Tag Archives: grace

Bible Term: Grace

Grace is getting good things when we don’t deserve them. When we are given a gift, it’s an act of grace.

The good things God gives us are through his grace. God’s grace is unearned, undeserved, and unmerited favor.

The promise of heaven is not something we deserve or can earn, but is given to all who follow Jesus as an act of grace.

Compare and contrast grace to mercy.

Do You Want a Double Portion?

Prior to his birth, Samuel’s father would give Samuel’s mother a double portion of the meat from his sacrifice. This showed his love for her and affirmed her, despite her being childless. She was doubly honored.

Just before Elijah went up into heaven, Elisha requested to receive a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. He did; he was doubly blessed.

The Prophet Isaiah proclaimed that those once shamed would receive a double portion, making up for what was lost. They would be doubly restored.

Given these examples, wouldn’t it be great to receive a double portion?

Not so fast.

In Revelation, God proclaims a double portion of punishment on Babylon for all the evil she had done.

We’d all like a double portion of God’s goodness, but no one wants a double portion of his punishment. But when we follow Jesus and go all in for him, we can in fact receive his abundance and escape his punishment.

Thank you Jesus!

[1 Samuel 1:5, 2 Kings 2:9, Isaiah 61:7, Revelation 18:6]

Hey, Jude

The book of Jude in the Bible is a short letter that is tucked in the back, just before Revelation.  Add to this the fact that it is a bit confusing with obscure references.  Plus, Jude meanders his way through his message with many distracting examples and illustrations.  Given all this, it is little wonder that the writing of Jude is largely ignored.

Removing Jude’s supporting text, his essential message is to watch out for ungodly people in the church.  Their profile is that they…

pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord (v 4).

pollute their own bodies, reject authority, and heap abuse on celestial beings (v 8).

slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct — as irrational animals do — will destroy them (v 10).

are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm — shepherds who feed only themselves (v 12).

are grumblers and fault finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage (v 16).

are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit (v 19).

Do you know anyone who acts like this?  Then watch out.  Do you ever act like this?  Then take corrective action.

[Jude]

God’s Sovereignty Allows Him to be Benevolent

God is sovereign; it is one of his characteristics.  To be sovereign means to have supreme rank, power, and authority.

The word sovereign appears hundreds of times in the Bible (mostly in the Old Testament) and is usually used as a title for God or in addressing him, as in “Sovereign Lord.”

Many people object to the idea that God is sovereign; it offends them or causes fear.  That may be because of a tendency to see sovereignty from a human perspective.  They assume that God’s sovereignty allows him to be malevolent; that is, he is just waiting for us to mess up and then he will do us harm — or give us grief just because he can.  But that is not his nature.

God is good and just.  His sovereignty actually allows him to be benevolent.  He wants to do good to us, to offer us good things we don’t deserve (grace) and to withhold punishment that we do deserve (mercy).

God’s sovereignty allows for benevolence; his love prohibits malevolence.

Lessons from the Life of John Mark

There is an interesting story that begins in Acts 13.

God tells the church to commission and send out Barnabas and Paul to other cities, telling the people they meet about Jesus.  They do this, taking with them John (also called, John Mark or just Mark).

The thing is, God didn’t tell them to take John Mark; he apparently doesn’t belong there.  This is borne out later, when John Mark deserts Barnabas and Paul to return home.

Later, Barnabas wants to give John Mark a second chance (an example of mercy), but Paul says “no” (an example of justice).  They part company over this disagreement, each going their separate ways.  This might seem like a bad thing, but it turns out to be a good thing, as they are then able to cover twice the ground, doubling their effectiveness and outreach.

For John Mark, his story ends on a positive note, too, with him and Paul later being reconciled (an example of grace) and Paul esteeming John Mark as his fellow worker and as being useful to him.

This is a great lesson in life.  Despite making mistakes along the way, we can still finish well.  John Mark did and so can we.

[Acts 13:2-3, 5, 13; Acts 15:36-41; Colossians 4:10, Philemon 1:24, and 2 Timothy 4:11]

Five Trustworthy Sayings

The phrase “trustworthy saying” occurs five times in the Bible.  It likely refers to phrases that were commonly used and accepted by the early church.  Paul’s inclusion of these phrases in his letters affirms them as reliable truth.  Here are the five “trustworthy sayings” that Paul recorded:

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.

Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.

If we die with him, we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship, we will reign with him.
If we deny him, he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.

When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.

[from 1 Timothy 1:15, 1 Timothy 3:1, 1 Timothy 4:9, 2 Timothy 2:11, and Titus 3:8]

Grace and Mercy

Are grace and mercy the same thing?  That might seem so, since they are both good things that God gives us.  However, in some respects they are opposites.  Consider these simple definitions:

Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

Mercy is not getting what you do deserve.

For example, if I were to give you $100, that would be an example of grace.  You didn’t deserve it, didn’t earn it, and I wasn’t obligated to give it to you.  Grace is something that is freely given to people who don’t merit it.

On the other hand, if you hit my car, you would need to pay to have it fixed.  Or I could forgive you; that would be mercy.  You should rightly repair my car, but I willing choose to let you off the hook and not hold you accountable.

God shows us grace when he gives us good things that we didn’t earn and don’t deserve.

Also, God shows us mercy when he doesn’t hold us accountable for the wrong things we do.

Since it is through Jesus that we can receive both grace and mercy, you might consider them to be opposite sides of the same coin.  So maybe they’re the same after all.

A Different Prescription For Prayer

In Matthew 20, Jesus shares a parable, predicts his death, teaches about serving, and heals two blind men.  Nowhere does he mention prayer, yet in this chapter I see two insights about prayer.

First, the mother of James and John makes a request of Jesus. [Matthew 20:20-22]  She asks if her sons can be given places of honor, sitting on Jesus’ left and right.  Jesus’ response is, “You don’t know what you are asking!”

I suspect that many of our prayers evoke the same response, “You don’t know what you are asking.”  Just as James and John’s mother did not have a right understanding of Jesus’ purpose and intent, missing God’s perspective, so to, we often miss God’s intent and fail to see his perspective.  As such our prayers are off base, asking for the wrong things, which are inconsequential.

In the account of the blind men being healed [Matthew 20:29-34], the men boldly call out for Jesus to have mercy on them.  When Jesus hears them, he asks, “What do you want?”  They have already asked for mercy, but Jesus wants them to be specific.  As soon as they ask to see, he gives them their sight.

How often do we make a general request for God’s blessing, mercy, or grace?  These are vague, non-expectant petitions.  When making such a plea, how can we ever realize the answers?  When our requests are specific, the answers become obvious — and praiseworthy.

So, when we pray, it should be specific and it should be with God’s perspective in mind.

Do You Bless God?

I often say the word “bless.”  In prayer, I frequently ask for God’s blessing on myself and others.  In essence I am asking for God’s divine favor or grace to be imparted.

Other times I have seen one person bless another by “conveying well-being or prosperity” to them.  Sometimes this is done in the context of a prayer, a commissioning ceremony, or a benediction.

Both of these examples make sense to me and are readily understandable — because in both instances a “person” of authority or power is blessing someone of lessor standing.  [See Hebrews 7:7]

However, I recently heard someone “bless” God.  Initially I assumed that he misspoke.  When he said it again, I thought he had it backwards.  After all, it seems a bit arrogant to bless God in the same way that we ask him to bless us.

Then I began stumbling on this in the Bible.  Some translations of Psalms 26:12 and 34:1, for example, talk about blessing God.  Other versions instead use the words “praise” or “extol.”

Fortunately, the dictionary provides some help in understanding this seeming dichotomy.  One of the definitions of “bless” is to “To honor as holy; glorify: Bless the Lord.”

So in expanding my understanding of “bless” to include honor and glorify, then, yes, I bless God!  Do you?