The Doctrine of Divine Grace

The Doctrine of Divine Grace

  1. INTRODUCTION:

Our church firmly believes that a right standing before God does not depend on anything we do. Salvation is given “apart from works;” it “does not depend on man’s desire or effort.” It is by grace, and not by works. What, then, is grace? One definition can read as follow: “Grace is God’s free and unmerited favour, shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment.” In other words, the only qualification for receiving God’s grace is to be completely unqualified. Which includes every person who ever lived, because as Rom.3:23 clearly points out… ~ “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All true believers are therefore accepted by God.

Grace also means that we as believers are exempted from eternal damnation. We must keep in mind what Paul says in Rom.3:10-12 ~ 10…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Paul however continues in Rom.3:22-24 by saying… ~ “…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”

When we keep the definition of grace in mind (“God’s free and unmerited favour, shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment.”), it is also clear that grace means that God’s attitude toward us is not affected by our works.

What are the benefits of God’s grace for His children?

  • It gives us freedom.
  • We can acknowledge and confess our faults and our failures.
  • Grace also means that we can extend grace to other people.
  1. SCRIPTURE READING:

Ex.34:1-9(ESV) ~The Lordsaid to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lordhad commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. TheLorddescended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lordpassed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favour in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.

A story is told about the nineteenth century evangelist D. L. Moody. On one occasion he was meditating on the theme of grace and was so captivated by the thought that, flinging aside his pen, he dashed out into the street where he confronted the first man he met and asked: “Do you know grace?” In reaction, thesurprised man asked:“Grace who?”

This morning, I would like us to look at a very technical topic, but one of the most distinctive features of the Bible, namely “grace”(and it’s not a lady’s name in this case). No other system of religious thought, or term – no other religion, past or present (this include Islam; Hinduism; Buddhism; Syncretism; the New Age types of religion, modern day Liberal Theology, or any other)contain an emphasis on divine gracecomparable to that of the Bible. In short, “grace” is the essence of the Gospel (Acts 20:24).

The doctrine of divine grace underlies the thought of both Old- and New Testament. However, the Old Testament merely anticipates and prepares for the full expression of grace that becomes manifest in the New Testament.

We’ve seen in our Scripture reading, that God reveals himself as… ~ “…a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”(Ex.34:6). As a result, it becomes possible for undeserving humans to approach him with the prayer that we find in Ex.34:9 ~ “…If now I have found favour (or grace)in thy sight, O Lord, …”

Through divine (or Godly) initiative, human alienation (estrangement) from God is turned by him into a state of unmerited acceptance that opens the way for reconciliation and redemptive usefulness. In other words, man is estranged from God due to sin and then God the Holy Spirit will work in certain people’s hearts, in order to change them to become children of Him.

Divine grace was already operative in the garden of Eden when God responded to the fall (Adam’s first sin) with the promise of redemption (salvation) ~ “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen.3:15b).

The call to and the covenant with Abraham was an extension of grace, not only to him as an individual, but through him as a means of offering grace to Abraham’s descendants.

We see in the New Testament that Divine grace (Godly grace) becomes embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. He demonstrates it visibly when he became a man and by that, fulfilled God’ grace in His ministry of salvation ~ “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14) … …John 1:17 (ESV) For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”God’s grace manifested in Jesus Christ makes it possible for God to forgive sinners and to gather them in the church, the new covenant community.

This simple truth, namely God’s grace, is formulated in the doctrine of justification by faith through grace in Rom.3:23-25 ~ “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins”(also see Titus 3:7). According to this teaching, God’s gracious provision of the substitutionary death of Christ, enables him to pronounce a verdict of “just”or “not guilty”on repentant sinners and to include them in his eternal purposes. As a result, they enter into the realm of God’s gracious activity, which enables them to implement (start/apply) the process of individual sanctification in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

  1. A DEFINITON:

To define the word or concept “grace” is not easy, because it is such an extensive word, a word which is loaded with tremendous meaning (not even “Gotquestions.org can give a short and acceptable definition – “LOL”). But let us look at one or two theological definitions:

  • “Grace is undeserved blessing freely bestowed in man by God”(Walter A. Elwell).
  • “Grace is unmerited Divine assistance, a virtue coming from God, given to humans fortheir regeneration or sanctification(based on The Merriam Webster Dictionary).
  • “God’s grace manifested in Jesus Christ makes it also possible for God to bestow (give to)on believers undeserved benefits that enrich their lives and unite them together in the church, the body of Christ(Baker Encyclopaedia of the Bible).

The word for “grace” in the Greek New Testament is χάρις(“charis”). In general- Greek literature of ancient times and in non-salvational references in the New testament, it has a wide range of meanings, as does grace in modern day English, but with reference to Christian salvation, however, “charis” (grace) always has the narrow technical meaning of the “unmerited (undeserved)favour of God.”

We can see in Eph.2:8-9 how grace works ~ “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 boas.”According to this verse by Paul. it is totally impossible to work out one’s own salvation (or for that matter any other person’s salvation). Every aspect of salvation, even man’s act of repentance and faith are by the grace of God.

In Scripture, grace is declared to be an attitude of God in sending, or giving salvation (Titus 2:11), a gift of God imputed (given or planted in) to believers (Eph.4:7) and a power of God working in believers (1 Cor.15:10).

  1. COMMON GRACE AND SPECIAL GRACE:

We must also realise that there is a variety, or more than one type of grace, namely common grace (also called, general or universal grace – Afrikaans: “Algemene genade”)and special grace (also called, saving or regenerating grace – Afrikaans: “Toegespitste genade”)  – let us look at this:

  • Common Grace:Common grace is so called because it is common (available)to all mankind. Its benefits are experienced by the whole human race without discrimination between one person and another. The order of creation reflects the mind and the care of God the Creator who sustains what he has made – Hebr.1:3a ~ “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…” God’s gracious provision for his creatures is seen in the sequence of the seasons, provision of food, etc. This is why Jesus reminded his hearers that God… ~ “…makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on that unjust”(Matt.5:45). The Creator’s sustaining care for his creation (this includes all people) is what is meant when we speak of common grace.

Another aspect of common grace is evident in the divine government or control of human society. It is true that human society is in a state of sinful fallenness. Were it not for the restraining hand of God, indeed, our world would long since have degenerated into self-destructive chaos of iniquity, in which social order and community life would have been impossible. The fact that we experience a measure of domestic, political, and international harmony, is due to the overruling goodness of God. Paul teaches us in Rom.13 that God gives authority to our leaders in order for them to rule, guide, protect, punish, etc. the people of the land. If they don’t fulfil this calling, they will have to answer to God.

It is clear then, that we must be thankful towards God for his continuing care for his creation.

  • Special Grace:Special grace is the grace by which God redeems, sanctifies, and glorifies his people. Unlike common grace, which is universally given, special grace is given only to those whom God elects to eternal life through faith in His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. It is to this special grace that the whole of the Christian’s salvation is owed ~ “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”(2 Cor.5:18).

God’s special grace is dynamic. It not only saves but also transforms and revitalises those whose lives were previously broken and meaningless – those who were lost in other words.

In theology, special grace is sub-divided under four aspects (or four steps):

  • Prevenient grace:Prevenient grace is grace which comes first – it is grace that was pre-determined – it is grace that God started and given, even before man can think about it, or do anything about it. It precedes all human decision and endeavour (Afrikaans: “Voorafbepaalde genade”). Grace always means that it is God who takes the initiative and implies the priority of God’s action on behalf of needy sinners. That is the whole point of grace: it does not start with us, it starts with God; it is not earned or merited by us, it is freely and lovingly given to us who have no resources or deserving of our own ~ “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins… …We love because he first loved us”(1 John 4:10, 19). God showed his prior love for us by graciously providing this redemption precisely while we had no love for him ~ “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… …For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom.5:8, 10).
  • Efficacious grace:Efficacious grace (Afrikaans: “Effektiewe genade”),or effectual grace is grace which effects or assures the purpose for which it is given. It is efficacious (effective – it is able to produce a desired goal), because it is God’s grace – there are no flaws in His grace. God’s efficacious grace will accomplish its aim and purpose, because it is bestowed upon (given to) God’s elect by a perfect and complete God ~ “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out… …And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day”(John 6:37, 39). Special grace, not only turns sinners from darkness to the light but also brings them to the consummation of eternal life.

That the grace of God in Christ Jesus is efficacious, that it achieves now and for evermore the redemption it was designed to achieve, should be a source of the utmost confidence, strength, security and a life full of thankfulness and service to Christ.

  • Irresistible grace:Irresistible grace (Afrikaans: “Onweerstaanbare genade”) is grace which cannot be rejected (the elect cannot reject grace which comes from God). The fact that grace is also efficacious (effective), implicates that the elect cannot brush grace off the table, or refuse it. Resist it for some time maybe yes, but God’s irresistible grace is like a pack of African wild dogs and a Blue Wildebeest – the Wildebeest might think that he escaped the Wild dogs, because he is running away, but Wild dogs never give up and they are much fitter than a wildebeest and will therefore eventually catch up with it, and kill it.

Paul was such a “Wildebeest” ~ “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads’”(Acts 26:14). Eventually however, no-one who is chosen by God, can run away from the Holy Spirit.

  • Sufficient grace:Sufficient grace (Afrikaans: “Voldoende genade”) is grace that is adequate for the saving of the believer here and now and hereafter to all eternity. As with the other aspects of special grace, its sufficiency flows from the infinite power and goodness of God. Those who draw near to him through Christ he saves fully… ~ “Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them.” (Amplified Bible – Hebr.7:25).

We read in 1 John 1:7 ~ “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin”and in 1 John 1:9 ~ “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”In other words, when we receive God’s sufficient grace, there is no debt for us anymore – no debt and no blame.

I’m reading the following by someone that I unfortunately can’t remember who it was: Although “Special Grace”is critically important, it’s also scarce. God’s special grace is only given to his elect. This fact has tremendous implications to all believers, because this means that God’s acceptance of us is completely unconditional. His love is offered freely and without cost. His favour toward us is given without respect to merit or demerit, worth or worthlessness, accomplishment or failure. We cannot earn God’s approval or his forgiveness, and the good news is that we don’t have to. Our behaviour, good or bad, has absolutely no effect on God’s attitude toward us. We can’t cause Him to love us more by being good, or make Him love us less by being bad. His love for us, his affection toward us, and his acceptance of us are perfect and unchanging. 

  1. CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

In conclusion I would like to repeat what I’ve said in the beginning:

Having a right standing before God does not depend on anything we do. Salvation is given “apart from works”; it “does not depend on man’s desire or effort.” It is by grace, and not by works. What, then, is grace? It is “God’s free and unmerited favour, shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment.”In other words, the only qualification for receiving God’s grace is to be completely unqualified. Which includes every person who ever lived, because as Rom.3:23 clearly points out… ~ “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”All believers are therefore accepted by God.

Grace also means that we as believers are exempted from eternal damnation. We must keep in mind what Paul says in Rom.3:10-12 ~ 10…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Paul however continues in Rom.3:22-24 by saying… ~ “…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”

When we keep the definition of grace in mind, it is also clear that Grace means that God’s attitude toward us is not affected by our works.

What are the benefits of God’s grace for His children?

  • It gives us freedom, because we don’t have to pretend anymore. We don’t have to pretend to have it all together spiritually, because we know that God loves us.
  • We can acknowledge and confess our faults and our failures. We don’t have to worry what people think of us. We don’t have to impress anyone, least of all God.
  • Grace also means that we can extend grace to other people. We don’t have to keep score; who did what bad thing to us and what we should do back; or who did what good thing to us, and we need to reciprocate. It frees us from worrying about what we deserve, and what our rights are, and what other people owe us, and how they should treat us. It frees us to just love people in Christ’s name, without worrying about whether we’re getting what we deserve. Because we know the truth, which is that we don’t deserve anything, and that everything we have is a gift of God’s grace. It frees us up to serve people, and love people, and to give freely, without calculating what we’re owed in return, and it gives us the freedom to receive from others, without calculating what we owe them in return. Grace gives us the freedom to simply love and be loved, that is why Paul writes in Rom.13:8 ~ “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law.”
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