by Jay Atkinson

Grace is the love and favor of God toward man, God's forgiving mercy. The grace of God is spontaneous, unmerited, and almighty directed. Grace is the source of the whole scheme of redemption.

Solomon describes wisdom as a grace. Most all references to grace in the Old Testament are termed as finding favor or grace in the sight of God or another person. We can see this in the New Testament as fruits of the spirit. It is important to consider these "graces." Grace is found all through the Bible as various types of kindness and favor. God's grace is to be distinguished from his mercy and love.

There is only one role in grace, that of making us into His image and likeness. While grace has many facets, we can see them all in three types, common grace, saving grace and keeping grace or sanctifying grace.

Common Grace

Common grace is the kind of grace we see in creation, from the earth in its seasons onto each day of our lives as individuals. Common grace is given to every person simply because they get up in the morning. We can also find the good gifts that we freely enjoy in life, especially outdoors in nature with the celebration of creation. There is wisdom to be derived from the soul and spirit of loving, dedicated people with a deep spiritual understanding of what it means to have the grace to walk in the Spirit. Among the greatest gifts of common grace is the spirit that has been shed upon the world through the gospel teachings of grace. This amazing grace is God's gift of redemption.

The Ten Commandments have the singular distinction of being written with the finger of God onto tablets of stone. As important a document that was, Moses threw them to the ground. The law of Moses was given to the children of Israel but they did not keep the law, rather it was impossible to keep and a grievous burden. The law was effective only to the point of being a lesson to us in times to come that would lead us Christ by teaching us our utter helplessness to do the law without spiritual help.

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:4

This is an easy concept to understand but impossible to do in the flesh. The law was considered perfect because the righteousness of the law was perfect in every way. The Hebrews could not righteously live by the Law as a people because human nature stood in the way. The laws of sin and pride were constantly present whether they were able to keep the Mosaic Law or not. The Jews failed miserably in this when they rejected the spiritual Kingdom of God through Jesus the King. Through the New Covenant that is of our faith and the blood sacrifice met by the spotless Lamb of God we by grace fulfill the righteousness demand made by God, and by His spirit, we fulfill the law.

Saving Grace

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. Romans 3:24, 25.

Sanctifying grace is present in saving grace because as we are justified, we are separated from the world by being set apart as a member of the universal church of God through Jesus. For saving grace to work there are two things present, the work of Jesus at the cross and our faith in that work. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

Redemptive grace is focused most on the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. With it are united the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for sinners; and that of the Spirit of Grace. Grace in man is traced up to the grace of God as its primary source; and the gospel of Christ and the work of the spirit - both pure grace - are its only avenues of communication.

We need God's grace to be saved and we also need God's grace to be sanctified. Sanctification implies a separation. Sanctifying grace is present in both saving and keeping, we enter into one through our faith and the work of the cross and the other through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is what makes faith and works compatible, when it led by the Spirit.

Sanctifying Grace

If we are to be like Jesus, we need to be in His image. Jesus took upon Himself the likeness of man so that he could put sin to death by the sacrifice. We are to take upon that likeness also and be obedient unto death. This how we become wholly sanctified. As we die to ourselves and renounce the flesh that leads to sin, sanctifying grace through the Holy Spirit gives us the help that brings us to perfection. Saving grace saves us from the penalty of sin; sanctifying grace saves us from the power of sin.

The grace where we stand is the Lord Jesus Christ. This is how He keeps us in grace and our salvation certain. Grace is the only power on earth that you can be saved in this life and grace is the only power on earth that keeps you saved. We must rely on the Lord Jesus Christ to be able to increase our faith and appropriate that grace. The blood at Calvary was final in our lives it is done; there is nothing more than the Lord can do to make us more saved once we accepted Jesus in faith. Our standing in grace is assured with that fact. Now we further stand on that grace by being led by the Lord and moving onto perfection.

Sanctifying grace is present in the grace that keeps us in the state of grace. This is the power of grace that separates us from the sins and lusts of the world. It is actual grace; it produces the good works in us and through us. But more, it brings us to the point of total union with the risen Lord. It is by faith, not in our own efforts but obedience to the revealed will of God in our lives. This is the Holy of Holies. We are not playing church here, we are being the church and bringing forth into the world the teachings of grace found in the gospel of Christ and Him crucified so that others can get to this point.

All the fruits and blessings of the gospel are termed graces, not only regeneration and pardon, enlightenment, sanctification, etc., but from the miraculous with sign gifts to the peculiar traits of Christian character. Grace gifts are freely bestowed by God as miracles when you can channel the hand of God through your own. Grace is especially found in the prophetic realm as well as in Christian virtues and social justice.

Standing in Grace is the best way that we can appropriate the power of grace in our daily lives. The grace that effects our salvation is a process that ends at our initial conversion and giving of the Spirit. We are a new creature without the stain of depravity. The process that grace continues in our lives is the process of sanctification, leaving the rudiments of this world and being part of the Kingdom of God. Salvation is not a guarantee of a true spiritual life; it is the entrance into the true spiritual life. Previously, we were the Lord of our own lives, as we grow in sanctification and grace, we submit to the Heavenly calling.

Grace was made in the flesh; when we see grace, we see Jesus; when we see Jesus, we see grace. You don't have to have a lot of scriptural references to see grace, especially in forgiveness. They say to err is human, to forgive, divine. That is not in the Bible but so true in an age where we see so much intolerance. We must manifest grace as well as appropriate it. Grace is unconditional acceptance. We are accepted by God, we are accepted by those around us, if we show grace to another, we accept them unconditionally, lovingly, we exhibit the fruits of the spirit.<P>

Sanctifying grace is spiritual, not carnal. Sanctifying grace can be as subtle as a gentle nudge or come in prophetic power and healing. Holiness is the key, we cleanse ourselves at the altar of forgiveness and Godly sorrow. We need more grace in our own lives and we need it now. We need to show that grace in others. Sanctifying grace in the power of the Holy Spirit will reveal the sons of God. I pray that everyone who reads these words is a part of that.

There is a particular grace toward prayer and having the love and compassion to intercede for others. Dealing with guilt and worthlessness takes a grace that comes with healing. The Kingdom is a total commitment of love one to another. It is in that love that we become the agents of God willing to work in establishing the Kingdom of God here on earth. That is something that we can hold on to and strive for in letting the power of the Holy Spirit work in our lives, not just as our Savior but Lord as well.<P>

I like the Catholic views of grace better than the Puritan or narrow Calvinistic views yet both have their good points. More love needs to be revealed as grace and less theological dogma. There are many graces listed 2 Corinthians, the eighth chapter. A good reading shows liberality as one of them, in this day and age where liberal acts are considered something of an evil in the hearts of misled Christians, it is refreshing to see it. Grace is described as something that can be finished in us and that grace can abound. A great list of fruits and gifts of the spirit is all here in one verse as graces; faith, utterance, knowledge, diligence and love.

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. 1 Peter 5:10

So much for talking the talk, can we walk the walk? We sin daily; we seem not to be able to stop no matter what. Sometimes the closer we get to the Lord, the more that the enemy comes to hassle us. If we are standing in grace, how come we sin so much? Before we knew the Lord, we were drawn by our own lusts, the devil didn't do it, we did. Now that we are in Christ and Christ in us, the enemy tries as hard as he can to make our testimony ineffectual. We are all hypocrites, we know what to do but have a hard time doing it.

The Lord has given us many examples of how to stand and what to stand on in the New Testament. We are to stand upon the power of God by standing in the faith. We are to stand in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. We are to put on the whole armor of God, truth, righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit and in prayer. This is how we stand upon the grace so freely given and how we continue in the kind of grace that leads to holiness. Paul admonishes us to stand fast.

Grace really comes into play here because although we do sin, we are not condemned, even when we blow it. Although we are not condemned, the penalty for sin is still death. In this case we live in spiritual death by continuing in sin. Don't mistake this. We forfeit the fullness of the Spirit when we live in the flesh or try to do good works in the power of the flesh. Many people like the "cheap grace," the kind of grace that uses salvation as fire insurance and then sin, knowing that God is bound to forgive. Paul warns about using our grace as an excuse to sin. We must make the daily decision whether to put Jesus back upon the cross or stand on the spiritual power of God in directing our lives.

Good examples of cheap grace and costly grace is found in the book "The Cost of Discipleship" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing....

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian 'conception' of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins.... In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. 'All for sin could not atone.' Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin....

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man’ will gladly go and self all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

v Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus. It comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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Jesus said that His burden is light but sometimes we do have to suffer for a while before we get to the point that we can call ourselves perfect. We will never be perfect in the flesh or by striving for good works. In grace, only the works that we do in the Spirit are of any value. Through the grace that has been poured on us, we know that the Lord already sees us as perfect, all He sees is the blood that was shed to make us that way. We need to be established, we need to be strengthened, and we need to be settled. Peter finishes that thought in verse 12 by saying that "this is the true grace of God wherein you stand."

Licentiousness is the abuse of grace. Growing in grace requires the continuation of the Spirit. We can no more rely on our own power to live the Christian life than we could in becoming a Christian in the first place. You can't work at it to have the power over sin; you have to surrender to the Spiritual power that is able to lead you out of it. This power is continually at work in our lives but many are robbed of the power simply because their faith is not strong enough to use it. All you have to ask but for it to lead to holiness, you must have the humility to accept your own weakness, only when we can admit to our weaknesses can we truly become strong, that is where forgiveness comes in and the holiness to continue in grace. We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus and it will be those of us led by the Spirit that reveal the Manifest Sons of God.

Grace interacts with faith for salvation unto good works. Many seem to think that grace and works are not compatible but they better be or we are in big trouble. Generally they will quote Ephesians 2:8 and 9 and then omit verse ten. "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." Appropriate God's grace for every aspect of your lives. Salvation is great but it doesn't stop there. We need to draw upon that grace every day. God's grace is working in us, bringing us to spiritual maturity and completeness. Desire the higher gifts, prophecy and ministering, teaching and exhortation, growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18). Salvation is a process. Salvation hinges upon grace but just like my front door at home, you need more than one hinge to support something as heavy as salvation. The scriptures hinge the open door of salvation on faith, grace and the blood of Jesus.

In the Old Testament, salvation was of the Jews but this is not saving grace, you had to be good under the law to be saved and blood sacrifice took away the sin. Proverbs 28:18 is a good example of that principle, for "Whoso walks uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once." People, or at least the children of Israel, were saved by perfect obedience to the law, a system of works. The New Testament, as we all know, regards salvation much differently. In Ephesians 2:8, Paul; writes that "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."

There are a lot of Bible teachers that stress that grace is all there is and unconditional toward salvation. That may be true as far as human merit is discounted, but there are many examples in the Bible that show that certain conditions must be met before God can bestow the blessings of salvation. A quick study of the universal nature of grace is important to understand this concept. Titus writes in verse 2:11 "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." The writer of Hebrews states in verse 2:9, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." These scriptures show the universality of grace toward all men, not just the elect. The difference here is Calvary, Jesus died for the whole world and God's grace is truly available to all but salvation is not, it is conditioned upon our faith. Grace and faith are totally dependent upon each other in regards to salvation. Jesus said in Mark 16:16, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned." Many say that salvation is by grace alone, the Bible says that you are saved by grace through faith. For me, I will stick to the Bible teaching on salvation and not try to quibble about using the words by or through. All the same to me.

Grace is everywhere that God is. Grace is present in the creation story of Adam and Eve; we know that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord and that God's grace was present in the wilderness. God's grace in New Testament salvation however is conditioned upon our receptiveness in faith as evidenced by Jesus as Lord. To be faithful toward God is not something we do; it is the essence of who we are in Christ and is the singular prerequisite on our part that stimulates God's grace toward us in salvation. It just takes the humility and courage to reach out to God for forgiveness and mercy. Jesus already provided the grace, all you have to do is accept it by faith.

Certainly faith and grace are way up there in the "process" of salvation. Part of this process is justification; we cannot be said to be truly saved until we are justified. Paul teaches in the book of Romans that "justification does not come from the deeds of the law but freely by His grace through the redemption of Christ Jesus" (3:24). "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace," (4:16). He also includes justification by faith (5:21) and by His blood (5:9), all present and each necessary for salvation.

In grace the believer has a whole new life ahead in the Spirit. Grace is boundless; it discriminates against no one and shows the love of God toward mankind as nothing else does. The sinner is lost until by divine grace He is saved. Grace can never be excluded in the salvation process. Without grace, God would have had to come up with something else and He didn't. This indescribable gift of grace is perfect in every way.

There are different kinds of graces that have been debated through church history. In scripture, grace is used in several senses (xapis - gratia). Very frequently, grace signifies not a gift bestowed on us, but the goodwill or favor with which God regards us. The high privilege of sanctifying grace can be forfeited by sin. A controversy between the Dominican and Jesuit orders concerning efficacious grace was as to the nature of the causality exercised by God as first Cause and Prime Mover upon the free acts of the will. Sanctifying Grace is the redemptive work of Calvary and has made men the sons of God. When the Roman Church speaks of Sanctifying Grace it is this new life given us by God that she means. Those who receive the Divine adoption and afterwards renounce their sonship through legalism, trying to reach God through their own efforts instead of the spirit are in worse case than those who know nothing. It is the difference between living for Christ in the holy place or the holy of holies.

It may perhaps, be asked whether we are not God's children in virtue of our creation alone. It is clear that the gift of grace which the New Testament speaks is no mere restoration of moral order, but the elevation to a new and supernatural dignity; regeneration, a new nature has been conferred upon us. A divine operation has molded us into the image and likeness of God, and has thereby given us the right to call Him Father.

We are all learning, at least if we have that teachable spirit that is able to learn. I hope that I never stop learning or think that I have it all together. I know that I do not know many things, nor do I ever feel that I will. John Wesley taught absolute perfection as being in our grasp. I may not have understood him correctly but this is one of the doctrines he had to defend most vigorously. Maybe we can get to the point of absolute perfection but for us to do it, we would have to be all of Jesus and nothing in ourselves and I can't do that. Can't speak for others but I have never been to that point so it is hard for me to accept the fact that it is even possible. As a painter that took pride in my work, for a time I was a perfectionist. The problem was that I could never attain to what I thought was perfect so I quit trying. I kept on doing the best I could but to be perfect was not ever something that I could attain, so it just frustrated me. If I were to expect that within myself, I would have to expect it from those under me in my employ and that would not be right. We are however told to be perfect, so we do the best we can in what we do and at least have perfection in mind even though we fall short.

Grace is different than our feeble attempts at perfection. With grace, God makes us perfect when we are not. Paul had that thorn in his flesh, whatever it was is not important but it taught him about grace. We are perfect in God's sight but for me, I do not think I ever will see it until Jesus comes for me. Maybe, I should think differently and of course there are times in my life when I do sin and have to ask for forgiveness. God is faithful to forgive me and I can only praise Him for it. I am not glad I sin and we know that grace is not an excuse but then I am glad that I can identify sin in my life, if not just to think of my imperfection and be able to humble myself, at least to be able to know what i should be delivered from and that I have a Father who gives me grace to make up the difference. Praise God.

Those who possess charity, love God above all things: that is they direct their lives to Him as their primary end and that translates into love for others. When a man shakes off the yoke of God's authority he thereby makes self-gratification his end instead of God, and in so doing deprives himself of love. On the other hand, there are less grievous sins. They do not expel love, and are compatible with the presence of grace, these have been termed venial sins. There is no forgiveness unless there is a general detestation of sins, and a total renunciation of all attachment to them, that is what repentance is. Our grace from God is a free and undeserved love and favor of God towards man as sinner, especially as exhibited in the plan of redemption through Jesus Christ at the cross. It is only by the free grace of God that we embrace the offers of mercy, and appropriate to ourselves the blessings graciously purchased by redeeming blood.

There is a difference between those in the church that through grace have not deserved salvation but get it anyway through the redemptive work of Christ and His kindness and those that do not enter into sanctifying grace by not being separated from the world or have forfeited it through returning to sin. Then there are the legalists. Paul teaches that if you seek to be justified by the law, you have fallen from grace. There are many who become Christians by going through all the motions and then live the Christian life under their own power. They look all white on the outside but it is those that are walking in the spirit that are truly sanctified. Jesus died on the cross to give us the freedom from the law to be able to fulfill the law by walking in the spirit and gave us His Holy Spirit as a gift to help us. The legalist in the church can be identified not so much from the externals or even by their orthodoxy, because they look real good. You will see them seeking in one way or another to quench the spirit. They will not have full gospel teachings, they will not exhibit the spiritual gifts, they will not have the love to accept the opinions of others and have the self-righteous attitudes that doubts the spirit in others or they want us to follow the laws of Moses - not because the power of the Holy Spirit is not available to them but because they have denied the power.

As to eternal security, I know like Paul that I will never be separated and that I will have eternal life in heavenly bliss and will never lose it. I cannot speak for others however, that is between God and them. The Bible makes it very clear that your name could be erased from the book of life. If I believe in the Bible, which I do, I must take those verses seriously and be open to the fact that we could be in the book of life and also be taken out of it. If it means something past the clear and reasonable, taking it for something else, I don't know what it is unless it means that you could be in the book of life and not really be saved. Saved is a past tense word, in this life, it would probably better be said "being saved."

As to those walking in the spirit being justified, we are already justified at the cross, this is where grace comes from. Walking in the spirit is our service once we are saved, this is how we continue growing in grace. Many saved people do not walk in the spirit. Sanctification implies being separate and is not the same thing as justification, it is a process of setting ourselves apart from the world and keeping our minds set on heavenly things, by God's grace, we are given to power to do that. The choice is still ours to follow the spirit or go back and walk in the flesh. Exhibiting spiritual gifts is merely those gifts being exercised and manifested. It is not the evidence of grace or a saved soul because the devil can counterfeit, it is the evidence of the Holy Spirit operating in our lives. And no one gift is initial evidence except love.

Grace is what God may be free to do, and indeed what he does, accordingly, for the lost after Jesus has died on behalf of them. Had God been therefore been able to save one soul on the ground of his sovereign mercy alone, He could have saved every person on that basis, and the death of Christ would not have been a necessity. Since God is holy and righteous and sin is a complete offense to Him, His love or His mercy cannot operate in grace until there was provided a sufficient satisfaction for sin. This satisfaction makes possible the exercise of God's grace. Grace thus rules out all human merit. It requires only faith in the saving act.
[34, 286, 380, BD, I Peter 5:5-7, Easton's, American Tract Society Dictionary]

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