There are a number of attributes of YHWH God that thrill us and on which Christians of different theological leanings broadly agree: love, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, compassion to name but five. Many of these, it is argued, can be found in other religions, as applying to their gods. Many have been touched on in this book because they were of interest to the prophets. But I want to add one more, and this some may argue is a precious truth that is unique to Judaism and Christianity – grace.
While the word translated as grace or gracious is used 124 times in the New Testament, it is far from a merely Christian concept because Christians are more interested in grace and Jews law (John 1:17), for it is used 69 times in the Old Testament, including by several of the Hebrew prophets. Many have tried to explain and define “grace” but for this consideration I will define grace to be the love, mercy and favour given to us by God because God simply desires us to have it and not because of anything we have done or are to earn it; it is an attribute of God that is especially manifested in the salvation of sinners. As far as giving examples of grace, I will cite four examples from the Bible, followed by twelve random verses, along with a brief explanation why I believe these to be relevant.
When Moses was communing with God on Mount Sinai, when giving the Law, and at the same time the Israelites misbehaved down below, Moses made an audacious request, which God granted, and in so doing Moses saw something, maybe just a glimpse, of the grace of God as well as His glory: “And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. And he said, thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the Lord said, behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen” Exodus 33: 18-33.
One blessing a Jew can and does bestow on another and is found in the Bible and is how we may wish to bless those we care about is: “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” Numbers 6: 24-26.
The prologue to John’s gospel is about the Word who was in the beginning, who became flesh, but it is also about Law and Grace and the Word who is full of Grace and Truth: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men … And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” John 1: 1-4, 14-17.
Grace is an essential component of the Gospel, as Paul argued in his letter to the Romans: “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 … Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) … Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 5: 1, 2, 14-17, 20, 21.
The following are verses from the Bible to do with grace along with a simple application:
- An example of one who possessed something that truly mattered: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” Genesis 6:8
- Grace must not be an excuse for sin – on the contrary: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Romans 6:1
- The grace of God can make us what God wants: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” 1Corinthians 15:10
- What better example of grace that what Jesus accomplished by dying for us: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” 2 Corinthians 8:9
- God’s grace is all sufficient to cope with the challenges of life: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” 2 Corinthians 12:9
- One “fitting” way to end a church service: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” 2Corinthians 13:14
- It is grace that saves us: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace … Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” Ephesians 1:7, 2:5
- God’s gracious, eternal intention is clear: “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:7,8
- Grace should define how we live: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” Colossians 3:16
- Grace is there for those who seek it: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” Hebrews 4:16
- We are called to grow in grace: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” 2 Peter 3:18
- What a way to end the Bible: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” Revelation 22:21
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was asked in 1943 how it was possible for the Church to sit back and let Hitler seize absolute power. His firm answer: “It was the teaching of cheap grace … Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” We live in a time and culture that not only teaches cheap grace but praises it and is a challenge the church faces.
Perhaps a fitting end to this section is some of the words of the much-loved hymn by John Newton: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see … Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come, ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home”. Many, besides me, will share these sentiments. Despite my many flaws, I am a trophy of God’s grace. I believe my life experience thus far, including some that have been painful, is evidence of God’s gracious workings. I therefore commend God’s grace to the wavering, anxious, perplexed, discouraged and disbelieving. It is what will lead us home.