Ephesians 2. 8, 9|
Whenever a parent or teacher allows you to ‘get by’ with less than what is required, you are happily the beneficiary of his or her grace. This is a gift for which your superior is in no way obligated, but acts either out of the kindness of his heart, or to make his job easier. Theologically speaking, grace is defined as the unmerited love and favor of God toward His creation, exhibited in the exemption of a penalty-- the universal penalty of death.
By grace are you saved by faith; and that
Not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph 2. 8, 9)
Grace is a gift that can’t be contained or identified by mortal man, except for the sign given 2,000 years ago—the sign of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We see in this event God’s vast power which He will expend on His creation in His own time; one day believers will become beneficiaries of that grace, in a great escape from the power of sin and death and resurrection to life everlasting.
We’re accustomed to think generally of the Law and Old Testament to be without the blessings of grace, and associate it only with the New Testament and the sending of Jesus Christ. This is apparently scriptural, for we read:
For the law was by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
(John 1. 17).
However, it’s not strictly true that the law was without grace:
Ye shall therefore keep my statutes,
And my judgments:
Which if a man do,
He shall live in them:
I am the LORD. (Lev 18. 5)
Under the law grace was imperfect and limited to the Jews. Plenty of evidence of grace is given in the Old Testament, e.g. Moses plea for grace (Ex 33. 12, 13); David: the LORD will give grace and glory (P. 84. 11); plus the story of Hezekiah, who had 15 years added to his life—by God’s grace. However, we should take note that the seeds of God’s grace—His escape route, if you will— were planted in Eden when God said:
And I will put enmity
Between you (the serpent) and the woman (mankind),
And between your seed and hers;
He will crush your head,
And you will strike his heel. (Gen 3. 15 NIV)
In this veiled reference, perceived by scholars to be the first Messianic prophecy in scripture, God is saying that the seed of the woman (Christ), would deliver a death blow to the serpent (sin and death), by his own death--a truth we celebrate in the resurrection of Christ.
By one man, Adam, sin entered the world, resulting in death, but by the grace of God we are exempted from the punishment that would forever after pervade the whole human race. Paul explains:
Adam is a figure of the one who was to come,
But the two are not the same;
For the free gift of God is not like Adam’s sin.
It is true that many men died
Because of the sin of that one man.
But God’s grace is much greater,
And so is His free gift to so many men
Through the grace of the one man Jesus Christ.
And there is a difference between God’s gift
And the sin of one man.
After the one sin came the judgment of “guilty”;
But after so many sins comes the undeserved gift of “not guilty”
It is true that through the sin of one man
Death began to rule, because of that one man.
But how much greater is the result of what was done by
The one man Jesus Christ! (Rom 5. 15 – 17 GOOD NEWS)
God’s abundant grace is assured in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
Ho, everyone that thirsts,
Come ye to the waters,,
And he that hath no money,
Come ye, buy and eat;
Yea, come buy wine and milk without money
And without price.
Wherefore do ye spend money
For that which is not bread?
And your labor for that which satisfies not?
Harken diligently unto me,
And eat ye that which is good,
And let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Incline your ear and come unto me:
Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make
An everlasting covenant with you,
Even the sure mercies of David. (Is 55. 1 – 3).
Out of this call, this summons to every man, is born the realization that God’s grace is a grant with no strings save fealty—an archaic word which best describes the duty and loyalty owed by a vassal to his feudal lord. To always acknowledge God and be willing to hear and obey, constitutes a confession of total dependence on the Creator. This is key. We need God; we need the recognition of our Father; we know we are otherwise lost.
Our need for the blessing of Christ’s sacrifice for us indicates our unworthiness to merit any reward—eternal life or otherwise--hence, the deprecation of works, and enhancement of faith. By faith we are saved. The grace of God does not obviate this basic principle, but how often have you heard repeated James statement that Faith without works is dead? (Jas 2. 20). Our good deeds are basically meaningless unless they are motivated by a devoted faith in God and the one whom He has sent. (Jn 6. 29). What James is saying is that the only way to express your belief—your faith-- is by your works, and thereby grace. With Christ in us we have hope of glory. Of paramount importance, however, is that our faith is well-reasoned, its truth gleaned from the Holy Scriptures.
Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.