A little bit about “grace”

Amid the clutter of endless discussion surrounding the social and political issues of our day we have repeated certain words so often and in so many contexts that I believe we have completely lost sight of their meanings. One of the words I see used endlessly and without much consideration is “grace”. When we call for grace, claim the need for grace, and scold others for not extending grace, do we even know what we are asking for? At best, I believe we only grasp one small aspect of what genuine grace is. It is the same concept of grace that I lived on through many years of school. The grace of, “I know the paper was due today but can I have grace and turn it in on Monday?” To so many of us grace is nothing more than a theological tax write-off that allows us to deduct those things we know are wrong from our account without penalty.So what IS grace if that isn’t it? I know, I know, it is as simple as an acronym…

God’s
Riches

At

Christ’s

Expense

But what does THAT mean? What are “God’s riches”? Is it just that I get the glory of heaven when I die? That I am ok now, my sins are forgiven, and I can call God, Father? Is it that God will meet my needs when I ask Him? If we are going to use the word we truly need to know what it means. As God is the giver of grace, we need to understand what HE says grace is.
The letter of First Peter was written specifically about the concept of grace. As he brings his letter to a close he writes, “…I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God…”
We can get a pretty clear understanding of grace by reading what Peter has to say of the matter. There is no clearer summary of it than is found in the first two verses and which is developed throughout the rest of the letter.
1st Peter 1:1-2
“To those who reside as aliens…who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood…”

As Peter opens his letter about grace, he identifies the three elements of grace that give way throughout the rest of the letter to the specifics of grace.

1) “…chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…”

Grace finds its source in the sovereign will and mind of God. You can’t miss that. He specifically states that God “chose”. He has of His own free will chosen to bring sinners into relationship with Himself. Verse 3 continues by saying that it was by His mercy that we were born anew, verse 4 indicates that He has reserved for us an inheritance in eternity, and that our eternal inheritance is kept saved by His power (vs. 5). That is all God’s doing, by God’s initiative, and by God’s mercy. It has nothing to do with anything good or deserving within us. 

Elsewhere in the letter Peter also states unequivocally…

*we will receive praise, honor, and glory when Christ returns (1:7)

*the salvation of our souls (1:9)

*we were redeemed by the blood of Jesus (1:18-19)

*our faith will not leave us disappointed (2:6)

*at the proper time God will exalt those who are His (5:6)

All of this (and more!) find its origins in the mind of God. His “foreknowledge” doesn’t simply mean that He knew the future. It means that He ordained the future. Our hope is sure because of grace, grace originating in the enacting of God’s desires toward us.

2) “…by the sanctifying work of the Spirit…”

This gracious will of God toward us was accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Peter writes that He “sanctified” us. Simply put, it means the Spirit of God set us apart. Set us apart from what? He has set us apart from the world and its ways. In 1:1 and 2:11 he calls believers aliens (in 2:11 he adds “strangers”). In setting us apart our identity is no longer found in this world, it is found in our citizenship that is based in the Kingdom of God. We see this as Peter demonstrates that as the chosen of God we have been set apart with an entirely new identity, culture, and citizenship. in 2:9 Peter describes the new “us” as…

1) A chosen race

2) A royal priesthood

3) A holy nation

4) A people for God’s possession

By setting us apart, our loyalty, our lifestyle, and our mission in life has been forever changed. Our values, our priorities, and our entire purpose in life have been completely changed and transformed by God, to God, and for God.

Grace completely redefines who we are and the purposes for which we live. It isn’t about being lazy, self-indulgent, and free to do “whatever” because we are God’s child. Grace demands responsibility, action, and work. Where we once served our own passions, values, and beliefs, we now serve and work for the Creator of the universe; serving His purposes and His desires. Where we were once His enemies, we are now His citizens, His favored possession, and His royal ambassadors.

3) “…to obey Jesus Christ…”

Finally, the purpose of grace is found in obedience. Yep, OBEDIENCE. The sovereign choice of God, accomplished by His Spirit setting us apart, is so that we would obey His Son, Jesus Christ. The grace of God is that we are not only able to obey Him, but that we have a desire to obey Him, and that it is in our new nature to obey Him. That is grace, giving us the desire and ability to do the only thing that brings glory to God…obedience to His will and directives.

In fact, this aspect of grace seems to be captured by the majority of Peter’s intent in this letter.

*A call to holiness as obedient children (1:14-16)

*The ability and command to love one another (1:22-2:3)

*Abstinence from fleshly (ungodly) desires and to have excellent behavior (2:11-12)

*Submission to all governing authorities (2:13-14)

*Submission those in professional authority over us…regardless if they are “good” or not (2:18-20)

*Proper relationship with our spouse…regardless whether they are obedient or not (3:1-7)

*Responding to persecution as Christ (chapters 3-4)

*Responding in a godly way to the needs of others, including rightly handling their sin and speaking the Word of God (4:7-11) On that, exhibiting grace does not mean we don’t call sin “sin”. It does mean we expose sin and graciously extend forgiveness and reconciliation in the name of Christ

Let’s be clear. The grace of God is found in our ability to serve God by living in a way that reflects His character and His will. It is doing the hard work, the self-less work, and the publicly ridiculed defense of our faith. It is faithfully speaking the Word of God no matter how it is received. In short, grace removes the excuse for being ungodly. It equips, empowers, and compels its recipients towards obedience.

Grace. Yes, it covers my sin but equally so it transforms my entire being and redefines who I am…for God’s purposes and for His glory. Peter ends His letter by saying, this is grace, “stand firm in it”. God choosing us, God setting us apart to Himself, and God compelling our obedience to Him are His riches bought by the blood of Jesus. We must stand firm in that…all of that.  

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