What is God’s grace? Please do not insult us with the “unmerited favor” definition which is anemic, offensive, and an affront to the majesty of that grace. Webster’s says it is an “unmerited divine assistance” which is a grievous mischaracterization. I contend that words can only draw a stick figure without the dimension and color it surely deserves. However words are all we have for now. But I also contend that for those of us who have experienced the unfathomable grace of God, we know much more than we can put into words. But I will attempt to pull together some poor words and at least create a lowly mental picture which is still to the glory of God.
To understand God’s grace on any level we must understand the condition of those upon whom God has bestowed His grace. The entire human race is what we call “fallen”. That means that through the original man named Adam we have inherited his punishment for his sin. And that punishment is a consequence of his sin. The punishment was death. We all die physically, but more lethal we all are born in sin and have the eternal sentence of spiritual death woven into our very being. We are not mostly bad and a little good. We are completely unrighteous without one single shred of righteousness of our own.
That is a very difficult concept to embrace in this age of self esteem and positive thinking. But it is true nonetheless. The Scriptures declare us to be “dead in trespasses and sins”. So how many good works can a dead man do? The answer of course is none. There are no levels of being dead. Dead is dead, completely and without partiality. All of us were born dead in Adam’s sin. But do not think too harshly of Adam, for all of us have energetically added to Adam’s sin and increased his portfolio of death in our own lives. No one will be able to accuse God of applying Adam’s sin upon us and that being the entirety of the evidence against us. Oh no, we have sinned ourselves with vigor and abandon.
So there we all stand. Regardless of who feeds the poor or helps the aged we all still fall short of God’s glory. Line up the entire human race on the Pacific shore of California and tell them to swim to Hawaii. Now some cannot swim at all and will drown in minutes. Many can swim for a half and hour, while others may swim for several hours, and even some may swim as much as 100 miles. But in the end, no one can swim the necessary 3000 miles to Hawaii. The end result is the same for everyone - death by drowning. And regardless of anyone’s earthly good works the end result is the same - dead in trespasses and sins.
Quite a predicament for the human race. And against that canvas we begin to paint the fresco of God’s matchless grace. Keep in mind there was nothing about us that would warrant God’s attention, much less His intervention. Adam had been given perfection and rejected it. And God knew that all of us if given that same chance would have done likewise. So the very first thing to understand about God’s grace is that it was not a mutual negotiation. It originated wholly from God even while man did not want or seek it.
Now when we say something like “Then God decided…” we give human qualities to the Creator and actually misrepresent God and His nature. God does not decide, He already knows. I realize God allows us some anthropomorphic imagery and God even provides some of that for our benefit, but we must always be careful about such things. When God created us he already had prepared the way for His Son to provide the redemption that we would so desperately need. From our side history unfolds, but from God’s side the future is history.
As spiritually dead men we needed life. But since we could not do anything to earn that life, we needed the Giver of Life to come to our aid with something more than pity or even mercy. We needed the gift of life and we needed it without one shred of our own good works, good intentions, or even our own asking. And in an absolutely stunning turn of events, God offered a grace in which He would actually adopt us.
I refer you to this post several years ago.