Unconditional Grace is so amazing! Well, it’s almost unconditional. We are required to believe in Jesus. After that, that’s it. God’s view of justice and forgiveness is so different to ours. We still want a justice that demands payment, or at least favour that is conditional to commitment. God just accepts us fully once we believe in His Son. That notion is so offensive, that humans have tried to add conditions ever since. Grace needs to be balanced, can’t have too much Grace. Grace by itself cannot be trusted. Why? Let’s explore these notions and perhaps we can begin to re-orient our belief system.
What’s so Amazing about Grace?
That phrase is good enough to be a book title! Interested? Read Phillip Yancy’s “What’s so Amazing about Grace“, he does a great job in describing a grace that really is greater than most church folk want to embrace. An excellent book to help our understanding of God’s goodness to us.
However, Grace is a great deal more than presenting a God with kind, sentimental feelings for returned sinners, or sinners period. God is genuinely kind (always so) and does have an amazing love for people, lost or otherwise. Grace is more than a sentimentalism that requires a structure to give it substance. Grace is more than “un-merited favour”, the usual definition given to grace. The coming of Jesus and the subsequent arrival of the Holy Spirit completely change our relationship with God. They completely change what Grace means.
We’ll explore what Grace means in the New Testament, and I’ll try to present, as best I can, an understanding of Grace that thoroughly represents Jesus and is presented rather strongly by the New Testament writers, especially Paul. Much is said, so much so that one needs to re-examine traditional views of Grace in light of fresh revelation (ie. post Pentecost) and the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
Grace is truly God’s empowering presence through the Holy Spirit. Paul calls the new government of the Holy Spirit the “Administration of Grace” (Eph 3). There is now a brand new constitution for the people of God and it is founded on Grace and Grace alone. Jesus has personally taken charge. The government is really on His shoulders (Isa 9:6). He now rules without the assistance of Old Covenant Law and He makes righteousness possible and do-able.
What’s so ‘offensive’ about Grace?
There’s nothing offensive at all about Grace. However, there are many offended by the notion that we are saved by Grace and Grace alone. Somehow, despite very clear teaching given in the New Testament, it is thought that “grace alone” is dangerous. They say Grace is not sufficient, it needs to be balanced, usually by Law. Teaching a “grace-only” message is labeled “hyper-grace” and “hyper-grace” leads to a sinful life. You cannot have a righteous life without the Law (or “truth”) pointing out one’s sin. People are not offended by Grace per se, but they are certainly offended by people who say we can be righteous by Grace alone without the need for Law. Apparently, Grace is good as long as it is ‘balanced’ by Law.
Alright, let’s be direct about this. Grace is very offensive to the ‘religious’ who cannot conceive of having a relationship with God without regulations. They are offended by the teaching that Jesus saves by Grace alone, that we have eternal life simply because we believe in Him. Religious folk can’t handle the truth of New Testament teaching that all our righteousness and our relationship with God is empowered by Grace alone.
Grace is very offensive to the ‘religious’ who cannot conceive of having a relationship with God without regulations. – David Crabtree
What is New Covenant Grace?
“Grace” has been typically defined as “unmerited favour”. God gives us a favour (forgiveness and salvation) that we did not deserve. “Unmerited favour” is our free ticket to heaven. It’s true, all good! However, Grace is more than that. Jesus was full of “grace and truth” (John 1:17). Jesus was not full of “unmerited favour”! He had a different, God empowered Grace. A Grace that was present in His life because of the Holy Spirit. It was a Grace that could be defined as “God’s empowering Presence”. This is the kind of Grace that the New Testament is all about. There is more on this subject in the articles and blogs contained in this website.
You will notice that I have chosen to capitalize the word “Grace” when I am talking about New Covenant Grace. I want to distinguish the “God’s empowering presence ” form of Grace from the Old Covenant, “unmerited favour”, grace. It just a writer’s device to give due emphasis to the Grace subject.
Grace is God’s Empowering Presence
Jesus was full of God’s empowering presence. “Great grace was upon” the apostles (Acts 4:33). They were full of “God’s empowering presence. It’s the same Grace that the Holy Spirit brings to every believer. We have Grace to live a life of righteousness, and Grace to authoritatively accomplish what Jesus asked all believers to do. Make disciples, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and preach Good News. Grace and the Power of God go together!
” …with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” – Acts 4:33
We have an amazingly able and powerful Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Jesus and the Spirit of Grace. It is He who transforms us, equips us with powerful gifts of Grace, and brings about our righteousness.
Great news indeed!