By By Mason Harris
One who grew up in a home with godly parents and grand-parents asked me recently, “What is grace? All I have heard about it is something you can fall from?” That started me to thinking about my own youth and first exposure to the preaching of the gospel. How much and what had I heard about this grand subject?
The preaching I heard as a youth was pretty much limited to the summer meetings when the crops were laid by. Occasionally a preacher would show up on Sunday, and by the time I reached high school I remember that we had preaching on a regular basis once a month. But even in the limited amount of preaching I heard, I remember hearing them define grace as unmerited favor and illustrating it with the grace period when a note comes due. That was when I learned my salvation was made possible by the grace of God. And I do not recall thinking my baptism nullified his grace. And, yes, I did hear them talk about being able to fall from grace, but I never thought of it as just being something you can fall from.
As I have pondered this young man’s statement I have also given consideration to my own preaching. Have I been giving the proper emphasis to the subject of God’s grace? After giving my own teaching careful consideration, I have decided that for whatever faults I have, neglecting the grace of God is not one of them. And what about other preachers? I am in no position to judge them since I do not sit at their feet for long periods of time. I do not know of any that I would charge with negligence, though it would not surprise me greatly if some fail to give it due consideration. But this question occurs to me: What determines neglect of the subject?
For the writing of this article I have pulled Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible from the shelf and it is open before me at the word “grace.” I am surprised. Of all the times the word appears in the New Testament, it appears only once in the book of Luke, three times in the book of John, and not at all in Matthew and Mark. And of these four appearances in the books that tell us about the things Jesus did and taught, not a one of them is an utterance from Jesus. Consider them.
Of Jesus it is said, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” (Lk. 2:40).
Again, of Jesus it is written, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
And again, “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” On. 1:16,17).
For the purpose of this article I am going to assume Young has given an accurate listing of the number of times this word is used in these four books of the life of Jesus. If he is right, that means we do not have one mention of the word in the Sermon on the Mount, a sermon that ended with a reference to the wise and the foolish builders saying, “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock … And every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand” (Matt. 7:24,26).
Would Jesus be called a legalist because he closed his lesson with a reference to the need of doing what he said while failing to mention the word grace? Yet, who could read the first part of that sermon without seeing the idea of grace echoing throughout the beatitudes? Furthermore, I find no mention of the word grace in his cutting remarks to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. Neither do I find it in his prayers nor at the performance of his miracles. Not even in his letter to the seven churches (Rev. 2,3) is it mentioned by name.
If Jesus spoke of it by name these writers did not record it. But does this mean he, or they, neglected this subject? Certainly not! His life, including his teaching, was the very epitome of grace. John said he dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, and grace and truth came by him. He said of his own purpose, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
So, does the failure to mention thy word grace always mean it is a neglected subject? Obviously not always.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 12, p. 1
June 17, 1993