For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:14).
The apostle Paul has much to teach us concerning grace. In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul declares “…by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8), and in the book of Romans, he says, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith unto this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1–2). In our Scripture text, the apostle compares and contrasts grace with the Law, for he is convinced that “…by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
The Law does indeed have its place in that it acts as a “…schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24), which means the Law can only reveal our sin but do nothing to eradicate it. It is at this point that grace takes over as the Almighty bestows it upon the repentant sinner. Through this message, we will attempt to examine grace in all its ramifications as we discover the definition of grace, the distinctions of grace, and the desirability of grace.
As far as the definition of grace is concerned, most biblical scholars agree that it is “God’s unmerited favor.” This means grace is that which we do not deserve but is bestowed upon us anyway. The Bible teaches us “…the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23), which means if we received from God that which we deserve to receive, we would be condemned to spend eternity separated from Him in the Lake of Fire. But because the Almighty is a gracious God, He offers us the free gift of eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In our world today, people have to expend energy in order to earn a living. This means people have to work for that which they receive. There are numerous ways in which individuals earn a paycheck. For example, some engage in manual labor as when houses are built, pipelines are laid, oil rigs are maned, or numerous other jobs are undertaken. Some use mental energy as lawyers handling legal matters, accountants taking care of financial concerns, professors teaching classes, and doctors treating patients. No matter what the occupation or profession, a certain amount of effort has to be exerted for the work to be done.
Many people carry this same mindset into their relationship with God because they believe salvation has to be earned. There are multitudes of individuals who believe somewhere in Heaven there are lists with their names attached. One list contains all of the good they have done, while the other contains all the evil they have committed. If the good list is longer than the bad, they will go to Heaven; but if the list of evil deeds is the longest, they will spend eternity in hell. Others believe salvation is possible through church membership, baptism, receiving the sacraments, or performing some other religious duty, but they likewise are only deceiving themselves.
Salvation is only possible due to the grace of God, for it can be neither bought nor wrought. Paul speaks of the “…great love wherewith he loved us” (Ephesians 2:4), and this goes hand in hand with what is undoubtedly the most familiar verse in all of Scripture: “For God so love the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The great love of God is both universal in that it is extended to all of humanity and unconditional in that He bestows it even if the individual doesn’t love Him in return. Grace is indeed that which we don’t deserve, for “…all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Next, we want to examine the distinctions of grace, for the Word of God gives us at least three. First of all, the Bible speaks of abundant grace as Paul writes, “for by one man’s offense 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…” (Romans 5:17). Because God bestows an abundance of grace, this means there is a never-ending supply. There are only so many drops of water in the ocean and so many grains of sand along the shoreline, but when it comes to the grace of God, there is no end. God’s grace never runs out! It is impossible to calculate the number of transgressions that have been committed since the foundation of the world, but there is enough grace to cover them all. It is likewise impossible to know how many people have inhabited this planet since its creation, but God’s grace is available Second of all, the apostle Paul speaks of abounding grace as he writes, “…where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). This means no matter how much sin exists in an individual’s life, there is enough grace to remove it. As a matter of fact, Paul tells us that God’s grace did much more abound, which means the grace of God is greater in both quality and quantity than the sin that exists. In other words, no matter how great our sin load might be, God’s grace far outweighs it in every way.
Not only is God’s grace abundant and abounding, but it is third of all absolute. This means it is the purest and richest grace that exists. Individuals show grace one to another as they offer forgiveness for wrongs that have been committed and do good deeds for those who don’t deserve it, but God’s grace is the very epitome of grace in that it is bestowed upon those who are “…dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Writing to the Romans, Paul declares “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24), and with this statement, the apostle is referring to the death Jesus died along with the precious blood He shed on Calvary’s cruel Cross. God’s grace is fully realized in light of the sacrifice of His Son, for “…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
This brings us to the desirability of grace, which means we are to both seek after it and receive it. This begins as we realize the great need we have for God’s grace. As we have already discovered in this message, we are separated from our Heavenly Father due to the sin in our lives. We cannot save ourselves; therefore, it is only through God’s grace that salvation is possible. God’s grace is to be desired for numerous reasons, and one of the chief of these is because it is sustaining grace.
Many times passengers on a boat are required to wear life preservers in the event of an accident. If an accident does occur and the passengers are forced to enter the water, the life preserver will support them and keep them from sinking. In much the same way God’s grace upholds us as we travel through this troublesome world. Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah God says, “fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).
Another reason grace is to be desired is because it is sufficient grace. In every situation of life the grace of God is adequate for our every need. The apostle Paul doesn’t tell us the exact nature of his “…thorn in the flesh…” (2 Corinthians 12:7), but he does describe it as “…the messenger of Satan to buffet me…” (2 Corinthians 12:7). On three occasions, he storms the portals of Heaven in an attempt to get the Almighty to remove the thorn (see 2 Corinthians 12:8), but to no avail. Even so, the Lord speaks to Paul with the assuring words, “…My grace is sufficient for thee…” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In all of our lives, we can face the trials of life with the assurance that God’s all-sufficient grace will preserve us.
A third reason as to why grace is to be desired is because it is strengthening grace. It is impossible for us to either be or do that which God expects apart from the grace He bestows upon us. The Almighty will never call us to a task that He won’t empower us to perform; therefore, the same grace that saves us enables us to carry on the work He has called us to do. Jehovah God places a rod in Moses’ hand, and with it, he can turn water into blood and part the Red Sea. God likewise places a sling and a stone in David’s hand, and with it, he can topple the giant Goliath. Beyond this, the Lord allows Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be cast into a fiery furnace; and He not only walks with them amid the fire, but when they come out, their hair is not singed, and the smell of smoke cannot be detected in their clothes. The apostle Paul declares, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13), and we likewise possess God’s strengthening, enabling grace.
In conclusion, grace, along with mercy, goodness, and compassion, is a genuine part of God’s nature, which means He cannot be anything less than gracious. As we have learned from this message, God’s grace is readily available to all of humanity even though many refuse to respond to it. Even so, those who do receive the grace of God find that it is sufficient to not only save them but likewise to keep them from sin, harm, and danger as well as empower them for service. Apart from the grace of God, we would be lost; but because the Almighty has granted us His unmerited favor, our lives can be lived in peace, joy, and contentment.