Another look at grace

Grace is an attribute of God, part of his nature. It consists of His favor and power that is released to humanity because of the sacrifice of Jesus. To the world, it grants the opportunity to be saved through faith in Jesus, while to the Christian, upon salvation, it is the source of life. It is simply undeserved and is given solely because of the sacrifice of Jesus.

Grace, like glory and other attributes of God, has both substance and power. Substance, in the sense of a spiritual or heavenly materiality that can be experienced and felt. When Solomon’s temple was filled with the glory of God, the priests could not enter because the substance of the glory would not permit them to enter. It is as if they tried but walked into a spiritual substance that prevented them from entering. Glory, we see, had the capability to fill a physical place – in this instance, the temple of God.

We find two people in Scripture who were filled with grace – Jesus and Stephen. John declares that Jesus was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Luke declares that Stephen was a man full of grace and power (Acts 8:6). Grace then, can fill a person, fill his being and be recognized by others.

Grace can also be transmitted to others just as the power of the Holy Spirit can be transmitted to others, the Word tells us that we are ministers of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6). The power of the Holy Spirit can be transmitted by means of words, the laying on of hands or through cloths, as we see in the book of Acts. With regards to grace, Paul encourages the Ephesians to ensure that their words would impart grace to the hearers (Eph 4:29).

Paul says that God has given grace to each one (Ephesians 4:7), meaning that grace has been imparted into our spirits, deposited into our beings. It is not just about God showing favor to us but about God giving us grace as a deposit. We need to understand this well – grace has been given to us as a deposit, it is in our spirits.

The grace of God that is given to us empowers us as we will see in the verses below –

  1. Titus 2:11,12 – “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” The grace that is in our spirits empowers us to turn away from ungodly living and to live a godly life. The Christian who lives in sin is simply resisting or rejecting the grace of God.
  2. Ephesians 3:7,8 – “of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Galatians 2:9 – “and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” 1 Corinthians 3:10 – “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it.” Romans 15:15,16 – “Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, 16 that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” The grace of God given to Paul made him a minister of Jesus Christ, an apostle to the Gentiles, a builder of the foundation and a preacher of the gospel.
  3. Romans 12:6-8  – “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” The grace given enables the operation of spiritual gifts and we are encouraged to use them in proportion to our faith.
  4. 2 Corinthians 8:1,2,7 – “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.” The grace given to the Macedonian Christians enabled them to be generous despite their abject poverty.
  5. 1 Corinthians 15:10 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Paul speaks of grace as being the reason for making him who he was. Grace enabled him to work hard in the ministry. This is the reason why there can never be boasting in the Christian life – Christian living and ministry is nothing but the result or outworking of the grace of God.
  6. 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “And He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Grace would sustain Paul in his trial.

We also see in the Scriptures that one can refuse to permit the grace of God to work in his or her life. Paul pleads with the Corinthian Christians not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1). Reverting back to works or trying to earn salvation would have been tantamount to receiving the grace of God in vain. So would living in sin, laziness in ministry, not exercising spiritual gifts and stinginess. They would simply be a rejection of the grace of God.

Receiving the grace of God and allowing it to have effect in our lives will cause us to reign in this life as kings. Romans 5:17 says “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” The recipient of grace can never be defeated, can never be a failure, can always triumph in this life. We find that grace is connected to Jesus Christ. Paul encourages Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1). The greater the knowledge of Jesus, the greater the grace that is released into our lives. Thats why Paul’s chief, sole desire was to know Christ. A continual supply of grace is guaranteed to us through Jesus Christ as John says in John 1:16 – “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.”

Grace is associated with humility for the Word says in James 4:6 that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Acknowledging our need for salvation or inability to save ourselves and looking to God enables us to receive grace.

So then brethren, let us be partakers together of the grace of God (Phil 1:7) and let not that grace given be in vain but on the contrary, bear rich fruit.

 

 

 

How to abide in Christ

Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him or known Him.” 1 John 3:6

He who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk just as He walked.” 1 John2:6

As mentioned in my previous article on “Abiding in Christ”, Jesus taught his disciples the importance of abiding in Him but did not really explain to them how they were to abide. We see that John the apostle explains to us how we ought to abide in Christ in his first epistle. Let us attempt to understand “abiding in Christ” in the context of these verses.

The above verses are simple statements of fact and not  promises. Whoever abides in Christ will live like Jesus lived. If we are not living like Christ, we are simply not abiding in Christ. Whoever abides in Christ does not sin. Sinning, here, is consciously committed. It does not refer to sub-conscious or unconscious sin. If we sin, we are simply not abiding in Christ. “Not sinning” is one natural outcome of abiding in Christ, with another outcome being “bearing fruit”. Did I just hear someone protest, “We are not Jesus, we are human beings” and “We are all sinners” and “Is the Christian expected not to sin at all” and “It is impossible not to sin”? Well, just because our experience does not match with God’s word, it does not mean that we can change the meaning of God’s word or skirt these verses. Would that not be eerily similar to what the Pharisees were doing when they twisted God’s word to excuse their own sins?

Obviously then, abiding in Christ refers to an ongoing, daily experience that will enable us to live as Jesus lived and keep us from sinning. Anything less than “living like Jesus lived” and “not sinning” is unworthy of the claim to abide in Christ. If we find ourselves sinning in thought or deed, we have simply not learned to abide in Christ. This verse forces us to rethink our understanding of what it means to abide in Christ. While contemplating this truth, we will find then, that we have settled for an abysmally low level of Christianity and have portrayed Christ in a manner totally unworthy of Him. We will find that we have strained out the gnat, but swallowed a camel by claiming to abide in Christ while still sinning.

What does it mean to abide in Christ?

I believe it refers to the consciousness of Christ’s presence filling and enveloping us – not at a time in the past, but in the present, in the here and now. This consciousness is brought about by the Holy Spirit. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:30 “Of Him are you in Christ Jesus…”. In 1 John 2:27, we see that the anointing of the Holy Spirit teaches us to abide in Christ. It is the experience of the fulness of the Holy Spirit that brings about the consciousness of Christ’s presence. It is this consciousness of Christ’s presence that will result in us living as Jesus lived and will keep us from sinning. Jesus himself lived by the fulness of the Holy Spirit, for God gave Him the Spirit without measure. Our aim then is not “not sinning” or “living as Jesus lived”, but to simply be filled with the Holy Spirit.

We also read in other verses, of actions that assist us in entering into and remaining in this consciousness of Christ’s presence.

1. 1 John 2:24 Filling our minds with the Word of God.

2. 1 John 3:24  Obedience to Christ’s commandments.

3. 1 John 4:16 Consciousness of Christ’s love. Also, John 15:9 which speaks of abiding in Christ’s love.

4. John 6:56 Partaking of communion.

May God open our eyes to this truth and experience. May we all abide in Christ, for without Jesus Christ, we can do nothing.