Our society has many uses for the word grace. But what is it?
We make mention of grace with sayings like “that dancer was so graceful”. Or, the King & Queen “graced” us with their presence. We say “grace” before dinner.
We use it commonly in religious, mystic, or general terms without considering what grace really is.
Grace is first “of God”. Grace existed before we did. There was a perfect graceful fellowship in our perfect Triune God before our creation.
We know grace because God grants it to us. It is an act of common grace to be created in his image. We are able to enjoy food, drink, nature, etc. simply because of his common grace. His special grace is that of the cross. Jesus died for sinners who would respond to salvation in faith by grace.
Grace is intended to be a recycled commodity in the pulse of the church. We receive grace from God. We give grace to each other. The people are knitted together in grace and share grace with the world.
Let’s look at an excerpt from Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology:
“The grace of God. The significant word “grace” is a translation of the Hebrew “chanan” and of the Greek “charis”. According to Scripture, it is manifested not only by God, but also by men, and then denotes the favor which one man shows another… The Bible generally uses the word to denote the unmerited goodness or love of God to those who have forfeited it, and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation. The grace of God is the source of all spiritual blessings that are bestowed upon sinners.”
Grace is the “unmerited goodness” given to those undeserving or especially of those who have “forfeited”.
Paul proclaims that we are saved by grace through faith. Paul takes painstaking efforts to explain to churches the desperate need to have grace with one another.
Paul knows that we have an entitled and spoiled nature. This is not an American 21st-century problem. The churches of Galatia wanted to add rituals to the gospel, nullifying grace. The Corinthian church trampled on grace allowing heinous sins. The Thessalonian church was more captivated with end times than with grace.
Grace is tricky not because of itself but because of our treatment of it. It is our error to add to grace, to take away from it, or to altogether forget. We must constantly consume the grace of God and extend it to one another.
Grace is both a delicate matter and a combustible fuel for gospel mission. Grace is worth spending a lifetime of study on and yet never completely definable. Grace is most often not explained in a classroom as it is modeled in a hospital or on a couch. Grace is most often not spat on in a public forum but around a shared corner.
A person without grace is both always the offended and always the offending. A person with grace has a default to forgive when wronged and is cautious to not wrong others.
A church without grace is like a car without any fuel. It will eventually become so stagnant that it begins to rust and its moving parts will seize. A church with grace will be as attractive as water to the thirsty.
It is clear Paul had his heart-ache for people and churches who had a misconception of grace. Paul was deeply concerned about the health of those who hoarded grace and he was attacked by revilers who did not value grace.
The value of grace is determined by its cost, not by our experience. We cling to grace and give grace because we see the cost paid for by Jesus. We are humbled by Jesus picking up the tab. We share a gratefulness of the gospel and a graciousness with each other because of the cost.
The cost of grace is the blood of God. Jesus, full of grace and truth, died on the cross to remove our sins and make us white as snow. Grace is free to us but that does not mean that grace is not costly.
If we neglect the gracious gospel or do not have grace in gospel community it is to cheapen grace. It is to not remember the cost of grace.
Jesus considered the cost. It was worth it.
I pray that we would be overwhelmed with the worth of grace.