A Picture of Grace

What is grace?

Grace is one of those words within the Christian faith which we know is important but at the same time can also be a bit vague.  We generally understand that grace is a good thing and we can encounter it in sentences to do with faith, salvation, hope, mercy, and other similar “good” words.  However, our grasp of the depth of what grace actually is can sometimes be lacking, and if we’re not careful the word “grace”, which is so fundamental to the Christian faith, can end up floating about as an odd, nebulous, good word.

The word grace in the New Testament is generally translated from the Greek word charis (χάρις G5485) meaning grace, good-will, favour.  Interestingly, the word in the New Testament generally translated as gift is the closely related charisma (χάρισμα G5486) meaning gift, favour, gratuity.  The concept is essentially a freely given good gift that is not earned or deserved by the recipient.

A Picture of Grace

In order to illustrate grace, to paint a picture if you will, it can be helpful to contrast the concept of grace with the concept of theft.

Scenario 1: Theft

Imagine you have a basketball and you know someone called Tim who doesn’t have a basketball.   Consider for a moment that this Tim steals your basketball.

  • You no longer have a basketball, Tim however now has a basketball.
  • You are sad – the victim of theft.  Tim is happy (although conscience stricken) – the beneficiary of theft.
  • You desire justice, you want your basketball back and for the thief to be punished.
  • Tim avoids you and the authorities to conceal his theft

The just outcome here is for Tim to get caught, for you to get your basketball back, and for Tim to go to jail.

Scenario 2: Grace

Imagine the same scenario, you have a basketball and you again know Tim who does not have a basketball.  However, this time you decide to freely give your basketball to Tim as a gift (this is our picture of grace).

  • You no longer have a basketball, Tim however now has a basketball.
  • You are not a victim of theft.  Tim is the beneficiary of generosity (grace).
  • There is no desire for justice, as nothing unjust has occurred.  You are likely happy that Tim is happy.
  • Tim is drawn towards you (out of thankfulness) and is not afraid of authorities.

In both scenarios the outcome of the transaction is the same.  To begin you had a basketball and Tim didn’t, at the end Tim had a basketball and you didn’t.  However, the second scenario demonstrates the power of grace.  While the first scenario ended with a demand for justice to be executed, for a wrong to be put right, the second scenario does not.

Grace maintains a foundation of justice and nullifies evil with a superior good.  Tim’s opportunity to sin through theft is destroyed by the decision made to move in grace by being generous.  Tim can’t steal something that is freely given to him!  However, he can reject the gift.  This is the gospel of grace, this is the simple message of the gospel.  God has freely given us the offer of eternal life through Jesus, something we do not deserve but something nonetheless He has given to us as a gracious free gift.  He embraced death (something He did not deserve, but we do) and He has given us the gift of eternal life (something He has, but we do not deserve). It is now simply our decision to accept or reject the gift.

A side note on works: a third scenario could be given where Tim works, earns enough money and then buys the basketball.  This is salvation by works, and the problem with this approach is there is nothing we can do in a sinful, fallen state to earn enough to purchase eternal life from God.  The most we could give is our entire lives, which as already noted are sinful, finite, and destined for death (the wages of sin is death).  A sinful, death bound life is obviously not equal in value to eternal life.  Accordingly, the only possible way to receive eternal life is to be given it freely by the One who has it, Jesus.

Hopefully this now shines a bit of light of the following verses:

[2Co 8:9 NIV] 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

[Rom 3:24 NIV] 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

[Eph 2:8-9 NIV] 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

Finally, if we are recipients of His grace, if we confess Jesus and believe we are saved by His wonderful grace we each now have the opportunity to faithfully share that grace, that gift, with any and everyone around about us.  We have the opportunity to creatively, and lovingly demonstrate this principle of grace to others through being gracious, giving, and generous with our time, attention, words, actions, finances, giftings, talents, and lives – all in the name of Jesus.

[1Pe 4:10 NIV] 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

We do not work to get saved, we receive it as a gift, but once in possession of the gift – out of joy and thankfulness we share the gift with others, the gift of Jesus – the love of God.

Grace to Grace by Hillsong Worship, from the bridge:

“When I see that cross, I see freedom
When I see that grave, I’ll see Jesus
And from death to life, I will sing Your praise
In the wonder of Your grace”

 

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