Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the force.

In the comments of a previous post, the question arose of God's grace as something active, or powerful. I thought the topic important enough to merit its own post.

When I was in seminary I encountered many who equated grace with leniency. For example, "I know our papers were due today, but how about a little grace, prof?"

God being gracious to us only meant letting things slide with regard to our behavior.

But, God's unmerited favor is something far beyond that. It's the manner in which He works in us, both to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:12-13) unto our sanctification. We are confident that He will complete the good work in us (Phil 1:6), but not because we deserve it, but because of His grace ... which is efficacious.
"I know that I would surely fall away, except for grace, by which I'm saved."
-Keith Green, "Grace by which I Stand"
Though not known as a theologian, and we are not lockstep in agreement across the board, I think Keith gets it. God's saving grace is a preserving grace, a sanctifying grace.

Two texts immediately come to mind, where you see God's grace equated with His power.
  • 1 Cor 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
  • 2 Cor 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
When we say something has happened by His grace, we are not only attributing to God a recognition that we didn't deserve it, but also that it was something He actively did, not merely something He passively allowed.
"Grace doesn’t free a man to live as he will; instead, it empowers a man to live as he ought!" -Robert Lewis



At 08 February, 2011 12:34, Blogger Matt said...

Thanks for this!

At 08 February, 2011 17:46, Blogger Rev. said...

Nicely done, sir!

At 08 February, 2011 20:40, Blogger Larry said...

Theological history is often that of pendulum swings. Grace, regarding its definition as God's unmerited favor, "is something far beyond that," you say, Gunny.

God's grace is more than leniency. However, it is not the same as some kind of invisible moral gasoline, or worse, solely a theorem giving a mere explanation, for why people are doing well morally, solely some kind of equivalent language for how well I'm doing.

The pendulum swing is to make God's grace a mere explanation of ourselves doing well, indeed a synonym for it.

Look at how this pendulum swing comes about. It comes by equating God's grace with His power, and equating His power with my hard work, and making the two denote the same thing. Paul is NOT saying that his hard work IS God's grace, but that it is due to it. If all people mean by God's grace is their own hard work, it becomes a synonym for their hard work, and they are saying their work is God's grace, therefore, what saves them.

At 08 February, 2011 22:08, Blogger GUNNY said...

Thanks, Rev.

Matt, you're quite welcome, brother.

Larry, thanks for the comment.

"Paul is NOT saying that his hard work IS God's grace, but that it is due to it."

I would not disagree.

Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (ESV)

God is graciously behind our will & work, but it is still our willing & working.

Ergo, no boasting rights.


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