By: Gary L. Hutchens
There may be no more important Bible topic than that of God’s grace. These days a great deal of emphasis is being given to teaching on the grace of God. Unfortunately, most of the emphasis seems to be very narrowly focused. As a result, much of what is being taught on the subject is short-sighted, some of it is outright wrong!
What does the word “grace” mean? In a nutshell, it speaks of “favor.” To be in God’s grace is to be in His favor. In bestowing His grace, God bestows His favor upon us. What makes God’s grace so special is the fact that we do not deserve it. Thus, it is often referred to as God’s “unmerited favor,” indicating that it is unearned and undeserved.
If justice prevailed, God would condemn mankind eternally because of sin. But God created man in His own image (Gen. 1:26-27). He loves man in a special way, enough to give him a second chance, a chance to be forgiven of his sin and to be reconciled to God. A chance for eternal life.
God did this by sacrificing His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross to pay the debt for the guilt of man’s sin (Jn. 3:16). Man did not deserve such “loving kindness,” another expression that defines God’s grace. Man did not deserve it, did not have it coming, could not rightfully expect it. But God did it anyway, and that is God’s grace!
Most discussions on the subject of grace seem to almost exclusively emphasize that it is only by God’s grace that we can be saved. That statement is essentially correct (Eph. 2:8-9). The follow up statement usually further emphasizes that we cannot earn salvation by working for it. That statement is also correct (Rom. 4:4).
But, without question, God requires a proper response on our part to His offer of grace. He requires faith: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is…” (Heb. 5:8-9). He requires repentance: “…unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Lk. 13:3). He requires obedience: “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,” (Heb. 5:8-9). Through the pivotal act of obedience in being baptized, our sins are forgiven (Acts 22:16), we are saved (Mk. 16:15-16) and we come into Christ (Rom. 6:3).
Without our required response, we should expect God’s offer of grace to be taken off the table. The fact that God requires a response to His offer of salvation does not change the fact that it is a gift by grace. It is God who saves us.
Many people do not realize that every aspect of God’s plan for man’s redemption involves God’s grace. The church is not separate from, or in addition to, God’s plan for our salvation (Eph. 3:8-11). The doctrinal teachings of the Bible are not separate; they instruct us in the fullness of God’s plan (2 Tim. 3:15-17). The list could go on and on. Every blessing from God is a product of His grace (Jas. 1:17).
We must never cheapen, or treat with disrespect, the grace of God (Rom. 6:1). The only way to fully understand God’s grace is to study carefully what the Bible teaches on the subject. Let’s be about that task…
Gary L. Hutchens