Discussions on Grace: Understanding Grace and the Christian Life
My Grace is Sufficient for you
Anyone who competes in athletics understands the importance of endurance. Endurance keeps the individual motivated even when the road to victory is rocky. Numerous athletes, through endurance, overcame the obstacles and went on to success in the competition. Christians can learn from the athlete’s example.
The believer faces many trials, tests, and temptations. The scriptures attest to the fact that the righteous will experience afflictions.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. (Psalms 34:19)
Though the believer is consistently assured of God’s provision and protection, he is not exempt from the troubles that life can bring. Therefore, the believer needs the strength and power to endure all that life brings. If the believer tries to endure and overcome on his own, he will fail. He needs the strength that can only come from God.
Through the Holy Spirit, man receives access to the power of God. Because of this, Paul could encourage the believers to be strong in the Lord.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. (Ephesians 6:10)
However to walk in the strength of the Lord, the believer needs assistance. Therefore, God offers His grace. Grace is a foundational part of the New Covenant. Yet, many believers do not understand grace. Therefore, a definition of grace is needed.
What is Grace?
We are saved by grace. We are recipients of God’s grace. God gives us grace to do His will. Yet, what is grace? Any standard dictionary gives three basic definitions for grace.
1. A state of sanctification or regeneration enjoyed through divine favor.
2. A virtue coming from God.
3. Unmerited divine assistance given humans.
Based upon the revelation of the scriptures, we understand that the above definitions describe different aspects of the grace of God. In addition, we discover that grace can only come from God. It is not something we can develop or earn. It is supplied by God alone.
The first description of grace explains the work of grace in the salvation of man. Paul explained it in this manner,
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. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Man receives salvation through grace. Though he may believe on Christ, God supplies His favor to make man’s faith acceptable in His sight.
The second description of grace provides understanding as to how God uses man in His service.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us. (Romans 12:6)
He makes us vessels of His presence, power, and peace. It is through virtues imparted to believers as a product of His grace.
It is within the third description/definition of grace that the believer finds strength to endure difficulties. Grace is God’s divine assistance and enablement given to men. Without God’s grace, we will not be able to stand in faith and trust Him when even when He gives a seemingly negative response to our requests.
Paul and God's Grace
After defending his ministry in 2 Corinthians 10 and 11, Paul begins to close his argument in chapter 12. Following his description of previous revelatory experiences, Paul reveals that a thorn in the flesh was given to him to keep him humble.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. (2 Corinthians 12:7)
Paul revealed his thorn in the flesh to his readers as a balance to the defense that he had made for his ministry. Another reason for Paul’s disclosure of the thorn in his flesh was that he wanted to explain why his bodily presence was weak. One of the prevailing arguments of Paul’s opponents was that he wrote big and heavy letters, but when he would be present among the people, he was frail, weak, and did not speak very well.
For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. (2 Corinthians 10:8-10)
It is our belief that Paul was defending his appearance and presentation. He wanted them to know that if he seemed weak and unassuming, it was for Christ’s sake. Paul’s thorn was present because it was the will of the Lord.
The Lord chose to allow one of the fallen angels (the messenger of Satan) to be the perpetrator of the thorn; that is, become the source of affliction in Paul’s life. Paul’s thorn was the result of permitted demonic activity against his physical body.
When Paul asked the Lord to remove the thorn, he did not receive the answer that he expected. God told him that His grace was all he needed.
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians12:8-9)
Paul asked that the thorn would be removed, but God said He would give him grace instead. That is, He would give Paul divine assistance; though His response was not the one Paul was looking for.
Handling hardships is something that every believer has to learn to do. We have established that as Paul needed God’s grace, so do we. However, if we do not receive God’s grace, it is useless to us. In order to accept God’s grace, three things should be done: believe the scriptures, humble yourself, and receive by faith.
Believe the Scriptures
The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to the world. It reveals the manifold dimensions of the character and nature of God. Within the pages of the Bible, there are references made to God’s grace and its role in the life of the believer. However, without a belief in the scriptures, there can be no acceptance of God’s grace.
To demonstrate a total trust in the scriptures, there must be first a trust in the source of the scriptures. We have to believe that God orchestrated the writing of the scriptures. Because of this, the scriptures can be followed without question of authority and authenticity.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)
The Bible is a sure guide to eternal life. It provides us with the necessary tools for life and godliness through Christ. The scriptures are able to make us wise concerning our salvation. The key element to our salvation is the grace of God.
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:15)
In addition to having a trust in the source of the scriptures, we have to trust the authors of the scripture. Some believe that God inspired the writing of the scriptures, but He used men. Therefore, their own opinions could have been interjected in the writings. However, this is simply not true. Consider the following:
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
Peter encouraged the believers by stating that the prophets (and apostles in his day) did not create the scriptures by their own will. They were moved by the Holy Ghost to declare (and write) God’s counsel to man.
As believers, we have to believe that the authors of the scriptures were divinely inspired and could only record that which represented God accurately. Without this belief in the scriptures, we will not be able to accept His grace. Why? We will not trust God’s testimony concerning grace as revealed in the scriptures.
There are individuals who can affirm their total trust in the scriptures. Yet, they fail to humble themselves and make practical application of the scriptures to their lives.
God offers His grace freely. Yet, some will not accept His grace to endure hard times through stubbornness. They just want the situation to change rather than navigate it. This is similar to an individual who operates in unforgiveness.
We know by the scriptures that God commands the Christian to forgive. God does not tell us to do something that we are unable to do. His commands come with His strength and support to perform them. However, some individuals will not forgive because they feel that if they do forgive, the offender is getting off without any consequence. The same applies to accepting God’s grace when He allows suffering to come.
Some will feel that to walk in His grace and accept hardships as they come is to let God “off the hook.” They feel disappointed and hurt and do not want to let it go. It does not matter even if it is God. Therefore, humility is needed to receive God’s strength.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (James 4:6)
Thus, we will need to humble ourselves and receive His grace to handle the trials of this life.
Receive by Faith
The final key to accepting God’s grace is to receive it by faith. Faith is vital to the acceptance of God’s grace. Without faith, you will not feel that the grace of God is being supplied to you. Faith in God will make His grace tangible, even when you are experiencing disappointment from His response.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Faith makes God’s grace attainable and discernible in difficult times; especially, when God refuses to give us a particular request. Faith causes the believer to go beyond what he feels into what God is actually doing. He does give grace to handle His responses.
Without God’s grace, the believer will not be able to handle the difficulties that life will bring. Grace will provide strength, hope, and comfor
© 2013 Roderick Levi Evans