Over and over I hear that we will get to heaven because of Jesus death on the cross and not because of anything we do. I hear, “You can’t earn your way into heaven.” All of this implies that I am without responsibility. What does the Word of God say?
Someone will say, “We are not under law we are under grace.” Now lets look at what God’s word says about “under grace.” Romans 6:14-15 is the only place that phrase appears in the New Testament, so what does it say.
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” kjv
So here you have it. Grace is not a get out of jail free card. Grace is not a pass. This creates a larger problem. What is grace? Let us see if we can find any clues in God’s Word. The first time we see the word grace in God’s Word is in Genesis 6:8.
“And Noah found grace in the eyes of The Lord.”
What happened next? Do you know? He was given something to DO. It was not some little thing like raise your hand or say these words. This job took him and his sons 100 years. All of the cute pictures of the ark are something of an insult to what Noah and his sons had to do. And they did it without any power tools and no lumber yard to deliver the lumber. So how big was this ark? The best I can figure it was 547 feet long and a little over 91 feet wide and 54 feet high. It had 3 levels and each level had rooms. that is over 149,000 square feet of floor space. Oh, and it is free standing, not on a foundation and coated inside and out with tar for waterproofing.
Grace didn’t leave Noah with nothing to do!
In Exodus 33 beginning in verse 16 the term grace appears several times. Each time it seems that it could be a synonym of favor. But once again we see that Moses is given something to do. In Exodus 34:1 God says to Moses, “Hew thee two tables of stone like the first and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which you broke.”
If you are not familiar with this story it is the story of how God delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. How they came to be in bondage is another story. All of these stories are to help us see how God deals with His people.
In the King James Bible the word ‘grace’ appears 39 times in the Old Testament and 131 times in the New Testament.
In the New Testament grace first appears in reference to Jesus in Luke 2:40. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Here the word grace is a the same Greek word that we use when speaking of the gifts of the spirit (charis). This is the word in every appearance in the New Testament King James Bible.
GRACE: The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.
This is the most complete statement that I can find in Strong’s Concordance and Greek Dictionary. Since that is the case lets use that definition and see if it works. I hope I am not violating any rules of proper Bible study if I modify the definition slightly in order to make it usable in our comparison. I will simply eliminate some words and change it to; “divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”
And so beginning with the first appearance of the word grace and looking at a few more references, let us see if this definition will work.
Speaking of Jesus in Luke 2:40 it says, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”) was upon him.”
Also speaking of Jesus in John 1:14 it says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”) and truth.” I notice that the verse unmodified says “and we beheld”. Something was visible!
Then in verses 16 and 17 we see how this grace applies to us. “And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”)(is this grace to the second power?). For the law was given by Moses, but grace (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”) and truth came by Jesus Christ.
This is even spoken of in the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 31:33, God proclaims “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” This seems to me to be a perfect illustration of the definition of grace, in prophesy.
In the book of Acts it speaks of the early Christians and in Acts 4:33 it says, “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”) was upon them all.”
Later in Acts 11:23, When Barnabas went to Antioch it speaks again of grace, “... when he came, and had seen the grace of God (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life,) was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.”
OK, all of that is fine, but how does it apply to being “saved by grace?” This phrase or a form of this phrase only occurs in Ephesians 2 in verses 4-5 and 8. In both instances the definition is almost stated if you read them in context. But you must realize that the context goes at least to the end of chapter 3. Paul was really wordy. Anyway lets plug our definition in here and see how it agrees with the sense of what is being said.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved),” The definition of grace; “divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life”, seems to fit in well with God making us alive. That would surely be a divine influence upon the heart.
Again in verse 8; “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” If grace is a ‘divine influence’, how could anyone take credit or boast of any result as though they were the source of the power.
But now I begin to see a proper relationship between grace and all of the commands of the New Testament: Matthew 5:48, “Therefore be perfect, even as you Father in Heaven is Perfect.”; in Philippians 2:12, “...work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” ; Romans 12:2, “...but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”; and there are many more which if you have looked may have given you some problems.
In Hebrews 4:16 with the help of our definition there may be some clarity.
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
At the throne of “divine influence upon the heart” we can find the help to be transformed and become like Jesus"its reflection in life". It will never come about by acts of our will and when it does occur we will only be able to follow the example of the demoniac, and tell all men what wonderful things God has done for us. (Mark 5:1-20)
Surely it is Jesus; as it says; “but as many as received him, to them gave he POWER to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, BUT OF GOD.”
GRACE: The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.
NOTE: I use the King James Bible because I am use to it and it is commonly acceptable. I also feel that in many cases it is sharper (Heb 4:12) than most of the more modern translations. This is just one person’s opinion.