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What is Grace?



Whether we're discipling new Christians, training older ones, or counseling people who have been hurt at church, in relationships or by life's circumstances, Janet and I always make sure we teach - in word and in deed - about God's gifts of grace and mercy.

We teach from experience, having learned - often the hard way - that God's grace is sufficient for us. That we can not please God any other way than by living and walking in grace. His grace.

Perhaps you have heard grace explained like this:

Grace = receiving something good that you do not deserve

Grace goes hand in hand with mercy:

Mercy = not receiving something bad that you do deserve

Grace and mercy are at the heart of the Christian Gospel:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.

Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9)

And yet, so many Christians do not understand what grace and mercy really mean.

In our ministry we ask Christians who are caught up in legalism - the act of trying to please God by performance, including a rigid adherence to man-made rules - to read the book, "Grace Plus Nothing," by Jeff Harkin.

Frankly, it's a book we would have liked to have written ourselves. But with Jeff's excellent book freely available, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

Jeff has graciously allowed us to place a few chapters from his book online, which we do at GraceAndMercy.org

But because grace and mercy are so integral to our ministry - both online and offline - we'd like to post one chapter here at Apologetics Index as well:

What is Grace?

Most Christians say grace before meals. I must regretfully admit that for many years about all grace meant to me was prayers before meals.

Hopefully, having read even the first few pages of Grace plus Nothing, grace already means a lot more to you than that.

The grace of God is essentially the gift of righteousness (right standing before God) and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Not only are these gifts, but they are also unmerited gifts. We will speak much more concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit later, but for now we must understand that Paul tied grace to the gift of righteousness.

Those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

This understanding is foundational to Christianity. Furthermore grace alone has the power to free you from sin:

For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14).

Remember that the Lord imprisoned the entire world under the penalty and power of sin in order to induce all of us to receive his mercy (see Romans 11:32). Therefore the only way you will ever get free from sin is to get under grace and stay there. Paul said sin shall not be master over you because you are not under law but under grace. It makes sense, then, that the opposite is also true: To put a Christian under legalism is to bind him under sin! Remember that legalism has the power to actually arouse sinful passions.

In 1 Corinthians 1:30 Paul said that Jesus "became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption."

The word became is past tense. What Jesus has become for you is a finished work. You needn't add a thing to Paul's list in 1 Corinthians 1:30 in order to gain right standing before God. Jesus became all of this for you and he continues to be all of this for you as a gift. This is imputed righteousness, the true essence of the grace of God. Remember Isaiah 53:11; God Father is totally satisfied with Jesus. Grace means that, together with the Father, you must be satisfied with Jesus, and thus you can rest in him and abide in him, in all that he is for you. Romans 1: 16-17 says:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith."

We will be looking at this many times and in many different ways to help you make it you way of life.

But for now, be totally satisfied with Jesus plus nothing. That is, put all your faith in Jesus Christ himself to be all that you need for right standing before God, and begin to move from faith to faith. Relax. Stop striving to justify yourself. To be legalistic is to lock yourself under the power of sin, because sin shall be master over you as long as you are under the law.

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace (Romans 11:6). I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).

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This post was last updated: Mar. 11, 2012