Taken from Essays on Grace

In this brief work, we have attempted to understand what God’s grace is. The word in a lexicographical sense [in the dictionary] alone cannot encapsulate its entire meaning. There are nuances to the word, shades of meaning, like hues in a rainbow, that are essential to understanding its fuller significance. Professor Barclay gave us 6 characteristics of a gift, and because grace is the gift of God [the word means “gift”] he discussed these in his work in “Paul & the Power of Grace.” [Barclay. John M. G. Paul & the Power of Grace. Grand Rapids MI. Eerdmans Publishing Company 2020. ]

To these I added from the grammar in the word “saved” in Ephesians 2:7 the contributions made by the passive and perfect forms. It is time to try and put this all together.

God’s gift for us [Jesus’ crucifixion] then given to us [salvation] then worked in us [our transformation being conformed to His image] then given by us to others [in calling and ministry] is God’s merciful kindness [love] shared in Christian community and lived before the world.

Grace, therefore, is God’s gift given:

  1. As regards incongruity: unmerited, undeserved, and unearned.
  2. As regards singularity: unrestricted, unalloyed, un-compromised, unchanged, and unchanging.
  3. As regards efficacy: unhindered, unimpeded, productive, and empowered.
  4. As regards reciprocity, unreciprocated and unconditional.
  5. As regards priority: unsolicited and unexpected.
  6. As regards superabundance: unlimited, immeasurable, and unbounded.

We must add 4 more qualities that describe God’s kindness, His love, His mercy:

  1. In a perfect sense God’s gifts as part of our salvation are complete and permanent and without repentance.
  2. In the use of the passive form, they are totally and only God to which we have contributed in every sense absolutely nothing. (Barclay used the phrase: ex nihilism == out of nothing.)
  3. God’s gifts are only One, the gift of Himself. Nothing about grace is external to a reconciled and loving relationship with God.
  4. Grace is always and only Christ-centric. Everything God gives was given at Calvary and traces back to the Cross.

Bishop Lightfoot on Paul’s letter to the Philippians wrote: “Though the gospel is capable of doctrinal exposition, though it is eminently fertile in moral results, yet its substance is neither a dogmatic system nor ethical code, but a Person and a Life.”[1]

In terms of grace, it is God’s gift of Himself [John 3:16]. This is why continuums that try to determine “How much?” make no sense: In Malachi 3:10, our Lord spoke of a blessing that God would “pour … out … that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” I wouldn’t tie this promise to money because it is simply how God works. And although Jewry understood this as a reward for the tithe or their faithful compliance to the Law, such a blessing was only contingent on opening our hearts to receive it! Faith!

[1] J. B. Lightfoot. Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Philippians. (Zondervan Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, MI: 15th printing. 1976) Introduction

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