This is a guest post by a very good friend of mine, Brad Brede. Brad has been a respected leader in the body of Christ for thirty years. I am going to be following this post with some of my own thoughts. I hope this encourages further discussion and Biblical study of this important subject. The result of getting this wrong leads us down a very slippery and very scary path.
There seems to be much confusion and controversy in these last days concerning the grace of God. I've heard simple statements like "mercy is not getting what you deserve" and "grace is getting what you do not deserve." Grace being that undeserved or unmerited favor of God. Although these are true statements, they reveal only a very shallow understanding of God's grace.
"...even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." - First Peter 4:10
There are many sides to God's grace. But, there has been so much focus on just the undeserved or unmerited favor that this powerful truth has been pushed to an extreme resulting in little or no fear of God. The result is false doctrine which leads people into error, fills the Church with worldliness and slothfulness, and prevents Christians from walking in the fullness that God has for them. The most common word for grace in the New Testament is charis. Strong's Comprehensive Concordance of the Bible defines it as the divine influence upon the heart and it's reflection in the life. It is an operation of God's power within our lives. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." - Ephesians 2:8There had to be a "divine influence upon the heart" in order for anyone to be saved or born-again. Yes, only God could do something about our sin nature, and yes, we did not deserve it. However, our believing in Jesus Christ and making Him our Lord (an act of faith) brings the power (grace) of God to bear upon our hearts and causes us to become new creations in Him. Once born-again (saved) as a result of that divine influence upon the heart, there is a "reflection in the life." Grace teaches or trains us to live uprightly.
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." Titus 2:11,12
Grace (the divine influence on the heart) has delivered us from sin so we may live godly lives (reflection in the life).
"Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear." - Hebrews 12:28
Please notice that it does not say, "let us have grace, whereby we may serve God with irreverence, disobedience, unfaithfulness, and sin." Grace is not God tolerating sin. It is freedom from sin. Grace is not a license to sin. It is the power to live godly. Who we are in Christ and everything that we can do in Him is a result of God's grace.
"But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." - First Corinthians 15:10
The Apostle Paul said, "I am what I am because of the divine influence upon my heart." Yet, he labored. There was a reflection of that grace in his life. But, it wasn't really him. It was the grace that was with him. That grace made him who he was and equipped him to do what he did. It is only because of the divine influence on our hearts that we can live in righteousness and holiness, walk in His ways, and carry out His will on this earth.Our privilege to pray and receive answers to prayer is the grace of God. Our ability to exercise authority in this world is the grace of God. We are what we are and can do what we do only by the grace of God. Everyone of us has been given grace (Ephesians 4:7). It is with you. You can come boldly unto the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). Therefore, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1). Do not allow yourself to be confused and misled concerning grace. Rather, be empowered by grace!