Grace

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In this post I am going to present the Biblical Doctrine of the Grace of God.  My goal is to do this in a way that makes sense out of all of the different uses of the word Grace.  Very quickly when I started studying this I was overwhelmed by the fact that it is not used the same in all instances.

 

Keeping it simple, most theologians define the Grace of God as unmerited favor.  I am not going to just assume that though, one should strive to define words with scripture itself as much as possible.

 

“Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.  And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Romans 11:5-6 KJV

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” 2 Tim 1:9 KJV

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of GodEph 2:8 KJV

The above passages are very clear that Grace is an undeserved gift that is given to us by God.  This is not something that is earned, instead we deserve his wrath.

 

“10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:; 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.; 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.; 13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:; 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:; 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:; 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:; 17 And the way of peace have they not known:; 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.; 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Rom 3:10-19 KJV

“1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:; 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.; 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,; 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)” Eph 2:1-5 KJV

Above we see the teaching that we deserve death and hell but instead receive a blessing we do not deserve because of the disposition of Love and Mercy that God has for us.  Instead of condemning us he “quickens” us alive in Christ.  This is defined in scripture as the Grace of God.  I would argue based on the above passages that it is the Bible which has defined the Grace of God as a disposition of unmerited favor that God has on our account.

This is a gift that we expect to receive from God in heaven as the scripture teaches that such things come from God.

“John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” John 3:27 KJV

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17 KJV

“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” 2 Cor 3:5 KJV

“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.” John 6:44 KJV

“For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” 1 Cor 4:7 KJV

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” Col 1:12 KJV

 

It is not so simple though to define Grace and move on.  This is because we see it employed differently in various passages throughout scripture.  I got some help understanding this from a real Theologian by the name of Francis Pieper.  I highly recommend his work, you can find his study on Grace in Vol II.  He maintains that though Grace is always unmerited favor, there are three categories of this Grace seen in scripture.

 

Favor Dei (God’s Favor)

This is distinguished from the other uses of the word Grace in two distinct points:

 

  1. It always speaks of God’s saving act
  2. It excludes the works of the law

 

Ultimately this is a chief distinction between Christianity and other religions of the world.  All other faiths and cults lack the true Gospel and instead require the believer to perform certain acts to achieve an ultimate goal or plane.  In Christianity God has supplied the work that must be done and it is accounted to us by his Grace (Favor Dei).

 

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.; But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;  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, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Romans 3:20-26 KJV

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-2 KJV

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” Romans 6:14-15 KJV

 

Notice above that the verse says we are not under the law at all but under Grace.  It also says that we shouldn’t sin.  I challenge the reader not to ignore either of these, both are true.  We are not saved by good works, but that doesn’t mean sinning should be aspired to.

 

“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4:3-5 KJV

 

Read the above passage one more time, notice that you do not want what is earned but rather what is given.  If you receive what you have earned then enjoy an eternity in hell, because that is all any of us have earned.  What is given is something we do not deserve.  This is greater even than mercy.  If God only showed mercy he would spare us from hell, but instead he has given Grace as well which not only withholds the punishment we deserve but gives us heaven instead.

 

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Gal 2:21 KJV

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Rom 11:6 KJV

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” 2 Tim 1:9 KJV

This Grace is a gift, Paul is making it very clear that it is not something that is coming from you but something that is coming from God.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:; Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph 2:8-9 KJV

“But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” Act 15:11 KJV

“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” Romans 5:17 KJV

 

Gratia Infusa (Infused Grace)

This is the Grace from God we find in the Bible that I had the greatest difficulty understanding.  When I was digging into the topic I noticed that there are some passages that use the word very differently.  They speak of Grace like a substance placed inside of the believer by God.  This Grace stands out in three distinct ways:

 

  1. Spoken of like a substance placed inside of the believer by God.
  2. Associated either directly or indirectly with the good works of the believer.
  3. Never spoken of as a means of salvation or justification.

 

“1 My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. 2 Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever. 3 Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. 4 And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. 5 Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee. 6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. 7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Psalm 45:1-7 KJV

 

I have chosen to use the above verse first to demonstrate infused Grace.  We see that the Grace in the above text is received by means which we would expect, the Word of God (Rom 10:17).  And in receiving this grace the writer extols the virtues of the good works that flow from them with poetic imagery.

 

Below are a few statements that are very common to find at the opening of Paul’s letters.  Notice what I did, Grace is being spoken of as something that can be received and would bring peace.

 

“Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ”
Galatians 1:3 KJV

“Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 1:2 KJV

“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:2 KJV

“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” Colossians 1:2 KJV

 

In the Acts we see that Grace is an agent working the apostles manifested in Good works.

 

“And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:33 KJV

 

This next passage is even more interesting.  We see that Paul is speaking of what I believe to be his personal sin.  He doesn’t tell us what it is, he calls it a “thorn in the flesh”.  I believe it is his sin though because he calls himself the “chiefest” of sinners (1 Tim 1:15) and because of his association of this “thorn” with the word “flesh”, which is of course a word commonly associated with sin by Paul.

 

“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.; And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Cor 12:8-9 KJV

 

Above we see that Paul prayed in hope and expectation that God would remove this thorn from him.  But at the same time we find something even more comforting, and this is that we cannot expect to be sinnless in this life and that the Grace of God is sufficient for us even in our weakness.  I see this verse working for both Favor Dei and Gratia Infusa.  That is because Paul has a hope of overcoming his sin but is also assured that though he does not the Grace of God is sufficient for him.  Ultimately this is the tug of war that we all push and pull in.

 

Below we see that Grace is something that can be poured and rest upon believers, and that Jesus was even referred to as “full of Grace”.

 

“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10 KJV

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 KJV

 

This next passage is also very interesting in that was see Grace is received and good works come out of it.

 

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,;  (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,);  Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;;  And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:;  By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name” Rom 1:1-5 KJV

 

In hebrews we find that Grace establishes the heart and protects us from strange doctrine.  Also notice that he gives this in the form of a command.  I would argue that this Grace is something we participate in as well.  Though God is giving us this Grace in the same manner and likeness which we receive Favor Dei, here with this Gratia Infusa we collaborate, not as a means of salvation but certainly as a means of earthly blessings and peace toward one another.

 

“Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” Heb 13:9 ESV

 

 

Gratia Universalis (Universal Grace)

This is God’s universal Grace on everyone.  The Bible is very clear that God want’s to save everybody.  All tribes, all nations, all tongues, all men and women of all ages in every generation.

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.; For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:16-17 KJV

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” Matt 28:19 KJV

“Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.;  For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;  Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” 1 Tim 2:4-6 KJV

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 KJV

 

Scripture is also very clear that not all are saved.  These are two things that we must accept is being true at the same time.  Some will choose to abrogate one of those teachings with the other.  I would argue that it is a good idea to accept a healthy amount of Biblical paradox, we can’t connect all of the pieces.  That said, though there are three forms of Gods Grace taught in scripture, all are worked through means.  That is, God applies his Grace to you (all three at once) through physical means here on planet earth.

 

Conclusion

 

When God’s word is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered God’s Grace is given as a gift by a work of God through the Holy Spirit.  His Favor Dei is poured out on you to Justification,  His Gratia Infusa is poured into you unto blessings and good works,  and his Gratia Universalis is revealed in that anyone can receive his Grace through the means given with no distinction of persons or privilege.

 

I would argue that where most err in this is that they favor one teaching of Grace over the other two in their systematic theology and or dogma.  All three are true at the same time, all should be confessed, taught, and rightly distinguished from each other.

If this is your first encounter with Lutheran theology and you just choked when I dropped the word Sacrament you can find more on that below.

  1. Holy Baptism
  2. The Real Presence

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About ACTheologian

I am a layman who blogs my Biblical studies. Enjoy, please read with an open Bible and do double check with your pastor.
This entry was posted in Armchair Lounge, Christianity 101, Soteriology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Grace

  1. Jason Skudlarek says:

    “Scripture is also very clear that not all are saved. These are two things that we must accept is being true at the same time. Some will choose to abrogate one of those teachings with the other. I would argue that it is a good idea to accept a healthy amount of Biblical paradox, we can’t connect all of the pieces. ”

    Amen to that! This is the very summation of what it means to be Lutheran – to let scripture stand, without going beyond it based on philosophy/human reasoning.

    Here’s a great article about this issue, contrasting the Lutheran understanding (i.e. we don’t understand, we just believe what the Bible says and let the (seeming) paradox stand) vs. other faiths: http://www.stpaulslutheranchurch.net/cruxtheologorum.html

    Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Armchair Theologian says:

      Hey, thanks for the comment! This is one of the very things that attracted me to Lutheranism. I see it as the best way to understand scripture, they submit to the text rather than trying to bend it around. I’ll take a look at the article you dropped off too. Thanks again!

      Like

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