Grace in the New Testament, part 1

Mar 22, 2013

This is a continuation of our series on Fruit of the Spirit. The last entry was on January 29th. Let’s move our study of grace into the New Testament (NT) now. We have already given you the simplest definition of God’s grace, as the term is developed by Paul. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. Let me read a more expanded definition now. This is for the Greek word G5485 charis {khar’-ece}.

And by the way, we get our words “charisma” and “charismatic” from this word. When someone has charisma, it is really a form of grace in the sense of these first several definitions. And remember, these first definitions are the common, secular Greek meanings of the word. Grace is “1a) that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech 2) good will, loving-kindness, favour 2a)”

And now here is the definition formulated and emphasized by Paul…Grace refers to “the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues…”

Then there are these other definitions more or less related to that.

“3) what is due to grace 3a) the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace 3b) the token or proof of grace, benefit 3b1) a gift of grace 3b2) benefit, bounty 4) thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward…”

Now, I don’t expect that we will be able to retain and or regurgitate those definitions on the spot, but I gave them to you to give you a sense that this word is a very broadly used word. And I would like to follow that up by quoting from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [ISBE], p. 1292; where it says in summary of its article on grace:

“Most of the discussions of the Biblical doctrine of grace have been faulty in narrowing the meaning of ‘grace’ to some special sense, and then endeavoring to force this special sense on all the biblical passages.

“For instance, Roman Catholic scholars, starting with the meaning of the word in (say) 2 Cor. 12:9 {And I will insert part of this verse for my readers—JWB}

2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

So the ISBE is stating that “Roman Catholic scholars, starting with the meaning of the word grace in 2 Cor. 12:9, have made Rom. 3:24 [Again, I will insert—JWB]

Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

“state that men are justified by the infusion of Divine holiness into them, an interpretation that utterly ruins St. Paul’s argument. [My emphasis—JWB]

“On the other hand, Protestant extremists have tried to reverse the process and have argued that grace cannot mean anything except favor as an attitude, with results that are equally disastrous from the exegetical standpoint. And a confusion has resulted that has prevented men from seeing that most of the controversies about grace are at cross purposes.

“A rigid definition is hardly possible, but still a single conception is actually present in almost every case where ‘grace’ is found—[and this is the part I wish to emphasize] the conception that all a Christian has or is, is centered exclusively in God and Christ, and depends utterly on God through Christ.

“The kingdom of heaven is reserved for those who become as little children, for those who look to their Father in loving confidence for every benefit, whether it be for the pardon so freely given, or for the strength that comes from Him who works in them both to will and to do.”

Among evangelical Christians one of the most well-known Scriptures is Ephesians 2:8, 9.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

We have all probably heard it hundreds of times and one would think that surely we understand what it means, …don’t we? But we also recognize that there is a difference between head knowledge and experiential knowledge. …experiential knowledge meaning putting into practice and living by what we say we believe. That’s where the real difficulty comes in, doesn’t it?

As we know from our studies of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, salvation is a three-phase process: outer court, holy place and holy of holies—representing justification, sanctification and glorification; the salvation of our spirit, soul and body. We have been saved (justification), we are being saved (sanctification) and we will ultimately and finally be completely saved (glorification).

Most of us seem to have no difficulty understanding that our initial salvation—our justification– is a free gift, and we cannot earn it by works. And we have no difficulty understanding that when God raises us from the dead and gives us glorified bodies, that too is without any work on our part.

After all, when we are dead, how can we have any part in raising ourselves from the dead? So we can easily see that our glorification phase of salvation is purely by God’s grace alone.

But when it comes to that middle portion where “we are being saved,” our sanctification phase, which extends from the time we come to Christ until we die, that is where many of us lose sight of the fact that we live and walk our Christian walk all by the grace of God.

It’s not just grace on the front end and grace on the tail end, but then it’s up to us in the middle—no! It’s a grace job all the way! But it has been my general observation of Christians that many of us are in effect living by works. We seem to base our relationship with our heavenly Father on how well we think we are performing.

If we feel we have been doing pretty well lately: we haven’t had any arguments with our spouse or family members in quite a while, we’ve been pretty diligent about Bible study and we’ve helped out a Christian brother in financial need—then we are likely to expect some nifty blessings from the Father in return.

If on the other hand, we are pretty disgusted with the state of our spiritual life right now for whatever reason; well then we might feel like we need to be constantly looking over our shoulders and just waiting to get zapped. In this sense, we are living by works. (To be continued.)


The Tabernacle in the Wilderness Series


by Dr. James W. Bruggeman

(This is a progressive study of Bible lectures on CD; we recommend hearing them in order, lowest numbered album first. Each album includes charts and illustrations to assist in the understanding.)

A-105 Introduction, The Court, The Brazen Altar 6-CD set, includes charts. $24 The 6 lectures on CD are:

300 TiW, Lecture 1: Introduction;

301 TiW, Lecture 2: Survey of the Tabernacle (using overhead transparencies). The four album package contains both the audio CD, and D-101 Tabernacle Studies, Lecture 2 – A visual introduction of all the furniture in the Tabernacle by Dr. James Bruggeman. Approx 56 minutes, $10. This DVD is included in the 4-album package.

329, 330 TiW, Lectures 3 & 4: The Court of the Tabernacle

331, 332 TiW, Lectures 5 & 6: Altar of Burnt Offering

A-106 The Laver: Baptism and Circumcision 10 CD set, charts. $40 The 10 lectures on CD are:

333, 334 TiW, Lectures 7 & 8 The Laver: Washings, Cleansings and Baptisms

335, 336 TiW, Lectures 9 & 10 The Laver: Washings, Cleansings and Baptisms

337, 338 TiW, Lectures 11 & 12 Baptism and Circumcision, Parts 1 & 2.

339, 340 TiW, Lectures 13 & 14: Baptism and Circumcision, Parts 3 & 4:

341, 342 TiW, Lectures 15 & 16: The Bridegroom of Blood

A-107 The Holy Place 8 CD set, charts. $24 The 8 lectures on CD are:

343, 344 TiW, Lectures 17 & 18: “It Shall Be One Tabernacle:” The Holy Place

345, 346 TiW, Lectures 19 & 20: Bread of Life: The Table of Showbread

347, 348 TiW, Lectures 21 & 22: Light of the World: The Golden Lampstand

349, 350 TiW, Lectures 23 & 24: Sweet Incense of Prayer: The Golden Altar

A-108 The Holy of Holies 6 CD set, charts. $24 The 6 lectures on CD are:

351, 352 TiW, Lectures 25 & 26: Prelude to the Holy of Holies: The Process of Salvation

353, 354 TiW, Lectures 27 & 28: Climax and Jubilee in the Holy of Holies

355, 356 TiW, Lectures 29 & 30: Beyond Sex in the Holy of Holies Conclusion of series.

PACKAGE PRICING for all four of the above CD albums, plus D-101: $95; SAVE $17.

Category: Teaching