Grace is often defined as 'favour' given to someone by God and this I think is a very good description of grace for the start of this discussion. In a wider sense grace is 'Jesus Christ living in us and the result and benefit of that in our lives'. But for now we can use the simpler definition, that Grace is God giving us favour!You see we have all 'missed the mark' where living up to God's standards is concerned and that has brought upon all mankind the death penalty. To have a better outcome than death we need the 'favour' of God!
Rom 3:21-24 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
The apostle John in John 1:17 also makes it abundantly clear that 'grace and truth' came by Jesus christ so it's not unreasonable to see the men of faith of the Old Testament times as ones living under the covenant of grace but out of time. This is in a similar sense to Paul seeing himself as an apostle born out of due time.
Because grace is so important in our daily lives you will notice that it's always near the top of the list of things that Paul put's in his salutations at the beginning of his letters. Grace is one of the things that we need 24/7 which is why Paul is always putting it in our minds! If we look at 1 Cor 15:9-10 we will see that Paul attributes the fruit brought forth in his life as due to the grace of God given to him, and he attributes the labours he put into the work of God as being not his own but the grace of god!
1Co 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and am not sufficient to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which was toward me has not been without fruit, but I labored more abundantly than all of them; yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
It's interesting to compare the different statements Paul makes about
Grace with those he makes about Jesus Christ.
Of course this dovetails with Paul's statements in Romans that of himself
he could do nothing good. What enabled/empowered him to do the will of the
Father was faith in Jesus and the grace of God.
Col 1:3-6 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love you have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven, of which you heard before in the Word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you as it has also in all the world, and it is bearing fruit, even also among you, since the day you heard and fully knew the grace of God in truth,
Now these are people who did not come up through the Jewish religious
system and it's interesting to see to what Paul attributes their bearing
fruit to the gospel. It's not because they've finally been given the
correct set of laws to practice. Rather, he tells them that the word of
truth is bearing fruit in them since the day they fully knew the grace
of God in truth! The grace (favour/empowerment) and truth that were
brought by Jesus Christ.
Rom 5:20-21 But the Law entered so that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, so that as sin has reigned to death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
As Paul says in Romans chapter 6 verse 14. - Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under Law but under grace.
Sin "will" have dominion over us though if we are attempting
to 'live' through Law keeping. The Law will hold us captive - in bondage.
The law can show that you are guilty. It cannot take away your guilt.
But through Jesus, who died on the cross taking away all our sins, we have
redemption and are freely justified by his grace. Now being justified by
grace we are heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
(Romans 3:24, Titus 3:7)
Gal 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith:.
Just to give an example. The man of law needs everything to be spelt out so that he knows what to do. As a result there are over 600 laws in the OT for a farming society! It give details of all the people, etc., individually that one should not have relations with outside of marriage for instance.
The NT says "A man must be the husband of one woman"; "If he lusts after anyone else he commits adultery"; "fornicators will not enter the kingdom".
The Holy Spirit leads the Christian to understand how the details are applied as situations arise in his/her life. He/she does not need it spelt out as to which relative he may not get involved with and have to refer to a list. He understands that pre-marital sex is a 'no'. He knows he is to marry one woman only.
Once we had a heart of stone and we tried to live by Laws written on
tablets of stone and could not. As Christians we have a new spirit and a
new heart of flesh and are led by the Holy Spirit of Christ who writes
with the grace of God on the fleshly tablets of our heart and so we
follow Jesus' promptings in our spirit. On the other hand the man of law
does not trust the Holy Spirit to lead him. He insists on being led by law.
But, the law is not of faith. So insisting on following law means that you
have to do it in your own strength.
2Co 5:15 ...and he (Jesus) died for all, that they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again.We no longer live a selfish, self-centered, (soulish) lifestyle but live to Jesus' pattern of life. We can say as Paul also said in Rom 1:16-17...
Rom 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
So knowing the love that God has for us, let us live by faith in God and access the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ which is able to save us. Let us maintain fellowship with the Holy Spirit and build the kind of relationship with God that was exemplified by the men and women of faith who went before us. Let us walk in faith and live by grace.
Then we will truly apprehend that the kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. And there is no condemnation now for those who are in Christ Jesus.
May the love of God and the grace of out Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all forever.