If grace isn’t just God’s way of getting us off the hook, then what is it for?
Does grace have a purpose?
I’ve been putting a good bit of time into studying what the Bible has to say about the purposes of grace. I’ve even put it together into a spreadsheet which is still taking shape. There’s much more to study. It’s been slow going, with much to absorb, and many other things competing for my attention. I had thought about waiting to complete the spreadsheet before writing another entry, but that would take too long. So you’re welcome to peek at the work in progress, knowing that it will be rough.
But even unfinished, the chart is showing an undeniable trend.
Grace is all about God’s enablement of man’s participation in the marvelous truth of Rom 11:36.
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
I think we all understand that grace is something that comes from God. But do we realize that it goes back to Him as well?
Grace has a purpose.
As I’ve said, my study isn’t complete. But let’s look at what sorts of things God has given grace for in the verses I’ve studied so far (note that sometimes "grace" is referred to as "favor." Also note that the word "gracious" means "full of grace"):
- Allowing people to see God (Ex 33:19)
- Compassion, survival, access to God (2Ki 13:23)
- Covenant blessings restored (2Ch 30:9)
- Preservation of a remnant to be saved, a stake in the Holy Place, new life, light to the eyes (Ezra 9:8)
- The ability to rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra 9:9)
- Favor in the King’s sight and strength in God (both given so that Nehemiah could accomplish what God wanted him to do) (Neh 2:8)
- Not being abandoned or destroyed (Neh 9:17, Neh 9:31)
- Being saved from eternal ruin (Job 33:24)
- Causing God’s wonderful works to be remembered (Ps 111:4)
- Light shining in the darkness (Ps 112:4)
- Instruction to keep us from the way of deceit (Ps 119:29)
- Being led on level ground and taught to do God’s Will (Ps 143:10)
- (By implication) being able to worship God instead of idols (Jer 16:13)
- The ability to recognize the Messiah, to mourn over past sins, and to repent with weeping (Zec 12:10)
- The ability to love our enemies because of God’s grace toward His enemies (Luke 6:35)
- Love for God (Luke 7:42)
- The ability to bear powerful witness for God (Acts 4:33)
- Power to perform miracles to the glory of God (Acts 6:8, Acts 14:3)
- Salvation (Acts 11:23, Acts 15:11, Acts 18:27, Rom 5:21)
- Empowerment to do the work God has assigned us (Acts 14:26, Acts 15:40, 1Co 3:10)
- Bringing about the obedience of faith on behalf of His Name (Rom 1:5)
- Justification (Rom 3:24)
- Righteousness, reigning in life (Rom 5:17)
- Victory over sin (Rom 6:14)
- Having the ability to say what God wants us to say (Rom 12:3)
- Boldness for God (Rom 15:15)
- Becoming what God wants us to be. Becoming hard workers (1Co 15:10)
This is just some of what I’ve found, and I haven’t finished working my way through the New Testament yet.
Do you see the pattern? What sorts of purposes for grace did you see in the list above? Being brought into God's family, being made right with God, becoming obedient to God, having the ability to remember His works, being able to understand His Word and His ways, having fellowship with God and others, effectively serving God…is this Godwardness what you think of when you think of grace?
Grace is not just from God. It’s accomplishing a work for God in bringing us to God. Just as His Word does not return to Him without doing what He wants it to do (Isa 55:11), so His grace has a purpose to accomplish (2Ti 1:9), and our grace-empowered work will prove that the grace was not given to us in vain (1Co 15:10).
Grace is undeserved favor given with a goal in mind.
“Wait,” you may say. “Does that mean that God expects payback, like a negotiator who says, ‘I’ll give you grace if you give me X?’”
No, that’s not it at all. But you may have noticed that there are verses which make grace sound conditional, like it’s something to be earned. Some examples from the spreadsheet are Amos 5:15, Joel 2:13, Ps 119:132, and Pr 3:34.
So which is it? Is grace freely given and un-earned? Or is it given with preconditions, with some kind of "catch?"
Our next entry will look at the apparent paradox of "conditional grace."