The contemplations of Easter week tug at my heartstrings each and every year. From the joy and Hosannas of Palm Sunday, to the cleansing of the temple courts, to the ire of the religious leaders, to the betrayal and arrest and trial and beating and the awful agony of the crucifixion—the horror of that Friday hurts my soul.
But after Friday comes Sunday. My entire being reverberates early Easter morning with the sounds of grace. Christ has paid the price. “He is risen indeed!”
The Greek word for grace, charis, speaks of unmerited favor (mercy) shown to us by God. It is a gift, totally undeserved yet gladly given.
That God personifies grace in conjunction with His other attributes is certain. On Mt. Sinai the LORD proclaimed Himself to Moses in this manner: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:6-7).
Think of where we were: dead in transgressions. Adam and Eve fell out of God’s good grace with one careless action. As Grudem* states: ”When man failed to obtain the blessing offered in the covenant of works (in Genesis), it was necessary for God to establish another means, one by which man could be saved.”
First there was a covenant of redemption within the Trinity: “a specific plan and purpose of God that was agreed upon by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in order to gain our redemption.” Then there was the covenant of grace, “entirely based on God’s ‘grace’ or unmerited favor.”
For just as through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous. The law was added so that (awareness of) the trespass might increase. But where the sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
It is apparent that grace births grace in many forms, but we focus on that primary grace which oozes from the heart of God. As Charles Swindoll (The Grace Awakening Bible Study Guide, p.3) says, “It is on this great theological word that our eternal destiny hangs, for the undeserved favor of God is our only hope of being accepted by Him.”
Because of His great love for us God extended His grace to us down through the ages, through the wanderings and rebellions and exiles and returns, to the birth of His Son, to the hanging on a cross, through all my sins, be they intentional or not.
That is original grace, God’s grace, rich in mercy and compassion and tenderness and love, in abundance to the point of overflowing. It is big enough to pull me out of the world’s muck into heaven, should my faith grab hold of it: Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5).
“In Christ we see grace incarnate” says Swindoll**. Oh my—I love it! Grace incarnate! “The best definition of grace doesn’t come from a dictionary, but from the pages of (Jesus’) life.”
Swindoll** continues: “The idea of grace more than any other idea binds the two
Testaments together into a complete whole, for the Bible is the story of the saving work of God, that is, of the grace of God. Without grace, there would never have been any chosen people, any story to tell” (Snaith, Grace, p.101).
It began with Noah: But Noah found favor (grace) in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:8). Joseph eventually treated his jealous brothers with grace. David was gracious to Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son (2 Samuel 9). And Jonah—Jonah was saved from drowning in the angry seas, saved from the gastric juices in the belly of the whale (Jonah 1-2), by the grace of God. Then, as Swindoll** puts it, you can “gather almost any handful of verses in the New Testament, take a deep whiff, and you’ll find them redolent with grace.”
It is obvious to me that, apart from grace I would not know the majesty of the Lord, nor the sacrifice of Jesus: And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6-7).
In his inspirational book In the Eye of the Storm: Jesus Knows How You Feel, Max Lucado writes: “The supreme force in salvation is God’s grace. Not our works, nor our talents, not our feelings, nor our strength. Faith is not born at the negotiating table where we barter our gifts in exchange for God’s goodness. Faith is not an award given to the most learned. It’s not a prize given to the most disciplined.”
Rather, faith (salvation) is born of grace. It is simple, not of our doing: God raised us up…(God) seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (emphasis mine). Jesus did the hard part. The incomparable riches of his grace are simply ours for believing. A little child is best at it: “Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in” (Luke 18:17, MSG).
“Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!”
—1910, Julia H. Johnston
All Scripture quotations are from the NIV 1973, 1978, 1984, unless otherwise noted.
*Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pages 519-522
**Charles Swindoll, The Grace Awakening Bible Study Guide, pages 2-5