THE PRINCIPLE OF GRACE AND FORGIVENESS

Embedded deep in the principle of love is the principle of grace and forgiveness. It is, at one and the same time:

An expression of love.
An evidence of love.
That which enables the expression of love.
A yardstick which defines and measures love.

Grace – the sovereign operating principle of the kingdom of God’s Son
Colossians 1:13 assures us that when he saved us God rescued us from ‘the dominion of darkness’ and transferred us into ‘the kingdom of the Son he loves’. Once we were in this dominion of darkness – where Satan rules. Now we are already in the kingdom of Christ, where Christ is King. In Romans 5:12-21 Paul explains the contrasting operational set-ups of these two kingdoms: In the kingdom of darkness sin reigns and death reigns. There, there 'law of sin and death' holds us condemned [Romans 8:2]. In the kingdom of his Son 'grace reigns' [verse 17]; the 'law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus' has set us free. The operating principle of the kingdom of Christ is grace; God's throne is for the believer always, ever and only a 'throne of grace' [Hebrews 4:16].

If we think clearly and deeply about this incredible change of citizenship and identity that has been given to us as part of our salvation we will understand that this principle of grace is the appropriate principle by which to live our lives. We ought to no longer relate to God, ourselves and others by the principle of law, for it is foreign to the kingdom of which we are now members, and foreign to the means by which we were granted membership of this kingdom.

This principle of grace has the potential to have incredible and liberating impact on every area of our lives. This principle of grace assures us that God no longer relates to us on the basis of our own works and actions, but only on the basis of the perfect obedience and sin-bearing death of his Son Jesus Christ. And this same principle is the benchmark of our relationships with each other. That just as God relates to us only by grace, and not by our works, so ought we to relate to each other only by grace and not on the basis of their actions.

Forgiveness – grace in action
Grace and forgiveness go hand in hand. They exist together. They operate together. Because God acts towards us in grace the sin barrier is removed from between him and us. This removal of the sin barrier is the fundamental meaning of forgiveness. The two words used for forgive in the New Testament are:

aphiemi – which literally means to take or lift away
charizomai – which literally means to give a free gift [to grace over]

By God's grace our sin has been taken out of the way. It no longer stands in the way between God and the believer. It has been graced over by the death of Christ. It has been nailed to the cross of Christ, who paid its full penalty [Colossians 2:13-14].

In terms of our relationship with God this principle of grace and forgiveness means that:

Our relationship with God is totally secure and permanent [Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 10:19-22].

God no longer holds our sin against us [Romans 4:8; 2Corinthians 5:19].

There is no longer any condemnation [John 3:18; 5:24; Romans 5:1].

We have peace with God [Romans 5:1].

This same grace that reconciles us to God defines what our relationships with others should be:

Grace outlaws feelings of personal pride and superiority or inferiority in the presence of others [Ephesians 2:8,9].

Grace instructs us to forgive each other – to never hold sin against each other – just as God, for Christ’s sake has forgiven us [Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13].

Grace instructs us to be compassionate and kind to each other, as God has been to us [Ephesians 4:32].

Grace instructs us to bear with each other [Colossians 3:13].

This principle of grace and forgiveness is radically different from the basic principle of this world. The world, including its religions, operates by the principle of merit - you get what you deserve, either punishment or reward. And our own self-centred hearts have a built-in bias to relate to God and to others by that same tit-for-tat principle of merit. But the principle of grace and forgiveness challenges us, calls us, commands us, to distance ourselves from all merit-based thoughts, attitudes and actions, and to extend to others the same grace and forgiveness that God has freely given to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2016