Mercy and Grace: God’s Grace

Grace: grace is really a different thing altogether. We can define it as “getting something that you don’t deserve.” The man in Matthew 18 did not technically receive grace, all that happened was that his account returned for zero. His debt removed. But grace goes further, it then gives the debtor credit. It not only wipes out the unpayable debt but then adds currency into the account so that his balance is positive. A different analogy, a school child who has spent the whole day messing around, being disruptive, and doing no work. This person has wasted the class’s time, the teacher’s attention is divided and time is wasted on trying to get this kid to behave. Also the child has wasted his own time and his parent’s money spent on his education. At the end of the day, the teacher, dismissing the rest of the class keeps that child back.

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The teacher then, instead of dressing the kid down and giving out punishment, buys him a Coke, and spends time helping him catch up on work missed and time squandered. The kid didn’t deserve anything but punishment, and punishment more than the loss of a day’s work. Instead he got a bonus, something he absolutely didn’t deserve.

What this means for the Christian is that, when God saves him, he doesn’t just have his slate cleaned, he is given a full and inexhaustible measure of righteousness earned for him by Christ at the cross. (Romans 10:12, Ephesians 1:18, etc.)

having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:18

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Another aspect of God’s grace is that it is put in stark contrast to works. Some examples are Ephesians 2:8-9 and 2 Timothy 1:9 as well as the following:

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. Romans 11:5-6

Not the first verse everyone thinks of when we think of grace, but it makes an interesting point. Paul is discussing the relationship between the Jews and the gentiles. The remnant he refers to in verse 5 is those few Jewish believers in Jesus Christ and Paul is comparing them to the 7000 who did not bow the knee to Baal during Elijah’s day. But Paul’s point is hammered home in verse 6. If by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works. Works and grace are polar opposite as far as salvation is concerned. Either you can be saved by grace, or by works, but NEVER both. And the problem with being saved by works is that it never possible, you have to be perfect, and none of us are (Romans 3:23). So grace is our only option. The problem is, and this is what Paul addresses in Romans 7, is that many Christians try to maintain and earn their salvation by works. If you’ve ever thought (as a Christian) thoughts similar to this: “I’ve committed that sin again, I can’t be a Christian, a Christian wouldn’t do that…” then you’ve made the mistake of trying to be saved by works. Now the Christian life is not without good works (read James and 1 John), a Christian is not, can not, and can never be saved by works.

Elijah-MtCarmelThis is a mistake made by other religions and pseudo-christian groups. For example the Roman Catholic Church is very adamant that works are required for salvation. Consider this quote from the council of Trent

“If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema” (Sixth Session, Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 24). (Read more quotes at this website).

But ever more a Christian, a believer is Christ, is saved by grace, and grace alone.

Finally I have an admonition. Mercy and grace are two of the most wonderful aspects of God. They are gifts from the Lord and are at the center of our hope. But we have to remember that both mercy and grace are attributes of God, that is, they are a part of who He is. The danger for us is, on the one hand, to think of His grace and mercy as simply things we receive, gifts from God (which they are) which we are to spread around. This doesn’t go far enough. Our God is merciful; He is gracious. He is those things. On the other hand, the second ditch we fall into is that of thinking of Mercy and Grace, simply as doctrines. They are doctrines, but like all doctrines do, they describe the reality, our God is merciful; He is gracious. He also shows mercy and gives us grace. If you don’t go farther than the paper on which the doctrine is written, you’ve missed the point.

So mercy is not getting what we do deserve and grace is getting what we don’t deserve. We deserve hell for our sin; those sins are removed. We certainly don’t deserve heaven, He freely and graciously grants us access to His heavenly throne.

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Bearded gentleman, Christ follower, Christian and theologian blogger. Owner of Havelock the cat. Reader of Tolkien lore

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