Testifying to the Gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24 ESV)
I thought I knew the Gospel and the grace of God. I was converted about 34 years ago and would tell others that I knew God’s grace grabbed me out of the muck and mire of sin. I studied the Scriptures. I thought I knew the Grace of God. I would tell others of God’s grace in my own life but I didn’t truly understand grace. I could define it for you: Grace is undeserved kindness. Grace is an unmerited favor. Somehow, though, what it really meant alluded me…until recently.
See, Grace is really incomprehensible. Grace does not make logical sense. For me, logic directed my theological studies. I had moved from Pentecostalism to Reformed and as any good “reformed girl” logic and systematizing the Word and God Himself into a neat little box was how we were taught to understand God. But…Grace? That was a whole different story. I would speak of grace thinking I understood it. Pointing to the night of my conversion I would share how God forgave my sins and gave me new life. Yet, deep inside, I did not understand grace.
You see, I had this picture, both as a Pentecostal/holiness Christian and then later as Reformed/Calvinist, that God the Father was a big ogre in the sky with a 2x4 with my name on it ready to whack me whenever I sinned or went astray. My view of God the Father was a bit skewed due to both theological systems austere teachings on God.
In Jesus Christ, I understood He was the one to die for me and by his death my sins were atoned for, but the Father, well again that was a whole different story. For over 30 years it just never dawned on me that grace began with the Father sending His Only Begotten to die so that He would forgive us of our sins.
In a brief talk with a sweet sister yesterday at church we talked about how Jesus came to save us from our sins. The angelic host pronounced
Good news of GREAT JOY that will be for ALL people! (Luke 2)
Joy! Joy goes with grace. You see, if you understand that your redemption is not because of you but because of Another, joy should flood your heart.
Grace. Undeserved? Yes. Nevertheless given by God the Father through Jesus Christ and distributed to sinners by the Holy Spirit in the means of Grace (baptism, the preaching of the Word and the Lord’s Supper).
Grace, as I shared with our pastor’s wife, is quite illogical. So, here I was a new Lutheran, trying to still fit God and the way He works into some neat little box. In Calvinism, Jesus’ death is only for the elect. Trying to figure out if you’re in that group is complicated enough but then the contradiction comes that He gives saving faith but you have to make sure that faith is real and authentic and not something you worked up in yourself. Long ago I rejected the Pentecostal idea that faith is something I have and therefore need to act upon, but the reformed view was just as austere. What if I didn’t have that faith. But grace, even though illogical to humans who insist on doing something for something else, doesn’t work that way. We don’t offer God our good behavior to receive grace. It doesn’t work that way. We don’t keep offering God our good works to keep getting grace from Him either. Grace is a free gift of God because of Jesus Christ.
GRACE! It is given to us. We don’t take it. We receive it.
When God imparts true faith to us, from outside of us through water and the Word, through the Body and Blood (Bread and Wine) and the Word, through the hearing of the Word spoken to us through the readings and preaching, in our ears (outside of us again), of course it’s TRUE FAITH!
GRACE! It is freely offered to all.
It flows freely from the wounds of Jesus through the baptismal font. No longer does one have to wonder, “Gee, did God give me real faith or fake faith?” (see my blog post on that one).
GRACE! It’s not about guesswork either.
You don’t have to guess. The Gospel of Grace comes from God Himself. He is offering us the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. He is graciously giving us salvation from sin, death and the devil.
CFW Walther wrote, Through Holy Baptism a great stream of joy has been conducted in his heart…Baptism is a bath that washed me not only once when I received it—washed me pure with Christ’s blood—but it continuously washes me clean even daily for as long as I hold it in faith. (From Treasure of Daily Prayer, Jan. 1st Writings) There’s that word joy again. God comes with grace and He joyfully announces the forgiveness of sins and that Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the world. God brought true joy in the gracious gift of His Son Jesus Christ.
GRACE! Gifted to us through Baptism.
I always wondered why the People of God in Lutheranism always said, I AM baptized and not I WAS baptized. That’s because each and every day baptism washes me. I AM baptized not I WAS baptized. It’s not something “one and done” as they say but daily the sacrament washes away my sins and gives me faith. Baptism works every day because it is a gift from God’s Grace. From His own Gracious hand God continues to forgive me and all my sins swallowed up in the flood of baptism.
GRACE. The Gift of God in Christ.
I cannot do anything for this gift. Instead, God gives it because Jesus died for the world, for you and me. I cannot work up this grace in me but rather receive it like a homeless hand begging for sustenance. Nothing I do or did earned/earns this grace. You can’t earn something that is a gift. You can’t improve yourself and think, Oh, now God will be gracious.
One of my favorite Lutheran hymns is By Grace I’m Saved, specifically the 2nd verse:
By grace! None dare lay claim to merit;
Our works and conduct have no worth.
God in His love sent our Redeemer,
Christ Jesus, to this sinful earth;
His death did for our sins atone,
And we are saved by grace alone
God in His love sent our Redeemer. He is not standing there waiting to whack you but rather, He offers His only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ as the remedy and atonement for all. Jesus, because of the Father’s love for all, bore the “crushing load” (see Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ LSB 565)
Grace. It really is amazing! It is free because Jesus paid the price. Grace. It is quite illogical but not at all complicated: God looks at us as righteous because we are clothed in the Righteous robes of His own dear Son, Jesus Christ who died for all of us and now forgiveness is proclaimed in His name to all the world.
Oh how great is your compassion,
Faithful Father, God of grace,
That with all our fallen race
In our depth of degradation
You had mercy so that we
Might be saved eternally. (LSB 559)
Grace. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
“Through Him (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand"(Romans 5:2)
Grace. How great and wonderful.
"This is the LORD's doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes." (Psalm 118:23)
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…"(Eph. 2:4 ESV)
Grace. Be surprised by God’s incomparable and often incomprehensible Grace.
"Who called us by grace"… (cf. Gal. 1:15)
Surprised by Grace? Absolutely and wonderfully surprised at how God gifts us this grace in various ways:
Each morning we receive the gift of grace as we recall our Baptism.
Every Divine Service He gifts us with grace through the forgiveness of sins in Confession and Absolution.
Then, Jesus Christ Himself serves us His own Body and Blood in the Bread and Wine of the Sacrament granting us by grace the forgiveness of sins.
Proceeds go to financing this blog site and furthering my education through the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights.
Or buy multiples for your Book Club or Bible Study, hand it out to your Reformed friends or those struggling with assurance and comfort.