As I continue on this journey to understand grace, I think the next logical step is to try to figure out how exactly grace is shown and/or received. This will help me better recognize, identify, and hopefully understand grace more than I currently am able.
By definition, and yes I admit I’m sticking with the most simplistic of definitions, grace is “receiving a gift we don’t deserve”. So grace is a gift. That leads us to a question…
What gift? If grace is a gift we don’t deserve, then what exactly is that gift? Let’s take some time to look at some scripture to try to help us better grasp what the gift is that is called grace…this undeserved gift that we are receiving (or at least have the ability to receive if we so choose).
Titus 2:11 says “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people”
Ephesians 2:8 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God”
In those 2 verses we see that the gift of grace is salvation; God offers us a way to be saved from our sins, and it is a gift that we do not deserve. So salvation is a gift of God’s grace.
Ephesians 2:4-7 says “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
In these verses, which precede Ephesians 2:8 which was mentioned above, we get a more extensive idea of the gift of God’s salvation. It mentions mercy, love, and kindness as all being a part of God’s gift of salvation to us, which is an act of his grace toward us. So in saying that salvation is a gift of grace, we must also say that mercy, love, and kindness are also a gift of God’s grace. And furthermore, we must recognize that all of them are tied together…we can’t separate God’s salvation, mercy, love, or kindness from each other…they are all intertwined, and all are a part of God’s grace.
Colossians 1:13-14 says “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Here Paul is talking about salvation when he says that we were delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Jesus, who redeemed us by forgiving our sins. That is salvation…we are redeemed (bought back) by God forgiving our sins through his son Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, and thus God can offer us forgiveness and redemption. And since we know that salvation is a gift of God’s grace, we can also see that redemption and forgiveness, which are a part of salvation, are also a gift of God’s grace.
“Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father…” (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy)
“Grace to you and peace from God…” (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Titus, Philemon)
These phrases, or a slight variation of these phrases, are at the beginning of Paul’s letters in scripture. I personally find it quite telling that he always uses the words “grace” and “peace” in his greeting, and sometimes uses “mercy” as well. (Now, I might be a little off base here with what I’m about to say, but at this point I’m simply trying to understand grace, so this is just another observation I am making in my journey to understand grace) Since we know that grace and mercy are linked from verses shared earlier, I am also wondering if grace and peace are also linked based on the fact that they are used by Paul together so frequently. So perhaps peace is another gift of God’s grace.
Philippians 4:4-7 says “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Because of my observation that grace and peace are linked together, I wanted to look at this final verse that talks about peace. Here Paul is talking about rejoicing always, not allowing ourselves to become anxious but rather praying to God about everything, and that when we go to God in prayer his peace will guard our heart and mind. Here we see that God’s peace is linked to prayer. And because of the context, I must also be willing to consider if the ability to rejoice is also linked to God’s peace. So could the gift of God’s grace also include the ability to both pray and rejoice?
God’s grace, as I continue to look at it, seems to get bigger and bigger. From just these handful of verses, I think I can confidently say that the gift of God’s grace – which is a gift we don’t deserve – includes salvation, mercy, love, kindness, redemption, forgiveness, peace, and even the abilities to pray and rejoice.
That’s a lot…looks like the journey is just beginning…
(part 1 of this blog series – Irony of Grace)