By Jason Hosfield
The grace of God is a subject that the scriptures have a great deal to say about. It is a very significant part of God’s scheme of redemption. Without it, man has no hope for the future in eternity? What is grace? How is it manifested? What must man do to obtain it? I will attempt to answer these questions in this study.
What Is Grace?
In studying a Bible subject, it is very beneficial to know and understand what the word means. The word “grace” means “unmerited favor.” Webster defines grace as “spontaneous favor; mercy.” “Grace” comes from the Greek word charis which is translated “graciousness, loving-kindness, goodwill” (Vines). Thus, when we speak of grace, we mean favor that is bestowed on one who does not deserve or cannot earn it. With reference to God, it means the favor that God imparts to us in spite of our wicked behavior.
Man Needs Grace
Man is a sinner. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”(Rom. 3:23). Since all men have sinned, all men deserve to be punished for their sin. “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 3:23). You and I are both guilty of sin and worthy of death. No one can deny this: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8).
There is no way for man to save himself. “The way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). There is nothing that man can do to earn his own salvation. “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” (Eph. 2:8-9). Man can do all of the good works that he likes and still be lost in sin. It was said of Cornelius in Acts 10:2 that he was a “devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.” Yet, he was not yet a saved man. He still needed to hear “words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts 11:14). No matter how much good we do, we will remain lost in sin without the grace of God.
God’s Dual Nature
God has a dual nature in dealing with man: a just nature and a loving nature. Both of these natures are forever existent and one cannot be sacrificed for the other.
His just nature is described in Deuteronomy 32:4: “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” God’ s just nature cannot allow sin to go unpunished. 2 Peter 2:9 tells us that “the Lord knowth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” We are further warned in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, that sinners will be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” God cannot allow sin to remain unchastened. God has no choice but to punish anyone who is guilty of sin.
God, however, has a second nature in dealing with sinful man: His loving nature. We are told in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Although his righteousness cannot allow sin to go unpunished, he still loves us enough to want to save us. The only way for both of these to have been possible was for God to find a way to punish sin and still give man access to salvation. He accomplished this by bestowing His grace on man.
How God’s Grace Was Bestowed
God’s grace was given as a gift. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). We are told further in Romans 5:8: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God sent Christ into the world, a man who lived a sinless life (1 Pet. 2:22), to bear the punishment of all of man’s sin, thus becoming our perfect sacrifice (Eph. 5:2). God’s grace demanded Christ’s shed blood, so that man could be saved from his sins. Speaking of Christ, Paul says in Ephesians 1:7: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (see also Rom. 3:23; 5:9; Col. 1:14). As a result of Christ suffering the punishment for our sins, we now have the means by which we can be saved.
What Must Man Do to Obtain Grace?
There are certain things that man must do to obtain God’s grace. This does not require guesswork on our part. God has revealed to us through His divine word what we are to do in order to partake of His grace.
We are not saved by the works of the old law. That law was fulfilled by Christ and nailed to the cross (Matt. 5:17; Col. 2:14). Romans 3:28 tells us: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” We are not obligated to perform all of the sacrifices and offerings required in the law of Moses.
This is not to say that man need not do anything to obtain God’s grace. The exact opposite is so. Jesus told his Apostles in Mark 16:15-16: “. . . he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Notice here that in order for one to be saved there are two things required: faith and obedience. The Lord said believe (faith) and be baptized (obedience). The Jews on Pentecost, in Acts 2:38, were told: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” They already believed, because verse 37 tells us that they were “pricked in their hearts” as a result of Peter’s preaching of the gospel. All that was left for them to do was to be obedient to the gospel. Obedience is necessary in order to obtain God’s grace. In 1 Thessalonians 1:8 we read that on the day of judgment Christ will punish those “that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Obedience to the gospel, which includes believing (Jn. 8:24), repenting of sin (Acts 17:30), confessing Christ (Rom. 10:9), and submitting to baptism (1 Pet. 3:21), is the only way for man to attain the grace of God.
What About the Grace-Fellowship Theory?
As with all Bible subjects, there is much controversy about the grace of God and how it remedies sin. The most prevalent of these is the grace-fellowship theory.
In a nutshell, the grace-fellowship theory teaches that the grace of God automatically covers sins committed in weakness and ignorance. Their desire is to unify such groups as the Christian Church, the Disciples of Christ, and others who call themselves the church of Christ, but teach such things as premillennialism, institutionalism and such like. They teach that the church is too “legalistic” in its doctrine. With respect to God’s grace, they contend that there is a “continuous flow of grace” that washes away sin immediately after it is committed, just as the blood continuously flows in our physical bodies and removes impurities.
The Bible plainly teaches, however, that once we obey the gospel that we are to strive diligently to avoid sin. The Bible was written that we may not sin (1 Jn. 2:1). Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to “go, and sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). Paul, in dealing with sin and grace, asked the question in Romans 6:1-2: “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” When one obeys the gospel, he puts off the old man of sin and puts on the new man of righteousness (Col. 3:9-10). At the day of judgment, all those who have unforgiven sins will be punished (Rev. 21:8).
Man’s only hope for salvation is the grace of God. God sent his Son to bear the punishment for our sins, and gave us a means by which we can be saved. All man must do is believe the gospel, obey it, and live a faithful life (Rev. 2:10), and he will obtain that reward in Heaven promised to the faithful.
*Jason Hosfield is sixteen years old and a member of the Danville (IN) church.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 8, p. 10-11
April 21, 1994