The essence of grace

374 the essence of graceSometimes, concerns come to my ears, we would put the grace too much in the foreground. As a recommended corrective we then argue that we could, as a counterweight to the doctrine of grace, take account of those of obedience, justice, and other duties mentioned in Scripture, and especially in the New Testament. Anyone who worries about "too much granted grace" has legitimate concerns. Unfortunately, some teach that it is irrelevant how we live when we are saved by grace and not by works. For them grace is synonymous with knowing no obligations, rules or patterns of expectation. For them, Grace means that pretty much everything finds acceptance, since everything is forgiven in advance anyway. According to this mistaken belief, grace is a free ticket - to a certain extent a blanket authority to do whatever one wants.


Antinomism is a life form that propagates a life without or against any laws or rules. Throughout church history, this problem has been the subject of scripture and preaching. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a martyr of the Nazi regime, spoke in his book Nachfolge in this context of "cheap grace". In the New Testament, antinomism is addressed. Paul responded in his reply to the accusation that his emphasis on grace encourages people to "insist in sin so that grace may become all the more powerful" (Rom 6,1). The apostle's answer was brief and emphatic: "That be far off!" (V.2). A few sentences later, he repeats the accusation against him and replies: "What now? Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace? That is far off! "(V.15).

The apostle Paul's answer to the accusation of antinomism was clear. Anyone who argues that grace means everything is permissible, because it is covered by faith, is wrong. But why? What went wrong? Is the problem really "too much grace"? And is his solution actually to counterbalance that very mercy with any counterweight?

Which is the real problem?

The real problem is to believe that grace means God makes an exception in terms of observing a rule, command, or obligation. If Grace actually implied granting rule exceptions, then with so much grace, there would be as many exceptions. And if one says God's mercy, then we could expect him to have an exemption for every one of our duties or responsibilities. The more mercy, the more exceptions, in terms of obedience. And the less mercy, the fewer exceptions granted, a nice little deal.

Such a scheme perhaps best describes what human grace is capable of at best. But let us not forget that this approach measures grace in obedience. He counts them both against each other, whereby it comes to a constant back-and-forth-Gezerre, in which never comes peace, because both are in conflict with each other. Both sides destroy each other's success. But fortunately, such a scheme does not reflect the Grace practiced by God. The truth about grace frees us from this false dilemma.

God's grace in person

How does the Bible define grace? "Jesus Christ Himself stands for God's grace towards us". The blessing of Paul at the end of the 2. Corinthians refers to "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." God grants us grace of his own accord in the form of his incarnate Son, who graciously communicates to us God's love and reconciles us to the Almighty. What Jesus does to us reveals to us the nature and character of the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures reveal to us that Jesus is the faithful imprint of God's essence (Heb. 1,3 Elberfelder Bibel). It says, "He is the image of the invisible God," and "it pleased God that all fulness should dwell in him" (Col. 1,15, 19). He who sees him sees the Father, and when we know him, we will also know the Father (Joh 14,9, 7).

Jesus explains that he is merely doing "what he sees the Father doing" (Joh 5,19). He lets us know that only he knows the Father and only He alone reveals Him (Mt 11,27). John tells us that this Word of God, which existed from the beginning with God, took on human form and showed us "a glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father, 'full of grace and truth." While "the law is given [...] by Moses; [has] become the grace and truth [...] through Jesus Christ. "Indeed," of his fullness we have all taken mercy for mercy. "And his Son, who from eternal times dwells in the heart of God," has proclaimed it to us "(Joh 1,14-18).

Jesus embodies God's grace towards us - and he reveals in words and deeds that God himself is full of grace. He himself is grace. He gives it to us from his being - the same one we encounter in Jesus. He does not gift us either out of dependence on us, or because of any obligation to us to do us any good. God gives grace by virtue of his generosity, that is, he freely gives it to us in Jesus Christ. Paul calls grace a generous gift of God in his Letter to the Romans (5,15-17; 6,23). In his letter to the Ephesians he proclaims in memorable words: "For by grace you have been saved by faith, and not from you: it is God's gift, not from works, that no one should boast" (2,8-9).

All that God gives us, he generously gives to us out of kindness, out of the deep desire to do good to every lesser, different from him. His act of mercy springs from his benevolent, generous nature. He does not cease to allow us freely to share in his goodness, even if he encounters resistance, rebellion and disobedience on the part of his creation. He responds to sin on our own free will, forgiveness and reconciliation, which we receive by virtue of the atoning sacrifice of his Son. God, who is light and in whom there is no darkness, freely gives himself to us in his Son by the Holy Spirit Himself, so that we may be given life in all its fullness (1 Joh 1,5, Joh 10,10).

Has God always been merciful?

Unfortunately, it has often been stated that God originally (before the Fall) promised to grant his goodness (Adam and Eve and later Israel) only when his creation fulfilled certain conditions and fulfilled obligations that he imposed on her. If she did not do that, he would not be very kind to her either. So he would give her no forgiveness and no eternal life.

According to this false view, God is in a contractual "if ... then ..." relationship with his creation. That contract then includes conditions or obligations (rules or laws) that humanity must adhere to in order to receive what God claims. According to this view, the Almighty's first priority is to comply with the rules he has established. If we do not do it justice, he will withhold his best. Worse, he will give us what is not good, what leads not to life, but to death; now and forever.

This wrong view sees the law as the most important attribute of God's being and thus as the most important aspect of his relationship to his creation. This God is essentially a contract god who stands in a relationship based on laws and conditions with his creation. He leads this relationship according to the "master and slave" principle. According to this view, God's generosity, as far as his goodness and blessings, including forgiveness, are far removed from the essence of that image of God that he propagates.

In principle, God does not stand for pure will or pure legalism. This becomes particularly clear when we look at Jesus, who shows us the Father and sends the Holy Spirit. This becomes clear when we hear from Jesus about his eternal relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit. He lets us know that his nature and character are identical to that of the Father. The father-son relationship is not characterized by rules, obligations or the fulfillment of conditions in order to obtain benefits in this way. Father and son are not in legal relationship. You have not entered into a contract with each other, according to which non-compliance on one side of the other equally entitled to non-performance. The idea of ​​a contractual, law-based relationship between father and son is absurd. The truth as revealed to us by Jesus is that their relationship is marked by sacred love, faithfulness, self-reliance, and mutual glorification. Jesus' prayer, as we read in Chapter 17 of the Gospel of John, makes it abundantly clear that that triune relationship is the basis and source of God's action in every respect; for he always acts according to himself because he is faithful.

With attentive study of the Scriptures, it becomes clear that God's relationship to His creation, even after the Fall with Israel, is not contractually bound: it is not built on conditions to be observed. It is important to realize that God's relationship with Israel was not fundamentally law-based, not an if-then contract. Paul was aware of that, too. The Almighty relationship with Israel began with a covenant, a promise. The Law of Moses (the Torah) came into force 430 years after the introduction of the covenant. With the timeline in mind, the law was unlikely to be the basis for God's relationship with Israel.
As part of the covenant God freely and with all his goodness confessed to Israel. And as you will remember, this had nothing to do with what Israel itself was able to offer God (5, Mo 7,6-8). Let us not forget that Abraham did not know God when he promised to bless him and make him a blessing to all peoples (1, Mo 12,2-3). A covenant is a promise: it is freely chosen and granted as well. "I will accept you to my people and will be your God," said the Almighty to Israel (2, Mo 6,7). God's blessing was one-sided, he came alone from his side. He entered the covenant as an expression of his own nature, of his character and nature. His closing with Israel was an act of grace - yes, of mercy!

Looking again at the first chapters of Genesis, it becomes clear that God does not associate with his creation according to a kind of contractual convention. First of all, creation itself was an act of voluntary giving. There was nothing that deserved the right to exist, far less good existence. God himself explains, "And it was good," yes, "very good." God gives his goodness of free choice to his creation, which is far inferior to him; he gives her life. Eve was God's gift of kindness to Adam so that he would no longer be alone. Similarly, the Almighty Adam and Eve gave the Garden of Eden and made it their lucrative task to nurse it so that it would be fruitful and life abundantly thrown off. Adam and Eve fulfilled no conditions before they were given these good gifts of God of their own free will.

How was it after the fall, when the sacrilege made its entrance? It turns out that God continues to exercise his goodness voluntarily and unconditionally. Was not his intention to give Adam and Eve the opportunity of repentance after their disobedience, an act of grace? Also consider how God provided them with skins for clothing. Even her rejection from the Garden of Eden was an act of grace that was to prevent her from making use of the tree of life in her sinfulness. God's protection and providence towards Cain can only be seen in the same light. Also, in the protection he gave Noah and his family, as well as the rainbow assurance, we see God's grace. All these acts of grace are gifts given voluntarily in the name of the goodness of God. None of them is reward for the fulfillment of whatever, even small, legally binding contractual obligations.

Grace as undeserved benevolence?

God always freely shares his creation with his goodness. He does this forever out of his innermost being as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Everything that makes this Trinity manifest in creation comes from the abundance of its inland community. A legally and contractually based relationship with God would not honor the triune creator and author of the covenant, but make it a pure idol. Idols always enter into contractual relationships with those who satisfy their hunger for recognition because they need their followers as much as they do theirs. Both are interdependent. That is why they benefit each other for their self-serving goals. The grain of truth inherent in the saying that grace is God's undeserved benevolence is simply that we do not deserve it.

The goodness of God overcomes evil

Grace does not come into play only in the case of sin as an exception to any law or obligation. God is merciful regardless of the factual nature of sin. In other words, there is no need for demonstrable sinfulness to be merciful. Rather, his grace persists even when there is sin. It is true, therefore, that God does not cease to give his goodness his creation of his own free will, even if it does not deserve it. He then voluntarily gives her forgiveness for the price of his own reconciliation atoning sacrifice.

Even if we sin, God remains faithful because he can not deny himself, as Paul says "[...] if we are unfaithful, he will remain faithful" (2, Tim 2,13). Since God always remains true to himself, even then he brings us his love and holds fast to his sacred plan for us, even if we revolt against it. This steadfastness of grace granted to us shows how grave God is to be good to His creation. "For Christ was already dead to us wicked at the time when we were weak [...] but God shows his love for us in the fact that Christ died for us when we were still sinners" (Rom 5,6; 8). The special character of grace becomes all the more noticeable precisely there, where it illuminates the darkness. And so we speak of grace mostly in the context of sinfulness.

God is merciful, regardless of our sinfulness. He proves to be faithful to his creation and holds fast to his promising destiny. We can fully recognize this in Jesus who, in the completion of his atonement, does not allow himself to be dissuaded from the power of the wicked evil. The forces of evil can not stop him from giving his life for us to live on. Neither pain nor suffering nor the heaviest humiliation could prevent him from following his holy, love-born destiny and reconciling man with God. God's goodness does not demand that evil turn to good. But when it comes to evil, goodness knows exactly what to do: it's about overcoming it, defeating it and conquering it. So there is not too much grace.

Grace: law and obedience?

As regards grace, how do we view the Old Testament law as well as Christian obedience in the New Covenant? Once again, when we realize that God's covenant is a one-sided promise, the answer is almost self-evident. Promise evokes a response to what it was made to do. Keeping the promise, however, does not depend on this reaction. There are only two possibilities in this context: to believe in the promise of full trust in God or not. The Law of Moses (the Torah) clearly told Israel what it means to trust God's covenant in this phase prior to the ultimate redemption of the promise he made (ie, before the appearance of Jesus Christ). In His mercy, Almighty Israel revealed the way of life it should lead within its covenant (the Old Covenant).

The Torah was brought to Israel by God as a generous gift. She should help them. Paul calls her an "educator" (Gal 3,24-25, multitude Bible). So it should be viewed as a benevolent gift of grace from Almighty Israel. The law was promulgated within the framework of the Old Covenant, which was a pact of grace in its promise phase (expecting fulfillment in the form of Christ in the New Covenant). It should serve the purpose of the covenant, freely granted by God, to bless Israel and make it the forerunner of grace for all peoples.

The God who remains true to himself wants to live the same non-contractual relationship with the people in the New Covenant who found fulfillment in Jesus Christ. He gives us all the blessings of His Atonement and Reconciliation, His Death, Resurrection and Ascension. All the benefits of his future kingdom will be offered to us. In addition, we are offered the happiness that the Holy Spirit lives in us. But the offer of these graces in the New Covenant asks for a reaction - just the same reaction that Israel should have displayed: faith (trust). But in the context of the New Covenant, we trust in its fulfillment rather than in its promise.

Our reaction to God's goodness?

What should our reaction to the mercy given to us look like? The answer is: "A life of faith in the promise". This is meant by a "life in faith". Examples of such a way of life can be found in the "saints" of the Old Testament (Hebrew 11). It has consequences if one does not live trusting in the promised or realized covenant. Lack of trust in the federal government and its creator curtails us of its benefits. Israel's lack of trust was about its source of life - food, well-being and fertility. Mistrust was so much in the way of his relationship with God that he was denied the participation in just about all the gracious gifts of the Almighty.

God's covenant is, as Paul tells us, irrevocable. Why? Because the Almighty faithfully clings to him and sustains him, even if it costs him dearly. God will never move away from his word; he can not be forced to behave alien to his creation or his people. Even with our lack of confidence in the promise, we can not make him unfaithful to himself. That is what is meant when it is said that God acts "for the sake of his name".

All the instructions and commandments that are associated with it, it is in believing in God, obedience to us freely and freely of grace, obedience. That grace found its fulfillment in the devotion and revelation of God Himself in Jesus. To take pleasure in them, one has to accept the gifts of the Almighty and neither reject nor ignore them. The ordinances (commandments) we find in the New Testament testify to what it means for the people of God, after the foundation of the New Covenant, to receive and trust in God's grace.

What are the roots of obedience?

So where do we find the source of obedience? It springs from trust in God's faithfulness to the purposes of His covenant, as realized in Jesus Christ. The only form of obedience to which God is subject is obedient to the faith that manifests itself in faith in the Almighty's steadfastness, faithfulness, and faithfulness to oneself (Rom 1,5, 16,26). Obedience is our answer to His grace. Paul leaves no doubt in this regard - this is particularly evident in his statement that the Israelites did not fail to comply with certain statutory requirements of the Torah, but that they "rejected the way of the faith and believed that their obedience services had to reach their goal bring "(Rom 9,32, Good News Bible). The apostle Paul, a law-abiding Pharisee, recognized the striking truth that God never wanted Him to achieve justice by keeping the law. Compared to the righteousness that God was willing to grant him by grace compared to his participation in God's own righteousness given to him by Christ, it would be (to say the least!) A worthless filth ( Phil 3,8-9).

It has always been God's will to share His righteousness with His people as a gift. Why? Because he is merciful (Phil 3,8-9). So how do we get this gift, offered voluntarily? By trusting in God and believing in His promise to give it to us. The obedience that God wants us to practice feeds on faith, hope, and love for him. The calls to practice obedience that we encounter throughout the Scriptures and the commandments that we find within the Old and New Covenant spring from grace. If we believe in the promises of God and trust that they will be realized in Christ and then in us, then according to them, we will truly want to live them truly and truly. A life of disobedience is not based on trust, and may not (yet) refuse to accept what is promised to it. Only a faith, hope and love arising from obedience glorifies God; for only this form of obedience bears witness to who God, as revealed to us in Jesus Christ, really is.

The Almighty will continue to show mercy to us, whether we accept His grace or deny ourselves. His goodness is doubtless partly reflected in the fact that he does not respond to our opposition to his grace. This is how God's wrath is manifested by opposing our "no" in his turn to a "no" to affirm his "yes" granted to us in Christ's form (2, Kor 1,19). And the almighty "no" is as powerful as his "yes" because it is an expression of his "yes".

No exceptions from grace!

It is important to realize that God makes no exceptions in terms of his higher goals and ordinances for his people. He will not give up because of his loyalty. He rather loves us in perfection - in the perfection of his Son. God wants to glorify us so that we trust and love Him with every fiber of our ego and radiate it in perfection in our walk of life carried on by His grace. With that, our unbelieving heart fades into the background, and our lives reflect our trust in God's freely granted kindness in its purest form. His perfect love, in turn, will give us perfection of love by giving us absolute justification and, ultimately, glorification. "He who has begun the good work in you will also complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1,6).

Would God have mercy on us and ultimately leave us imperfect? What if in heaven only exceptions were the rule - if there was a lack of faith here, a lack of love there, a bit of unforgiveness here and a bit of bitterness and resentment there, a little resentment here and a bit of self-arrogance nothing? What state would we have then? Well, one that resembles that in the here and now but forever! Would God really be merciful and benevolent, if he would eternally let us in such a "state of emergency"? No! Ultimately, God's grace does not allow for exemptions - either in terms of his own supreme grace, or the reign of his divine love and benevolent will; otherwise he would not be merciful.

What can we counter those who abuse God's grace?

By teaching people to follow Jesus, we should teach them to understand and receive God's grace rather than misunderstand it and resist it with pride. We should help them to live in the grace that God brings to them in the here and now. We should make them realize that the Almighty, regardless of what he does, will be faithful to both himself and his good purpose. We should strengthen them in the knowledge that, mindful of their love for them, their mercy, their own nature, and their self-imposed purpose, God will be indomitably opposed to any resistance to His grace. As a result, one day, all of us will benefit in full grace and live a life of compassion. So we will joyfully embrace the associated "commitments" - knowing full well the privilege of being a child of God in Jesus Christ, our elder brother.

from dr. Gary Deddo

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