I have been granted over ninety years of “grace,” and it has yet to run out. I, myself, have been a “package of grace” given to my parents to be shared by my fellowmen, and that too has yet to end. I invite you on my journey that lasted so far over ninety years. My journey was smooth and rocky! A number of times, the Lord had to send angels to keep me alive and afloat. It was the “ship of grace” that still keeps me sailing. Come and sail with me; for it is the safest ship on earth. Read what it did for Noah (Genesis 6-8).
What Exactly Does Grace Mean to Me?
The word “grace” is music to my ears and of course to every human being, especially to Christians, and God-fearing people. Believers have played and continue to play its tune to the outer limits of heaven. To them it is special music — the kind God in Christ can only play. However, you and I have to live and practice grace. It is quite true that no one has ever made us aware of grace as Jesus Christ did Himself. To suggest that grace is limited or restricted is utterly ludicrous! That is precisely what I have experienced, and endeavor to share. But let us find out how we have arrived at the prevailing “view of Grace.”
Grace does not only have limits — grace also has conditions as well. It has a divine and a human side that do not always see eye to eye. And grace is subject to interpretations, which do not always represent it fairly. From the start, I must confess that I had great difficulties in finding an adequate definition of grace. I feel like the soldier that told his chaplain about the sermon he heard on the “Grace of God.” He recalled almost everything and in particular that the grace of God was plentiful, sufficient for all needs, and near at hand. Then the lad added, “the minister did not tell us what the “Grace of God” was, perhaps you, Sir, will be good enough to do that.”
No one is actually good enough! Least of all, who am I, of all men, to determine what was actually intended when the word “grace” was first introduced. The Hebrew origin is vague. The word in question is “hes” and it is used in the context of human behavior, like attractiveness or pleasantness in seeking God’s favor. The Greek equivalent became “charis”, our English “grace.” The term “hes” did not depict all that the interpreters understood God was doing. Hence, they leaned on “hesed” for a broader and more personal meaning. The Greek word is “eleos” and the English “mercy.” Mercy gave the concept of grace a more workable application. All that changed when Paul, the Apostle of Grace, entered the field of interpretations. Paul, who learned out of his own experience, his Hebrew religious background, and from his spiritual encounter with Christ, gave grace a “redemptive” meaning that only Christ could fill. He claimed that he had a “direct revelation” from Christ, the One whom he once had persecuted. He, and he alone, lifted grace to the very throne of God; and that is where grace should be. Out of 152 references to “grace” in the New Testament, 101 are Paul’s, 48 were written by his associates. and only 6 are associated directly with Jesus. All the other references are about Jesus and His Father.
How can it be that only six references actually belonged to the sayings of Jesus? There is a profound reason. The Evangelist, of the Fourth Gospel, holds the key. In the Prologue, John laid down the foundation for grace. Grace came into the world through Jesus Christ. Jesus was the source of “grace in person” (John 1:15-18)! And it was from Jesus that his followers have drawn “grace upon grace.” Through Jesus, God was supplying an endless resource of God’s favor, love, mercy, forgiveness, and whatever else was required to redeem man from his sins. Grace was impersonated in Jesus of Nazareth on earth. Apart from Jesus, grace was not and is not available. Jesus did not define grace because Jesus did not only teach it, but Jesus lived it. Jesus was grace Himself. Jesus’ birth was an act of grace, and so was His childhood and His manhood. The Lucan account states that the child Jesus grew strong and was filled with wisdom and the grace of God (Luke 2:40). At the age of 12, Jesus was continuing to grow in wisdom, stature, and grace before God and man (Luke 2:52). When Jesus finally began His Ministry, people marveled at the gracious words that proceeded from His mouth (Luke 4:22). No man ever said, “What grace do you show if you love only those that love you back or reciprocate for the good you did for them” (Luke 6:32-34). Jesus, Himself, appreciated the gracious act when a woman anointed Him with costly ointment and kissed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:47). No one thinks of thanking his servant for doing his duty (Luke 17:9), but Jesus did by taking on the role of a servant Himself. These six references of the word “grace,” in connection with Jesus, are more than sufficient to show what kind of a person He was and what grace meant to Him.
Now, how did Jesus intend to spread “grace” or Himself to all men and women in the world? Jesus told his disciples that God’s and His Spirit would fill them with grace and they would live it and disperse grace among their fellowmen, who too would become bearers of grace (Acts 1:23; Matthew 28:19-20). So, when the Son of God was on earth, He was a “vessel of grace” and men and women could draw from Him (John 1:16). And when Jesus had to return where He came from, his followers became disciples of grace and their fellowmen began to draw grace from them. With the permanent arrival of the Holy Spirit, every believer became a “vessel of grace” to be dispensed and shared in the world. Thus grace became the content of God’s Heavenly Kingdom on earth. The vessels or dispensers of grace became the evidence that God’s Spirit is at work in the world. All of this was set in motion before the world was created by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit that revealed “grace in action” to Jesus’ disciples and followers.
“I (Jesus) have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:12-15).
What if God, desiring to show his wrath (Geek orgen) and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed He says in (to) Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the Living God’” (Romans 9:2-26).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destinyed us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose wish he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in heaven and things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:3-10).
The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered: “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in our law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the worlds, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands (John 10:31-39).
In closing, Jesus was sent to dispense grace. Jesus sent his Spirit to partner with us so that we become “of grace” in the world. Paul was an example of grace and so are we.
But how are men to call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written in Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” But they have not all heeded the gospel; for Isaiah (53:1) says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from jus?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ (Romans 10:14-17).