“Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people” (Isaiah 62:10).
We began our descent from the precipice down toward the Valley of Crossing on our way to the Place called Grace.
“But I’ve always been taught that Grace was unmerited favor,” someone in the pack calls out. And then another says, “Yeah, even the Bible dictionaries say that’s what Grace is!”
“Yeah,” says another, “My Professor at the Seminary told me this.”
And yet one more chimes is, “That’s what my Pastor preaches all the time.”
We now have a potential coup on our hands, so we must stop a little longer and address these legitimate concerns.
I fully understand that “unmerited favor” is the conventional view of Grace held near and dear across the vast reach of the Christian Church. But, I also know without a doubt that this is NOT what the New Testament teaches, and it is not what the first followers of Jesus believed. And I will to the best of my limited abilities demonstrate this in the following days as we journey onward together.
But the question for now is, “How did we come to this?”
Perhaps these Scales will help me provide you a satisfactory answer.
Using the King James Bible as our Lab, a search will show that the word “grace” occurs a total of 170 times – 39 times in the Old Testament, and 131 times in the New Testament. Clearly the NT tips the scales.
But there is more to consider. Of the 131 New Testament occurrences, the Apostle Paul accounts for 99 of those times. Clearly, the scale tips once more – and Paul is the man with the answer.
Nobody in history had a clearer and deeper understanding of Grace than did the Apostle Paul. He, being Jewish and fully acquainted with the OT, had a life-defining encounter with the Lord Jesus that changed his view about Grace completely. And if we want to understand what Grace truly is, then we must listen to what Paul wrote about it in the NT.
For the record, each time the OT uses the word “grace” it does in fact mean favor. The word derives from a root expression meaning “to bend, or stoop in kindness to an inferior” (see Strong’s #2580, and #2603).
However, the New Testament use of the word took on an entirely new meaning, and this is what radically altered Paul’s world. Today, we are attempting to live in a New Testament era while holding to an Old Testament belief. We need the same revelation about grace, which God gave to Paul.
“I am what I am by the grace of God,” he wrote. “And His grace given to me was not in vain, for I labored more abundantly than they all; yet it was not me, but the grace of God in me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10). God’s grace empowered him to fully do God’s will.
Paul is known and loved far and wide as the Apostle of Grace, for the revelation of this world-changing truth flowed from his inspired writing even as he was under-going some of the greatest challenges any one person could ever face. Truly God empowered Paul with His Presence to completely fulfill his mission with stellar success — crossing the finish line, showered with shouts of praise in Heaven!
So, let’s pick up from here and move forward; in the days ahead your questions and concerns will be fully satisfied.