The more one grows in Christian understanding and experience the more amazing and precious becomes the grace of God.
We are saved by grace and kept by grace, but too few of us realize this fact. We are confronted with an ever recurring temptation to attribute our salvation and any growth in Christian maturity to our own efforts and sense of worthiness.
The pride of self-accomplishment is a deadly sin. It stands between many and a saving experience with Christ.
Our salvation depends solely on the grace of God, and our continuing peace with him has been bought by our Saviour at unbelievable cost.
Without an understanding of this saving and keeping grace from God, we are engaged in an unending struggle to attain. But when we come to realize that everything we are or ever hope to be is the result of God’s unmerited favor, then our hearts are filled with love and gratitude to the One who has made this possible.
As we deepen in Christian faith and experience, we become increasingly aware of the innate sinfulness of the human heart. To know that our salvation is a fact, despite repeated failures, comes from an understanding of the implications of divine grace.
This grace is an attitude of God toward sinners which we in no sense deserve. It rests solely on the merits of Jesus Christ and, so far as mankind is concerned, is made operative through faith alone.
We receive by grace the mercy and forgiveness of God entirely independent of human endeavor, and the faith by which we receive this is itself a work of the Holy Spirit—a matter of divine grace.
Grace means exemption from a penalty which we deserve and forgiveness where punishment is justified. It is divinely-given assistance to the weak, a change of status through the imputed righteousness of Christ.
Not only are we saved by grace through faith, but we are kept by the continuing grace of him who has begun a good work in our hearts.
For some of us, who were raised in Christian homes and enjoyed the blessings of a godly heritage, conversion was as a gentle breeze, a change so quiet that we cannot remember the day when we said in our hearts a conscious and final “Yes” to the Saviour.
Because we have grown up in the church, we are inclined to feel that our own goodness is woven in the warp and woof of Christian experience. We forget the most vital and precious truth that the finest Christian is just a sinner saved by grace.
Others have traveled a different road to the Cross. They have tasted the depths of human depravity and know the misery of conscious separation from God.
Seeing themselves in the light of God’s holiness, these individuals have recognized both the fact and the wages of sin; conversion to them has been a climactic experience, the loving grace of God a wonderful thing.
What a pity that the old hymn, “Amazing Grace,” is so rarely sung today! John Newton, its author, had experienced the soul-searing effect of sin in the flesh. And when he came to know the precious truth that God had descended in human form and taken his sins on His own sinless body, he marveled:
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
You and I, cultured, educated, sophisticated, and modern, need to realize that we need this saving grace as much as any criminal on death row in Sing Sing or ignorant savage in the jungles of Ecuador.
The self-satisfaction that characterizes the attitude of so many of us is not only an offense to a holy God but also a barrier between us and the One who can make us acceptable to God.
We said above that grace is a matter of God forgiving and cleansing undeserving sinners. But it is more than that. By God’s grace we can continue to be his children after we have been redeemed.
A quiet examination of our own lives shows us how far short we come to fulfilling his will after we have received salvation. Day after day we continue to be guilty of sins of the flesh and of the spirit; sins of omission and commission. But for the grace of God we could never continue as his children. Were it not for this unmerited favor we would still find ourselves standing before him in judgment.
What a difference grace makes! The Christian is but a sinner over whom the spotless robe of the altogether lovely One has been cast.
The Chinese character for “righteousness” is rather remarkable. It is composed of two separate characters, one standing for a lamb, and the other for “me,” the personal pronoun. When the character for lamb is placed directly above the one standing for me, a new character is formed—Righteousness.
This is the meaning of the grace of God. Between me, the sinner, and God the holy One there is interposed by faith the Lamb of God; and by virtue of that act on his part he has received me on the ground of faith, and I have become righteous in God’s sight.
In his paean of praise John Newton continued:
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Many of us fail to appreciate the grace of God because we fail to see the awfulness of sin as it must appear to the eyes of a holy God.
A theological truth we only too often neglect is that even the ability to come to Christ is an act of God’s grace. Our Lord said: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” We are all familiar with Paul’s words: “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Any boasting of our own achievements is an offense to God and a denial of his grace.
Paul, writing to the Roman Christians, says: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
This justification is an act of God’s grace, and the faith to believe is also his gracious gift.
To grasp something of the amazing grace of God will result inevitably in our loving him more and our finding a greater sense of security.
In these days when serenity of mind and security of heart are so hard to find, we need only turn to the grace of God whereby we may receive everything necessary for our lives—now and for eternity.
L. NELSON BELL
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
More from this Issue
Read These Next
- TrendingRussell Moore: I Already Miss Tim Keller’s Wise VoiceThe late pastor theologian gave strong counsel to me and so many others in ministry.
- From the MagazineWhen Politics Saved 25 Million LivesTwenty years ago, Republicans, Democrats, evangelicals, gay activists, and African leaders joined forces to combat AIDS. Will their legacy survive today’s partisanship?
- Editor's PickHow to Stay Hitched When Your Wife Ditches YouHarrison Scott Key’s latest book gives a tragi-comic take on the Christian humility required to stay married.