One of the greatest words in all of Christendom is the word “grace”. It is a word which is used more than any other religious word other than “blessed”. But if you ask any Christian “What is the definition of grace?” you may get either a standard definition which is “undeserved favor” or “I really don’t know”. So, is that what grace is? Undeserved favor? It is that a so much more.
The need for grace
Why is there a need for grace, anyhow? To find that out we must go back almost to the very beginning. God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them in six days. On that sixth day He established a covenant with His penultimate creation, man. That covenant recognized that all of the creation belonged to its’ Creator but the Creator established a covenant with humankind that though the earth belonged to God, He would lease it to man and give him dominion over the whole earth if man would enter into a covenant by which God, the Creator, would support him in all his endeavors on the earth.
That covenant had one provision. It was a provision by which the keeping of it would show that man, Adam, revered God, the Creator, and would honor Him in all his endeavors. That provision was that Adam would not eat of one particular tree in The Garden of Eden. There were many fruit bearing trees in the Garden of Eden and he could eat of all except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now why do you think God chose that tree for Adam not to eat of the fruit? You may not be aware of it, but we are still suffering from the effects of that fruit in our world society. When Adam ate of that fruit he, by that single act, was declaring rebelliously to his Creator that he knew as much about what was right and what was wrong as the Creator did. In essence, he was declaring himself as god.
If you recall the Ten Commandments, the first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Adam rebelled and put himself ahead of God. Unfortunately, for all of Adam’s descendants, we are born of the family of Adam and Eve. Because we are of his family, we are of a rebellious descent. Therefore, our Creator must conclude us covenant breakers.
The only outcome of breaking a covenant is death. Adam would die, and all his descendants after him. How merciful God was that He did not exercise immediate judgment. If He had, Adam and Eve would have been cast into a lake of fire which had been prepared for the devil and his angels that had rebelled against God. But in His great mercy He delayed execution of the sentence by substituting an innocent animal to use its skin to cover their nakedness. Thus, we see God’s mercy in action from the beginning.
But that was not all. God promised that a descendant of humankind through the seed of the woman would bring about a restoration of the original covenant by which mankind could renew his relationship with the Creator.
This is the background
This is the background through which grace would be coming. Man had broken covenant and there was no way that he could restore the covenant. Once a covenant is broken one of the parties must die. The fleshly body in which man’s spirit was housed would die, and it has continued to die because of the one broken covenant. That is how serious covenants are.
The Creator is a Creator motivated by love, not anger. In His great desire to have fellowship with His highest creation He established a sacrificial system by which man could bring an innocent animal and sacrifice it by putting it to death before God’s alter as a substitute for himself. The fact that it must be unblemished and young was a foretelling of the “real” sacrifice that the Creator Himself would provide in the fullness of time.
This unblemished sacrifice would be God’s only-begotten Son who would be born of a woman in a body of flesh and would be wholly human and wholly God. How this is possible cannot be comprehended by human minds. Through the God-man, Jesus, the Creator would establish a New and Better Covenant in which mankind would once again take dominion over the earth.
To fulfill the terms of the Old Covenant someone had to die. The substitute was an innocent person, The Lamb of God. Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant by following it completely. But then, He willfully accepted the punishment due to Adam. Being put to death, not just physical but spiritual also, He paid the price in full. Anyone who will accept His payment as payment for their own rebellion will have their debt for breaking the covenant considered as “paid in full”. The way to accept this “gift” is to declare that “Jesus is Lord”. In so doing, the original state of man is restored. By declaring that Jesus is Lord you establish the first covenant provision; You shall have no other gods before Me.
How does all this come about?
Do we have to work for this? The New Covenant(Testament) is quite clear on this matter. Ephesians 2;8 says, “For by GRACE are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Here we see that there is no work that man can do to bring about his own salvation. Let us look at the verses.
It is grace that brings salvation but that comes through faith. So, what is faith? Go to the Word of God. In Romans 10 we find that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”. So, to get faith we must hear the word of God. But is it the audible sound of the word of God, only?
The “hearing” that the scripture refers to here is that hearing which we see exemplified in Matthew 16 when Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do men say I am?” They replied by saying “A prophet”, “Elijah”, “John the Baptist” or “Jeremiah”. Then Jesus asked them who they thought He was. Peter blurted out, “You are the Christ, the Son of God”. Jesus’ reply was, “Flesh and blood did not reveal that to you, but my Father which is in heaven.” In other words, you did not get this through your physical senses. You got a firsthand revelation word from the Creator God Himself. This is the “hearing” that brings faith. But notice that the Romans passage says that this “hearing” comes by hearing the Word of God. That second hearing means the literal intoning of the Word of God, the spoken word. It is not enough to see a sign with scripture or just to read it silently. It must be spoken out loud.
When God created all that is in existence He spoke it into existence. Read Genesis chapter one. See how many times it says, “And God said.” God’s word must be spoken out loud or it will not bring faith. Without faith there will be no application of grace. Mercy is always in effect because it delays judgment. But if grace is never applied then the time will come when judgment will be applied. “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment.” If you face judgment without the application of grace then you will receive the punishment due a covenant breaker. That punishment is everlasting separation from your creator in a place prepared for the devil and his angels, a place called hell.
The application of grace
Those who have experienced the grace of God are the ones who spread the word by which faith is engendered in those who hear it and that faith causes them to receive the grace of God. And that grace is manifested by their confession of Jesus as Lord of their life.
When someone experiences that grace they will never be the same. In 2 Corinthians 5 it says it this way: If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. Sin, as the Bible defines rebellion, is no longer a part of their life. As Romans chapter 8 says; they have died to sin. It is not in their new nature to sin. It is foreign to them. Their joy has become the sharing of the Kingdom of God by sharing God’s Word everywhere they go. It is like Peter and John said it after the religious rulers told them to quit talking about Jesus. “We can not help but speak what we have seen and heard.” In other words, “You can do to us whatever you wish, but we are going to talk about Jesus because He is in us and that is who we are.”
That is the true expression of grace. Anything less is not of God and is an expression of fleshly religion and makes light of the grace of God. Colossians 1:27 says Christ in you is your hope of glory. Philippians 2:13 says that it is God Who is in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure. So you see, the grace that God gives takes all the pressure off of you to perform.
If someone tries to tell you that if you do so-and-so then God will bless you and help you live a good life, you should step back and remember that He(Jesus) has already done everything necessary to put me in right standing(righteousness) in the New Covenant with God. If it is not of works, then there is really nothing I can do to improve it. Jesus said, “It is finished”. In other words, everything necessary for you to receive the grace of God has been done. As we say, “It is done!” Now it is God Who is in me both to will and to do.
God’s grace takes all the weight off of you to perform. He begins to live His wonderful life in you and grants you all the benefits of having right standing with your heavenly Father. He puts you in that place of “exceeding abundantly above all that you could ask or imaging, according to the power that works within you.” That power is the GRACE of God.
Receive that grace to day. In this short article there is enough Word of God by which you may receive faith if you read it out loud. Read it and then let the Holy Spirit bring faith to you as you confess the Lord Jesus.