The Gift of God's Grace

PULPIT: The Gift of God's Grace

What does the word "Grace" really mean

Professor Emeritus of Archaeology, S.D.A. Theological Seminary

Paul says he was called through the grace of God to reveal Christ among the Gentiles. (Gal. 1:15, 16.) Many well-known definitions of grace come to mind readily, all of which express an attitude of God toward man. But may not Paul have found a deeper meaning in this word? Could he not have been attracted by such attributes of God as would cause him to aspire to be a bond slave of the One he had learned to love, and to spend his life in loving service, coveting only a like experience for all his associates?

Fullerton, in his Legacy of Bunyan, London, 1928, page 83, thinks grace

"includes purpose, and good will, and love; and we do it wrong and therefore maim ourselves, if we esteem it only as a perfumed sentiment, a favorable inclination, and not as a glorious energy moving toward the race with the fullness and majesty of the ocean tide."

On page 100 he says, "God created man that He might give him of Himself."

Oscar Hardman, of the University of London, in The Christian Doctrine of Grace, London, 1937, page 34, amplifies Fullerton's thought by saying:

"God's love has been challenged by the rebellion of the men and women whom he has created in His own image; and His grace or 'radiant adequacy,' as it has been strikingly called, moves forth by the agency of the Holy Spirit for man's deliverance from ignorance and sin."

Again, on page 30, he speaks of God's grace as one of His attributes, saying, "We believe God is full of grace, in the original sense of the term, which carries the idea of surpassing loveliness and beauty of character."

Now look back for a moment and meditate on these definitions: Grace is "glorious energy," the very likeness of God, a "radiant adequacy," yes, a "surpassing loveliness and beauty of character." Add to these, statements made fifty years ago on this important subject by the pen of inspiration, such as: "To learn of Christ means to receive His grace, which is His character." Christ's Object Lessons, p. 271. Grace seems to be a wonderful attribute of God extended not to heavenly beings but only to sinners in this world.

"God loves the sinless angels, who do His service and are obedient to all His commands; but He does not give them grace: they have never needed it; for they have never sinned. Grace is an attribute shown to undeserving human beings. We did not seek after it; it was sent in search of us. God rejoices to bestow grace upon all who hunger and thirst for it." Testimonies to Ministers, p. 519.

God hungers for man to become a mere receptacle for the manifestation of such a character. The story is told of a rich estate owner who offered a neighboring peasant an enormous price for his adjoining property. Greatly pleased, the peasant had his cottage redone at considerable expense, making it as presentable as possible. Imagine his feelings when the owner said, "Why did you spend all this money for nothing? I did not want your cottage, I wanted your location!"

As far remote from our present day as 1880, Bishop R. C. Trench, of Westminster Abbey, in his Synonyms of the New Testament, pages 169, 168, speaks of grace as "that glorious attribute of God," and refers even to Aristotle as saying it "is conferred freely, with no expectation of return, and finding, its only motive in the bounty and freeheartedness of the giver."

God's Delight

Paul emphasizes the thought that it is God's delight to take souls steeped in sin and to trans form the desert of selfishness into a rose garden selflessly reflecting the very character of Christ, for he exclaims, "Where sin abounded grace did abound more exceedingly!" Rom. 5:20, R.V. Thus man, in offering God merely a location, is enabled through the miraculous contrast of divine and human action to present to the universe a living temple, built on Christ as a foundation, manifesting God's perfection as seen in His freehearted wisdom, truth, justice, and mercy. (See Eph. 2:19-22.) And the beauty of it is that this temple is not finished in any period of time, but is to be eternally enriched by the presence and control of the Holy Spirit.

"In proportion as the Lord has made them the depositaries of sacred truth will be their desire that others shall receive the same blessing. And as they make known the rich treasures of God's grace, more and still more of the grace of Christ will be imparted to them." Christ's Object Lessons, p. 125.

Thus not only does each individual living temple glory in the priceless opportunity of reflecting the attributes of Christ to the world at large, but the "spirit of love and the grace of Christ will bind heart to heart" (Gospel Workers, p. 468), and will "create and perpetuate peace" (The Desire of Ages, p. 305). Such a peace is nothing less than a cessation from all hostility. Man's selfish ways disappear, and he becomes the active exponent of heaven's philosophy of life. To possess the very image of Christ will be the height of all ambition and the acme of all accomplishment.

Transformation of Character

"The Lord Jesus is making experiments on human hearts through the exhibition of His mercy and abundant grace. He is effecting transformations so amazing that Satan, with all his triumphant boasting, with all his confederacy of evil united against God and the laws of His government, stands viewing them as a fortress impregnable to his sophistries and delusions. They are to him an incomprehensible mystery." Testimonies to Ministers, p. 18.

Those who will accept these attributes, en gendered by the Holy Spirit, will receive a new endowment of physical, mental, and spiritual power, having the inexhaustible supplies of heaven at their command, and thus achieve victories that, because of their erroneous and pre conceived opinions, their defects of character, and smallness of faith, have seemed impossible. (See Ministry of Healing, p. 159.) The holy character and the very life of Christ are im parted freely to all who will receive them, and thus the human character is built up after the similitude of the divine character. (See The Desire of Ages, p. 762.) God thus gives man a purpose or destiny so far above his natural capacity and power that it can be accomplished only through His special creative assistance. And this assistance is offered "through the mighty agency of the third person of the God head, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power," to make "effectual what has been wrought out by the world's Redeemer." (The Desire of Ages, p. 671.) This power works from within, quickening the lifeless faculties of the soul and attracting it to God (Steps to Christ, p. 20), and thus is overcome the corruption that is in the world through lust (Christ's' Object Lessons, p. 251).

Grace as an attribute thus becomes the foundation of the Christian's hope (The Great Controversy, p. 256), and makes the partaker as precious in God's sight as His own Son (Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 60). It is an attribute without which every soul would have been bankrupt for eternity (Gospel Workers, p. 166), but which is freely given by the Holy Spirit in response to the slightest prayer of the sinner (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 206).

"There is a remedy for the sin-sick soul. That remedy is in Jesus. Precious Saviour! His grace is sufficient for the weakest; and the strongest must also have His grace or perish. I saw how this grace could be obtained. Go to your closet, and there alone plead with God: 'Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 158.

Inasmuch as Christ is the very image of His Father, Paul links the two in all his opening salutations recorded in his letters, saying, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." What a glorious thought, to realize that at last Christ's prayer recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John will be realized! "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." John 17:23.

 

 


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Professor Emeritus of Archaeology, S.D.A. Theological Seminary

November 1952

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