The term grace is used a lot in the Bible, at least in the New Testament. Sometimes it seems to be used in very general ways, and it’s meaning is hard to pin down. Other times understanding what is meant by the use of the term grace is simple. In its totality, the word grace means two things – the undeserved favor of God, and God’s enabling power in our lives.**
When we say that grace is the undeserved favor of God, we mean that He has shown us mercy even though there was nothing in us to cause Him to do so. To explain why that is, we’d have to go into a long discussion of sin and depravity. But to keep things simple, we just need to understand that our sin created a debt that we owed to God, but because He loved us so much, He sent His son to pay our sin debt.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5, emphasis added)
This side of grace is the side that relates to the first half of the Gospel – the side dealing with the Old Me.
God’s grace also empowers us to walk in the Spirit on a day to day basis. It gives us the ability to do what we cannot do ourselves. In Acts 4, it tells of the Apostles:
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. (v. 33, emphasis added)
Here it uses the term grace in relation to the power of the Holy Spirit, giving the Apostles boldness to preach the Gospel in the face of adversity. This side of grace is the side that relates to the second half of the Gospel – the side dealing with the New Me.
Grace in Practice – Humility
Both James (James 4:6) and Peter (1 Peter 5:5) quote Proverbs 3:34 in their letters:
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (emphasis added)
Therefore, in order to have God’s favor and power in our lives, we must live in humility. We often think that humility is a lack of arrogance, but that isn’t always the case. I am not an overly arrogant person, but I still deal with my own form of pride, called false humility. I live with a poor self-image, which is nothing more than a wounded pride. It’s still pride. So humility, then, is not thinking less of yourself – it’s thinking of God more. It’s being God-centered instead of self-centered.
Grace in Practice – Good Works
A very confusing passage of Scripture is Ephesians 2:8-10. It starts by saying:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (v. 8-9)
Then in the very next verse it says:
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (v. 10)
The confusion is lifted once we realize where the good works are coming from. The works we are called to do are works of grace, not works of self-effort. We are supposed to be disciplined and self-controlled. But this comes from the Spirit of God, not our own efforts to be righteous.
Grace in Practice – Boasting
Perhaps the best part of my lesson today was the closing paragraphs. It talked about boasting – grace takes away all opportunity to boast in ourselves (no self-righteousness and no self-effort). Paul teaches this in a lot of different places in his writing, but he also writes “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). Boasting in the Lord is a natural outworking of grace in our lives. As my lesson put it:
When our boasting is before God, we call this praising God.When our boasting is to other Christians, we call it encouraging. And when our boasting is to those who have not yet discovered the grace of God, it is called witnessing.**
**Taken from Lesson 15: The Dynamic of Grace, from The Power of the Gospel, OBC