The words of that most famous of hymns begin saying, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” And grace is truly amazing. It is by grace that we have access to all the gifts and promises of God promised through the writings and words of His prophets, disciples, apostles and of course Jesus Christ his only begotten son.
But grace is an unusual concept and an odd word that is not really well understood. Moreover access to grace is even less understood because of the all encompassing nature of it.
But what truly shocked me about grace was when I read this one verse in Romans 5:2 and began to see that the giving of grace and the extent of grace was not as universal as both I and I know many others believed it to be. This was quite a revelation for it shows that there is a definite process and a way to receive the grace of God. It is not open to everyone but only to a select group, and when we know and understand the process then we are able to receive God’s grace and the bountiful promises that come with it.
What is Grace?
Grace is the undeserved favour and kindness of God towards His people. It is undeserved because it cannot be earned and no man or woman on earth is good enough to be entitled to receive it.
Grace is a gift given by God to those who have faith in Jesus Christ. And it is a necessary gift as we walk with Christ and as we live in the new covenant for without the grace of God resting on us we would perish because we are weak and would continue to sin.
It is through grace by faith that God chose to release us from sin, forgetting all our past sins and failings and setting us free from the law so that we do not break it anymore.
Grace can be seen then as both an umbrella that protects us from the wrath of God while we walk with Jesus and learn how to live in the will of God fully. It is the barrier that God put in place that separates man from sin through faith in Jesus Christ.
Grace can also be seen as the safety net that sits beneath us as we walk the tightrope of the path of righteousness because there are times when we do fail and will fall. But in Jesus Christ by faith we have the grace of God to catch us and protect us in those times when we fall, and by grace we are lifted up again to continue our walk. We may fall but by grace we do not fall headlong into destruction.
So for every person grace is a most important and most valuable gift to receive from God. But there is a process to receive this wondrous and free gift from God.
Access to Grace
This verse in Romans 5:2 shows us that grace is not given openly to all mankind. There is a very definite way we must follow in order to receive the grace of God. This verse says,
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Now the “him” this verse is speaking of is Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus or rather by faith in what Jesus did for us when He died for our sins that He provided the way for us into the kingdom of God. We enter God’s kingdom when we receive the death of Jesus as our own and are remade as new creations in Him. And we enter into His death when we go through water baptism in the name of Jesus and accept and believe we have died and been resurrected with Him as we are instructed to believe in the scriptures.
Jesus made the point in a number of places that we need to enter into the kingdom of God and we do this through baptism. For example, when he spoke with Nicodemus in John 3:5 he said,
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
It is by being born again of water, that is by being baptised in the name of Jesus that we enter the kingdom of God. And it is by being born of the Spirit, that is to receive the Holy Spirit that the work of transformation into the image of Christ occurs and sinfulness is fully destroyed. And we will stand before God only when the barrier of sin is gone.
Furthermore Jesus also said to his disciples that He is the way to the Father and the kingdom of God. His words can be seen in John 14:1-6.
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
But even more clearly He shows us that if we are to receive the promises of God and enter the kingdom of God we need to go through Him. He even calls himself the door of the sheep, that is, His people, in John 10:7-9.
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
If we want to enter into the kingdom of God we must enter by the door and Jesus Christ is the door by which we enter.
And what is on the other side of the door? When we enter through the door that is Jesus Christ’s death we are new creations, no longer citizens of this world with all it’s evil and sin, but freed men and women separated from sin and death and living in the grace of God.
God’s grace is what sits on the other side of the door waiting for us to enter. The umbrella that protects and the safety net that saves us when we fall is what awaits us AFTER we enter through the door that is Jesus into the kingdom of God.
But what does this mean for the rest of the world and those yet to come to Christ? Don’t they receive grace to enable them to come to Him in the first place? Well actually, no they don’t. Grace is the gift given to the people of God. But for those still coming to Him there is another gift that allows them to be aided until they come to the place where they receive God’s grace.
Grace and Love
Before a person comes to Christ and enters the kingdom of God by the door opened through faith in the death of Jesus Christ where they can receive God’s grace they are shown His love.
Grace and love are very similar in many ways for they both cover and protect. But they are not exactly the same. Grace is a part of the love of God but it is specifically directed for the purpose of the salvation and perfecting of Christians. Because grace is the undeserved favour of God towards His people, you could say it is God’s special love, perhaps even a greater love for his own people.
Paul shows us the distinction between grace and love in Ephesians 2:4-9 where it says,
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
As in Romans 5:2 he shows us again here that it is by grace we are saved and we receive this grace only when we have faith. It is through faith that we have been saved and grace is the basis of the salvation which comes from God.
But we see also in verses 4-5 that God showed us His great love even before we received grace through faith. Love precedes grace. Love is shown to us by God’s mercy and compassion that allows us to come to Him in the first place. It is only after receiving His love and mercy and then when we turn and repent and enter the door to the kingdom through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we receive by faith, do we then receive grace to grow and have His salvation work in us.
God is love. Love is the nature of God and so it is unthinkable that He could not and would not show love to His people. But He also shows love to those who are seeking to find Him. When a person is looking for God, He will be found by them. He will reveal Himself to them in a way they will understand and so recognise that God is there.
This seeking and finding is based in love, not in grace. Grace comes later when the person comes to God and enters into the kingdom of God. Grace is what carries us as Christians to be able to continue our walk with Jesus until his work of perfection is completed in us…however long it takes.
But love is freely given to all mankind in the hope that people will want to find God. It is by the love of God that He gives rain, sunshine, growth, health and all the good things of this earth to everyone on the earth without favouritism. And it is by love that he recognises when a person is seeking Him and He shows himself to them so they will be encouraged to continue to seek and follow Him.
Consider the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. We were all like the prodigal son living lives of sin, debauchery, wastefulness and so on to a greater or lesser degree before we came to Christ. But when we did come to our senses like the prodigal son, God in His love drew us to Him like the father drew the prodigal son back to himself.
In verse 20 of this parable we see the way the father reacted when the prodigal son returned home.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
Notice that when the son was still a long way off his father recognised him. He did not wait for the son to come all the way to him but he ran to meet the son, showing him compassion and love that he had returned.
This is how God reacts to the people of the world who begin to seek Him out. While they are still far off, that is, when they first start to show a glimmer of interest in seeking the ways of The Lord, He reveals himself and shows compassion and love so that they will find Him.
This love and compassion is not the same as grace. This love and compassion is the recognition that the person is seeking. They receive grace later when they make their decision and come fully to Christ. Grace is the fullness of the love and the receiving of the promises of God that we obtain when we enter and become citizens of the kingdom of God.
And often we who have been Christians a long time forget the bounty of these promises just as the brother of the prodigal son forgot what he had. But like his father, our Father in heaven says the same thing to us as the prodigals father said to the elder son in Luke 15:31.
And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.
That is the promise of grace. In Jesus Christ when we enter the door by faith into the kingdom of God we receive and have access to all the promises of God. And like the elder brother of the prodigal son, all that the father has is ours. We shall inherit the earth and the kingdom through Jesus Christ our saviour and this is the promise of grace to us that is accessed by faith in Jesus Christ alone.
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