“I hear much about the doctrine of grace,” writes a gracEmail subscriber. “Can you give me a good definition of what it really means?”
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We must never think of divine grace as some impersonal, abstract reality which can be defined and discussed apart from a relationship between two or more real living persons. Grace is nothing less than the undeserved mercy and kindness which the living God pours out freely on all who entrust themselves to him as known through his Son Jesus Christ, surrendering to the Father their sins, their merits and their lives for his disposition and control.
In Jesus Christ, God reveals himself as the Judge who possesses life-and-death power, but who is ready, even eager, to forgive those who repent. He is the Father who waits with fresh robe, ring and fattened calf for his wandering children’s return. He is the Physician who heals because he cares and loves. Jesus shows us God the Almighty who becomes a human infant, weak and dispossessed, to save those who have no strength themselves. He reveals God as the offended deity who, incarnate in the Messiah, embraces the offenders’ guilt, then personally accepts, absorbs and annuls sin’s horrible consequences until his own body is broken and his own blood poured out on a Cross.
“Grace” is not just a theory, a concept or a doctrine. It is God-in-Christ-for-sinners. Nothing we do can earn it, create it, or make it happen. We can only receive it with the empty hands of faith, trusting God and relying on his promise that he has forgiven our sins and has accepted us for Jesus’ sake. Until we do that, all our rules, requirements, conditions and obligations only miss the point and waste our time. But when we do trust the gospel promise that God receives sinners, we may happily entrust ourselves to such a God — eager to seek and to know what pleases him, confident of his goodness and of his love.