Man in his foolishness has multiplied gods. He has devised gods with superhuman attributes, but he has never considered a god who is gracious. Insightfully, C.S. Lewis observed that this is what sets apart Christianity as a religion. The reality of God being gracious could only be received by divine revelation. God formally revealed Himself in this way to Moses following Israel’s sin with the golden calf (Exo 34:6). The expected outcome for such sin would have been national judgment, but God used the incident to demonstrate the graciousness of His character to the nascent nation. Hopefully, this little consideration of God’s grace will cause us to mirror Moses’ worshipful response to the Lord’s revelation.
Grace literally means favour. The Hebrew sense of the word gives us the idea of a superior stooping in kindness to one who is inferior. The Greek carries with it the idea of cheer. The Bible words translated as mercy, lovingkindness and grace are actually fairly difficult to differentiate. They each carry the same sense of God’s favour overflowing towards His undeserving creatures in care and compassion. Adam and Eve would be able to tell us of the grace of God extended to them, but it is Noah who is the first of whom it is explicitly stated that he “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:8). In the midst of a world given to wickedness and destined for judgment, the favour of God is found resting on Noah, through whom life would be preserved. God is always looking for a vessel He can overflow with His grace.
God of Grace
It should be noted that sin was not required for God to exhibit this attribute of His character. God’s gracious care for Adam is evident prior to the fall in the planting of a garden for him and in the provision of a wife that was a perfect complement to him. Thankfully for us, the tragic entrance of sin did not bar us from grace. Instead, the fall has highlighted and served as the backdrop for the beautiful unfolding of the glory of God’s gracious dealings in spite of sin throughout the pages of Scripture. Where our fallen nature has made sin our default reaction to the vagaries of life, God has responded instinctually with grace. Ultimately, this was seen in the incarnation of Jesus Christ: “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (Joh 1:16 ESV). Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2Co 8:9 ESV). This repeated and final response of God to our sin should truly anchor us. We need to rest in His grace, to stand firm in it (cf. 1Pe 5:12; 2Ti 2:1). We can never find ourselves in a situation where we are beyond the scope of the grace of God.
Unfortunately, appreciating grace can be an elusive thing. The moment we feel we deserve it, it disappears. Why is it so counterintuitive? As mentioned earlier, it doesn’t fit the godless framework of fallen humanity. The devil teaches us to earn grace, the world proclaims we deserve grace, and our prideful flesh thinks we are worth grace. But though God’s grace is always extended, it is only received when we recognize our inferior position, when we are repentant in our sin, when we appreciate our weakness. Grace is God’s solution to sin, not only for salvation (Rom 3:24) but also for sanctification (Rom 5:21). Sin has no answer for grace; indeed, it is set up as its biblical opposite! So Peter enjoins us to “grow in grace” (2Pe 3:18).
Grace to Grace?
The experience of grace in our lives should cause us to exhibit grace in our lives. It is grace that made Christ attractive to those He met on earth and it is grace that ultimately won our hearts as well. This is what our Christianity should be, and not only in word but in deed. Grace is embodied by a life lived with an open hand. It is a recognition that all that I am and have has come from God (1Co 15:10) and is merely a stewardship for His ultimate benefit. Thus my resources are to be a grace in the work of God (2Co 9:8). My words are to be gracious (Col 4:6). My Christian walk is constrained by grace as opposed to law-keeping (Gal 5:4). This manner of life is not taught at school or in the workplace. It can only be learned in the school of Christ (2Pe 3:18).
Grace is Grease
Grace is the grease of the Christian life. It is what brought us to salvation (Titus 2:11) and it is our support in sorrow and struggle (2Co 12:9). Life in this fallen world confronts us with many challenges. There is always a new squeak or a fresh grinding of gears. Grace is always the solution. What a blessing that our God is the God of all grace! (1Pe 5:10). Our challenge is to keep ourselves in an attitude that welcomes grace. Bitterness and pride conspire to keep us from grace (Heb 12:15; Jas 4:6).
Grace will never get old. We will continue to appreciate it in the ages to come, and we will find it inexhaustible (Eph 2:7). As we grow in grace in our Christian lives, I trust that we will be incrementally exchanging sin for grace – that we would sin less and be more gracious. Consider our Saviour in John 8. He was the only one qualified to throw the stone since He was perfectly sinless, yet He was the one who was most gracious! May this be our goal and aspiration as we seek to display His grace in our lives.
For an excellent treatment of the topic of grace I highly recommend Philip Yancey’s book titled What’s So Amazing About Grace?