Paul uses the word “grace” to mean the opposite of “works and unworthiness.” Ephesians 2 vs 8-9: “By grace you have been saved not of works.” “Grace” means undeserved kindness, or favour given without being earned in any way.
The word “mercy” implies someone in difficulty or in defeat receiving kindness. Grace on the other hand, means if anyone gives us anything by grace, it is because we do not deserve it. Anything we deserve, as of right, cannot be ours by grace.
Grace and worthiness cannot be connected in the same act. They are as much opposites as are light and darkness.
Romans 11 vs 6, “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 grace; otherwise work is no longer work.”
So we say we receive God’s grace. We are by that also saying we are unworthy of it and cannot work for it. So we define “grace” as used in the New Testament, to be: The eternal and absolutely free of favour of God shown by His giving spiritual and eternal blessings to guilty and unworthy persons.
God is eternal. Grace is not in any way dependent on human worthiness.
It depends solely on God’s will — not earned by merit, nor lost by guilt. Grace is absolutely free of any human influence.
Therefore, there is nothing that can defeat it once it is given. So God can say: “I have loved you with an ever lasting love.”
Jeremiah 31 vs 3:“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore, with loving kindness I have drawn you.” Such is the glorious basis of our salvation.
Grace is not like a fringe of gold bordering a garment, not like embroidery, decorating a robe, but like the mercy seat of the Tabernacle which was gold — pure gold — all gold, throughout.
Grace cannot be earned by good works. God’s grace refuses to be assisted in what it has to do. Grace is either absolutely free of all influence by us — or it is not at all.
Romans 5 vs 21: “… so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “Grace reigns” says Paul in the above stated scripture. So grace is compared to a king. Sin appears armed with destructive power, inflicting death, so grace appears armed with invincible power, lovingly determined to save.
Romans 5 vs 20, “Moreover the law entered that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more…”
So grace is in control. In other words, those whom God saves by his gracious will are certainly and completely saved. If grace is to reign, therefore, it must be the sole means of salvation. By His gracious will, God must not only begin, but also continue, and complete, the sinner’s salvation. Then it can be certainly said that “grace reigns.”
God’s pardon for our sins comes because of God’s grace.
This pardon is free!
God’s pardon for sin is free. There are no conditions to be fulfilled before it is given. Scripture examples make this clear.
lWhat conditions did Saul of Tarsus fulfil before he was pardoned?
None whatsoever. He was an enemy of God. He received pardon. Not because he fulfilled certain conditions but…
1 Timothy 1 vs 16: “However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all long suffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe in Him for everlasting life.”
Saul of Tarsus, though undeserving, was pardoned “as a pattern” for us of God’s pardoning grace.
lWhat conditions did Zaccheus, or the Samaritan woman or the Philippian jailor, fulfil to obtain pardon?
None whatsoever! Non-deserved to be pardoned.
lWhat conditions did the dying thief perform in order to be pardoned?
lHe was a notorious sinner.
lHis prayer was simple… “Lord remember me!..”
Though this pardon is free to sinners, never forget that it was bought at great cost by Christ
(His death on the cross).
This pardon is full.
Even one sin brings the curse of the law on a sinner. Pardon must be full enough to include every sin and must extend to the worst sins, however, wicked they are, or it would be inadequate. A person with one sin left unpardoned is damned. The blood of Christ has infinite value because of the glorious dignity of Him who shed it.
1 John 1 vs 9:“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The cleansing is for each sin — be it so evil, and from all sins — be they ever, so numerous. All of us are able to cry out loud:
Micah 7 vs 18-19,: “Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.”
Grace is free.
This pardon is ever lasting.
It is irreversible. This is the crowning achievement of a complete pardon. It must be irreversible. And scripture speaks clearly:
Hebrews 8 vs 12: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
This is not a conditional promise, but an absolute one. It does not depend on the subsequent perfect behaviour of the sinner. (If it did, then that pardon would certainly fail to be kept). It depends on the eternal value of the Lord’s atoning death and the unshakeable faithfulness of God.
Psalm 103 vs 12: “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us”. Romans 8 vs 33: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”
The fact that God chastises His children when they sin does not mean that they can lose their pardon. Chastisement is an evidence of His love and concern for them, not a sign of His casting them off.
How glorious, then, is this forgiveness, which springs from God’s grace. How complete the pardon is. There is nothing to discourage the most unworthy sinner applying for it. No one has any reason to say: “Alas, my sins are too great.”
Romans 6 vs 1:“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Psalm 103 vs 1-3: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases…”
This forgiveness that is with God is such as becomes Him. It is not like with strings — attached forgiveness, but is full, free, bottomless, boundless, absolute. Pardon is not merited by godly duties done before, but is the strongest motive to live godly lives afterwards. He that will not receive pardon, unless he can one or another deserve it, shall not be a partaker of it. Are you already pardoned? Then your heart should be full of holy love to the Lord and compassion towards any person who offends you.
1 John 4 vs 20: “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? The person who pretends to be pardoned but does not forgive other people “is a liar.”
Romans 8 vs 33: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. The doctrine of justification is how a sinner is accepted by a Holy God. Justification is a legal term, it does not mean actually making a person righteous in nature. Justification is the act of a judge pronouncing a person not guilty.
Justification is the opposite of condemnation.
Two possible ways of justification.
lIf a person could be found who never broke God’s law, then the person would be justified by the law Romans 3 vs 10: “As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one.” Clearly, then, no one we will ever be justified by the law.
lSo the Bible talks of a “righteousness of God apart from the law.”
Romans 3 vs 21: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets…”
This is a justification that is by God’s grace and is revealed in the gospel. God is the one who justifies. Romans 8 vs 33: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. But He is the one whom we have offended by our sins, how can He justify us?”
So this justification is certainly because God is gracious and not because we deserve it. Justification takes place only because God is gracious.
This is expressed emphatically by the words: Romans 3 vs 24: “…being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” If these words do not prove that justification is entirely free, without the least regard to any supposed good in the sinner, then I do not know what words could prove that!“It is freely by grace…”
There are no conditions to be fulfilled, no merit to be earned, no pre-requisites at all, for the sinner to be pronounced “not guilty.” Nothing is required except that God be gracious!
Don’t miss next week’s message!
lBishop Colin Nyathi is a Senior Pastor and Founder of Harvest House International Churches