Last week, we considered the all-sufficiency of God’s grace in supplying our needs to do His work and in delivering us from sin. The challenge in talking about grace is that of extremes – either we view ourselves as saved by grace without condition or effort on our part; or we view any mention of God’s grace as softness or an attempt to absolve ourselves of responsibility. It is a simple topic that carries great difficulty. It’s hard to wrap our minds around all that God has done for us, and we sometimes downplay the grace God has demonstrated toward us.
In A.D. 50, Rome captured the isle of Britain and subjugated its ruler. While standing before Claudius Caesar, he calls on the Caesar to spare him as a symbol of his clemency. Claudius agrees. Back in Psalm 51, David implores God for grace after his sins involving Bathsheba and her deceased husband Uriah. Likewise, he calls on God’s mercy as a symbol of His clemency. Too often, we don’t allow God’s grace to be that symbol in our lives that demonstrates God’s mercy to others.
Grace and Justification
In Romans 5:6, Paul begins a discourse on God’s salvation coming despite our undeserving state. His point is that we are justified by the blood of Jesus, but He opens his argument by stating we are justified by faith. In Romans 3:28, he again states our faith justifies us. James 2:24 argues that obedient works have to be coupled with that faith by which we are justified, and Paul, in Romans 3:23-24, asserts that grace has a role in this justification. There is a balance. All of these are involved in our justification, but God’s grace is what makes all of this possible.
We sometimes put so much emphasis on the ritual, that we assume our justification comes purely through completing the steps. The idea of grace is one of royalty bestowing a blessing upon an undeserving servant. Deity stoops down to grant kindness upon us when we are undeserving and unable to earn that favor.
What God Owes Us
In Romans 4:1, Paul asks about the works of Abraham. What justified Abraham, faith or works? He concludes that Abraham’s favor cannot be based solely on works. Otherwise, God is in debt to Abraham. As great as that man was, as often as he obeyed God’s commands, he has no basis upon which he could pray to God. We cannot fall into the trap of the Pharisee who prays to God as if God should feel lucky to have us.
We gather to glorify God, but our Creator is not indebted to us because of our praise. Instead, we should be like the humble publican who returns to his house justified. Without grace, nothing would merit our standing before God. Look again at Romans 5:8. “While we were yet sinners…” Royalty bends down and bestows grace upon us.
Grace and Salvation
In Mark 2:13, religious leaders of Israel condemn Jesus for associating with sinners, but Jesus rebukes them for not recognizing the need to reach out to those who need salvation. Like we don’t save doctors visits until we are well, the message of salvation is not for those who are already in His fold. However, we are often reluctant to share the gospel message with those we find unappealing. Look at the example of Jesus. The physician goes to those who are in need.
With all of Paul’s works and sacrifices, with all his efforts to spread the word, he recognizes that he cannot attain salvation alone. Philippians 3:12 records his knowledge that he must always press forward on the grace of Jesus. He expresses assurance in God’s ability to save him. He is not arrogant like the Pharisee of Jesus’ parable, but he does have confidence in the power of his God to save him. In verse 8, he counts all things as worthless when compared to gaining Christ, not trusting himself but trusting his Savior.
Living in Assurance
II Timothy 4:7 again expresses the assurance Paul has in Christ. He recognizes the imperfections in his life, but he anticipates a crown of righteousness through God’s grace. God’s grace makes us heirs of His despite our imperfections and our flaws. I John 1:6-7 calls on us to choose the walk of our lives. Walking in the light, conforming our lives to His will, gains us cleansing through grace.
Finally, in II Timothy 1:7, Paul says that God has granted us a spirit of love and power in self-discipline. We can know God’s power and His love when we give ourselves over to Him. His grace is open to us despite our undeserving state. We have but to obediently submit to His conditions of accepting that grace.
lesson by Tim Smelser