#WCSK Episode 1.7: Grace and Stewardship

I. Grace

In On the Grace of God, Justin Holcomb writes, “‘Grace’ is the most important concept in the Bible, in Christianity, and in the world. It is most clearly expressed in the promise of God revealed in Scripture and embodied in Jesus Christ. The deepest message of the ministry of Jesus and of the entire Bible is the grace of God to sinners and sufferers.”[1]

What Christians should know is that grace simply refers to the unmerited favor that God grants to us all.

As sinners, we deserve nothing, are unworthy of The Lord’s favor, are unrighteous by our own works, and have proven ourselves unfit to receive the unconditional love of God. Yet, in spite of all of this, God freely reaches down and picks us up—even those who spite Him. Isaiah 55:7 says,

“Let the wicked forsake his way

And the unrighteous man his thoughts;

And let him return to the Lord,

And He will have compassion on him,

And to our God,

For He will abundantly pardon.”

By our own warrant, humankind deserves only judgment, but God executes mercy and does not consider merit. Therefore, grace not only entails getting what you don’t merit, it also entails not receiving what you do merit. Non-believers often chastise God by pointing to all the evil in the world, and therefore say, “God is unjust, cruel and mean.” What they often neglect to realize is that it is only by God’s gracious favor that He does not unleash the wrath that we rightfully deserve because of sin. Matthew 5:45 says that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” In fact, God is patient and waits for people to repent, because He derives no joy in seeing people perish.[2] Thankfully for us, mercy triumphs over judgment.[3] (Mercy does not, however, negate or eliminate judgment). If God were not so tremendously gracious, then existence would be impossible due to the utter depravity and destructiveness of sin.[4] If God were not so tremendously gracious, then anytime anyone mocks God or dehumanizes another person, judgment would be immediate and swift.

For the sake of simplicity in this lesson, I will refer to grace in a general sense, but it will become clear to any diligent student of doctrine that theologians and Bible scholars have delineated many different “types” of grace that typically refer to the audience and the effects of the grace. Here, I am more concerned with the principle of grace itself as opposed to its application to specific cohorts in specific scenarios. God is unchanging and thus consistently gracious in and of Himself, yet that grace is manifested to us in different ways. God is gracious to everyone in order to redeem those who will be saved,[5] to reveal His kindness and compassion,[6] and to reveal His justice.[7] Romans 2:5 and 3:19 say that on the final Day of Judgment, God will basically show everyone how ungracious they have been and reveal how gracious He has been in spite of their unfaithfulness. As a result, “every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.”

Psalm 145:8-9 says, “The Lord is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.” Hence, The Lord is not gracious to some people but to all people, even to those who reject Him. Because they deny Him, many people will voluntarily refuse the invitation by grace to have faith, trust in Jesus, repent, be regenerated, become sanctified, and ultimately live eternally with God—all results that would happen if they accepted the same grace that saves everyone else.

The apostle Paul described the gospel as “the gospel of the grace of God.”[8] He also described God’s grace as abundant,[9] sufficient,[10] and rich.[11] The theologian John Calvin called grace “gratuitous,” referring to a gift that is sovereign, unearned, uncalled for, lacking good reason, and done free of charge. Calvin says, “We make the foundation of faith the gratuitous promise, because in it faith properly consists … Faith begins with the promise, rests in it, and ends in it.”[12] Of course, the gratuitous promise is Jesus Christ, the ultimate expression of the grace of God.[13]

Grace flows from God to us. That current is never reversed. When a person says, “I’m a nobody,” grace says, “You’re a somebody.” When a person says, “I’m worthless,” grace says, “You’re a child of God.” When a person says, “I have nothing,” God’s grace says, “Here, have some more.” When a person says, “I am too broken to amount to anything. There is no hope,” God says, “Out of nothing I made everything.[14] Now imagine what I can do with you.”

Gratuitous grace equals unconditional love and points directly to the idea that our salvation is a function of God’s grace alone through faith alone.[15] If this were not the case, then we, as sinners, could “earn” God’s favor. Gratuitous grace destroys religious elitism (Pharisaism) or spiritual pride, because no one is “better” or “more special” than anyone else: all have fallen short of God’s glory.[16] In fact, grace represents a paradigm of inversion that uplifts those that are oppressed.[17] Anyone is free to ask for God’s grace at any time,[18] but we are all undeserving and receive grace as a function of nothing that we do—only God decides to whom He gives grace.[19] If works did play a role in grace, then it would no longer be grace.[20] It is this fact that God can be graceful to those who don’t deserve it that makes the gospel of Jesus Christ so powerful. Without grace, we would all be doomed to one certain fate: death.

The Hebrew word for grace, hesed, is frequently used in the Old Testament.[21] It means “goodness, kindness, and faithfulness.” Hesed frees people from bondage,[22] is slow to anger and abounds in steadfast love,[23] and is even demonstrated to those who will ultimately reject God;[24] hence, hesed is not conditional on our response. Grace overflows to all people,[25] enables people to therefore trust in God (faith),[26] and facilitates repentance.[27] The grace of God works in us so that we receive the gospel and bear fruit,[28] and by grace, the Holy Spirit works in us to will and work for God’s pleasure.[29] Grace allows us to excel in everything,[30] forgives iniquity and heals ailments,[31] permits us to endure hardship,[32] justifies us,[33] strengthens our hearts,[34] and regenerates us into new people.[35] Grace permits favorable environmental conditions,[36] blesses those around faithful servants of God,[37] intellectually enlightens people,[38] and gives everyone a sense of right and wrong in our consciences.[39] Everything in our Christian walk is dependant on grace: who we are,[40] what we do,[41] how we act toward others,[42] how we live,[43] what we say,[44] where we derive our strength,[45] where we gain our sense of contentment,[46] and how we respond to the ills of life.[47]

Regeneration (a topic to be discussed further in a future lesson) refers to being made spiritually alive in Christ Jesus. If one is spiritually dead and reject God, that person obviously cannot benefit from the saving grace of God working in your life. In order to be raised and enter into a new life, we all have to be “born again” and raised from spiritual death by Jesus. We are incapable of raising ourselves from the dead, but God can. Hence, without being born again, no one can see God’s kingdom.[48] As an example, I invite everyone to read the passage on Lazarus,[49] who was raised from the dead by the command of Christ. At the end of the story in John 11:44, it says, “The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” In other words, the man who was “bound” to death was set free to live by the grace and power of Jesus Christ.

Augustine once said that, “What God’s grace has not freed will not be free.”[50] Without God’s grace, it is impossible for us to…

WCSK Stewardship Grace Money Tithe

Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal

  

For Further Reading

Justin S. Holcomb, On the Grace of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).

[1] Justin S. Holcomb, On the Grace of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 11.

[2] II Peter 3:9

[3] James 2:13

[4] For a full discussion of sin and its consequences, please refer to WCSK Part IV: Creation and Sin.

[5] II Peter 3:9-10

[6] Ezekiel 33:11; I Timothy 2:4

[7] Romans 2:5, 3:19

[8] Acts 20:24

[9] Romans 5:15, 17, 20; II Corinthians 9:8; I Timothy 1:14

[10] II Corinthians 12:9

[11] II Corinthians 9:14; Ephesians 1:7, 2:7

[12] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. J. T. McNeil, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 3.2.24.

[13] John 1:17, 3:16; Romans 5:6; Revelation 22:21

[14] Genesis 1:1-31

[15] Ephesians 2:8-9. For more on the cardinal doctrine of salvation being by grace alone and through faith alone, please refer to WCSK Part V: Jesus Christ.

[16] Romans 3:20-24

[17] Matthew 9:12, 20:28; Mark 2:17, 10:45; Luke 4:18-19, 5:31, 6:20-26

[18] Psalm 123:3; Isaiah 30:19; Malachi 1:9

[19] Exodus 33:19

[20] Romans 11:6

[21] Especially the Psalms. For example: 25:6, 40:11, 51:1, 69:16, 103:4.

[22] Exodus 12

[23] Exodus 34:6-7

[24] Mark 4:1-20

[25] Luke 3:6; Acts 2:17, 21; Titus 2:11

[26] Acts 14:3, 26, 15:40, 18:27, 20:24, 32.

[27] Acts 5:31, 11:18

[28] Colossians 1:6; II Peter 1:3-9

[29] Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13

[30] II Corinthians 8:7

[31] Psalm 103:1-22

[32] II Corinthians 12:9

[33] Romans 3:24

[34] Hebrews 13:9

[35] II Corinthians 5:17

[36] Acts 14:16-17

[37] Genesis 39:5

[38] John 1:9

[39] Romans 2:14-15

[40] I Corinthians 15:10

[41] II Corinthians 2:12

[42] I Peter 4:10

[43] Romans 5:17; I Peter 3:7

[44] Colossians 4:6

[45] II Timothy 2:1

[46] II Corinthians 9:8

[47] I Peter 5:10

[48] John 3:3

[49] John 11. See also the resurrection of the widow’s son in Luke 7:11-17.

[50] Augustine, Against the Letters of the Pelagians, I.iii.6

[51] Ephesians 2:8-10

[52] Justin S. Holcomb, On the Grace of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 94

[53] John 1:16

[54] Genesis 1:28

[55] Genesis 2:21-23

[56] I Chronicles 29: 12, 14; Psalm 24:1

[57] Genesis 2:7

[58] Proverbs 16:3; Colossians 3:23. Also note that the Proverbs were written by Solomon, the richest man to have ever lived as noted in I Kings 3:13 and II Chronicles 9:22.

[59] Luke 16:11

[60] Luke 12:42-46

[61] Titus 1:7-10

[62] Proverbs 13:22; Acts 2:44-45.

[63] I Timothy 6:7-8

[64] Exodus 16:18; Proverbs 21:20

[65] Exodus 20:17

[66] I Corinthians 4:1-2

[67] Haggai 1:1-11

[68] John 15:12-14

[69] John 12:31; II Corinthians 4:4

[70] Matthew 6:24. See also Matthew 21:12 and John 2:15.

[71] Matthew 6:24

[72] I Timothy 6:10

[73] Micah 2:1-2; James 5:1-6

[74] Genesis 13:2

[75] Genesis 26:12-14

[76] Genesis 39:2

[77] I Chronicles 29:28

[78] II Chronicles 9:20-22. Notably, Solomon had so much gold that silver lost value during his kingship.

[79] Job 1:1-3

[80] II Chronicles 1:11-12

[81] Ephesians 4:28

[82] Matthew 25:16

[83] Matthew 25:26

[84] Matthew 25:25

[85] Matthew 6:19-21

[86] Acts 20:35

[87] Exodus 25:2; Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:21, 26-28; Deuteronomy 14:22-26; Malachi 3:10

[88] Genesis 4:3-4; Exodus 23:19, 34:26; Leviticus 23:10-14; Numbers 18:13; Deuteronomy 26:2-4; II Chronicles 31:5; Nehemiah 10:35; Proverbs 3:9-10; Ezekiel 44:30; Romans 11:16

[89] Genesis 28:20-22; Leviticus 27:32; Hebrews 7:1-2

[90] Philippians 4:18

[91] Malachi 3:8-9

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