Peninsula Community Church
What Is Grace?
May 15, 2016
This morning I would like to look at the subject of what is grace. We talk about grace. We sing about grace. We read about grace but what is grace really. Let’s read this passage together.
Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
What a powerful scripture. As we begin I ask that you notice a couple of things about this passage. First, God who is rich in mercy did not give us what we deserve. You see we deserved death. Because of our sin we deserved the penalty that was laid upon the back of Christ. Instead of the penalty of death, through mercy we received life. Secondly, notice that Paul says that we are saved by grace. Through mercy we did not receive what we deserved and through grace we received what we did not deserve. But notice a third thing in this passage, it takes faith to believe that Christ has given us eternal life. This acceptance is not because we deserve it but it is just the opposite. We did not deserve it but because of Christ’s love for us He has saved us. That is Paul’s message to us.
To fully understand grace let us look at three distinctive qualities found in grace. First of all grace is unmerited. Paul stated that “It is by grace that we are saved and not by our works.” I heard Robert Morris, senior pastor of Gateway church, tell the story of a pastor who was questioned about what grace is. After the pastor thought for some time he described grace like being in a row boat. He described the boat itself as grace and the river as being life. He described the Christian life as placing the oars into one’s hands and then rowing like crazy against the current of life. If successful and if he maintained his strength he believed he would make it to the end and he would receive his reward. But here is the problem. Being fully dependent on the one doing the rowing is tiring, exasperating, and not very joyous. The pastor’s idea was that if he was good enough and strong enough he would make it to the end but that is so far from the truth. And that is certainly not grace. We cannot work for grace and we cannot work to maintain grace.
The second observation about grace is that it is undeserved. Look at what Paul had to say in Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… We must understand that our sin disqualified us for redemption because our sin had separated us from a holy God. But because of God’s grace the very thing we did not deserve God gave us. We deserved death but God gave us life. He gave us life regardless of what we have done. The grace of God is not measured by our sin but by His gift of love.
The third aspect of grace is that it is unearned. Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. Please note this, there is a big difference between free and earned. If it is free then it is not earned and if it is earned then it cannot be free. It is either or but it cannot be both. Can you imagine getting a birthday gift and the person giving you the gift saying here is my gift but I need $89.52? That is not grace.
To understand grace we need to understand the meaning of the Greek word for “grace.” The word is CHARIS. Before CHARIS was used by the Christian community the word originally was used by the Greek culture. The word represented a superior who gave a gift to one that is inferior. We would assume that there were two people involved but in the Greek culture there were often three people involved. The first person was the one providing the gift. The second person is the one receiving the gift. The third person was the broker. The role of the broker was to survey the needs of the community and then approach those with the ability to give to satisfy the need. The gift giver would be asked to donate or provide for the need. But here is the amazing thing. While the broker would connect the patron and the client together, it was the broker who paid for the gift. Imagine with me for a moment as we apply this spiritually. God was the one with a great gift of grace to give. But grace was beyond our ability to pay. So Christ brought us together with God and as the third party Christ paid the price with His life. He connected us to God through grace and He paid the price. That is unearned grace.
So what is grace? Grace is the dimension of divine activity that enables God to confront human indifference and rebellion with an inexhaustible capacity to forgive and to bless. Grace is the divine activity of God enabling humankind with an inexhaustible capacity to forgive and bless. How powerful is that? His love and forgiveness is tireless and beyond measure. This means that there is no sin or wrong that is too big to be covered by God’s grace. That is grace.
While we see what grace is let me give you a couple of things that grace is not. First of all grace does not negate the law. The law was given to show us sin and to bring Godly conviction when we disobey God’s purpose or plan. The problem with the law is that we can be deceived into believing that we are followers of Christ by keeping the rules. We are deceived into believing that a good relationship with Christ is based on what we do or what we do not do. The result is that we feel that by keeping the rules we are accepted and loved by God. Grace however speaks to who I am and not what I do. Through grace the law is actually fulfilled and here is why. It is much easier to follow the rules when we are in a relationship where we are given love unconditionally. Through grace we know that we are accepted by Christ and I am more about being than doing. I keep the law because I am righteous and I am whole, not because I have to, that I want to be accepted by God, or that I want to be loved more by Him.
This brings me to the second the concept. Grace is not a license to do whatever we want to do. The argument against a grace teaching often centers on the idea that there is an emphasis on giving people a license to sin or do whatever they want. Paul addressed this in Romans 5:19-21-6:4. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Many of the Romans believed that because of grace they were free to do whatever they wanted to do. The word here for “increased” speaks of sin growing larger and being more expansive with the passing of time. This describes the growing nature of unrestrained sin. So Paul is not saying that we should sin more so that grace is expanded but rather true grace frees us from sin. Because of the Roman view on grace Paul continues in Romans 6 by asking if we should continue in sin so that grace would abound. While grace covers sin and produces righteousness in us we do not sin more so that grace is revealed more. That is circular thinking and is an error. Here is the fact. Grace covers sin but more sin does not increase the value of grace. No! Grace is a free gift of God so what we do or don’t do never impacts grace. Grace is grace because it is a free gift.
John Piper made this observation about sin and grace. No matter how deep in the power of sin we have sunk, God’s grace is deeper still. No matter how deep into the power of sin we have sunk in the rebelliousness of our lives, Christ’s grace abounded all the more in order that righteousness, rather than sin and life, rather than death, might have the final word.
Grace does not remove our responsibility. We must receive the gift of grace. The action we are to take is to receive God’s gift. God is offering a free gift that has been paid in full by Christ’s death and resurrection. While it is free we must receive the gift that He is giving. And then we must apply the work of grace into our life. We can try to obey all of the law and keep all of the rules so we feel accepted or we can receive His grace which covers all of sin and removes the guilt of striving to be loved and accepted. How freeing grace is? How freeing it is to know His love?
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom