The Grace of God
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The God of the Bible is “the God of all grace.”1 Grace is love, but love of a special sort. It is love which stoops and sacrifices and serves, love which is kind to the unkind, and generous to the ungrateful and undeserving. Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor, loving the unlovable, seeking the fugitive, rescuing the hopeless, and lifting the beggar from the dunghill to make him sit among princes.
It is grace which led God to establish his covenant with a particular people. God’s grace is covenant grace. True, it is also shown to everybody without distinction. This is called his “common grace,” by which he gives to all men indiscriminately such blessings as reason and conscience, love and beauty, life and food, marriage and children, work and leisure, ordered government, and many other gifts besides.
Yet God’s entering into a special covenant with a special people may be described as his characteristic act of grace. For in it he took the initiative to pick a people for himself and to pledge himself to be their God. He did not choose Israel because they were greater or better than other peoples. The reason for his choice lay in him, not in them. As Moses explained it, “The LORD … set his affection on you … because the LORD loved you.”2 …
Redemption was originally not a theological but a commercial word. Often in the Old Testament (as today) we read about the redemption of land that had been alienated from the owner’s possession, or mortgaged. There were people also who needed to be redeemed, such as slaves and prisoners. In each case something or somebody was bought, in fact bought back, from some state of alienation or bondage. To redeem was to purchase somebody’s freedom, to recover by payment of a price something which had been lost. …
This is the Old Testament background to Jesus Christ’s great work of redemption. Now humankind’s alienation and bondage are spiritual. It is our sin—our rebellion against both our Creator’s authority and our neighbor’s welfare—which has enslaved us and separated us from God. And man in sin is man under judgment; we deserve nothing for our revolt but death.
Into this situation of helplessness and despair came Jesus Christ. He took upon him our nature when he was born and our guilt when he died. In the stark, unvarnished language of the New Testament he first “became flesh,” and then “was made sin,” and even “became a curse” for us.3 For the simple truth is that he took our place. He identified himself so completely with us in our predicament that he bore our sin and died our death. …
Now he is described as “seated at God’s right hand,” resting from his finished work of redemption and crowned with glory and honor. He has won an “eternal redemption”4 for us.—John Stott5
Love that stoops
Grace is favor in absence of merit. Grace is love that stoops. With those who do not deserve anything, grace gives everything for nothing.6
Donald Barnhouse said, “Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace.” The Old Testament word for grace (chen) means “to bend.” God condescends to men of low estate,7 runs to meet sinners,8 and loves the unlovable.9 …
Grace is unaffected by the degree of sin, as Jesus was unaffected by the degree of illness in those He healed. Grace salvaged the “chief of sinners.” If there had been a tribe of sinners, Paul figured he would have been their chief; nonetheless, the grace of the Lord was “exceeding abundant” toward him.10
Grace salvaged publicans and sinners. Jesus worked among those shunned by the religious elite.11 Although publicans and sinners did not think that religion was for them, Jesus taught that “good” people, such as Pharisees, did not have a monopoly on religion. In fact, the self-righteous were left out of the kingdom while many formerly unrighteous made it.12 Jesus came not “to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”13
Grace salvaged pagans and moral delinquents. There was no Las Vegas, Rio, or San Francisco in the Roman Empire, but there was a Corinth. Its citizens were widely known for immorality. Evangelizing there struck fear into the seasoned heart of the veteran missionary Paul.14 Surely, he thought, I’m wasting my time here. But the Lord knew what Paul did not. Those whose names were written on police records would soon be written in heaven.15 …
An aged Paul writing his final book was confident in God’s grace: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him.”16 When Paul’s body was failing, Jesus told him, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”17 David observed, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”18 …
God bought us with a costly sum—the life of Jesus.19 When Jesus paid for us, He set us free—and if the Son “shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”20—Allen Webster21
Some who believe that Christians can lose their salvation don’t look at eternal life as meaning forever, but rather see it as a quality of life, a type of life in relationship with God, which one can have for a time and then lose. However, this concept doesn’t match the meaning of the Greek word aiōnios which is most often used in the Scripture for everlasting or eternal. The definition of aiōnios is without end, never to cease, eternal, everlasting.
Eternal life stands in contrast to judgment, condemnation, and separation from God. Those who receive Jesus, who are born again, are not condemned—they have been redeemed by Christ’s death on the cross.22
Salvation doesn’t bring an end to sin in our lives. As Christians we are to continually strive to overcome sin, but humans have sinful natures and therefore we sin, and when we do, we should ask God for forgiveness. While our sins have ramifications in our spiritual lives, in that they affect our personal relationship with God, they aren’t a cause for the loss of our salvation. We may suffer the consequences of our sins and be chastised for them, since God, as a good parent, lovingly tries to teach and train us; but we don’t lose our place as a child of God, one adopted into God’s family.23
As children of God, we are heirs of eternal life. It is our promised inheritance through salvation.
“When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”24
Being justified by grace, which means being saved through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are heirs of an imperishable inheritance which is kept in heaven for us and which is guarded by God’s power.
God has promised salvation; through His death and resurrection Jesus has secured it; the Holy Spirit guarantees it. Our salvation is secure, is permanent, and is eternal. Once you have it, you don’t lose it. We may have temporary lapses in faith, but these lapses in faith and obedience do not change our legal standing as heirs, as those justified by the blood of Jesus.25 Those who are saved, who have received Jesus, who are born again, do not lose their salvation.
Christians who have accepted Jesus as their Savior, who have been born again, are saved permanently. We have received eternal salvation, God’s gift of love. We have everlasting life, we are reconciled to God, and we will live forever.—All because God loves us and Jesus died for us, so that we might receive the wonderful gift of salvation.
God is the true and righteous judge; He is the one who knows each person’s heart and motives, who understands everything about each of us. He longs for people to be saved. He loves each and every person He ever created and freely extends His gift of salvation to all who will receive it.—Peter Amsterdam
Published on Anchor October 2022. Read by Debra Lee.
Music by John Listen.
1 1 Peter 5:10.
2 Deuteronomy 7:7–8.
3 John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13.
4 Hebrews 9:12.
5 Understanding the Bible (Scripture Union, 1978).
6 Ephesians 2:8–9.
7 Romans 12:16.
8 Luke 15:20.
9 Romans 5:6.
10 1 Timothy 1:14–15.
11 Luke 7:34.
12 Matthew 21:43.
13 Matthew 9:13.
14 Acts 18:9–10; 1 Corinthians 2:3.
15 Philippians 4:3.
16 2 Timothy 1:12.
17 2 Corinthians 12:9.
18 Psalm 37:25.
19 Ephesians 1:7.
20 John 8:36.
22 John 3:17–18.
23 Hebrews 12:6, 8, 10–11.
24 Titus 3:4–7 ESV.
25 Romans 5:9.