The word “grace” is a charming word. It has a pleasant ring to it. There is a hymn in our Lutheran Hymnal that begins: “Grace! ’tis a charming sound, harmonious to the ear. . .” But what does it mean, and what is its significance?
Words change over time. They take on different meanings to different people depending upon their understanding and the circumstances. Today grace means many different things. Grace is a female name. It may be used to describe elegance or dignity, or even movement. It is used to describe a period of time following a due date- a grace period. One could fall into another’s “bad grace.” A little closer to the spiritual, it may even refer to prayer as to say “grace.”
The definition that elicits the first line of the song quoted above is that which is near and dear to the Christian heart. The Christian recognizes grace as the “unmerited favor and love of God.” Grace is “undeserved love!” Grace comes from God the Father because “God is love.” It is shown to sinful man who by reason of sin deserves divine wrath and everlasting punishment. Yet God is gracious, and manifests grace to sinful man, not because man deserves, but because God is good!
The apostle Paul described himself as “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). One reason for that personal assessment was that fact that “I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9). Paul was undeserving of anything but divine wrath and judgment. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. . . (Romans 5:8,10). That is grace! Paul further rejoiced in the undeserved love of God toward him as he testified that “the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant” (1 Timothy 1: 14) toward him. Paul testified to this abundant grace in the beautiful words of Ephesians 2: 8: ” For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” Paul was saved! He had a future. In heaven. With the Father. Forever. Not by works or personal merit. Not by infused grace! By grace, pure and simple. The sinner is saved by grace alone through faith alone! Period. Scripture says, ” And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace; but if it is of works, it is no longer of grace; otherwise work is no more work” (Romans 11:6).
Life itself is a time of grace, a time of God’s undeserved love toward us in every way. Life is a time of undeserved love for it is the time during which the Father in heaven would bring us to faith, that faith which apprehends the grace of God. God showed His grace to all in the person of Jesus Christ. He calls all through the means of grace- the Gospel in Word and Sacrament in order that “faith which comes by hearing” may be created in the heart, for without faith in Christ it is not possible to enter into eternal life. Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is the bottom stone of Christian teaching! Listen carefully when you hear, “Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1), Paul asks. He answers his own question: “Certainly not” ( 6:2)! By God’s grace we are saved through faith. Not to sin but to live to God’s glory in this life, until the grace of God is fully appreciated in heaven, forever.
Grace first inscribed my name
In God’s eternal book;
‘Twas grace that gave me to the Lamb,
Who all my sorrows took.