The word ‘grace’ refers to a gift freely given – not earned, not merited, not deserved by the recipient. Sheer gift.

There is a grace of God that is experienced by all, whether they realise it or not:

We have our life, and the whole universe in which we live, by the grace of God. If God at any moment decided to withdraw his sustaining power, we, the universe, and all that it contains would cease to exist.

We also have our continued human existence beyond Genesis 3 only because of the grace of God. Had he done what he could in strict justice have done, he would have terminated human existence in Genesis 3.

The term ‘common grace’ is applied to this gift of God by which we live and are sustained. It applies, as Jesus taught, to ‘the evil and the good … the righteous and the unrighteous’ [Matthew 6:45]. Believers and unbelievers, Christians and pagans, theists and atheists – everyone of us owes our existence and all that we have to this grace, this gift of God.

But there is also a special grace, a sovereign grace, a free gift of God by which some, regardless of any personal merit or demerit [Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8], are ‘saved’. This is the ‘amazing grace’ of which John Newton wrote in his famous song. This is the grace of which the apostle Paul wrote in superlative terms:

‘… God’s abundant provision of grace’ [Romans 5:17].
‘… where sin increased, grace increased all the more’ [Romans 5:20].
‘… in accordance with the riches of his grace that he has lavished on us …’ [Ephesians 1:7,8].
‘… the incomparable riches of his grace …’ [Ephesians 2:7].

This immeasurable, special, saving grace comes from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. It is available only ‘in Christ’ [2Timothy 1:9] and is possible only because of his sin-bearing death [Ephesians 1:7].

By this grace all who are ‘in Christ’:

Are justified freely and equally apart from any performance of law through the redemption that came by the death of Jesus Christ [Romans 3:23-25].

Have a guaranteed inclusion in the people of God [Romans 4:16].

Are able to enter, stand and rejoice in the presence of God [Romans 5:2,11].

Live under the reign of grace, no longer under the dominion or authority of sin or law or death [Romans 5:21; 6:14].

Are redeemed [set free from their guilt] and have received a forgiveness of sins as extensive and comprehensive and limitless as the grace of God that procured it [Ephesians 1:7].

Are saved without any reference to their works [Ephesians 2:8].

This amazing saving grace by which God justifies the wicked, acquits the guilty, forgives the sinner, gives eternal life to the spiritually dead, qualifies the disqualified, accepts the unacceptable, admits the excluded, applies to every person who has truly acknowledged Jesus Christ as God [John 5:23,24; Romans 10:9; 1John 5:12].   

Lest we think that our belief in Jesus Christ is our own human work by which we merit God’s grace, the Scripture teaches us that our faith in Christ is also a gift, a grace, of God [Ephesians 2:8b; Matthew 16:17]. Indeed Jesus taught that us that apart from the synergistic working of the triune God not one of us would ever believe in Jesus Christ; we would all still be far away from God [Matthew 11:25-27; John 3:3-8; 6:44,65].

This saving grace has its source in God. It shares his greatness. It shares in his eternality and his infinity. It shares his power. As such, although we can understand it in part, it overwhelms and awes us. Even offends us. We would pin it down and see some reason for it in ourselves, but that would make it dependent on us, smaller than us, something that we can command or manipulate. Paul, aware of its greatness, concluded his lengthy exposition of salvation with the words:

‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counsellor?
Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen ’ [Romans 11:33-36].

Such is the reality and the mystery of the grace of God.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013, 2016