Grace: the Gift of God

53.0 A Definition of Grace?

by Hubert F. Sturges,, October 2009

A Definition of Grace?
Where Does Grace Come From?
Prevenient Grace
Burnt Offerings
The Power of Grace

Not long ago, in a Bible class, we talked about how the life is changed and we are made a new creature "by the grace of God." The teacher turned and asked the question, "What is grace?" This is a very good question. Grace must be more than just a word. It must carry meaning into our lives.

A Definition of Grace

The terms used by Christians can become a jargon that is understood only by them; and worse it can be a mantra that even Christians do not understand. The common formal definition of grace is "Divine unmerited favor of God." This is short, pithy, and totally obscure to non-Christians.

Grace is the supernatural power of God to change your life, including motivations, likes and dislikes, willingness to obey, and to love as God has loved. This power comes as you pray, meditate, and behold Jesus Christ in what He has done for you. Whereas grace changes your life, it is an action that must come from God. It is the gift of God appropriated by faith.

If grace comes from God, then why does not everyone have that grace that changes the life? This is a question that has several answers. Christian denominations have been built on different answers to this question. In this article, we will concentrate on what I think the Bible says.

Most Christians recognize that God created us with the power of choice, or "free will." This free will is a precious gift that allows a love freely given to be returned to God. God will inform, He will persuade, but we must decide which direction we will go. Unfortunately, Satan is also giving false information and actively persuading us through deception to go wrong. But God has promised that: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV)).

To choose good means to choose Christ. And to choose Christ is to choose to be like Him, to keep His law. It is His grace that makes this possible.

We need grace to meet trial and temptation. We need grace to change our motives and make us humble, loving and Christ like, We need grace for guidance in our lives. How does a person do this? When Satan brings you a trial, or tempts you to do wrong, stop right there. Remember, there is never a hurry to do wrong. Take a minute to immediately pray to Christ for help. THEN, trust Him, and decide to do what is right.

You must do this in all the small trials and temptations that come your way. You must "wear ruts" in the road to Christ. Then, when the BIG ONE comes, you can find the way in the dark! This is what it means to follow Christ. This is what Jesus said: "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23, KJV).

If you do this, walking with Jesus will become a habit. More and more you will become like Him. Remember, you are NOT fighting Satan. Jesus has already won that battle. You are trusting in Jesus, and He gives you grace. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV)

Here are some beautiful thoughts from another writer:

   "The Lord Jesus is making experiments on human hearts through the exhibition of His mercy and abundant grace. He is effecting transformations so amazing that Satan, with all his triumphant boasting, with all his confederacy of evil united against God and the laws of His government, stands viewing them as a fortress impregnable to his sophistries and delusions. They are to him an incomprehensible mystery. The angels of God, ... look on with astonishment and joy, that fallen men, (are learning) to act an important part in the occupations and pleasures of heaven.
   "To His church, Christ has given ample facilities, that He may receive a large revenue of glory from His redeemed, purchased possession. The church, being endowed with the righteousness of Christ, is His depository, in which the wealth of His mercy, His love, His grace, is to appear in full and final display." White, E.G.: Testimonies to Ministers, p. 18
   "All true obedience comes from the heart. ... If we consent, He will so identify Himself without thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him, we shall be but carrying our out own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified will find its highest delight in doing His service." White, E.G.: the Desire of Ages, p. 668

Where does Grace come from?

When Adam sinned, he gave dominion of this earth to Satan; and further he chose another master and became enslaved to Satan (Romans 6:16). And make no mistake, when Eve sinned, it was her soul that was at stake; but when Adam sinned Satan gained the whole world!

They had been told that "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17). Some have said that this really means that on the day they sinned they became subject to death: "dying thou shalt die." However before the sun set that day, God came and gave them the covenant of grace. God had compassion on mankind. He would not abandon His creation. Man did not die that day for God gave him a probation, an opportunity to choose again and to choose Him. This covenant of redemption is briefly stated in the following verse:

15 "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:15, NIV).
The law was written on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34) -- an enmity against evil. A Redeemer would come who would take the penalty for their sin, and restore all things. Sin and Satan would be destroyed, but only at the cost of His suffering.

This is the atonement that Jesus did for us on the Cross of Calvary. This is where Grace comes from. Through this expensive gift, we are "bought with a price."

Do you choose to accept the work of Christ in your life today?

Prevenient grace

Prevenient grace is a term used by John Wesley to describe "preventing grace." This grace is given to you even before you have faith. It occurs before and without reference to anything you may have done. Corrupted by sin you are not able of yourself to choose good. Prevenient grace allows you to use your God-given free will to choose or to reject the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ.

Prevenient grace is also defined as the divine love that surrounds all humanity and precedes any and all of our conscious impulses. This grace prompts your first wish to please God, your first glimmer of understanding concerning God's will, and your 'first slight transient conviction' of having sinned against God. God's grace also awakens in you an earnest longing for deliverance from sin and death, and moves you toward repentance and faith.

John Wesley further teaches that, "You have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preceding you..."

Some will say that the work that Christ did on the Cross for all men is justification. John Wesley does not use that term. And the Bible does not describe a justification without faith. Yet Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary met the demands of the broken law for all men. He gave to all men a new probation to allow all men the opportunity to again choose Him. I believe that the word "atonement" and Wesley’s "prevenient grace" are more accurate terms for what Christ did on the Cross for us.

Burnt Offerings

Leviticus chapter one describes the burnt offerings, a form of prevenient grace. Before Sinai, all sacrificial offerings were burnt offerings. Abel offered a burnt offering. Job offered (intercessory) burnt offerings for his children, for "it may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts" (Job 1:5).

Possibly the most important function of the daily burnt offering was to hold a "shield of forgiveness" over the sinner, allowing him time to recognize his sin, confess, and be forgiven. Job offered burnt offerings for his sons on this basis. When David sinned with Bathsheba, it was about a year before he confessed his sin, and was forgiven. During that time, God held his hand over him to give him time to realize his sin.

A burnt offering denoted complete consecration. The death of the animal pointed forward to the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ on Calvary, and by His shed blood our sins are forgiven (Leviticus 17:11). The animal chosen was a "clean animal" (Leviticus 11) from the flock, a bullock, sheep or goat. It must be a male without blemish to fully represent Christ. The man making the offering brought it to the priest at the door of the tabernacle. There he put his hand on its head, and it was "accepted for him to make an atonement for him" (Leviticus 1:4). He would then kill the animal, skin it, and cut it in pieces.

The priest caught the blood in a vessel and sprinkled it "round about upon the altar" (Leviticus 1:5). The legs and inwards were washed with water, and the priest arranged the parts on the altar and burned them. The animal was entirely consumed on the altar – except for the skin. This was given to the priest (Leviticus 7:8).

As the Bible says, this was "an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord" (Leviticus 1:9). It is a cause for deep gratitude that Jesus should offer Himself on Calvary for our sins. In recognition of this, the believer gives himself, a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). This brings great joy to Jesus Christ, and is "a sweet savour" to Him. The sacrifice has meaning only as the life of the believer is consecrated to Christ and is changed.

Burnt offerings could be offered by themselves, but most commonly were added after a sin or trespass offering. Burnt offerings were given by individuals for consecration. There were also thank offerings and peace offerings. Possibly the most important burnt offering was offered daily, two lambs of the first year, without spot, one each morning and one each evening. This was an offering of continual consecration for the whole camp. The offering was burnt only by the continual fire provided by God.

A person must renew his consecration with God on a daily basis and never take it for granted (Exodus 29:38-42; Leviticus 6:12,13; Numbers 28:3,4). This was the daily spoken of by Daniel (Daniel 8:11-13).

The Power of Grace

The Ten Commandment law can be summarized as love to God and love to man. To go a little deeper, lacking love to God leads to pride and unbelief. Lacking love to fellow men leaves selfishness. How can you overcome pride and selfishness without becoming even more proud and selfish? It is only be the grace and power of God that you can be lifted out of pride and selfishness. Otherwise everything you do, even the good things are tainted by these twin evils.

The purpose and the power of grace in your life is shown in the following verses. For this to happen you must submit to Christ and let Him be Lord in your life. This is called being born again." In this way you are "in Christ" and become a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jude 1:24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless..
Ephesians 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle,
1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world:
Revelation 2:7 To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life,
Revelation 14:12 .. here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus
2 Corinthians 3:18 beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image..

Jesus is the author and the finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). It is by grace that you are enabled to keep the law. By grace, keeping the commandments, Christ will prepare a church that is "holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27), a commandment keeping church.

Christians must know that "ye are not your own... For ye are bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19). It is by faith in the price that was paid, faith in the victory gained by Jesus for us all, that you can be an over comer. Before Jesus comes again, the saints will "keep the commandments of God" (Revelation 14:12). There are no "unfunded mandates" with God. When he commands, He provides.

What is the standard that God has for us? Is perfection necessary? Yes!

Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect"
1 Peter 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

What constitutes perfection? It is God who judges and He takes a broad view of perfection. When God looked over Israel on the east bank of the Jordan, He could see only perfection.

"He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them" (Numbers 23:21).

Maybe then, there is a chance for me! He is looking you to be whole hearted in your faith, holding nothing back. Perfection is in your trust, perfect trust in Jesus Christ.

Does the Christian ever perfectly keep the law of God? Several questions must follow: Is grace sufficient to overcome sin in the believer? If perfection is expected, at what point is that perfection achieved? Please read and meditate on 1 John 1:6-10. Our "perfection" is in the hand of Jesus Christ. It is His business, not ours, and in Him we can trust. He is the author and the finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2).