What is God's grace? Some have defined it as the "unmerited favor" of God to save man's soul. Though this is not a wrong definition, it is hardly a complete definition. Many do not realize the purpose or result of God's grace. Indeed, not fully understanding His grace, they may even fall short of His expectations. Some believe they understand God's grace, but unfortunately, they may have a wrong understanding, being misguided by man-made doctrines and twisted verses. For example, some "believers" are told their only duty is to "believe" or "accept" that Jesus died for all their sins, and they will be "saved" for eternal life. They have been taught it is God's burden to secure their salvation (Php. 2:13) and assured they can do nothing to get to heaven once they believe because "for by grace you have been saved" (Eph. 2:8).  If this is all that salvation requires of us then how will we appear any different than an unbeliever? What will separate us from the lost? How does only our word save us and prove to others that we are heaven bound? Though it is essential to believe and accept the gospel and to trust in the eyes and arms of God, we can not and must not limit ourselves to this initial expression of faith.  Doing so can be dangerous to our salvation. 

As we search the Bible for understanding of grace we will find frequent use of the word "grace" in both the Old and New Testament. Though the word 'grace' generally means the same throughout the Bible (mercy, blessings, and favor) study of each verse will reveal there are four applications of grace in our lives. Each is significant in salvation. At times grace refers to the opportunity or plan given by God for our salvation. Other times it refers to the actual gift of Jesus' own life. Sometimes grace refers to the blessings that God bestows on us to strengthen our faith and to help sanctify our hearts and minds.  Finally, it also refers to the grace that should be in the heart of every new man in Christ, that which others can see and also receive of the grace of God. We can categorize each application into four types of grace - God's Grace, Jesus' Grace, God's Daily Grace, and Grace in Man. The following is an explanation of each, with references found throughout the Bible.

God's Grace:  The foundation for God's grace is His love for man and His desire for their love and trust in Him. In the Old Testament God's grace is usually reflected in the salvation of the righteous. Prominent receivers of God's grace were Noah, Lot, Moses, Abraham, and the descendants of Abraham.  God consistently saved anyone who feared and trusted in Him, rescuing them from any trouble or enemy. Concerning the descendants of Abraham, whom we know as the nation of Israel, God's grace was a shadow of what was yet to come. God established a covenant with Israel. He gave them laws and commandments which were guides for the morality, protection, and well being of the people. They were to obey His commandments, serving and loving Him as the only God. For atonement of sins, they were to sacrifice certain unblemished animals. In turn, He would protect them and bless them in various ways, bring them to a land of milk and honey, and raise them to their reward at the end of the age. All male Israelites were circumcised in agreement to God's covenant. Circumcision would serve as a sign of the covenant for future generations of Israelites. However, Israel fell away from following God with all their heart. God allowed destruction and desolation to come upon them but in due time He would established a new covenant.

The new covenant is God's grace for us today. It is a special plan from God to help us become His children and have salvation.  The new covenant is similar to the old in that we are still to obey God's commandments and love Him as the only God, and we still need atonement for sins. However, rituals and sacrifices done under the old covenant were eliminated. Jesus became the unblemished sacrifice - a twofold and most important aspect of God's grace. First, since atonement for sins comes through the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22) and death is the penalty for sin (Ro. 6:23), Jesus suffered this for us through His own death. His blood provides forgiveness and His death pays for our penalty of death. Now we can approach the throne of God to receive forgiveness, be reconciled to God, and receive justification of our sins so we do not face eternal death. We will only be asleep in the eyes of God when we die. The second aspect of the sacrifice of  Jesus is that He became the "covering over all glory" (Isa. 4:5).  He has become a shield by virtue of His perpetual sacrifice before the throne of God.  With Jesus as a perpetual sacrifice man now has the chance to find God, learn His will, and conform his life to His righteousness while being shielded from His wrath as he walks void of God in his life. Believers also are shielded from God's immediate judgment if they fall into temporary sin. As a result, God is patient and merciful of man's unrighteousness and sins (He. 8:12). This essentially is a "grace period" from God - a postponement of His judgment and wrath. Otherwise, He would destroy us in His anger as He destroyed Israel. Today we accept the new covenant grace through faith in God's word. Faith in the death of Jesus for forgiveness and justification of sins is what we must 'accept' or 'believe'. We must believe in this fact before our faith can begin. Some during the early spreading of the gospel would not accept this, wishing to hang onto the traditions of the law. Our acceptance and promise to abide in God's covenant is honored and symbolized, since the beginning of the church, through water baptism. 

God continues His grace by providing a way to help us know His will.  Under the new covenant God has sought to take the laws and commandments out of the people's hands and to establish them in their hearts. He has given us His Holy Spirit (the same Spirit instilled in Jesus while He was on earth). This is God inside us - guiding, teaching, and convicting us. We will feel Him in our hearts and in our conscience. We will feel the prodding and tugging of His Spirit with our spirit. God can also use outside sources to give direction to His children. Our minds will reason with wisdom in all that we have received in word and truth from the Lord, enabling us to determine the source of our feelings and conscience. Is it our will, a ploy of Satan, or actually the Fathers's will? If of God, it will never contradict His word. As we grow in knowledge of God's word and mature through our various trials and tribulations, we will recognize when God speaks to us. Instead of God's will written on stones it will be written in our hearts and minds. God's Spirit works in us for His will and purpose (Ph. 2:13). Yet, salvation is not God's burden as some think. God provides the tools for salvation, but it is our responsibility to obey Him.We must work out our own salvation with "fear and trembling" (Ph. 2:12). When we do not obey God's will and purpose, we are against Him. Therefore, we can jeopardize our salvation. However, if we obey God, being led by His Spirit, we will walk in righteousness that becomes sanctification unto salvation. 

Ephesians 2:8 is the completion of God's grace - "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Some, having misunderstood this verse, have subsequently misled others. The contextual truth of this verse is found in verses 3 and 11-13. The Gentiles (who we are) were without God and had no hope of salvation (vs. 12). In the first covenant, God did not work through us. We remained in darkness, not knowing how to find our way to Him (only a few found their way through Israel). Lost and waiting for His wrath was our only future (vs. 3). However, God extended His grace toward us when Jesus died on the cross. We were brought near to the covenant of promise, to hope, and to God (vs. 12,13). With justification in place, our opportunity to receive God's grace was conveyed to us through the spreading of the gospel. Now, no longer in the dark, we have a choice between eternal life and death. We have an opportunity to know the true and only God. We were not 'saved' as in eternal life but 'saved' from our previous hopeless condition. God's "gift" was His grace to the Gentiles. Here Paul is speaking to the Ephesians but this writing also applies to us today. We did nothing (works) to earn this favor. This is why His grace is unmerited. We did nothing to impress God or to justify His favor. God first loved us. His love for us resulted in our inclusion and opportunity for salvation. We enter this grace by faith. However, we must abide by His covenant, living a righteous life before Him (see Ro. 11:17-22).

To summarize God's grace we see that He has given all people the opportunity to have eternal life. He has eliminated the rituals and sacrifices, making Jesus the only acceptable sacrifice for forgiveness of sins and for justification of life. He has established Jesus as the covering over the world, protecting us from His immediate judgment and wrath. Also, He has given us His Spirit to help us know Him and conform our lives to His will. God's grace is the initial and most important grace. All subsequent grace is a result of God's grace. Without God initiating His grace, Jesus' death would not have been necessary, we would still be in a hopeless condition, absent of God's blessings, and we would be in danger of His immediate wrath.

God's Grace: (Ge. 6:8 / Ex. 33:12,13,16,17; 34:9/ Ez. 9:8/  Ze. 12:10/ Acts.13:43; 14:3,26; 15:40; 18:27; 20:24,32 / Ro. 3:24; 4:4,16; 5:15; 11:5,6/ 1 Co. 1:4/ 2 Co. 4:15; 6:1/ Ga. 1:15; 2:21; 5:4/ Ep. 1:6; 2:5,8; 3:2,8 / Php. 1:7/ Col. 1:6/ 2 Th. 2:16/ 2 Ti. 1:9/ Tit. 2:11/ He. 2:9; 12:28 / 1 Pe. 1:10,13; / Jude 4)

Jesus' Grace: Jesus' grace is prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament. His grace fulfilled the righteousness of sanctification and the righteousness of justification for man toward God. It was His willing act of love and His obedience to God for the benefit of man. God, requiring the shedding of blood for atonement of sins (Heb. 9:22), sent His only son to be our atonement and to suffer the penalty of death for us. Jesus was obedient even as He faced a death with ridicule, suffering, and cruel torture. Without Jesus' act of grace, there would be no forgiveness of sins, no salvation of the Gentiles, no out pouring of the Spirit, and no "grace period" of which both the believer and the unbeliever are shielded from God's wrath - one as they stumble in and out of God's will, the other as they live altogether void of God's will.  For the believer, they can possess the peace which goes beyond all understanding and can look forward to God's daily grace while developing His nature within themselves.

Jesus' Grace: (Ps 45:2/ Jn. 1:14,16,17/ Acts 15:11/ Ro. 1:5; 5:2,15,17,20,21; 6:1,14,15; 16:20,24/ 1 Co. 1:4; 16:23/ 2 Co. 8:9; 13:14/ Ga. 1:6; 6:18/ Eph. 1:7; 4:7/ Php. 4:23/ 1 Th. 5:28/ 2 Th. 3:18/ 1 Tim. 1:14/ 2 Tim. 2:1/ Tit. 3:7/ Phile. 1:25/ He. 4:16; 13:9/ Rev. 22:21)

God's Daily Grace: God's daily grace is blessings from God in our lives. He will bestow blessings upon those who sincerely seek Him and His ways. His blessings may simply be a 'reward' to His faithful or to provide help for any of our various forms of need. Our needs could be physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, personal, or needs within the community, family, church, or work place. As there are no limits to our needs, there are no limits to God's ability and desire to bless those who sincerely live for Him. All blessings and favor come from God and are provided at the time God determines is best. They will come quickly or in due time even through other people whom God will use. God blesses us simply because of His love for us and as a way to strengthen, perfect, and establish us in His ways (1 Pe. 5:10); ' for all things work together for the good of those who love God'. God will work to help us stay strong in our faith and maintain our life long commitment as we are faced with various trials and times of trouble.  He will be our refuge in times of trials and tribulations (Isa. 4:5,6). We will find solace in His arms of love and protection.  The concise purpose of God's daily grace is to give us comfort, mercy, and peace in our lives and to help us live a more faithful and rewarding life.

God's Daily Grace: (Ex. 33:13/ Ps. 84:11/ Pr. 3:22; 3:34; 4:9 / Is. 26:10/ Jer. 31:2/ Ze. 4:7; / Lk. 2:40/ Acts 4:33; 11:23; / Ro. 1:7; 12:3,6; 15:15/ 1 Co. 1:3; 3:10; 15:10/ 2 Co. 1:2,12; 8:1; 9:8; 12:9/ Ga. 1:3; 2:9/ Ep. 1:2; 2:7; 3:7; 6:24/ Php. 1:2/ Col. 1:2; 4:18/ 1 Th. 1:1/ 2 Th. 1:2/1 Ti. 1:2; 6:21/ 2 Ti.1:2; 4:22/ Tit. 1:4; 3:15/ Phile. 1:3/ He. 4:16; 13:9,25 / Ja. 4:6/ 1 Pe. 1:2; 3:7; 5:5,10,12 / 2 Pe. 1:2/ 2 Jn. 1:3/ Re. 1:4)

Grace in Man: Grace in man is the grace that must be in the hearts of each follower of Christ. It is the character or nature of a person's heart who believes in Jesus. This grace affects those we love and know and others who we may come in contact with. The Bible exhorts us to grow in the grace of Jesus (2 Pe. 3:18), which means to develop His nature in our hearts. We are to "put on Christ" (Ro. 13:14), meaning we will live as He lived making no provision for the satisfaction of the flesh. A good description of how we should be can be found in Ephesians 4:25-32. Here we see characteristics of honesty, justice, purity, kindness, and forgiveness. This nature was in Jesus, including mercy, love, and compassion. This was evident in His teachings and when He healed and forgave people. With this grace in our hearts, living peaceably with all people will be more possible (Ro. 12:18). Moreover, this grace will bring us to holiness, preventing any root of bitterness that could defile us. This holiness is necessary to see the Lord (Heb. 12:14-15). By continuing to grow in knowledge of Jesus' life, God's word, and mature spiritually, we will manifest this grace in our hearts. 

Grace in man evolves from "believing" in Jesus. However, believing means more than just to know Jesus and "accept Him for salvation."   When we believe in something or someone we will obey, follow, and act according to those beliefs. "Believing" evolves into "obeying." Two simple indications of this can be found in the Bible. In Romans 10:16, Paul references the prophet Isaiah who foretold the coming of Jesus and His rejection by the Jews. Isaiah poses this question; "Lord, who has believed our report?" (Isa. 53:1). Paul concludes that the people of his day have not obeyed the gospel of Christ. If they believed in Christ they would accept the gospel and obey it in all its requirements instead of hanging on to the traditions of the law. In Hebrews 3:18-19, we see that Israel could not enter God's rest or receive His promise because, due to their unbelief, they did not obey Him. If they believed God's promises to them they would have obeyed Him steadfastly, thus preventing their forty year wandering. A correlation exists between "believing" and "obeying." Believing cannot exist without obeying. Therefore, if we believe in Jesus and His teachings, we will seek to live our lives as Jesus did and to obey His teachings. "We know that we know Him if we keep His commandments" (1Jn. 2:3). This is having "faith toward Christ" (Acts 20:21). If we sincerely obey Jesus' teachings and mimic His life in ours, we will truly be a "believing" Christian. Also, as we mimic Jesus' life and obey His teachings, we help to provide God's daily grace to others. 

Grace in Man: (Est. 2:17/ Pr. 22:11/ 2 Co. 8:6,7; 9:14/ Ep. 4:29/ Co. 3:16; 4:6/ 2 Th. 1:12/ He. 10:29; 12:15/ 1 Pe. 4:10/ 2 Pe. 3:18)

Summary: Grace as God intended can be clearly and fully understood. By knowing and understanding all principles of God's grace we can avoid walking negligent of His expectations or jeopardizing our salvation. If one does it will be because he chooses to do so, choosing his will over the Father's will. One who partakes of God's grace should understand the opportunity God has provided us for salvation, the righteousness that comes from justification, the Spirit's guidance that leads to our sanctification, and the grace period existing for our sanctification. Therefore, through the mercies of God we should fulfill the reasonable expectations of God (Rom. 12:1). We should seek and do the Father's will at all times. Not only should we profess our faith and the gospel by mouth but we must demonstrate it in our lives, as is befitting the 'peculiar' or 'special' people that God has sought for Himself (Titus 2:14). We demonstrate it in our lives by living a sanctified life, a life full of grace and truth and zealousness for good works.  We must change our lives by seeking God's will and becoming an image of His nature ourselves. We must clean ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1). God's will is for our sanctification (1 Th. 4:3). Jesus' grace, the offering of His life benefits those "being sanctified" (Heb. 10:14), those seeking to become one with God. The high cost for forgiveness (Jesus' life) deserves our sanctification. Jesus will share the reward with the strong (Isa. 53:11,12), those who have crucified themselves against sin with Him. Understanding His teachings and guided by God's Spirit, we are to be obedient to the will of God.  We are to endure life's trials and tribulations and strive against sin and temptation to remain sanctified in heart and deed. "For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise" (Heb. 10:36).  Sanctifying our life will also develop the grace that should be in us and that affects others with whom we interact.  The exercise of grace in man will be a sure sign of our faith in the Lord.  James wrote; "Show me your faith without works and I will show you my faith by my works."  Our works consist of every thought, word, or deed and are clear indication of what we think and how we live under the grace of God. Upon listening to and observing anyone long enough it will become evident who seeks to live in purity, love, and truth and who lives by the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Our works and the fruit of them thereof will separate us from the unbeliever. For the mouth will speak the things of the heart and the hand will sow to righteousness or unrighteousness.

God's grace is our opportunity to become children of God and have eternal life. Without the grace of God, no subsequent grace was necessary. God wanted us to be with Him. He initiated the plan of salvation. Then, Jesus gave His life so we could have forgiveness of sins, protection against immediate judgment, and the outpouring of God's Spirit. We now have the opportunity to receive God's daily blessings and the time to conform our lives to His will, while developing grace in our own heart. When we understand God's grace, we can take hold of the "keys of life" (the teachings of Jesus) and unlock our heart and mind and bring forth the righteousness that God expects and deserves. Only by obeying Jesus' teachings can we fulfill righteousness and prove we believe in Him. Steadfast obedience along with befitting repentance is our only assurance that God will save us on the Last Day. At that time only will we be truly 'saved'. We will be saved forever from Satan's ploys, eternal death, and God's punishment. We will live free of the former conditions of life and forever with God and with our Lord, Jesus Christ.

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