By Elizabeth Prata
I am fascinated by grace. I think as a Christian matures, we see our sin more and more for what it really is. The picture of the Prodigal Son wallowing in the pig pen eating scraps is a vivid, if not enough mental picture of us before salvation. Our sin sadly persists in us, though forgiven and overlaid with Christ’s righteousness. We still have to work at killing what is ‘crouching at the door’ waiting to have us.
The grace that lifted us from our pigsty and washed us is all the more precious as we see the depths from which we have come. Seeing the heights from which he stooped to save us and the grace that flew Him there on wings of love is a wondrous thing. I can’t stop thinking about it.
I read this short account of grace from the Lexham Survey of Theology trying in human words to explain the mystery and incredible gift of grace. I especially loved the last paragraph.
God’s grace is unmerited divine favor, a favor from which comes many gifts.
God’s grace flows out of his inter-Trinitarian, gift-giving life. Even in humanity’s fallen state, God freely grants to his creatures good things they do not deserve. The greatest of these goods is Jesus Christ.
The bold thread of grace in the Bible is a distinctive marker of Christianity, one that sets it apart from other religions. J. Gresham Machen noted, “The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.” The works of God in creation as well as his covenants, his promises, his word, and his work of redemption all spring from his grace. All we have is due to grace, but, as Michael Horton says, grace itself is “not a third thing or substance,” for “in grace, God gives nothing less than Himself.”
God’s grace toward mankind arises from the fullness of his being. He is gracious. When God appeared to Moses he declared his name, Yahweh, the I AM, as the sum of his eternal being. This nature includes his graciousness: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”. (Exod 34:6). J. I. Packer suggests that grace is simply God’s love demonstrated toward those who deserve the opposite. God’s grace is his gift-giving life, and the gift is himself.
The grace of Yahweh is not a reaction to our creaturely ways but the extension of God eternally giving himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus Christ brought to man the grace he was already as the eternal Son within the Trinity (“full of grace and truth,” John 1:14–18). Thus, in receiving “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” we participate in divine fullness of “the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:13).
end Lexham Survey of Theology article