16)  Have you ever wondered what God's throne of grace looks like?  Can you visualize grace? Have you ever wondered how God, who is everywhere and in all things, can be limited to sitting on a throne?  This helps us to realize that God's throne is not a physical throne; it symbolizes His authority and rule of grace.  Grace, like love, is a spiritual reality.  We cannot see it, but we can feel it when it comes our way!  Everything in God is alive, for He is life!  Grace reigns in life; it is alive and it brings life!

God's grace comes to us in Christ.  "Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ."  (John 1:17)   God gave us Christ, not because we deserved His salvation, but because He loved us!   Nothing can be greater than God's gift of Christ!  Do you think Adam's transgression is greater than God's salvation in Christ?   If we think that Adam's transgression is greater, we limit God's grace. We then say that God's grace, reigning in life, cannot completely undo the death that came into this world through Adam.  We may even agree that God's life is greater, but say that God has limited Himself by giving humanity a free will, and He cannot override the will He has given humanity.  We may say that God has done everything He can to provide salvation for all, but now it is up to man to avail himself of this wonderful gift. 

However, if God had subjected His rule to the free will of man, God would no longer be omnipotent, for then He would have given some of His omnipotence away.  This would negate and thereby destroy God's complete power and authority over man.   By declaring that man's free will enables him to choose Christ, we also overlook the fact that humanity without Christ is dead in its transgressions and sins.  Have you ever seen a dead person make a right choice?   How foolish and unscriptural the doctrine of free will is!

In Romans 5 Paul teaches us that Christ's obedience is greater than Adam's disobedience. Since Adam's disobedience brought all of humanity into death, Christ's obedience has to bring all humanity into life! If Christ's obedience does not do that, it is weaker than Adam's disobedience. "But the free gift is not like the transgression.  For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many." (Rom. 5:15)  "The many" has to refer to the same number of those who died because of Adam's transgression, and to those who receive the grace of God!  We need to believe what God says about the power and abundance of His grace, for He only speaks truth!  

The scriptures tell us that there are only two men - Adam and Christ!  Adam is the corporate man of death, and Christ is the corporate man of life. Just as we were included in the death of Adam so we are included in the life of Christ. To participate in His life, we have to be included in His death, resurrection and ascension.   Jesus Christ did not die as an individual, but as a corporate man, namely, the Son of Man.  God included our body of sin in the death of Jesus Christ.  When Jesus Christ died, we died; when He arose, we arose; when He ascended, we ascended; when He was seated in the heavenlies, we were seated with Him.  All spiritual realities come to us by faith!

This wonderful salvation is completely due to God's grace!  No one asked for it, nor did anyone work for it!  The possibility and probability of such exceeding grace had never entered humanity's thoughts, imaginations and dreams.  All our dreams evaporate as the light of God's grace reveals His kind intention toward us, and the awesome inheritance that is ours in Christ!   It was the grace of God that sent Jesus Christ to bring us His salvation!  Words communicate thoughts and ideas, and Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is God's communication with us. Through Christ, the Word, God revealed the essence of His being, and communicated His love and grace to us, and united humanity with Himself. In order to participate in this union, whatever happened to Jesus historically has to become ours spiritually through faith. 

In Christ Jesus we receive the grace of God! This releases us from the legalism and tyranny of the law and enables us to embrace others with the grace of God. This revolutionizes our attitude toward them, and the way we talk about them. Instead of being critical and law-centered, we are full of grace and love! The law closes our mind to receiving spiritual understanding; it keeps us locked into traditions, doctrines and the philosophies of men.  It keeps us from learning to know God and His infinite wisdom, love and grace. It locks the door to intimacy with God through Christ! No wonder Paul wrote, "I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge."  (1 Cor. 1:4-5) 

The riches of God's grace in Christ is far beyond our ability to comprehend. The ages that are to come will bring a further revelation of the wonders of His grace!   In Christ we see the grace of God in His kind intentions toward us.  His grace brings us into submission to Christ and the acceptance of His wonderful salvation.  This brings praise and glory to God's grace!  "To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." (Eph. 1:6) 

In the ages to come the harvest of God's wonderful grace will be manifested!  At present we only see the first fruit of His grace.  The magnitude of God's grace will be revealed in the harvest time when there will be a great turning to God, and the riches of God's grace will come into view! His ability to cause everyone to repent, and to bring forgiveness and salvation to all, brings glory to God! "So that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:7)

The revelation that God's great gift of salvation is the work of His grace releases us from the idea that we need to be worthy to receive His salvation.  It also releases us from thinking that we now owe God something in return.  We often hear that in return for the agony of Christ's sufferings and death to procure our salvation, we owe Him our life. That sounds logical, but is it?  Is it scriptural or is it control through guilt.  Our salvation gives us His life, and His life of incorruption is so much greater than our life of corruption. Besides, His life in us destroys our self-life, for we have been crucified with Christ! Our old life was rooted in disobedience and death.  In Christ we have been resurrected out of death! Grace declares that our salvation is free, and this means we don't owe Him anything in return. What a relief - for we could never repay Him anyway! 

The beauty and freedom of His great gift of salvation causes thankfulness and praise to erupt in our hearts!  "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus."  (Rom. 3:23-24) "So that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."  (Titus 3:7)  In the recognition of His love and sovereignty and our union with Christ, we freely submit our will to His will - not because we owe it to Him, but because we love Him and recognize that His will for us far surpasses or exceeds our own will for us! Even Jesus recognized that the Father's will for Him exceeded His own will for Himself.  For this reason He did not exercise His own will. This glorifies God. "So that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."     (2 Thess. 1:12))

We thank God for the marvelous revelation of grace that He gave to Paul!  Paul recognized that he did not deserve the great work that God had entrusted to him. During the time that Paul was persecuting the church, who would have thought that God had called Paul, even before his birth, to be an instrument of God's grace?  Paul said, " But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles." (Gal. 1:15-16a) Paul's sinful past could not obstruct God's plan for his life. His calling was not due to his Pharisaical works; it was his because of the grace of God!  He was called to bring the gospel of grace to the Gentiles, and he fulfilled his calling! 

Permit me at this time to give a testimony of God's dealing in my own life.  I (Mary) grew up in a Christian home, and from my early childhood I always desired to be obedient and pleasing to my parents.  I wanted them to be proud of me.  I thought this was equivalent to pleasing God.  In my own eyes I was pretty good.   At the age of 10, I attended a meeting for children, and the Lord opened my eyes to see the evil in my heart and to recognize my need of a Savior!  This recognition came as a persuasion - not a choice. I so vividly remember my amazement at the power of God to convict me of my self-righteousness.   I knew that it was the Holy Spirit who had convicted and persuaded me of my need of a Savior!  This sense of awe has never left me.  In spite of this understanding, I later joyously entered into singing, "I have decided to follow Jesus."   It was the "IN" thing to do.  The natural mind always wants to claim the honor of being in charge.  However, it is all God's work of grace!  Today, at the age of 92, I don't have to ponder and dwell on my failures; God wants me to remember His ability and grace in the midst of my weaknesses; He wants me to remember the miracles of grace that He has performed in my life!  How I marvel at His goodness, and I bow in humble adoration and awe, and join the heavenly host of witnesses in singing, "My God, how great You are!  You are worthy to receive honor and glory and praise throughout eternity!"

What a word of encouragement God gives to all of us!  God's calling on our lives is due to His grace!  He is able to undo our self-analysis.  Neither our past sins nor the evil intent of others toward us can overcome God's grace, and prevent His calling on our lives from being fulfilled!  Our own sense of worthiness or unworthiness has nothing to do with it.  God equips us with whatever is needed to fulfill His calling, and He tells us that His grace is sufficient for each of us!  In the knowledge of His all-sufficiency we can confidently obey Him! His grace is our consolation and hope. God "has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace. " (2 Thess. 2:16)

Now may "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all."  (2 Cor. 13:14)  How wonderful it is to be filled with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and to enjoy the fellowship of the Holy Spirit!  This is God's desire for us, so let's enjoy the riches of His grace!

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