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Culture as a Vehicle of Grace

Spreading grace unto thanksgiving.

What Is Culture For? (4)

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all…
1 Thessalonians 3.12

For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4.15

Not a thing in itself
We have seen that the end of culture, the reason God has given gifts of culture to human beings, is to express His love. The purpose of culture is to bear witness to the love of God and to enable us to love our neighbors unto the glory of God. God is determined not merely to glorify Himself in all manner of made things, but to have His glory—expressed as love—be known throughout the world (Ps. 19.1; Hab. 2.14).

Put another way, the culture God allows us to make and enjoy, and which He intends as a witness to His love and a means for loving Him and our neighbors, is an important vehicle for spreading His grace in the world. Culture can be a vehicle of the grace of God when it is received as a token of His love and used for expressing love.

As a warm knife spreads savory butter over a waiting piece of toast, so the gifts of culture can spread the grace of God for the blessing of the world. And since grace is the sine qua non for salvation, using the culture God grants us as vehicles of His grace must be part of our Christian approach to culture.

Some examples
Many examples from Scripture show culture being used to spread God’s grace to others. The making of books, for example, or showing hospitality to others. Using our tithes and offerings to care for the widows and the poor. Establishing officers as shepherds in the church, to care for God’s flock. Offering one’s home as a place for worship, fellowship, and study. Preaching the Gospel to lost people. Even collecting taxes to support government at various levels (Rom. 13.1-4).

These are examples of culture being used in ways designed to express love for others—culture as a vehicle of grace. Using culture this way will not save anyone; however, doing so can create a witness to grace or an environment of grace that lends credibility to the message of grace which we proclaim to our world.

Scripture also shows culture being used to show love for God and to offer Him thanks and praise. Abel made a sacrifice to honor God, giving up of his own flock to glorify the Lord. Noah built an ark as an act of loving obedience to God and love for His creatures. Abraham built altars, the people of Israel built a tabernacle and, later, a Temple, and David wrote wonderful songs and played musical instruments. All of this was done to say to God, “We hear You, Lord, and we’re grateful for Your redeeming grace and steadfast love, and by these gifts of culture we declare to You our love and gratitude.”

So it’s clear that culture can serve as a vehicle of the grace of God and thus play a role in the work of grace that leads to salvation. The grace of God reaches others through the gifts of culture, and culture enables us to give thanks and praise to God. But does this mean that all our cultural activities should be so intended?

It does, indeed.

The abiding thing
According to Paul, love is the greatest and only abiding virtue (1 Cor. 13.13). When all else fades and is gone, love will remain. The Christian must do nothing but what is motivated by love for God and neighbors. We must strive to increase in love and to be more consistent in it. If we’re going to engage our cultural lives for anything other than love of God and neighbors, that would be a diversion from our primary purpose and calling.

Faith working by love (Gal. 5.6) is the full-time calling of the believer, no matter what our calling or station in life (1 Cor. 7.19, 20). So whatever our cultural interests and activities may be, whatever kinds or forms of cultural engagement we may take up, we must, if we are to be consistent, make certain that love for God and neighbors are the guiding principles behind all we do. We must discover ways of using the gifts of culture as vehicles of grace.


This may involve something as simple as paying more attention to our cultural lives, with a view to serving God with the gifts He provides. The fool says in his heart that there is no God, and so he doesn’t have to think about how God might be honored or His character displayed in his cultural activities. Christians must not live this way, as Paul insisted (Eph. 5.15-17). The Christian trusts in the Lord with all his heart and leans only on the understanding of God and the mind of Christ so that, in all our activities we acknowledge, serve, and display the reality of the living God, Who is love (Prov. 3.5, 6; 1 Cor. 2.16).

There is no place in our cultural lives for anything that is merely self-serving or self-aggrandizing. We have been redeemed by Jesus Christ to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and not ourselves to the exclusion of our neighbors. We are redeemed in Jesus Christ for good works of love. Thus all that God entrusts to us can be employed in spreading His grace to others, leading to increased thanks and praise to Him.

It’s clear we’re going to have to give our cultural activities some more careful thought and prayerful consideration.

We may, of course, engage in cultural activities to prepare or refresh ourselves, so that we become better equipped to love our neighbors in meaningful ways; but we must never lose sight, in whatever we may be doing, of the overarching requirement of all culture and life, which is to show love to God and neighbors as the one abiding thing and to increase praise and thanks to Him for His constant goodness and love.

For reflection
1. Would it be fair to say that, apart from culture, it is impossible to fulfill our calling as agents of grace to our world? Explain.

2. Suggest some ways of becoming more “mindful” about your own engagement with culture, that is, that you may be more continuously aware of the power of culture to spread the grace of God.

3. How can using culture to spread the grace of God help to increase thanks and praise to the Lord?

Next steps--Demonstration: Today, make a conscious effort to use a few aspects of your everyday culture in a new way, to spread the grace of God to someone in your Personal Mission Field. Commit this effort to the Lord, and give Him thanks for every opportunity to serve others with the gifts of culture He provides.

T. M. Moore

Two books on culture are available to accompany this series on “A Christian Approach to Culture.” Christians on the Front Lines of the Culture Wars shows how important it is that we consider culture as a way of bringing glory to God. Order your copy by clicking here. Redeeming Pop Culture examines the nature of pop culture and some ways we can make good use of it for God’s glory. Order your copy by clicking here.

Support for ReVision comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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