What Exactly is the Grace of God ?
Ephesians 2, verses 8 & 9 tell us, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”
What exactly does it mean, when it says, “By grace you have been saved”? The simple answer is actually given in this very verse, when it says; “It is the gift of God”. Being saved by grace, means that salvation is a gift from God. Salvation is not something that is earned. That’s why it says; “not of yourselves”, and “not as a result of works, that no one should boast”.
There are things that we must do, to comply with God’s terms of salvation. In other words, there are things that we are required to do, to be able to receive the benefits of this free gift. The reason, that it remains a gift, even though there are things that WE are required to do, is that being forgiven of sins, and therefore “saved”, requires the blood of a sinless sacrifice. That’s something that no person, could ever provide for themselves. Only God’s blood, in the form of Jesus Christ, could be used, because only Jesus was sinless. Therefore, salvation remains a GIFT of God.
So then, being saved by grace, is being saved as a gift. But what is the actual meaning of grace? Does it simply mean, “gift”?
In the context of being “saved by grace”, it means.. “favor and kindness extended towards someone”. And it especially refers to this favor and kindness, being extended to someone who does not deserve it. In other words, it’s a total and complete gift. A gift, extended from God, to us.
There are a few other meanings for the word grace, such as “gratitude”, or “thanks”. That’s why when we give thanks to God for a meal, it’s referred to as “saying grace”. It’s the same as saying “thanks” to God for the food.
It can also mean.. “Sweetness, and loveliness, and charm, and pleasure, and delight”. Such as “graceful speech”. Or “graceful movements”.
And so in the scriptures, grace doesn’t always refer to the gift of salvation. But the phrase “saved by grace” does always refer to the fact that our salvation is “a gift of God”.
So with that said; We can see that EVERY aspect of our salvation is due to grace. There is NO part that does not rely on this grace. Even our own obedience to God’s commands, is made possible by God’s grace, or His favor and kindness, having been extended towards us.
That should make clear, the meaning of being “saved by grace”.
When Does Grace Become a Factor In Our Lives ?
When does grace come into play? when does it become a factor in our lives? And this of course is in direct reference to the saying, “that’s where grace comes in”.
So, when and where does grace come in? Does it come into play, only at certain times of our lives, and only under certain conditions, and only in certain situations? Or is the grace of God, ALWAYS active in our forgiveness? The reality is.. That grace is always at the core of every aspect of our salvation. There is really NEVER a specific time or situation when we can say; “This is where grace comes in”. Do you see what I’m saying? If you’re talking about salvation, or the reason for our forgiveness, grace is always there. Grace is always, at the root, of every aspect of salvation. It doesn’t come into play more specifically at this time, or at that time. It ALWAYS plays the same role.
However, we need to be very aware, of the conditions that allow us to be forgiven of sins. God has set forth various conditions, that must be met, before the benefits, of the grace of God, can be realized in our spiritual lives. For example; We know that faith in Christ, is a condition that MUST to be met, before we can receive any of the benefits, from the grace of God.
God’s grace is available to ALL people, isn’t it? Remember 1 John 2:2.. Speaking of Jesus, it says; “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but for the sins of the whole world.” But everyone in the world won’t actually be forgiven of their sins, even though Jesus is the propitiation for their sins. The offering of the sacrifice of Jesus, IS the grace of God. That IS the gift, that god has given to mankind.
But certain straightforward conditions, must be met, by us, before we can receive the benefits of the gift offered to us. Faith in Christ is one condition.
What’s another condition? Repentance is another condition, isn’t it? “God is now declaring that all men, everywhere repent.” Acts 17:30
What’s another one? Confession, right? “With the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:10
How about another? How about baptism? “He who believes AND is baptized, shall be saved.” Mark 16:16
And another one? How about remaining faithful, and not quitting? “The one who endures to the end, the same shall be saved.” Mat 24:13
And there’s more. How about 1 John 1:7.. “IF we walk in the light, as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Christ cleanses us of all sin.” IF we walk in the light. that’s a condition that must be met. If we DON’T walk in the light, the blood of Christ does NOT cleanse us of all sin. It won’t cleanse us of ANY sin, if we don’t walk in the light. To walk in the light, simply means to walk according to the word of Christ, and of God. We either obey His commands, or we don’t. It’s that simple.
If we don’t meet these requirements, then we do not receive the benefits of the gift of God’s grace.
Now, is grace “not there”, just because we may choose NOT to meet one or more of these requirements? And does grace “suddenly appear”, when we decide TO obey these commands? Grace is always there, isn’t it? And when did grace first appear? The PLAN of salvation was determined before the foundation of the world.
For instance, Eph 3:11 tells us, “This was in accordance with the eternal purpose, which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So it was planned from eternity, but it became a reality, when Jesus died on the cross. “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son (that’s the gift of His grace), that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
God’s Law Concerning Sin
Let me give you another example of God’s laws concerning sin, and guilt, and forgiveness. We’re told in Romans 5:13, “..but sin is not imputed where there is no law.” Sin might be present, but it’s not imputed where there is no law. And let me give you an example of that..
In the letter to the Galatians, Paul was speaking about the grace of God. He said in V-18, “For if the inheritance (that’s salvation he’s talking about.. The gift of God). “For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.” Do you see what he’s saying? The grace of God, which is salvation, was PROMISED to Abraham, and to his descendants. And that promise was made a reality, by Jesus Christ.
Now listen to V-19.. “Why the law then? Why did God add the law of Moses, when He had already made the promise of salvation to Abraham? “It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through the agency of a mediator (that was Moses) until the seed should come (that’s Christ) to whom the promise had been made.”
So in other words, there was sin in the world before the law of Moses. But as we saw from Rom 5:13, “..sin is not imputed where there is no law.” Nevertheless, God did NOT want His people to sin. Therefore He added the law to govern the people, so that they would have a way to keep from sinning.
A law For All People
Now I want to show you a couple other scriptures that deal with this subject of sin, and law, and whether or not sin is imputed.
First, in Romans 3:12, we’re told by God, “For all who have sinned without the law, will perish without the law. And all who have sinned under the law, will be judged by the law.”
That makes it very clear, that there are people who were NOT under the law of Moses, who WILL perish because of sin, separate and apart from the law of Moses. And of course those who sinned while being under the law of Moses, will be judged by the law they were under.
Here’s a second verse that goes along with this subject..
Romans 2:14-16 tells us, concerning these people who were not under the law of Moses; “For when gentiles who do not have the law, do by nature, the things OF the law, these not having the law, are a law unto themselves, in that they show the works of the law, written in their hearts; their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts, alternately accusing, or else defending them, on the day when according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men, through Jesus Christ.”
Let’s break these last three verses down so we can understand them easier..
First; The people of the gentile nations, who weren’t given the law of Moses, were still capable of doing some of the things that were contained in the law, simply by nature. In other words, there are some things that are obviously either right or wrong, and we don’t need a special revelation from God, for us to recognize these things. They are obvious to us “naturally”. Thus people are capable of doing “the things of the law”, simply “by nature”.
Now it would be foolish of us to think that we could know all the various “ceremonial regulations”, or “rules of business”, that are spelled out in the law of Moses, simply by nature But it’s very reasonable to believe that we can, “by nature”, have a basic understanding of moral laws. Such as treating all people with the same respect and concern that we ourselves want to be treated with. It’s just like “the golden rule”, stated by Jesus in Luke 6:31, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.”
The Natural World
As we view the animal world all around us, we can see how almost all animal species, nurture their young, and care for one another, and even cooperate and work together to accomplish various things. Now I realize that we also observe the “survival instinct” being played out, and the “survival of the fittest” playing a key role in nature. However, we must admit, if we believe in the bible as the word of God, that God has created humans on a higher level that all the rest of the animal world. God has made us “in His own image, according to His likeness” (Gen 1:26). Therefore it is very reasonable to conclude that we have been created with the ability to understand “by nature” what is morally right and wrong.
The second thing we should notice about those verses from Romans 2:14-16, is that our inner spirit, and our conscience is involved in our ability to understand, and to do, what is either right or wrong. Let me quote those verses once again..
“For when the gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature, the things of the law.. These not having the law, are a law unto themselves, in that they show the works of the law, written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, alternately accusing or defending them..”
The phrase “written in their hearts”, means that it is imbedded in our very spirit. The “heart of man”, in the scriptures, refers to the inner being, in other words, the spirit. Therefore, the things that we know to be right and wrong, by nature, “become a law to us”, which then governs us, and which will then judge us. We display through our actions, the fact that our spirit within us, understands and acknowledges these things. And then our conscience will “bear witness”, by either allowing us to feel pleased in our spirit, with how we’ve behaved, or by “accusing us” (in other words, feeling guilty) for going against what we know by nature to be right.
We’re told in Jeremiah 17:10, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind. Even to give to each man according to his ways. According to the fruit of his deeds.”
So then when we “feel guilty” about something we’ve done, we know that God also sees our guilt. But on the other hand, when we allow nature, to dictate to us how we should live, then our conscience will “defend us”.
Now keep in mind, that this “natural law” applied only to people who were NOT given any other law from God to guide them. It didn’t apply to the nation of Israel, because they were given the law of Moses to guide them. And it doesn’t apply to anyone who has ever lived under the law of Christ, because we have the new testament law to guide us. Sometimes you will hear people talk about “the Patriarchal law”. this refers to specific laws that God gave to some of the early “patriarchs”. In other words to the heads of certain families, before the law of Moses was given, in approximately 1450 BC. Adam was a patriarch, Moses was a patriarch, and so were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And we have the recorded examples of some of the laws that God gave to each of these patriarchs. Though nothing is told us about what God may have directly commanded other patriarchs from ancient times.
I’ll have a follow-up article to finish off this study about God’s laws, and the grace of God. But keep in mind, that all of God’s laws, no matter when they were given, or who they were given to, are all given by the grace of God. God’s laws are given for our protection and well-being. And God’s words of instruction and of salvation, have always been “a gift of God”. That’s what grace is.. The gift of God.
Please view the next article on God’s laws and His great grace.
May God bless you in the study of His word.
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