What is grace? Grace is the free, unmerited, undeserved favour of God to sinners. It is needed because of the character of God and the character of man.
Though man was created in the image of God, able to know and enjoy him, he sinned and was separated from God.
Sin has since dominated all man’s actions. He is now alien to God his maker and because of his sinful character can do nothing about it. But God cannot condone or overlook sin. His holiness, truth and justice demand that man must be dealt with as he is and sin punished.
God’s holiness and man’s sin, taken on their own, would condemn all men to an eternity in hell. But God’s character is such that, though he hates sin, he loves the guilty sinner who deserves his judgement. Divine love, therefore, planned, and divine grace provided, salvation.
In Ephesians 2:4-5 we find three great gospel words — ‘love’, ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’. Out of God’s love and mercy flows grace. Grace is not some abstract idea; it is God working. It is God loving the unlovely, pardoning the guilty and saving the lost. Grace results in the unique work of God.
We do not deserve grace, because our sin is our own fault. What we deserve is hell, but in Christ we receive grace, and every blessing and benefit that flows from it.
Eternal and irresistible
Salvation by grace is an eternal salvation. It depends upon the merit of Christ, not our merit. Therefore, it never fails or loses its power.
Every time I review the circumstances of my conversion, I am more convinced than ever that salvation is all of grace. I was saved when I was 17-years-old, and there was certainly no merit in me to warrant salvation. At that time, I was not seeking God, so my salvation had to be God’s work.
Before I had read any theology, I knew that grace was ‘irresistible’. It had to be or I would have resisted it and never been saved.
If salvation were not all of grace, then it would be a flimsy, temporary experience that can go as easily as it comes. The glory of salvation is that it is God’s work and so as eternal as God himself.
I have been a Christian for over 50 years and I still sin, and God still forgives every sin. That must be grace. I am amazed that God is so patient with me and has not tossed me aside as useless.
Here is a patience that finds its roots in grace. It does not minimise sin, but rather magnifies a loving God. I did not earn my salvation and I do not earn the right to continue in it.
Grace is a most humbling concept. Why should God save me? I don’t know, but I thank him every day that he did. Why should God use a sinner like me to spread his gospel? That is way beyond my understanding. Why does God put up with my spiritual wanderings and worldliness?
God has done all that is necessary in and through the Lord Jesus Christ to save sinners. The grace of God is the most thrilling concept that can occupy the mind of a Christian, and, when it occupies the mind, it will soon flood the heart with praise to God that such a thing exists.
Without God’s grace there is no hope for any of us. The only alternative is salvation by our own efforts. This is a non-starter, because God will not accept it. The New Testament makes that abundantly clear.
Delighting in Christ
If salvation is to be effective, it has to be acceptable to God. This is why ‘grace’ is the key word in the gospel, because it delights in the Lord Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for our sin, which God himself has provided.
If we do not understand the New Testament meaning of the word grace, we will never understand the gospel, because the key to understanding the substance and heart of its message is to realise that salvation is through Christ alone.
A few years ago I received an invitation to preach in California. As the time drew near for my departure, I grew somewhat concerned, because I had not received a ticket from the churches who had invited me to preach.
But they were soon on the phone telling me not to worry, because I did not need a ticket. This did not relieve my concern; rather, it deepened it. Of course I needed a ticket. Everyone knows you cannot fly without a ticket. What on earth were those folk in California on about?
They then started to explain to me something, at that time, completely new to me called electronic ticketing. Apparently, all I had to do was to present myself at the airlines desk at Heathrow Airport, tell them who I was, show them my passport, and they would then give me a ticket.
I had never heard of this before and I was rather dubious. I wanted the comfort of a ticket in my hand before I left home. They again had to reassure me that it would be all right. ‘It’s all been taken care of at this end’, they said.
‘All taken care of’
Of course, all my fears were unfounded. It had all been taken care of at the other end; the folk inviting me and the airline knew it, even if I was a bit uncertain.
The grace of God is something like that — it has all been taken care of at the other end.
One day I will set out on the most important journey anyone can take — from this life to the next.
I will have to stand before God and he will say, ‘Who are you?’ I will answer by giving him my name. ‘O, yes’, God will reply, ‘you are one of those who my Son died for. He paid the debt for your sins. You are one of those Jesus loved and saved. Come on into heaven; you are welcome because of what Jesus has done for you!’
Salvation is all taken care of by Jesus the Saviour. This is a great comfort to a sinner like myself, always full of doubts and uncertainties.
Has Jesus taken care of your salvation? When God planned the salvation of sinners, he did it in such a way as to take into account our doubts and fears.
Electronic ticketing was new to me, and this was why I was uncertain, but it did mean that I could never lose my ticket. All I had to do was to turn up and it was waiting for me.
Salvation by grace means that we can never lose our salvation. Because it has all been taken care of at the other end and because Jesus has done it all, there is no possibility of us ever losing it.