|The two dominant men of the
early followers of Jesus knew the importance of the grace of God. Paul
simply stated that those who had received "abundance of grace . . .
shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:17). Peter prayed
that his readers would ". . . grow in grace, and in the knowledge of
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ . . ." (2 Pet. 3:16). Moreover, the
original word from which grace is translated occurs over 160 times in the
New Testament. The grace of God is the vital truth of early Christianity.
The oldest root meaning of the word translated grace carried the idea of
"sweetness" or "attractiveness." It later evolved into
meaning "favor, goodwill, or loving kindness" especially when it
related to the action of a king to a subject or a master to a slave
relationship. In the Old Testament, it was primarily used to describe
God's favor to man. In the New Testament, it was developed one step
further to indicate the favor of God toward man that is unearned or
More importantly, how did the early followers of Jesus understand grace in
regards to day-to-day living? Paul stated to the Corinthians, "But by
the grace of God I am what I am . . . I labored more abundantly than they
all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Cor.
15:10). A simple statement by Paul to indicate that his labor was not of
himself, but by the grace of God. Labor does occur, but it is a product of
The same principle is also given to the Colossians. It is stated
differently, however, which adds insight to the meaning of grace. Paul
wrote, "Whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working,
which worketh in me mightily" (Col. 1:29). As indicated, labor is
again being performed, but it is not Paul's labor. The labor Paul was
experiencing was "according to [God's] working."
To the Corinthians, the apostle stated his labor was by the grace of God.
To the Colossians, Paul proclaimed his labor was by "[the Spirit s]
working." In both accounts, Paul affirmed that labor was occurring.
However, in one, labor is coupled with grace. While in the other, it is
associated with the Holy Spirit. Obviously, then, the grace of God and the
working of the Holy Spirit are connected together.
Finally, Paul helps our understanding of grace to come together by making
a similar statement to the Philippians. He wrote, "For it is God
which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure"
(2:13). It can be safely stated that "his good pleasure" can be
understood as the doing of the will of God. Something that would be
pleasurable to God would be His will. Thus, the verse could be interpreted
to read "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do
In pure Christianity, it is God, who is active (literal meaning of "worketh"
in Philippians 2:13) in the believer, who produces His own will. In the
final analysis, only God Himself can do His will. Both the "to
will" and the "to do" of God's will are done by God
Just as Paul stated to the Corinthians and to the Colossians, he repeated
to the Philippians, that it is God who does the work and not the
individual believer. Based upon an application of Philippians 2:13, the
specific work that God does in the believer is twofold. First Paul says,
"it is God which worketh in you . . . to will." The "to
will" of the believer or the "want to" of the believer is a
work of God Himself.
Admittedly, most believers attempt to create a desire within themselves
for the things of God. However, the truth of the matter is only God can
create that "want-to." In fact, the revelation of God makes that
very statement, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans: "So
then it is not of him that willeth . . . but of God that sheweth
mercy" (9:16). There is no effort man can do to create the necessary
desire to cause an individual to want to accomplish the ultimate will of
God. The motivators and manipulators who try to stir man into action may
get an initial response. However, the end result will always be the same,
"so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5:17).
Peter's life illustrated this dilemma of man's effort to commitment. Peter
said ". . . Lord . . . I will lay down my life for thy sake."
Jesus responded, "Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily,
verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me
thrice" (John 13:37,38). A few hours later, Peter, when he was
threatened, denied Jesus three times (John 18:25-27).
Eventually, Peter would experience the commitment that would lead to his
death but it was not a work of Peter. It was the work of the Holy Spirit:
". . . thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird
thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not" (John 21:18).
Man may be able to "will it" to a small degree, however, he does
not have the capability to commit to the ultimate. All the Christian hype
in the world cannot produce the "want-to" that is necessary for
the accomplishment of the ultimate will of God.
Regardless of how much someone may incite, push, pull, beg, plead, or
condemn with guilt, the want-to, the will-to, or the desire that is
necessary for Christians to see the will of God being performed in their
lives cannot be fabricated by human effort. The want-to that all believers
want to have is not a creation of the believer. The simple preaching of
Jesus produces in the heart of man the desire to live and to work for God.
It is a production of the grace of God.
Likewise, it is also God who gives the "to do" of His will. The
ability that is necessary for the will of God to be accomplished is,
again, a work of God Himself. There is no effort by man that can cause the
ultimate will of God to be manifested in the believerís life.
Paul, again, revealed this truth in his letter to the Romans when he
wrote, "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that
runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." Regardless of how many times
believers are admonished for greater acts of determination and effort, it
is not "of him that runneth," but of God which works in man to
do His will.
Although man, himself, cannot do the will of God. The will of God can be
seen in manís life. The will of God, the ability to do, is a production
of God Himself. This ability, produced by God, is the actual essence of
what it means to be Christian.
Now, a working definition for the grace of God can be formulated. Building
upon Paulís statements to the Corinthians, the Colossians, and the
Philippians, the grace of God can be stated as "the want-to and the
accomplishment of the will of God" in the believer's life. Grace is
the divine provision that God gives to His creation to enable it to
fulfill its intended purpose. The Christianís life is not by manís
works but it is God, through Jesus Christ, living not only in the believer
but through the believer as well. The hope of glory for man is Jesus
Christ living in and through him.
Once again, Paul stated to the Corinthians, "I labored more
abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God." Paul
labored, but by the grace of God.
Then, to the Colossians he wrote, "Whereunto I also labor, striving
according to his working." Paul labored, but it was according to the
Holy Spiritís working. Thus, the grace of God is the Spiritís working.
Finally, Paul wrote to the Philippians, "For it is God which worketh
in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." The grace of God
is the Spiritís working, and the Spiritís working is the "to
will" and the "to do" of the will of God being
performed in the life of the true believer.
Consequently, the grace of God is the want-to and the accomplishment of
the will of God being manifested in the Christian. The grace of God is
supernatural enablement. The grace of God flowing through the believer is
what it means to be Christian.
This fundamental principle can be seen in another statement by Paul. He
wrote to the Galatians concerning his ministry, "(For he that wrought
effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was
mighty in me toward the Gentiles.)" He then added, "And
when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the
grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands
of fellowship . . ." (Gal. 2:9).
Paul is stating that grace is that which "wrought effectually"
in both Peter and himself. After their conversions, Peter and Paul did not
spend their lives working for God. Grace was not bestowed upon them in
vain. The grace of God was not frustrated in their lives. They were great
men of God simply because they lived in and by the provision by which God
does His own will.
The Spirit of God in every believer will not only produce the want-to, but
He will also produce the power to experience the Father s will. All that
God asks of any believer is to be only a channel through which He can flow
to accomplish His own will. God's will on earth will be done, but it will
be done as He works in and through true believers.
Christ's death on the cross provides the means for man's sins to be
forgiven. Christís resurrection provides the means for man to live free
from sin. Jesus Christ is not only man's Savior, He is also man's Life!
Are you attempting to live for Him based upon the belief that He died for
you? Or, are you experiencing the power of His life living in and through
you. One produces continual failures. The other produces the power of a
Life that has risen from the dead.
The grace of God is the divine provision by which God enables man to live
the life that God intended for him to live. The grace of God is divine
enablement. The grace of God is Jesus Christ living in and through the