THE GRACE OF GOD
IN THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST


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 undeserved.

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 grace.

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 His will."

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 Himself.

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 true believer.

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