Abounding Grace (2)
We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of 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 is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth… Colossians 1.3-6
… but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3.18
What happens when someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ? We have said that grace is a divine disposition – God looks on us with favor, compassion, and love. Grace is further a divine communication – He tells us of His love by one means or another, especially by showing us the work of Jesus. And grace is divine power which accomplishes God’s good and gracious purposes. Ultimately, it’s the power of grace that makes life-changing impact on us. But we will never understand the wonder or power of grace until we’re clear about the question of how grace works to save us. We insist that salvation is all of grace (Eph. 2.8, 9), that no work on our part – not even the work of believing – brings us to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s grace first, and grace always.
Theologians refer to grace as prevenient – coming before. Grace comes before faith, igniting faith, depositing the gift of salvation, and beginning the work of making all things new in our life.
But the wonder of this, the marvel and majesty and mystery of it, is so glorious, that in a series such as this, on grace to help in our time of need, we must not overlook this most fundamental application of grace to a believer’s life.
So what happens when we’re saved?
When grace invades
First, by His grace, God sends the message of Good News to our ears. We’re not looking for it, although we may be searching for something more meaningful and permanent than whatever flimsy worldview we’re clinging to at the moment. But we’re not looking for God – no one ever is (Ps. 14.2, 3). God sends us a Philip (Acts 8.26-40) to lead us into His Word, and to unfold the Good News in terms we can readily understand. Could be a preacher, someone we hear on the radio, a friend or co-worker, or even a member of our family. Someone, moved and empowered by grace, brings the communication of grace to our hearing. That’s grace at work, getting our attention.
But it doesn’t stop there. We can understand the Gospel and still not believe it. We need more than just understanding.
Looking down upon us with a gracious disposition, and communicating grace by the Gospel, God sends His Spirit, Who is the power of His grace, to open our ears and eyes and heart – our soul – and enable us to believe and confess belief in the Good News. Paul outlines this part of the process in Galatians 4.3-7. To us, who are slaves to sin and self-love, God sends His Spirit, on the wings of the Gospel, straight into our heart – not the beating one, but the spiritual one from which flow all the issues of life (Prov. 4.23). Once there, He performs an act of circumcision and excising in our heart. He cuts away the lusts of the flesh, exposing the heart to the pure joy of the Gospel (Deut. 30.1-10); and He tears out the stony, hardened heart that has resisted God for years, and gives us a living heart, beating with new spiritual life (Ezek. 36.26, 27). Then – and Paul makes this very clear – the Holy Spirit Himself assumes our voice, empowering us to call God our Father, thus confirming that He has adopted us through Jesus Christ as His own dear child!
And still there is more. Grace continues to work powerfully from within our soul, implanting the seed of the Gospel as the first sowing of God’s Word into our soul. That seed, firmly planted, can never be removed; it will, by the mystery of grace, work in us so pleasingly, that we will want to sow more of the Word in our hearts. Thus the Word begins to dwell in us richly. And the Spirit cultivates that Word in us, bringing us by it into the presence of God’s glory, and transforming us increasingly into the image of Jesus Christ (Col. 3.16; 2 Cor. 3.12-18).
Finally, by the grace of God at work within us, we receive a new citizenship. We are conveyed out of the kingdom of darkness – where Satan rules by the lie and people rebel against the knowledge of God (Rom. 1.18-32) – into the Kingdom of God’s own dear Son, where righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit become the new air we breathe and agenda we seek (Col. 1.13; Rom. 14.17, 18).
This is how grace operates to bring us salvation. But it doesn’t stop there. Grace implanted becomes empowering grace, which, as it grows and takes deeper root in our soul, brings forth the fruit of grace in the good works for which we have been redeemed and saved (Phil. 2.13; Eph. 2.8-10).
When we are invaded by the grace of God, everything changes – and continues to change.
Bringing forth fruit
Paul saw the evidence of grace at work among the Colossians, just as Barnabas had seen it among the believers in Antioch. Indeed, Paul saw grace at work in every place where the Gospel was being proclaimed. The Gospel was bringing forth fruit throughout the Roman world, Paul insisted, and this was nothing other than the work of saving grace in those who believe.
Paul talks about the fruit of grace in various terms. He mentions the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5.22, 23) as evidence of the grace of God at work within us. The gifts the Spirit gives us for serving others also begin to appear and blossom because of grace (1 Cor. 12.7-11). We become empowered in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ to set aside all our old ways and learn Jesus, increasing in all the tokens of love as God by His grace works powerfully within us (Eph. 4.17-24; 1 Tim. 1.5; 1 Cor. 13.4-7; Phil. 2.13). Grace flows from the Word of God to our heart, mind, and conscience, equipping us for every good work (2 Tim. 3.16, 17), and empowering us to imitate the apostles and Jesus (1 Cor. 4.20; 1 Cor. 11.1). Grace empowers us to take our place within the framework of God’s grace, pressing forward toward His promises, seeking His Kingdom and righteousness, and contributing to the building-up of our fellow believers and our church.
Thus Peter, acknowledging the importance and value of Paul’s teaching (2 Pet. 3.15), urges his readers to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that the grace that abounds to us might abound from us to bring the light of the glory of God to light wherever we go, whatever we’re doing (1 Cor. 10.31).
Grace is amazing! Grace is wonderful and matchless! Grace pardons and cleanses us within, but it is greater even than this: Grace fills and overflows from us, by the inward work of God’s Word and Spirit, so that wave after wave of grace issues to and from within us, to fill the parched, dying world with the presence, promise, and power of Jesus Christ (Jn. 1.16; Eph. 4.8-10).
Thus the abounding grace of God abounds to us, in us, and through us. Wonderful grace of Jesus!
1. What do we mean by saying that grace comes first and always in the life of faith?
2. Grace works to transform us from the inside-out. Explain.
3. How would you counsel a new believer to grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Grace flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ. The better we know Him, the more His grace will do its work in us. Our book, To Know Him, can help you in drawing closer to Jesus and increasing in Him. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Growing in Grace
- T.M. Moore
- September 23, 2019
What happens when grace invades?
Abounding Grace (2)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.