Everything we have we owe to the grace of God. Our physical lives, our material possessions, our spiritual lives, and our salvation from sin are all undeserved gifts from God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights,” (Jas. 1:17). We owe our very existence to God and his grace.
In the spiritual realm, God’s grace is imparted through Jesus Christ. “For of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ,” (Jn. 1:16-17; cf. Rom. 1:6-7). The spiritual benefits of God’s grace become available to individuals as they are added to the Lord’s church. “But unto each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men,” (Eph. 4:7-8).
But like many gifts, God’s grace can be rejected. It is not forced upon people. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore the scripture saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble,” (Jas. 4:6). Like water in the desert, God’s grace through Jesus Christ is offered full and free, but no one is forced to drink. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely,” (Rev. 21:6). “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely,” (Rev. 22:17).
The word “grace” translates the Greek word, charis, which means an undeserved benefit, favor or gift. By definition, it is not earned. It is not a payment for work performed. It is not in the nature of wages or a debt which is due and payable. Grace flows from the generosity of the giver, not the merit or deservedness of the receiver. It is an unmerited favor. “[God] saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal,” (2 Tim. 1:9).
To say that a gift or favor is not earned is not to say that there are no restrictions or qualifications upon it. We have already seen that God’s grace can be rejected or refused. Indeed, there are restrictions or specifications upon how it must be received. To fail to properly receive God’s grace is to reject or despise it. The Bible abounds with warnings against refusing or falling short of God’s grace. “Looking carefully lest there be any man that falleth short of the grace of God,” (Heb. 12:15). “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh,” (Heb. 12:25).
Suppose a person enters a sweepstakes or giveaway of some kind in which there is no obligation to make a purchase. The gift (if they win) is completely unrestricted and unearned. It may properly be said to be a matter of grace. However, suppose the rules provide that the winner must present their winning ticket within 30 days of the drawing. Now we have a stipulation, a condition upon receipt of the reward. Everyone understands that if the winner fails to present the winning ticket within the required time, they forfeit the reward. But if they follow the rules, no one thinks they have “earned” the winnings. This illustrates how a reward can be a matter of grace, yet still conditioned upon obedience to specified rules.
It is difficult to understand why so many people stumble at this concept when it comes to spiritual salvation. They seem to think that if salvation is by grace, they should not have to do anything. It’s as if God is going to force salvation upon people, even in their disobedience or unfaithfulness. This is a dangerous lie of Satan.
God’s grace is available to all people, but not unconditionally. That’s why we often read in the Bible about salvation being a two-way street. It includes God’s part combined with our own part. After preaching that God had made salvation available, the inspired apostle commanded his audience to “save yourselves” from this sinful generation, (Acts 2:40). Peter perceived that “in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him,” (Acts 10:35). The apostle Paul understood that “the times of ignorance God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent,” (Acts 17:31).
The grace of God is a marvelous thing. It is our “ticket to heaven.” May we not neglect it or take it lightly. May we respond to God’s grace reverently and obediently.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.