Ephesians 2:8 says that we are saved by grace through faith; and that it’s not of ourselves: it is the gift of God. Furthermore, Romans 5:1-2 says that we stand in grace while 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns those who think they stand to take heed lest they fall. It’s apparent that those who are abiding in grace “stand”, and those who are not abiding in grace “fall”. Insomuch that we’re “saved by grace”, and that grace is the means to “stand”, it’s of the utmost importance to know what grace is and have some understanding about it.
Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, wrote, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 3&4). Unnoticed by the church at large, ungodly men have crept in and turned God’s grace into a covering for spiritual adultery and every evil thing. Consequently, many of today’s church goers are deceived into believing that God’s grace is unmerited favor for provision to be a friend of the world and to stay in their sin. Those who proclaim, as well as those who follow, such blasphemy are on a course of condemnation.
Contrary to what is commonly taught in the American church, grace is not defined as the unmerited favor of God. Mercy, by definition, is the unmerited favor of God while grace is the substance that has been granted to us because of His unmerited favor. Suppose you didn’t realize that you were dying, and I had what you needed to live. However, you hated me, had been hurting me your whole life, and had rejected every offer I had made for friendship. Then, in spite of your hatred of me, I had compassion and chose to supply what you needed to live. My choosing to supply your need would be unmerited favor, or mercy. The substance I provided to keep you alive would be the result of my mercy, and so it is with grace. Grace is defined as-“the divine influence upon the heart”. As a result of God’s mercy (unmerited favor), He has granted us grace (His divine influence upon our hearts).
Look at the following verses from the 8th chapter of Hebrews to get some understanding and to see grace defined. “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people;” (vs. 7-10). In these verses you see that the first covenant, meaning the Levitical law, had fault and that God lost regard for His people because they didn’t keep the covenant. The Levitical law reveals God’s will, causes man to know what sin is (Romans 7:7), and it reveals that sin produces death (Romans 7:8-13); showing man his need for a redeemer (Galatians 3:24). However, the law does not have the power to create a righteous heart within a person. In spite of knowing God’s will, knowing what sin is, and that it produces death, those under the law are still in bondage to self-interest, producing sin and death. For example, the Pharisees kept the law perfectly and yet Jesus called them a “generation of vipers” (Matthew 12:34). He also said they were likened unto whitewashed tombs in that they appeared righteous outwardly but were inwardly full of “all uncleanness”(Matthew 23:25-28). This was because their deeds were generated out of self-interest to benefit themselves, rather than being generated by the love of God for the benefit of His kingdom and His righteousness. The nation of Israel did not continue in God’s covenant because they, as all unregenerated people, had a self-interested nature- a nature the law could not change. This brings us to the last verse I quoted from the 8th chapter of Hebrews. In saying, “I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts”, God gives us the definition of grace; the divine influence upon the heart. By putting His laws into our mind and writing them in our hearts, God is literally replacing our nature with His. Jesus took our sin so we could have His life. 2 Peter 1:2-4 says, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust:”. Grace is divine ability for us to now overcome the corruption that is in the world through lust and thereby keep our covenant with God.
Most are familiar with 2 Corinthians 5:17 saying, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. God’s grace (divine influence upon the heart) is the substance that regenerates a person into the new creature. The old life that was generated by self-interest is passed away, and those in Christ Jesus have partaken of the new life that is generated by God. According to Romans 8:28-29, God has purposed for us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Who says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19) and “For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49). People who are dead to self, and whose lives are being generated by God, through grace, only do what they see the Father do and speak what He gives them to say. Thus, you have what is written in Ephesians 2 saying, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man 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” (vs. 8-10). The “new creature” is not living righteously (doing good works) to get saved. His/her good works are the product of being saved by grace. Look at Romans 6:22-23. “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” You see that holiness is the product of being freed from sin and becoming the servant of God. The gospel provides the freedom from sin, and grace (divine influence upon the heart) to serve God, producing holiness, and the end everlasting life. Hebrews 12:14 says to “follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord”. The wages of sin always has been, and always will be, death. The gift of God is the ability to live above sin and thereby escape it’s penalty.
As with any gift, we must receive God’s grace before it will be of any benefit. Take a look at Romans 5:17 saying, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ”. You see that the people who reign in life by Jesus Christ are those who “receive” abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness. Those who reject God’s grace, by loving their own lives, keep themselves under the dominion of death. Jesus says, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24). Salvation consists of turning from our own influence through repentance and believing God to partake of His grace, whereby the Holy Spirit puts His laws into our mind and writes them in our hearts, making us into new creatures whose day to day lives are being generated by God unto righteousness and true holiness.
God’s grace is not a license to sin and should never be taken in vain. Hebrews 10:26-31 says, “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people. It is fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”. May you receive abundance of grace wherein you will stand!