“Gracious is Jehovah, and righteous; Yea, our God is merciful. Jehovah preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he saved me.” (Psalm 116:5-6)
If we are to truly understand and appreciate the concept of God’s grace, there are two other related concepts that we must also understand. God’s Justice (judgment) and God’s Mercy. Just as we cannot truly appreciate the sunlight, until we have experienced total darkness, we cannot appreciate God’s grace, without knowing of His Absolute Righteous Justice and Judgment.
God is Just
“For I will proclaim the name of Jehovah: Ascribe ye greatness unto our God. The Rock, his work is perfect; For all his ways are justice: A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, Just and right is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:3-4). “For I will proclaim the name of Jehovah: Ascribe ye greatness unto our God. The Rock, his work is perfect; For all his ways are justice: A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, Just and right is he.” (Psalm 89:14). What is Justice? Webster’s definition of justice, “The maintenance or administration of what is just (“the state of being in conformity with what is morally upright or good – righteousness”) especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments” Simple Definition – a person gets the recompense they deserve. Guilty of a crime – “do the time.” When one is convicted of capital murder, the judge sentences him to death and he is executed. Justice is served.
What is God’s Justice? An example of the exercise of God’s Justice is found in Nehemiah 9:33-35,
“Howbeit thou art just in all that is come upon us; for thou hast dealt truly, but we have done wickedly; neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies wherewith thou didst testify against them. For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works.”
What does God’s Justice demand? “For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). Under the Old Testament, the price of sin was death. However, because God is merciful, a substitutionary sacrifice was allowed. “And according to the law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22). Who is under this condemnation? Everyone. “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12) “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Why then, are we not struck dead the moment that we commit sin? Because…
God is Merciful
“Jehovah thy God is a merciful God; he will not fail thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.” (Deuteronomy 4:32). “The mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children…” (Psalm 103:17). What is mercy? Webster’s Dictionary, “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; lenient or compassionate treatment.” Simple Definition – a person does not get the recompense he deserves. One is convicted of capital murder, the judge sentences him to death but the governor grants clemency and the sentence is reduced to life in prison. What is God’s Mercy? An example is found in Matthew 18:23-27,
“Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt…”
God’s mercy, in general, is demonstrated first in His creation of all things. (Genesis 1:27-3). And by His providence toward all mankind, “For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”(Matthew 5:4-5) and His long-suffering, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance…” (2 Peter 3:9).
God’s mercy toward this believer is further and more abundantly demonstrated in the sacrifice of His only begotten Son on the cross, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot…” (1 Peter 1:18-19). God’s Justice demands the death of the sinner but God’s mercy allowed for the atonement sacrifice of Jesus to take our place – Romans 5:6-10,
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life…”
God’s mercy toward mankind transcends the simple granting of clemency. We can never truly know the depths of God’s love, but perhaps we can understand just how deep it truly is, as we study about…
What is Grace? Webster’s defines it as, “Favor; good will; kindness; disposition to oblige another; as a grant made as an act of grace.” Simple Definition – a person receives that which is undeserved. One is convicted of capital murder, justly deserves death, the judge sentences him to death, but the governor pardons him and the prisoner goes free. What is God’s Grace? Unearned, unmerited favor and good will of God extended to all men who will accept the gift. (The terms grace and salvation are inseparable in the New Testament). “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9). God’s grace is clearly seen in Ephesians 2:1-6,
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus…”
Grace comes from God through Jesus Christ. God manifested His grace in the gift of Christ. “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7). “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;” (1 Corinthians 1:4).
God’s grace is what makes salvation possible. “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” (Acts 15:11) “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Romans 3:24) “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men…”(Titus 2:11).
How are we saved by grace? By a plan that can be taught. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” (Titus 2:11-12). By the blood of Jesus. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7). His blood that was shed for all. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man”(Hebrews 2:9).
However, not all will be saved. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). Hence, man must do something to reach the blood.
We are saved by grace through faith, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Faith saves when faith obeys. By faith, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, but not until the people obeyed. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.” (Hebrews 11:30).
Salvation is “Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesiasn 2:9). Man cannot save himself by his own works, but he must work according to God’s plan to be saved. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12). “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only…. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”(James 2:24, 26).
Noah was saved by grace, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:8). Noah was also saved by faith, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear…” (Hebrews 11:7a). Noah was saved by grace, faith and by obedience. “Noah …prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith…” (Hebrews 11:7b).
This is the way God’s grace saves today. A good illustration that has often been used to describe the Biblical view of God’s grace goes like this, “Imagine that a car dealer sends you a flier in the mail that reads, ‘Our free gift to you – A New Car! You must be a licensed driver over the age of 18 and come to the dealership on Monday, March 26, 2007 before 9:00 a.m. to claim your free car.’ There is something that you must do in order to receive your free car – you must drive to the dealership on the morning of March 25th before 9:00 a.m.! It’s still a free car, even though I had to do something to claim it!”
God’s grace is extended to all. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men…”(Titus 2:11). Yes, the grace that bringeth salvation is the free gift of God, but we still have to do something to claim that free gift – we must reach out for it. He’s holding it out to us, desperately wanting us to receive it from Him. He wants us to reach out to Him and take the gift He has offered.
We receive that most precious of all gifts when we obey His Son Jesus the Christ. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”(Hebrews 5:9) When we believe the gospel. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:29); confess Christ, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33); Repent of our sins, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”(Acts 3:19); and are baptized into Christ, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27).