From: The Grace Awakening
What exactly is grace? And is it limited to Jesus’s life and ministry? You may be surprised to know that Jesus never used the word. He just taught it, and, equally important, he lived it. Furthermore, the Bible never gives us a one-statement definition, though grace appears throughout its pages – not only the word itself but numerous demonstrations of it. Understanding what grace means requires our going back to an old Hebrew term that meant “to bend, to stoop.” By and by, it came to include the idea of “condescending favor.”
If you have traveled to London, you have perhaps seen royalty. If so, you may have noticed sophistication, aloofness, distance. On occasion, royalty in England will make the news because someone in the ranks of nobility will stop, kneel down, and touch or bless a commoner. That is grace. There is nothing in the commoner that deserves being noticed or touched or blessed by the royal family. But because of grace in the heart of the royal person, there is the desire at that moment to pause, to stoop, to touch, even to bless.
The late pastor and Bible scholar Donald Barnhouse said it best: “Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward if affection; love that stoops is grace.”
To show grace is to extend favor or kindness to one who doesn’t deserve it and can never earn it. Receiving God’s acceptance by grace always stands in sharp contrast to earning it on the basis of works. Every time the thought of grace appears, there is the idea of its being undeserved. In no way is the recipient getting what he or she deserves. Favor is being extended simply out of the goodness of the heart of the giver.
I vividly remember my last spanking. It was on my thirteenth birthday, as a matter of fact. Having just broken into the sophisticated ranks of the teen world, I thought I was something on a stick. My father wasn’t nearly as impressed as I was with my great importance and newfound independence. I was lying on my bed. He was outside the window on a muggy October afternoon in Houston, weeding the garden. He said, “Charles, come out and help me weed the garden.” I said something like: “No. It’s my birthday, remember?” My tone was sassy and my deliberate lack of respect was eloquent. I knew better than to disobey my dad; but, after all, I was the ripe old age of thirteen. He set a new 100-meter record that autumn afternoon. He was in the house and all over me like white on rice, spanking me all the way out to the garden. As I recall, I weeded until the moonlight was shining on the pansies.
That same night he took me out to a surprise dinner. Earlier he had given me what I deserved. Later he gave me what I did not deserve. The birthday dinner was grace. He condescended in favor upon this rebellious young man. That evening I enjoyed what a proper theologian named Benjamin Warfield called “free sovereign favor to the ill-deserving.” I enjoyed grace.
One more thing should be emphasized about grace: It is absolutely and totally free. You will never be asked to pay it back. You couldn’t even if you tried. Most of us have trouble with that thought, because we work for everything we get. As the old saying goes, “There ain’t no free lunch.”
But in this case, grace comes to us free and clear, no strings attached. We should not even try to repay it; to do so is insulting.
Imagine going to the house of a friend who has invited you over to enjoy a meal. You finish the delicious meal and then listen to some fine music and visit for a while. Finally, you stand up and get your coat as you prepare to leave. But before you leave, you reach into your pocket and say, “Now, how much do I owe you?” What an insult! You don’t do that with someone who has graciously given you a meal. Isn’t it strange, though, how this world is running over with people who think there’s something they must do to pay God back? Somehow they are hoping God will smile on them if they work really hard and earn his acceptance, but that’s an acceptance on the basis of works. That’s not the way it is with grace.
And now that Christ has come and died and thereby satisfied the Father’s demands on sin, all we need to do is claim his grace by accepting the free gift of eternal life. Period. He smiles on us because of his Son’s death and resurrection. It’s grace, my friend, amazing grace. That is enough to give anybody a “Yes” face!