Grace in the New Testament, part 3
As we study further into God’s grace, we find a plethora of terms which the theologians have attached to grace to describe its various functions and aspects. We will not discuss all of them in this study, but I want to at least mention them and say a word or two about some of them. All of these terms are related to the concept of grace as Paul developed it: grace is the unmerited favor of God.
There is prevenient grace and renewing grace. There is habitual grace and saving grace; sanctifying grace and justifying grace. I have never seen theologians or commentators mention it, but I would suggest there is also glorifying grace.
Then there is common grace and “cheap” grace. (It’s at 79 cents a gallon, last time I checked…[grinning]) Moreover, there is efficacious grace which leads to irresistible grace, and finally John Newton tells us of “Amazing Grace.”
How amazing is it? Well, to begin with, it is infinite! Moreover, grace is the utmost expression of the divine nature. It is God’s crowning achievement. And someone will say: “Oh, well I think that Jesus dying for our sins is God’s crowning achievement and utmost expression.”
But if we think about it, isn’t that saying the same thing? Because God’s grace is manifested to His creation by the Father sending His Son to furnish redemption and salvation. So do not conclude that my statement is taking anything away from our Savior. Grace is God’s crowning attribute. And Jesus is the embodiment of that grace! John records that in his gospel:
John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
The preposition by is the Greek word dia and could also be translated through or in. So grace came in Jesus or grace came through Jesus Christ. He is the expression of God’s grace manifested in human form.
Not only that, but the demonstration of His grace is part of the declared purpose and the magnificent goal of all His work of predestination and redemption. That is what the apostle Paul tells us here.
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children [sons] [Greek: huiosthesia] by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches [fulness, abundance] of his grace;
8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
And what is the mystery of His will? What is the Father’s overall purpose? Verse 10 gives the answer…
10 That…in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things…
…Except the Lutherans, of course; or except the Catholics, or except the Buddhists or the Moslems, or the Jews, or whoever we don’t like—no, it says: “all things.” The Greek is ta panta, the all; which in Greek includes masculine nouns, and feminine and neuter.
So the Father intends and purposes to ultimately, not next year, not next century; but in the eons to come; as it says here “in the dispensation of the fulness of times;” the Father will gather all people and all things…
…in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
And the way I look at it, if God tells us here that His purpose is to gather all people and things together in Christ, I tend to believe He’s going to do it, and if He does do it, then that doesn’t leave anybody suffering in an eternal hell or exterminated forever.
Of course, now this does not mean that the heathen and the unsaved and the anti-Christians are going to be brought together in Christ as they are now, in their belligerent state. It means that God in His infinite grace will ultimately bestow that grace upon the heathen and cause them to come to Christ just as He has brought you and me to the foot of the cross in this dispensation of time.
Earlier in these studies, we read in Luke 6 about how Jesus used the word grace in the ordinary classical Greek meaning of thanks or reward or gratitude. When I came across that in my preparation, I stumbled on another very enlightening verse which is appropriate to point out at this juncture.
Luke 6:31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank [charis – reward, benefit] have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same
And that is where we stopped reading the first time. But let’s continue now.
Luke 6:34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he [Who is “he?” The Almighty God] he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
The thought occurred to me then that if God is telling us to love our enemies, would He do any less? And that’s exactly what the rest of verse 35 tells us: that God is merciful and kind even to the evil, in other words, He loves His enemies.
Then I thought: Would He be kind and loving to His enemies if He sent them to suffer in a burning hell for all eternity? Especially since He made them that way to begin with. And if that statement astonishes or shocks some readers, we have shown that fact from Scripture. It is covered extensively in the series of studies I did some years ago (see more information below), so the answer to this question should be obvious: In reference to the topic of grace, do we take the credit for coming to Christ? Or was it His great love and boundless grace which brought us to Him and saved us?
Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins,
In other words, when we were his enemies!
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That [as soon as you are saved] he might show the exceeding riches of his grace …oops, doesn’t say that, does it? Instead, it says
7 That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
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.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
And then to completely nail down the answer to the question, remember the words of Jesus Himself.
John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
I hope it is becoming crystal clear that in every step along our path to salvation, the grace of God is conspicuously displayed as the causative agent. As I stated earlier, it’s a grace job from beginning to end.
As verse 5 (above) states, at the beginning of our spiritual journey, we are dead in trespasses and sin. Tell me, my friend, what can a dead person do? Can a dead person decide to follow Jesus? Can a dead person even sense that he is dead? Can a dead person do anything? No, the dead know not any thing (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
Before a person can even begin the spiritual journey, he first must be made alive or “quickened,” as it says in verse 5. So by the grace of God, His Holy Spirit made us spiritually alive. He quickened our spirit to the tiniest degree, just enough so that by the grace of God, we could perceive that we are sinners in a lost condition.
This is what is meant by prevenient grace. The word derives from the Latin pre- meaning “before” and the verb venire, to come. Prevenient grace is the grace that comes before anything else. It is the grace that awakens us spiritually so that we are even capable of responding to the next level of grace which will give us an awareness of our lost condition. That is prevenient grace.
Then, by the unmerited favor of God, by the grace of God, the Holy Spirit causes us to desire a way out of this dreadful predicament. That is when the Spirit of God, in a further display of grace, orchestrates events so that we came across the Word of God and the gospel message, the good news that Jesus had paid the penalty for our sins and that by simply acknowledging our condition and accepting the work that Jesus did for us, that we can receive the gift of eternal life.
So it was God’s prevenient grace which first came upon us when we were spiritually dead and it enabled us to become conscious of our condition. Then when we came to accept by faith the completed work of Jesus Christ, that is what is called justifying grace. Paul writes about it here.
Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
You could also call that “saving” grace, although technically, all grace is saving grace; but this refers to our initial salvation experience. And so we say: we have been saved (past tense).
Then we enter our Christian walk, our sanctification phase, where we are being saved (present tense). This is the phase where, as the Bible says, “we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” Uh-oh, James, are you sure our works aren’t part of our salvation? I’m sure… and we will answer that downstream.
This grace which is given us during our Christian walk is not surprisingly called “sanctifying grace.” It is the grace given for every possible circumstance and situation that a Christian will ever face. It is enabling grace.
If the challenge is overwhelming, God gives overwhelming grace. If it is a continuing challenge, he gives continuing grace. If it is a momentary need; God gives momentary grace. Whatever the need, we can rest assured with Paul when God told him in the midst of a continuing trial that “my grace is sufficient for thee.”
One of the many places where the Scripture speaks of sanctifying grace is:
Acts 20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
Here it is specifically stated that this is grace for edifying and strengthening, for building up. When we continue, I shall move on to address more specifically the relationship between grace and works, or grace and the law, if you prefer. (To be continued.)
God’s Plan for Man Series
by Dr. James W. Bruggeman
Here is the suggested order of listening to the lectures. Doing so will provide a progressive course of study covering many topics. Some of them do not necessarily follow in numerical order. Request SKM Resources Catalog for description of each lecture.
CD # Lecture Title
Album A-101 The Ages and the Jubilees 6 CDs: $24
263 How Long Is “Forever?”—The Doctrine of the Ages, Part 1
264 How Long Is “Forever?”—The Doctrine of the Ages, Part 2
271 Jubilee: Level One—The Moral Law, 1
272 Jubilee: Level One—The Moral Law, 2
275 Jubilee: Level Two—The Prophetic Law, 1
276 Jubilee: Level Two—The Prophetic Law, 2
Album A-102 The Sovereignty of God 10 CDs: $40
280 The Sovereignty of God (SoG) series: Lecture 1: Who’s In Charge Here?, 1
281 The Sovereignty of God (SoG) series: Lecture 2: Who’s In Charge Here?, 2
282 SoG: Lecture 3: Foreknowledge and Predestination, 1
283 SoG: Lecture 4: Foreknowledge and Predestination, 2
284 SoG: Lecture 5: Do We Have Freewill?, 1
285 SoG: Lecture 6: Do We Have Freewill?, 2
286 SoG: Lecture 7: Why Hast Thou Made Me Thus? (The Doctrine of Election),1
287 SoG: Lecture 8: Why Hast Thou Made Me Thus? (The Doctrine of Election), 2
288 SoG: Lecture 9: Adam’s Fall & Christ’s Gift (Doctrines of Imputation and Infusion), 1
289 SoG: Lecture 10: Adam’s Fall & Christ’s Gift (Doctrines of Imputation and Infusion),2
Album A-103 It’s Hell or Nothing 10 CDs: $40
302 The Doctrine of Eternal Torture, 1
303 The Doctrine of Eternal Torture, 2
304 The Doctrine of Final Annihilationism, 1
305 The Doctrine of Final Annihilationism, 2
273 Do Rich Men Go To Hell and Beggars To Heaven? (Lazarus and the Rich Man), 1
274 Do Rich Men Go To Hell and Beggars To Heaven? (Lazarus and the Rich Man), 2
310 The Truth About Hell, Soul and Spirit, 1
311 The Truth About Hell, Soul and Spirit, 2
312 The Truth About Hell, Soul and Spirit, 3
313 The Truth About Hell, Soul and Spirit, 4
Album A-104 – Universal Reconciliation 12CDs: $44
296 History of the Doctrine of Universal Reconciliation (UR), 1
297 History of the Doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, 2
314 UR: Lecture 1: God’s Plan and Purpose in the Three Resurrections, 1
315 UR: Lecture 2: God’s Plan and Purpose in the Three Resurrections, 2
317 UR: Lecture 3: Conciliating the World, 1
318 UR: Lecture 4: Conciliating the World, 1
319 UR: Lecture 5: Everyman Returns in Jubilee, 1
320 UR: Lecture 6: Everyman Returns in Jubilee, 2
325 UR: Lecture 7: The Good News, 1
326 UR: Lecture 8: The Good News, 2
327 UR: Lecture 9: Back to the Garden—God’s Purpose for Evil, 1
328 UR: Lecture 10: Back to the Garden—God’s Purpose for Evil, 2
Special Package Price—All Four Albums $99
(A Savings of $53! $152 if ordered individually.)
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