Throughout much of the New Testament, we are told of the grace which has been given to us freely. Yet we often wonder why we are deemed worthy of this gift. In fact, we are not worthy of it and yet we receive it nonetheless. So what is the reasoning behind the gift of this grace?
In Ephesians, the apostle Paul speaks of this gift of grace. One passage that he uses is Ephesians 2:8-9, which states:
For by such grace you have been saved through faith. This does not come from you; it is the gift of God and not the result of works, lest anyone boast. (ISV)
Many of us have read this passage and yet we wonder what is Paul speaking of when he was writing this? To better understand it, we need to look at some of the original Greek. In the Greek text, the word grace is defined as such:
graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude): – acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy).
This is quite the definition, and if we wanted to, we could break it down into a more specialized word study. However, instead we are going to re-define it to make it easier to comprehend. This does not mean that we are changing what is being said. Rather, we are putting it into an easy to comprehend format.
Grace: to act in a manner that is accepting of an individual no matter what they had done previously. This is often associated with a divine influence.
So by now we still have not answered the question as to why we as a fallen people deserve this grace. In the Matthew Henry Commentary on the Entire Bible, Henry speaks of the passage that Paul has given to the church in Ephesus. He states quite clearly that this grace is an extension of the love of God which has traveled with Israel and in extension to us since the time of the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy). This love is so far-reaching that God would send His one and only son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins, a fate which should have been our own. In Romans, Paul tells us quite clearly that the penalty for our sin is death, but that we have received eternal life through Christ.
This grace is something that we can not obtain but simply doing good things throughout our lifetime. Instead, we need to commit our lives to Christ and follow his leading for us. Many people believe that they need not commit their lives because Jesus knows that they are doing good works and will thus accept them into heaven without question. However, it is stated by Jesus in the gospel of John, that this is not the case, when he says to Thomas:
Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me (John 14:6 THE MESSAGE)
This simple statement shows us that we need Christ in order to enter the kingdom of God. In other instances, Christ tells us similar things. Many of these passages are also in John, and I would recommend reading the entire book for yourself.
So now we have established that we need to accept Christ in order to receive the grace that Paul speaks of, but where does this grace come from? This question has been posed many times and the simple answer is that it comes from our faith in Christ. There are more deeply theological answers, but that would take far to long to explain and break down. So for now we will stick with faith in Christ, and even that does not begin to touch the surface of what grace is.
The major question that we often ask ourselves once we determine what this grace is is why do I deserve it and how can it be that Christ will love me no matter what we have done in the past? Although this is a question that you need to answer yourself for what has transpired in your own life, the simple answer is that we receive it because God loves us unconditionally. One such place that we learn of this unconditional love is the well-known John 3:16. In the King James Version, it is translated as such:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:17 KJV+)
This verse, which is one that we often memorize due to the fact that it is so well known, speaks of the love that God had for the world. He could have very easily just given up on us and let us condemn ourselves with our actions, and yet instead He chose to send His “only begotten son” to save us from our sins. This is the beginning of the grace that would continue to be with us since his crucifixion and continues to be with us even today, over 2000 years later. When Jesus was placed on the cross, he was carrying all of our burdens and sins for all of eternity. He died for the sins that we have already committed and those that we still have to commit. And he did it because he loved us. In fact, even if you were the only one on the earth, Jesus still would have underwent the pain and humiliation of the death on a cross for you. By dying on the cross, he was cursed, for it says in scripture:
Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Galatians 3:13b KJV+)
This verse is yet another example of the unsurprising love that Christ has for us. To be hung on a cross was the ultimate humiliation and he did so willingly. Granted, Christ did ask that if possible God would not have him do this, but at the same time, realized that this needed to be done and so therefore told God that His will would be done.
So why should we be worthy of the grace afforded to us by Christ’s death? The answer is that we should not and are not worthy of it. Yet we receive it anyway. So instead we must keep living for Christ during our time on earth. This is one of those questions that we must wait for the answers, which will be when we have entered the kingdom of heaven.
We should instead keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and continue to live for him. The world needs to hear the message of the gospel and we are the ones that must give it to them. Christ said that on earth he would build his church and that the gates of hell could not overcome it. Therefore, we must continue on, even during the hard times. We have the ultimate promise that we will overcome our troubles and that one day good will triumph over evil ad the world will once more be as it should be. Until that day, we are on the frontlines of the battle for the souls of the world. We can not shy away from our duties, lest we loose someone to evil. Your orders are simple and not hard to follow. They are found in the Great Commission, which is as follows:
Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20 THE MESSAGE)
Therefore, if we want this grace to be given to the whole world, which we should, what are we waiting for. To keep with our military analogy, the world is being shelled by the forces of evil and we as Christians, are the doctors of the M*A*S*H until, and we must repair their souls by having them convert to Christianity. Godspeed and may we find many souls in the kingdom of heaven at the end of the age because of your hard work.