Pastor Dennis Smith
I want to call your attention to three little prepositions: by, in, and with.
I would like to suggest a link between each of these and the concept of God’s grace. But first, exactly what do we mean when we speak of God’s grace? Perhaps you have heard it defined as God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Or perhaps as God’s unmerited favor. I think both of these are helpful, but an understanding of God’s grace can’t be reduced to such catchphrases.
If my Bible study software can be trusted, the word “grace” occurs 170 times in 159 verses in the KJV, so I think it’s safe to say it’s an important concept.
In the languages of the Old and New Testaments, the words for grace often suggest God’s kindness, even a sympathetic and compassionate kindness on God’s part. In fact, I would go so far as to say that we could often substitute the word kindness when reading the word grace in the Scriptures and not lose the sense. In the New Testament there is indeed a separate word for kindness, but that word is closely linked with the word grace in Ephesians 2:7 — “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
But what about those three prepositions that I mentioned at the beginning? How can they be linked to God’s grace? I would suggest this: We are saved by grace; we must continue in grace; and we should finish with grace.
First, we are saved by grace (see Ephesians 2:8). Grace is the ground or basis for salvation. In other words, God’s grace is what makes salvation even possible. You might protest that God’s mercy is the ground for salvation. I would not disagree with you (I know what Titus 3:5a says, too). But I would note here that grace and mercy are like two sides of the same coin; they go together. I’m not sure you can have one without the other. God’s grace issues in his mercy, and his mercy reflects his grace.
Second, we must continue in grace (see Ephesians 2:10). God has prepared aforetime good works in which we are to walk. That’s something that God has done. He has graciously provided good works for us to do, things that please him, honor him, and reflect his character. And here, I would also point you to Philippians 2:13 when it comes to the question of continuing in grace.
Third, we hope to finish with grace (Ephesians 2:4–7). We quoted v. 7 above — one of God’s purposes in salvation is to show or demonstrate the quality of his grace in the ages to come. Elsewhere I have written of the importance of finishing well; that happens by God’s grace.
I’m reminded of the words of the hymn, Amazing Grace: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me … ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” Think about that.
Let’s not take God’s grace lightly.