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The message of the Bible runs like a golden thread from Genesis to Revelation. There are many different ways that the message can be studied. For example we can read about the men and women whose lives are recorded in the Bible. We can examine the teaching of individual writers who wrote under divine inspiration such as Moses, David, Solomon, the prophets and apostles and most important of all, the teaching of Jesus.
In this article, we attempt to answer a few simple, yet vital questions. What is grace? Why is it important? How do we find it? How do we continue to receive it? What are we going to do about it? The word appears in the Bible many times, which gives us an indication of just how crucial ‘grace’ is to all those trying to follow Jesus.
The first occurrence of the word ‘grace’ is in the first book of the Bible:
‘But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD’
The last is right at the end of the Bible:
‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.’
This shows how important is the theme of ‘grace’ to readers of God’s Word.
What is grace?
If we look in a dictionary, various definitions will be given; but the one that best sums it up is ‘undeserved kindness’. In the UK we may hear the phrase ‘grace and favour’ being used in connection with the Royal Family. Sometimes, after a life of service to the Queen, a servant is given a ‘grace and favour’ house or apartment to live in. This suggests that they didn't deserve to be rewarded in this way, whereas it could be seen as a reward for a lifetime of service. The phrase is used because the house was not part of the Queen's contract with that servant but was given over and above what the servant was entitled to, making it ‘undeserved’.
Why is grace important?
The importance of grace cannot be underestimated. Without it we cannot be saved; it is as simple as that. We cannot earn salvation. We cannot be worthy. We cannot merit eternal life. The Bible says:
‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’
Therefore because we sin, we do not deserve eternal life. God has been merciful to us and given us the opportunity to obtain everlasting life through the sacrifice of Jesus, who died for our sins. Because our debts have been paid for by the blood of Jesus, the Scriptures say we can be justified, and because it did not cost us anything, it says we can be justified freely. If someone gives us something freely (or for nothing), then it is a gift. If we have earned something through our own actions, then it would be like wages. This idea is summed up in the following Bible verses:
‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.’
‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
The teaching of the Bible is quite clear - the only thing we can earn through our own actions is death. And the only way we can achieve eternal life is because God gives it to us as a gift.
How do we find grace?
In a way, we have already answered this question. We cannot earn it; we cannot win it. We can only be given it by God. However, God does not extend His grace where it is not wanted. Our Creator gives it to those who earnestly seek Him, to those who have faith in Him and to those who try to obey Him. So faith is important - it encompasses belief in God and the things that He has promised:
‘But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.’
Faith is something that we have to cultivate if we want to please God. Not everyone has a faith that can move mountains, but we must work with what we are given to make it grow. Jesus shows us this in his teaching contained in the parable of the talents (see Matthew 25:14-30). Some have more to start with and some less. The latter are not punished for this but rather praised, for working with what they have and making it grow. The servant who is punished is the one who does nothing except bury the talent underground. If we bury our faith in the same way, then it is obviously dead and will not bring about an increase. The Apostle James puts it like this:
‘You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only… For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.’
In other words, if we believe or have faith in our saviour, Jesus Christ, we will want to do the works that show our faith is alive.
How do we continue in grace?
One of the mistakes made by many Christians is to believe in the ‘once saved, always saved’ concept. This is not taught in the Bible and anyone who accepts Jesus as their Saviour, but then effectively turns their back on him, or who allows other things such as careers, relationships, etc to take priority over their faith, is in for a big shock on judgement day! Even those making a big show of their faith, doing lots of high-profile things – but doing them for the wrong reasons or in the wrong spirit, they also are in danger of losing their grip on the great ‘prize’ as it is sometimes referred to in the Bible. Even the Apostle Paul, with all the great things he did in the name of Jesus, still had to ‘carry on carrying on’. As he puts it in one of his letters: ‘I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’
Believers are in a ‘state of grace’ and, if we continue, then we will be saved. In Jesus’ words: ‘…he who endures to the end will be saved’ (Matthew 10:22). There is no doubt at all that Jesus has done his part as a once and for all offering for sin, but we have to do our part, as Paul puts it, by ‘patient continuance in doing good’
What are you going to do about grace?
Now that you understand a little about God’s undeserved kindness towards us, what are you going to do ? Is it just an intellectual exercise? Do you feel that no action is required, or are you going to examine your life and make sure that you are walking in the right direction? If you have not yet committed yourself to Jesus, then what are you waiting for? The Apostle Paul was asked this very question before his conversion:
‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptised, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
We can teach you the basic truths of the Bible so necessary for salvation, and also baptise you when the time is right. If you have committed your life to Christ, you need to ask yourself whether your priorities are right
- are you seeking first the Kingdom? - Matthew 6:33
- are you regularly studying God's Word? - 2 Timothy 3:15-16
- are you trying to live by it? - Matthew 4:4; 1 Peter 1:22-23
Remember! None of these things will earn you salvation, but if you aren't doing them, what does it tell you about your faith? (James 2:26). Is it a living faith that is a central part of your life, or is it an academic faith that only deals in theories, not realities, or one that is only evident on Sundays? Only you can answer these questions for yourself and only you can do something about it. God's grace is freely available if we truly desire to seek Him. Don't miss this opportunity, but rather turn to God while there is still time.
Author: Andrew Longman, Milton Keynes, UK
Source Light on a New World - Volume 32/2
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