This is part 2 of a series called “The Manifold Grace of God.” In the first part I mentioned the standard definition for grace being “unmerited favor.” While I understand I could never be good enough to earn God’s gift of grace (Greek = charis: gift, favor, grace, blessing, credit, concession), I wonder if that definition causes a bit of confusion among Christians and non-Christians alike? I wonder if the misconception of what Grace REALLY IS has caused the Church to become “Grace Difficient”?
There are verses that mention people, Jesus included, GROWING in grace (favor, charis). Why would Jesus need God’s grace if it is undeserved merit/favor? Surely Jesus would qualify as earning it, meriting it, wouldn’t you think? And why would Jesus need to grow in grace, if He is the One Who multiplies it toward us according to 2 Peter, chapter one? Or could it be that God’s Grace is more about His willingness to use His power and ability on behalf of those who call upon Him in faith, rather than God doling out His “undeserved favor” upon people who couldn’t care less about God, or His favor?
Here are a couple of passages describing Jesus increasing in favor (grace) and using God’s ability to accomplish His mission.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52 ESV)
“But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9 ESV)
Jesus, according to Philippians 2, laid aside His Godly attributes and walked this earth as a man. He came to walk out His life as the perfect sacrifice and gain back what Adam had given away as recorded in Genesis 3; eternal life and fellowship with God, among other things. But in order to do that, He needed God’s help, God’s ability, God’s grace. And as much as we need God’s Grace/Ability to obey Jesus’ word “You must be born again”, Jesus needed God’s Ability/Favor/Help; His Grace to cover everyone’s debt before God.
Adam could have utilized Grace in the Garden of Eden. You say grace wasn’t available in the Garden? Wasn’t God there? Wherever you find God, you’ll find His Grace. Adam knew what he was supposed to do. He knew he was supposed to obey God and exercise the dominion he had over all the beasts, including serpents. So if he would have called upon the name of the Lord, God would have saved him! If he would have called upon the Spirit of Grace, he would have found grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). In other words, he would have received the help/ability he needed to accomplish God’s will. The first Adam could’ve/should’ve connected with God’s help there in the Garden of Eden, but he didn’t. However, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, DID receive God’s help in the Garden of Gethsemane so He could “taste death” for each one of us.
Of course, while we were sinners Christ died for the ungodly. Friend, that’s you and that’s me. Ungodly to the core. We didn’t deserve what He did, couldn’t pay for what He did IF we could live a thousand perfect lifetimes! But although Jesus did what He did for us, Hell will still have too many people there, and for all eternity. Why? Wasn’t His Grace sufficient? Absolutely, YES! So what’s the problem?
“Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6). Why was Noah given God’s Grace? Weren’t there others around who didn’t deserve it? I’d have to think there were. Was God just playing favorites? Did He have some He just couldn’t stand? No, the scriptures say, “God is no respecter of persons”, and, “He’s not willing that ANYONE perish”! So what did Noah have the others didn’t? What set him apart from the others? It wasn’t his perfection! No, it was his faith in God, which was built upon a relationship he had with God.
People have this idea that, because God’s Grace covers it all, then they can do anything THEY want.
Grace DOES cover it all, but the relationship one has with God affects how one walks with God; which affects what one does or doesn’t do with their life.
Grace is more than just God throwing His favor around to everyone, just because they DON’T deserve it! Grace is connected to faith, to believing, and believing grows out of a relationship with God. As Paul wrote, “it is by faith that it might be by grace, so the promise would be available to all.” (Romans 4:16)
There were a lot of people in Noah’s day who may have thought it didn’t matter to God or anyone else what they did. After all, they were all “children of God”, weren’t they? His Grace would cover them, surely!
Without a relationship with God based upon trust, no one believed Noah telling them to change their actions. I can hear them say, “Hey, man, grace will cover it. Lighten up!”
Just like I hear them today...”As it was in the days of Noah…” (Luke 17:26)
We ALL NEED His ability to help us do all He requires, and although we can’t earn it, there are things we do that either help His Grace grow or diminish in our life! We either connect with or reject His Grace.
In the next post, we’ll look at the many-sided, multifaceted, Grace of God. You CANNOT have a need beyond His ability to help!