For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. - Ephesians 2:8
Plain and simple, one cannot discuss salvation without first discussing grace, for it is by grace that we are saved. Here are just a few of the definitions I found for the word "grace":
The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
Approval, favor, mercy or pardon.
A virtue coming from God.
A divinely given talent or blessing.
The love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it.
I could go on, but for sake of time, I'll stop there. I think we all get the picture, or at least I hope we do. Just FYI, my personal favorites are the first and the last because I feel they best explain the role of grace, particularly in salvation. So, let's take a minute to look at those.
Not to sound like a dictionary, but the word "unmerited" means unearned. In short, grace is getting something we don't deserve, something we are unworthy of, something we didn't pay for. Grace is not something we work for. Grace is freely given. It cannot be earned, for we will never be worthy of such a great gift. It cannot be obtained through any other means. It is a gift.
I once had the opportunity (or chore, as it seemed at the moment) of defining grace to a kindergartner. What stumped me was not that I didn't understand grace myself but rather that I realized this little boy was not going to understand "unmerited favor." I struggled to find a way to explain it in terms he would understand. Thankfully, the Lord reminded me of our class reward system.
The details were simple. At the beginning of the day, every student's name was on the board under the happy face. However, poor behavior earned the students a place under the sad face instead. At the end of the day, those who still had their name under the happy face were rewarded with a piece of candy. Those under the sad face went home empty handed.
Sadly, the boy standing before me was one of the few whose name frequented the sad face side of the board. This being the case, however, it made my example that much more effective.
"Suppose your name was under the sad face at the end of the day, but I gave you a piece of candy anyway," I said to him.
"That would be great!" he replied.
"No," I commented, "that would be grace. You see, you didn't earn that piece of candy, did you? You didn't do what was required to get that candy, did you? In fact, you didn't do anything to get that piece of candy, did you? But, I decided that you could have it anyway. I was showing you grace by giving you something you really didn't deserve."
I don't know if he truly understood or not, but I know it helped me to see grace a little more clearly, and to this day, I've not forgotten that moment.
Now, let's look at the last definition. Why was grace bestowed upon us? Because we worked so hard? Because we lived so righteously? Because we looked so nice or dressed so modestly? No, no and no. Grace was bestowed upon us because God desired for us to have it. It is His gift to us. He wants us to have it. He doesn't want us to buy it, earn it or try to work for it. He only wants us to accept it. He loves us with a love greater than we'll ever understand, and because of that, He desires to give us the best. Matthew 7:11 speaks the truth of this:
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
I'm one of those odd people who enjoys giving gifts far more than I do getting them. I love shopping for the perfect gift to complement the lifestyle or taste of the one for whom I am shopping. I make every effort to discover their likes and dislikes and use that knowledge to seek out the perfect gift. Why? Because I love them, and I'm eager to see the joy on their face when they open the gift. In my mind, the gift goes beyond the item itself and includes the time, effort and thought that went into the gift. Seeing the happiness of others increases my own happiness.
God, too, loves to give good gifts. That's why He has extended grace to all (Titus 2:11). Now it's up to us to decide what to do with that grace--accept it or reject it. That's where faith enters the picture, and we'll discuss this in tomorrow's post, Lord willing.
For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. - Romans 5:17-21