Grace Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Grace

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Grace is unmerited redemptive favor shown by God to sinners.

In Scripture

Aaronic Blessing "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Num. 6:24-26).

Psalm 103 "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits — who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's" (Ps. 103:2-5).

The Reason for Fleeing to Tarshish "He prayed to the Lord and said, `O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing" (Jonah 4:2).

"Your Father in heaven . . . makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45).

The Word Became Flesh "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. . . . From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace" (John 1:14, 16).

"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (John 3:16).

"God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

Sufficient for You "He said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Cor. 12:9).

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you" (2 Cor. 13:13).

A Gift from God "By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).

Patience "The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9).

Points to Ponder

Preaching Grace Is Uphill Work It's tough to speak of grace in contemporary North American culture. Preaching grace is uphill work in a culture that celebrates do-it-yourself independence, as Scott Hoezee writes in his fine book The Riddle of Grace. At the heart of the Christian concept of grace is sheer human dependence on God. Hoezee remarks that this is a difficult concept in a culture that stigmatizes dependency. Who wants to be drug dependent, co-dependent, welfare dependent? What nation would issue a Declaration of Dependence and hope to stir the blood of patriots?

Acceptable to God So, in such a culture, it's hard to believe in God's grace. Hard actually to live by it. Cash and carry religion — religion all mixed up with money-making, power-brokering, and especially the achievement ethic — is a constant temptation for contemporary (and medieval) Christianity. Acceptability, or justification, becomes an achievement: if I just say these prayers, or let this communion wafer dissolve on my tongue, or eradicate one stubborn sin that clings like a vine, or if I can just grit my teeth and believe the Virgin Birth, if I can only think more positively, if I can only make myself think more of others and less of myself, why, then just maybe I can be acceptable to God.

Our Goodness Is Derivative To all religion featuring achieved acceptability, Luther and Calvin said a resounding No. We are not a Savior for the likes of us. We cannot get our dim lights trimmed and burning bright. None of our pathetic little house cleanings prepares us for the God who wants to take up residence in us. Our newness of life is by grace. It is our calling and our final unspeakable glory. All our goodness is derivative; all our splendor is reflected light; for the whole run of our life we are at every point dependent on the gracious energy, impetus, nudging, wooing, watering, cultivating, chasing, modeling of God.

Double Grace At 3.1.1 of his Institutes of the Christian religion, John Calvin speaks famously of the "double grace" which is the proper object of human faith (itself a gift). Calvin identifies the double grace as newness of life and acceptance by God, or repentance and forgiveness of sins, or sanctification and justification. "Christ was given to us by God's generosity to be grasped and possessed by us in faith. By partaking of him, we principally receive a DOUBLE GRACE: namely, that by being reconciled to God through Christ's blamelessness, we may have in heaven instead of a Judge a gracious Father and, secondly, that sanctified by Christ's Spirit we may cultivate blamelessness and purity of life."

We want to be stroked. But God's grace comes to save. Grace powerfully redeems, and necessarily so, because sin is deeply dug in. Grace doesn't merely excuse or tolerate sin. Surely it doesn't just prettify or embellish it. Grace is not just a "grace note." It is a power or the quality of a power that is aimed at wholesale remaking of people who are guilty, perverse, stubborn, and inert. Grace works on people who are lousy patients — people who resist and resent any graceful great physician. Grace is tough love that remakes people sometimes in spite of themselves. Grace has the power, C. S. Lewis testifies, to drag people kicking and screaming into the kingdom of God. Grace is for wretches who really aren't up for being saved. And it is still grace, still graceful, when its muscles are flexed and it is rubbing our fur the wrong way. We want to be stroked. But God's grace comes to save.

Special Grace and Common Grace It is usual in some Christian contexts to distinguish the special grace that redeems from the common grace that supports but does not redeem. Matthew 5:45, above, is a common grace text.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.