Embarking on a study of God’s authority without having a heart attuned to His grace is likely to frustrate our best intentions of getting deeply into His will and applying it to our lives. In our study, we are learning that He “gets” to tell us what to do (He is the ultimate authority), because he made us from nothing and because He bought us back at Calvary. He owns us twice over! We were made for His glory (Is. 43:7) and then bought by His grace (I Cor. 6:20). When our lives are full of His glory and grace, we live His way with the full realization that we must respect his glory in order to be saved in the end. But we do so because we appreciate His grace. We want to live for Him. We live for His glory and in His grace.
Most are familiar with the words of the old gospel hymn: “Amazing Grace – how sweet the sound – that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found – Was blind, but now, I see.” The concept of God’s grace is both humbling and fascinating. It is the greatest and most majestic theme in the New Testament, and perhaps is the ‘key’ to unlocking its mysteries. One may know every word of the New Testament by heart, but unless the concept of God’s grace is understood, one can never fully comprehend the profound truths of the Gospel.
The English word ‘grace’ comes from the Greek word charis, and various forms of the word are found 157 times in the New Testament. Charis, or grace, has been commonly defined as “undeserved kindness” or “unmerited favor.” These definitions, however, fail to reveal the full extremity of the meaning of grace. Grace is not merely “undeserved” or “unmerited.” Rather, grace is the exact opposite of what is deserved or merited. When we declare our unworthiness of God’s grace, we are actually saying we are worthy of the exact opposite of God’s grace!
This is highlighted by what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1-10. In verses 1-3, we are described as having been “dead in our trespasses and sins,” “following” the “sons of disobedience,” “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,” and “were by nature children of wrath.” However, in verses 4-6, Paul tells us that God mercifully put aside the “wrath” that man deserved, because of His great love for us.
It is God’s love for us, or more specifically agapē love for us, that prompted God’s merciful grace toward mankind. Agapē love is willful love; love that is not characterized by emotion or gratitude, but by a willful desire to do what is best for the one being loved. It is love that merely says “I love you,” not “I love you because…” or “I love you if…”
We deserved “wrath” and death (Rom. 6:23), but received the opposite, namely, ‘love’ and ‘life.’ This is the definition of God’s grace. “By grace [we] have been saved” (Eph. 2:5). It is both undeserved kindness and an expression of God’s agapē love. What did God’s grace accomplish? It “made us alive together with Christ” (v. 5), “raised us,” and “seated us in the heavenly places in Christ” (v. 6). Paul tells us that our faith, through baptism (Col. 2:12-13), is how God’s grace is administered in one’s life (v. 8).
What God’s Grace Means
God’s grace has been made manifest in Christ. When we only deserved wrath and death (Eph. 2:1-3), God – because of His agapē love – sent His Son into the world, “that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). Therefore, we have been bought at a price (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23). An enormous price, I might add. We no longer belong to ourselves. When one believes and is baptized, he or she puts to death her former self (Rom. 6:4) and becomes a new person under new Ownership. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, we have been “born again” (John 3:3, 5). We “have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God” (Rom. 6:22).
When we try to understand God’s grace, we must recognize that it is something to which we are by no means entitled. Though we live in a society where many feel ‘entitled’ to everything (i.e. government handouts, healthcare, security, etc.), the last thing we are entitled to is God’s grace. Though it is a “free gift” (Eph. 2:8), it is not cheap. We must hold on to our gracious salvation (1 Cor. 15:2) with both an attitude of humble submission to God and an eager spirit to selflessly serve His Son (Jas. 2:17). Without an attitude of humble submission and thankfulness for God’s grace, we will fall (Gal. 5:4). (And without it, we certainly will not find comfort in a study of the authority of God.)