When mentioned in a conversation or post, or to an audience, the word grace results in different responses. I have discovered there are at least five responses to grace. Before we look at these five responses, let's first take a closer look at what grace is.
The word grace is used many times in the Bible. During the life of Jesus, before his crucifixion, it is used five times. After his ascension and appearance to Paul, it is used over 150 times. I have categorized the word grace into five categories as used after the ascension of Jesus. Here are the five categories.
Grace is God’s salvation from our sinfulness (Romans, Galatians, Ephesians 1:6-8; 2:7-9, Hebrews).
Grace is God’s supply for our needs (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Grace is God’s selection of us for his purpose (Ephesians 3:2, 7-8; Galatians 1:15).
Grace is God’s special gift given to each one to serve others (Ephesians 4:7-16).
Grace is God’s strength for our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 4:16).
In seeking to discover the five responses to grace, we are looking at Category #1, God's salvation from our sinfulness. I would define grace, relating to God's salvation from our sinfulness, in the following way:
Grace is God's unconditional love, unearned blessings, unmerited kindness, and unlimited forgiveness freely given to us through Jesus Christ for the purpose of reconciling us to himself in a love relationship. God's desire for mankind is to bring us into a love relationship with himself. Through grace, God paid the total penalty of sin for all people, for all time, for all sin. Through faith in Jesus, any person can begin a love relationship with God. By receiving God's grace through faith, we are declared not guilty by God (justified), made righteous before God (cleansed from all sin), **forgiven totally by God of all sins where he no longer counts our sins against us and remembers our sins no more, and we are removed from the law of God. God then sends the Spirit of his Son into our hearts enabling us to call him "Abba, Father", allowing us to enjoy a genuine relationship with God as our loving Father.
**Through God forgiving us of all sins (Colossians 1:13-14), he no longer counts our sins against us (2 Corinthians 5:19) remembers our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12, 10:17), and we do not need to seek God's forgiveness or to stay in fellowship with God through the daily confession of sin. We now rest in the grace God has freely provided for us in Jesus (Hebrews). (For those who would claim 1 John 1:9 as proof we need to daily confess our sins to stay forgiven and in fellowship with God, or for those who need greater clarification on 1 John 1:9, please visit my website: www.simplygrace.info and click on The Meaning of 1 John 1:9 tab).
Based upon the Bible I would also define grace in the follow way:
Grace is everything God has freely done for us in Jesus to bring us into a love relationship with himself, leaving us nothing to do to obtain or maintain salvation by good works,
only to receive by faith what he has freely done for us in Jesus.
With this understanding of grace, let's take a closer look at the five responses to grace.
RESPONSE #1:Some ACCUSE those who teach grace of giving others a license to sin.
Those who accuse teachers of grace as giving a license to sin are typically the modern-day self-righteous arrogant Pharisees who take pride in their own righteousness and look down on everyone else for their sinfulness, as if they, the modern-day Pharisees, have no sinfulness. They are confident in their religious activity and morality, while remaining blind to their own sin.
This was the case of the Pharisees during Jesus' life on earth. Many of the parables Jesus told were for the purpose of confronting and exposing the arrogant, self-righteous attitude of the Pharisees. One of the parables he told was that of a Pharisee who prided himself on his own self-righteousness and looked down on others' sinfulness (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus told the story of a Pharisee who went into the temple and, looking up and speaking to God, bragged of his righteous activities and morality.
Standing outside the temple, and looking down, was a tax collector who was broken over his sin and who cried out to God for mercy.
Jesus said the one who went home justified, or innocent before God, was the one who was aware of his sin, admitted it, and accepted God's grace. That would be the tax collector.
Because of the abundant grace Jesus poured upon those who were aware of their sin and broken from it, the Pharisee hated Jesus. They accused Jesus of being light on sin, even going so far as to say Jesus participated in the sins of others. There belief was that the more grace Jesus poured upon sinful broken people the more those people would sin. It never occurred to the arrogant Pharisee that there are actually people who truly have been broken by sin and are genuinely seeking life-change that can only come from God's grace.
Concerning the Pharisees, Jesus said that they were of their father the devil and were carrying out their father's desire, which was keeping grace from the broken (John 8:44). He also warned people to stay away from their graceless teachings!
Another group, during Bible times, who accused teachers of grace as giving people a license to sin were the Judaizers. Included in this group were the Pharisees. The Judaizers were the religious people in Paul's time who prided themselves on their religious and moral obedience to God. They made the accusation against Paul that he was simply giving people a license to sin as he shared the good news of God's grace. Romans 3:8 says:
The accusation they made against Paul was that since grace is greater than all sin, and since no one can out-sin God's grace, as Paul claimed (Romans 5:20), then why not just tell people they can sin all they want. Telling people that they could sin all they wanted was the slanderous accusation being made by the Judaizers about Paul. Paul's response to them, "Their condemnation is deserved!"
Another reason for this accusation against Paul was that he was teaching people they were justified freely by grace through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26) and, as a result, were no longer under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14-15; 2 Corinthians 3:1-6:2; Galatians 2:19-21). Paul taught that Jesus had redeemed people from the curse of the law and from the law itself (Galatians 3:13-14, 4:4-6).
What Paul taught about law and grace was the very teaching of the ascended Jesus. Paul was given direct revelation by Jesus himself of the message of grace (Acts 20:24; Galatians 1:11-12). Following this revelation of grace, Jesus gave Paul the task of taking the message of grace into cities, telling those in the cities about grace, and then starting grace-based churches. As the message of grace began to spread, the religious leaders began to accuse Paul of giving people a license to sin.
The same accusations are happening today. Whenever the good news of God's grace that is freely given to us in Jesus is taught, the modern-day religious Pharisees and Judaizers, who are proud of their religious activities and morality, boastfully come forward erroneously proclaiming that teachers of grace are light on sin and are giving people a license to sin. It never occurs to them that there are people who are broken from their sin and are seeking life-change that only grace can bring. Theses broken people are not looking for an excuse for sin, they are seeking to escape the chains of sin that only grace can break.
To these modern-day Pharisees I say with Paul, "Their condemnation is deserved!" And along with Jesus, I say these graceless teachers and accusers are carrying out the desire of their father the devil, which is the desire to keep grace from people. I also encourage people, as Jesus did, to guard against the graceless teachings of the modern-day Pharisees.
RESPONSE #2: Some ABUSE teachers of grace.
The ultimate example of those who abused teachers of grace is seen in the Pharisees' abusive responses to Jesus as he lavished grace upon those broken and bothered by their sins. As Jesus dispensed large amounts of grace on the tax collectors, prostitutes, and others the Pharisees responded with abusive attacks on Jesus. The slandered him verbally and attacked him physically. Ultimately, having him crucified.
By the religious crowd of his time, Jesus was abused verbally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, religiously, and physically all because of grace. Had he not lavished large amounts of grace on the sinful, the religious crowd never would have abused him painfully, but would have accepted him proudly.
We also see abuse from the same religious crowd on Paul in the Bible. Paul was attacked by the religious crowd continually. They stoned him to death, but he was brought back to life. They stirred up crowds against him, inciting them in riots against him. But he continued to share grace.
The same abuse against teachers of grace and givers of grace happens today from the religious crowd. They slander those who teach grace and give grace. They are fired from their churches and ministry organizations. They are prevented from speaking at churches and conferences. They are not allowed to use the facilities of churches or ministry organizations. Bad reports are spread about them within the Christian community. They are removed from their small groups and Sunday School classes. They are verbally, religiously, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually abused by those within their own group. Fortunately, I have yet to hear of any physical abuse upon those who teach and give grace by the religious crowd who claim to be believers in Jesus and who despises teachers and givers of grace .
So what is our response to those who accuse and abuse us...The same response as Jesus... "Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing." And the same response Paul encouraged Timothy with..."gently instruct."
RESPONSE #3: Some Misuse grace as a license to sin.
Will there be some who misuse grace as a license? Yes. Jude 4, as well as 2 Peter 2, is evident of this.
We see in this verse that there are some who will exchange the grace of God as a license to live an immoral life. However, we cannot withhold grace from those genuinely seeking life-change simply because we fear there will be some who misuse grace as a license to sin. The true test that someone is teaching the good news (gospel) of God's grace is that some will possible misuse God's grace by exchanging it for a license for immorality.
Teaching grace actually exposes the heart of a person. How a person responds to grace reveals one's heart. The purpose of grace is to bring people into a love relationship with God through what he has freely done for us in Jesus. The entire purpose of grace is reconciliation to God. The offer of grace is to those desiring to be in a relationship with God (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2). One who would misuse grace by exchanging it as a license for immorality shows that his heart is against God and that he does not truly desire to be in a relationship with him. He has no desire to be reconciled to God.
God did not lovingly provide grace so that we could live in rebellion to him, but so that we could enjoy a relationship with him. He didn't give us grace to set us free to sin, but to set us free from sin. Thus, the teaching of grace exposes the person using grace as a license for sin as a false believer...a phony.
So far we have seen that grace exposes the heart of the Pharisee as prideful, and exposes the heart of the false believer as phony. Now, let's take a look at the fourth response to grace
RESPONSE #4: Some are CONFUSED about grace.
Confusion about grace happens among many when they are first presented with the biblical message of grace. For so long, they have been taught very traditional beliefs. And what is traditional seems biblical to them. Yet, much of what is traditional is not biblical at all. It is not scriptural. So when they hear the gospel of grace for the first time, it seems heretical, full of error. Yet, something in them is drawn to the message. Something is stirring in their hearts. That something is actually a Someone...the Holy Spirit seeking to convince them of the truths of the new covenant of grace (1 Corinthians 2:9-6; 2 Corinthians 3:6-8; 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6; Hebrews 10:15-18).
This is exactly what was happening in Galatia, but in reverse. Paul had founded several churches in the province of Galatia. He had established the believers in the good news of grace...the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Yet, when Paul left Galatia to go to other cities to spread the message of grace and to start other grace-based churches, the religious group opposed to grace quickly moved into town, telling the people that the cross of Jesus was not enough. They told the people they needed to set aside grace and return back to the law if they were to achieve a right standing before God. Some were taught they needed to add the law to grace to gain acceptance with God. Yet, in their adding the law to grace, or adding law and subtracting grace as the means for being accepted by God, was for them to fall from grace (Galatians 5:4).
Under the religious spell of these religious magicians (Galatians 3:1), the good news of the cross disappeared from the hearts of people, along with the joy that grace brings (Galatians 4:15), and appearing in its place was the law. The people began to desert the truths of grace, and Paul himself, returning back to the law (Galatians 1:6-8).
In response to these false teachers infiltrating the churches in Galatia, Paul wrote a letter to the Galatian people exposing the false teachers and seeking to clear up the confusion. He encouraged them not to set aside the grace of God or to add the law to it, but to receive by faith the grace of God and allow the Spirit of God in their hearts to lead them internally, rather than allowing the law to lead them externally.
Confusion abounds today among sincere believers concerning law and grace. As a result, we must continue to clearly and fearlessly teach the gospel of grace to bring clarity to those in confusion.
RESPONSE #5:Some are RENEWED by grace.
For many, they welcome the message of God's grace the moment they hear its good news. The Spirit convinces them quickly of its truths. The Spirit does a deep work within the hearts of those who believe the good news of God's grace. They are immediately changed. They are immediately renewed. Faith, hope, and love begin to spring forth from within them. They began to powerfully bear fruit produced by the Spirit.
This is exactly what happened at the church in Thessalonica and the church in Colosse.
When Paul brought the message of grace into the city of Thessalonica, they welcomed the message with joy and were deeply convinced of its truths by the Holy Spirit. The message of grace, which they received by faith, produced in them work, labor, hope, and love. Soon, the good news of God's grace rang out from their church all over the community, region, and as Paul states... "everywhere." (1 Thessalonians 1:2-8).
The people in Colossae had a similar experience when they heard the good news of God's grace. The one who taught them the good news of grace was Epaphras. When he taught the truths of grace to the Colossian people, grace immediately began to change their lives. The Spirit produced within them faith, hope, and love. They began to bear fruit produced by the Spirit. (Colossians 1:3-8).
There are many people who are in desperate need of hearing the good news of God's grace. As Jesus said, "The fields are ripe unto harvest " and "They are helpless and harassed like sheep without a shepherd." Like Jesus, Paul, and Epaphras, we must go into the fields, the cities, the villages, the towns, etc... and share God's grace. People are in great need of hearing the good news of grace...they are thirsty and hungry for grace. They are ready to receive it with gladness. They will welcome the message with joy. The Spirit will deeply convince them of the truths of grace. Faith, hope, and love will spring from within their hearts, resulting in the message of grace ringing out loudly to their communities.
But not everyone will respond with such joy to the good news of God's grace freely given to us in Jesus. Some will accuse those who teach and give out grace of being light on sin and giving people a license to sin. Some will abuse the teachers and givers of grace verbally, emotionally, religiously, mentally, spiritually, and physically. Others will misuse grace as a license to sin, revealing they do not truly desire to be in a relationship with God. Then then some will be confused.
Regardless of the responses of people to the message of grace, we are ambassadors of the greatest message ever...the message of grace. We have the best news to share with people...the good news of God's grace! Let's proclaim it clearly and fearlessly because we know that some will be renewed!