Friday, 10 September 2010

Our Supernatural “Grace-Thing!”

Our Supernatural “Grace-Thing!”

“Yet grace (God's unmerited favor) was given to each of us individually [not indiscriminately, but in different ways] in proportion to the measure of Christ's [rich and bounteous] gift” (Ephesians 4:7 AMP).

There is much attention given to this subject of Grace; it gets different types of press: good, bad, indifferent and confused! So let’s investigate it a little and focus more on what grace IS rather than what grace is not! Let’s start with the fact that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ altered mankind’s relationship with God forever. It was grace that caused God to make a personal sacrifice and then offer the “fruit” of that sacrifice directly to us! This makes grace much more than a mere “free-gift” and can be defined by using this simple illustration.

Let’s just say that one day while minding our own business someone came up to us and pushed something into our hands saying, “Here are the keys to my Rolls Royce!” This would be a pretty large gift to most people! BUT let’s also say that our normal circumstances meant that we could already purchase this gift if we had chosen to, making the Rolls Royce – a handsome “gift” - but NOT a “gift of grace.” On the other hand when it is totally “impossible” for us to obtain this type of “gift” through our own efforts, only then it can be considered a “gift of grace” with no possible way of returning the favor. Then all that is left to say is “Thank you,” and accept the gift!

What this illustrates mostly is that we can never “earn” grace! If God had not given us salvation, could we have obtained it any other way? No, impossible! This is why Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one doth come unto the Father, if not through me” (John 14:6 Young's Literal Translation). There are no alternatives! If salvation was possible by any other means other than “grace,” then perhaps “Krishna’s” idea, that there are “many” ways to God, could be true and then several world religions would work! But according to the Bible there is only “one” way to God. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. His death and resurrection alone have made “grace” available to us.

This covers more than “forgiveness” of sins and the “new birth,” (when we were “born again” and became Christians), the same applies to whatever we receive from God – it is by grace. This means that when He gives something to us by grace – we don’t receive the glory for it and nor does He have to override our free will to give it to us. It is only possible to receive such a free gift of grace by faith: not of ourselves; “…it is a gift of God: Not of works, least anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” (Ephesians 2 v 8-10).

Grace can be seen as undeserved and supernatural favor as in the Old Testament Joseph was someone who experienced “supernatural” favor; “But the LORD was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favor (chên) in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Genesis 39:21). This tiny Hebrew word chên (pronounced khane); #H2580 in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; fundamentally means; graciousness, kindness, favor, beauty, pleasant, precious. And then in close relation the word chânan (pronounced khaw-nan) means; to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to show favor and to have mercy.

However grace is much more than this of course especially in the New Testament. But first we must look in the Old Testament where chên, “favor,” is the unmerited favor of a superior to an inferior. In the case of God to man; chên is demonstrated usually in temporal, though also occasionally in spiritual blessings; within deliverance in both physical and spiritual senses (Jeremiah 31:2; Exodus 33:19). Also in the Old Testament chêsêd; “Loving-Kindness,” is the firm loving-kindness expressed between related people and particularly in the covenants into which God entered with His people and which His chêsêd firmly guaranteed (11 Samuel 7:15; Exodus 20:6). “But my mercy (chêsêd) shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee” (2 Samuel 7:15).

Moving on into the New Testament - Greek literature gave charis the following meanings: a) One that causes attractiveness, such as grace of appearance or speech. b) Favorable regard felt toward a person. c) A favor. d) Gratitude. d) It was used adverbially in phrases such as “for the sake of a thing,” charin tinos.

This little Greek word χάρις charis (pronounced khar'-ece), used in the New Testament “…the law was given by Moses, but grace (charis) and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1: 17) Strong’s #G5485 “graciousness - divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; gratitude, acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace, joy, liberality, pleasure, thankworthy.”

Although it was not until the coming of Christ that grace took on its fullest meaning. His self-sacrifice was grace itself (11 Corinthians 8:9) and absolutely free (Romans 6:14; 5:15-18; Ephesians 1:7: 2:8-9). When it is received by the believer, it governs his or her spiritual life by compounding favour upon favour. It equips, strengthens, and controls all phases of the believer’s life (11 Corinthians 8:6-7; Colossians 4:6; 11 Thessalonians 2:16; 11 Timothy 2:1). Consequently, the Christian gives thanks (charis) to God for the riches of grace in His unspeakable gift (11 Corinthians 9:15).

The Apostle Paul was the principal human instrument to convey the fullest meaning of grace in Christ. The New Testament offers grace to all, in contrast to the Old Testament which generally restricted grace to God’s elect people Israel. Grace in its fullest definition is “God’s unmerited favor in the gift of His Son, who offers salvation to all and who gives to all those who receive Him as their personal Savior, added grace for this life and hope for the future.”

Important to remember is that God’s sovereign grace is not arbitrary (random or by chance). In order to “receive it,” man must “believe.” In order to “enjoy it,” the believer must be “obedient.” Grace also provides the following: acceptance (Romans 3:24), enablement (Colossians 1:29), a new position (1 Peter 2:5, 9), and an inheritance (Ephesians 1:3, 14). Then at least three motives are indicated in the New Testament as to why God “acts” in grace, especially in salvation. He does it to: express His love (Ephesians 2:4; John 3:16), to display His grace in the ages to come (Ephesians 2:7), and so that redeemed man will produce good works (Ephesians 2:10). This concludes that sovereign grace is always purposeful; the life that is “under grace” is a life of good works.

Here I want to quote Ulf Ekman from his book Doctrine which is very fitting here: “Man now enjoys a position in Christ before God as though he had never transgressed. He has no sense of guilt, shame or lack, only an overwhelming consciousness of having ‘come home,’ along with gratitude and love for Jesus, who has so graciously done it all for him. Since God has accomplished this in Christ Jesus, it is a matter of grace, rather than self-effort. Man has nothing of which he can boast. Those things in which he does boast are his cardinal sins—pride, personal achievement, self-importance and rebellion toward God’s ways. Every route to self-exaltation and ‘self-salvation’ for man is effectively sealed!

No grounds for bartering exist between him and God where God must do His part and man his. No, it is all God’s work! God took the initiative, He made the plans, He initiated them and completed them. God saved man, who was deep in sin, without his suggestions, efforts or help at all. Salvation is entirely due to God’s grace. No religious, idealistic, political or philosophical ideas or deeds will take you to God. No rituals, ceremonies, pilgrimages, fasts, donations or other so called good deeds or religious habits will bring you nearer to Him.

God will only accept your admission that you can do nothing, that you are spiritually bankrupt. Then, as you receive by faith, His gift, His grace and all that He has done for you in Christ Jesus, you will be saved. Your sins will be forgiven as you are cleansed in the blood of Jesus. Then the Spirit of God will come to you and you will be born again. You will become a child of God and find peace with Him. Then you will be a Christian who, by faith in Christ Jesus, is pardoned, forgiven and justified by grace: * Ulf Ekman

Paul wrote, “…know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because observing the law no-one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16 NIV).

We have discovered the grace of God is so much more than mere charis and is sourced both in God the Father and in His Son, Jesus (Rom 5:15; 1 Cor 1:12; Gal 1:3, 6; 2 Thess 1:12) and therefore we must reject any confidence that we may have in ourselves, recognising that we are incapable of pleasing God on our own and must entrust ourselves completely to Him.

On the other hand grace is “active” and is what we need in order to “operate” in God, with God and for Him. As Paul wrote to Timothy; “...I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands... ” (2 Tim 1:6). Something we must prize and value because this grace (call or gift) of God should be the motivation power for our whole life and work. We are saved by grace and called into grace. Grace is more than particular gifts of the Spirit, it is more like the hand of God coming upon someone’s life to single them out for the particular work or area of ministry.

Finally, we may have looked at charis but the word for “gift” is charisma... and these two words come from one another: charis meaning “grace” and ma meaning “thing;” literally translating not merely as “gift” but as “grace thing” or “thing of grace!” So when the New Testament talks about “spiritual gifts” it is talking about the “expression or manifestation” of the grace of God in our lives. Now on the other hand there is charismata which is plural for charisma which are the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the entire body of Christ; and made available to each and every member. We could call them “body-gifts” and these are manifested through specific or chosen individuals as the Spirit determines - as seen in 1 Cor 12: 7, 11. These gifts operate occasionally and are used to meet specific needs as the Spirit directs.

We see this again in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits] good trustees of God's many-sided grace [faithful stewards of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor]” (AMP).

To close; every believer needs to be open to these “gifts” of the Holy Spirit in their lives and learn how to operate in the power and authority of these gifts. Because we are not only “called BY grace” and “called INTO grace” just as we see that Paul the apostle was not only given “grace” but specifically given “a grace” with which his whole life was controlled and directed. Not by mere graciousness (charis) but by (charis-ma) the “authority” of that grace (specific gift, grace-thing) given him by God.

This applies to us. We must constantly submit our lives to the grace of God. Not just the divine favour of God over our lives but also to His choice of gifting – grace thing – that He chose for us to “operate” in. Grace is often times made synonymous with “we can do whatever we want and get away with it” but of course this is erroneous.

Yes! Grace is favour but it is also the power and authority to “operate in obedience” to God.

Father thank You for grace and Your choice of “grace-thing” bestowed on me so that which you desire to “operate” through me (by Your Spirit) can be for the entire benefit of the Body of Christ. Therefore help me always submit myself to Your specific choice. Forgive me when I have ever despised that choice of gifting in order to prefer another and when I have ever confused “grace” with a life of “ease” with no restraint. Help me not to use my freedom as an occasion to sin (1 Peter 2:16) but instead allowing You to use me as You want day by day – moment by moment. Amen.

I am the Lord’s property. I was purchased at Christ’s expense. My life is available to be used by Him as He chooses by His Spirit and not by the dictates of my flesh or self-seeking emotions. The “grace-thing” on my life is without restraint: meaning that whenever, wherever, whatever I am available to God who can use me for His Body and for His Glory. Hallelujah!

* Ekman, Ulf. Doctrine. Uppsala, Sweden: Published by Word of Life Publications. Copyright © Sweden 1995, Copyright © England 1996 (p.185)


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