HOUSMAIL HM#053 - WHAT IS GRACE?                                                                                              14  March 2000

“Grace” is one of those New Testament Theological concepts, often quoted, but widely misunderstood.

All too often “grace” is presented as an excuse for evading the challenging words of Jesus about obedience to His commandments. As used by many people it negates the real meaning of the Gospel call to repentance. It is frequently presented as “unconditional salvation without works”, dismissing the works which result from true Biblical faith, and love for Jesus, as mere “LEGALISM”. And it fails the test of obedience to the Great Gospel Commission to “make disciples” of those who believe.

As we shall see, all of those things distort the truth. They are a subtle counterfeit of real faith in the Gospel.

It is certainly true that the Bible says that grace is a free gift.(Eph 2:8) It is equally true that we are “saved by faith”.(Rom 4:1-6) BUT THE VERSES WHICH SAY THAT DO NOT STAND ALONE! Those who want to “live by EVERY word from the mouth of God”(Matt 4:4) will quickly discover that true Biblical Grace is NOT unconditional. And NEVER is either true Biblical grace, or true Biblical faith, unaccompanied by works.

Stripped of all the “theological waffle” that some people like to tack on to this word, it isn’t really a hard question to answer! Perhaps the simplest definition is something like this:


We all sinned and fell short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) We all incurred the penalty of the varying degrees of severity of the few or many stripes with which sinners will be beaten on the day of Judgement. (Luke 12:47-49) And we all equally incurred the penalty of that final death which results in everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord (2 Thess 1:9) in the blackness of darkness for ever. (Jude 1:13)

There was nothing at all that we could do to save ourselves from any of it; no good deeds that we could perform to cancel out the fact of our past sins; no ransom price that we could pay for ourselves from our own resources. We were lost, and there was no way back. (Psalm 49:7-8)

GRACE is what resulted when God looked down on our hopeless lost state, and out of His love and compassion, moved of his own will to save us from both our ignorance about Him, and the consequence of our sins against Him, BEFORE WE EVEN KNEW OUR NEED! (Rom 5:6-8; John 1:12-13; James 1:16-18)

Grace is what happened when God did not put Adam and Eve to death on the day they sinned. Grace is the “second chance” they received, when God promised a saviour from amongst Eve’s descendants. Grace is God dealing with us in the same way as he did with our first parents. (Gen 3:8-19; Romans 5:18-21)

Grace is the future Kingdom of God, promised to those descendants who belong to the Saviour. (Gal 3:29)

And Grace is the conditional immortality, offered only to those who will use their own “second chance” to seek it “by patience in well-doing”. (Rom 2:7)

We didn’t deserve to find God when we began to search for Him ..... but He allowed us to find Him anyway. (Jer 29:13-14; Heb 11:6)

We didn’t deserve that God should give His own Son to save us ..... but He did it anyway! (Rom 8:32; John 3:16)

We didn’t deserve that Jesus should die to save us from the awful penalty of our sins by taking our punishment upon Himself ..... but He did it anyway! (Isaiah 53:5-8; 1 Pet 2:24; 3:18)

We didn’t deserve that Jesus should send witnesses to seek us out and tell us the Good News ..... but He did it anyway. (Mark 16:15) We didn’t deserve the free pardon that resulted when we repented ..... but God gave it anyway! (Eph 1:6)

We didn’t deserve that when God forgave us, our sins would never again be remembered against us ..... But He did that anyway. (Psalm 103:11-12; Ezek 33:16)

We don’t deserve the continuing patience of God, while His Grace trains us “to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world” (Titus 2:12) ..... but He is patient anyway.

And when we have finally learned to do all that is commanded of us, we may never forget that “we are unworthy servants: we have done (only) that which was our duty to do”. (Luke 17:10) The Kingdom of God, and immortality, will be GIFTS RECEIVED ONLY BY THE GRACE OF GOD.

HOWEVER, HERE LIES THE PARADOX over which so many seem to stumble, “wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction”. (2 Pet 3:14-16)

Although completely free, THERE ARE CONDITIONS WE HAVE TO MEET at every step along the way, before this undeserved gift can be freely given, or freely received, or freely maintained securely in our grasp.

There is a Gospel to be heard and believed, before salvation can be ours. (Mark 1:15; 16:16)

There are sins to be recognised and confessed in brokenness of spirit and contrition of heart, before they can be forgiven. (Psalm 38:18; 51:17; 1 John 1:9; 2:1-2)

There is a repentance to be made (Matt 4:17), which can only be classed as genuine, when it is followed by works which PROVE that it is genuine. (Acts 20:19)

There is a true faith which when tested, will inevitably give rise to works which please God. (James 2:14-26)

There is a real love for Jesus, which reveals itself by its unquestioning obedience to His commandments. (John 14:15,23-24)

There is a standard of Holiness set before us, without which none of us will ever see God. (Heb 12:14)

And there is a victory over sin which MUST be won, so that we can receive the final grace from Jesus - a place beside Him on the throne of the Kingdom of God. (Rev 3:21)

“He who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.”(1 John 3:3)

Never let us succumb to that apostate delusion of the mind which says that grace can be, or will be, extended to those who continue in sin, without practical repentance, and radical obedience. (Rom 3:8; 6:1-2,15; Luke 6:46; 2 Thess 2:11-12)

Grace gives the Holy Spirit to dwell within and produce fruit. (Gal 5:22-25)

And Grace enables us, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, to do what is commanded. (1 Cor 10:13; Eph 3:14-21)

“Let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous.“(1 John 3:7)