The Grace of God Part Eight
The previous article on the grace of God showed that Christ commissioned the apostle Paul “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) and that Paul did so.
We saw that the word translated “testify” refers to “an emphatic affirmation that a thing is or will be so.”1 The word translated “gospel” means “good news.”2 A commission is “an authoritative order”3 that may command “the performance of certain duties.”4 Paul earnestly fulfilled his duties, frequently at the price of significant personal abuse for the rest of his life.
What motivated or drove him to obey a commission that involved such personal cost? Certainly, one factor was his desire to obey Jesus Christ as his Lord.
But it appears that, in addition, Paul was greatly intrigued by the concept of “the grace of God.” This man, who consented to killing Stephen, an early Hebrew Christian; made havoc of the church; had Christian men and women imprisoned; rejected Jesus as God’s Son; and insisted the only way to be right with God was by keeping all the regulations of Israel’s Mosaic Law, was overwhelmed by the concept of becoming right with God solely through God’s grace. Nothing short of seeing the resurrected, glorified Christ while on the road to Damascus to persecute believers could have radically changed Paul’s conviction. Thus he became greatly intrigued by the truth that the only way to become right with God is through God’s grace.
Since it was God’s grace through the redemptive work of God’s Son that brought Paul into a right relationship with God, he was greatly motivated to obey Christ’s commission “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (v. 24).
Evidence of Paul’s Great Motivation
A significant evidence of Paul’s great motivation is the many times he used the word grace. Obviously, we have no way of knowing how many times he used the word outside of Scripture. But he used it so many times in the 13 biblical epistles he wrote that we know he was consumed by the transforming reality of God’s grace.
Paul’s Use of the Word ‘Grace’
In His Epistle to the Romans:
1:5—Concerning Jesus Christ: “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations.”
1:7—“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
3:23–24—“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
4:4—“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.”
4:16—“Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”
5:1–2—“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
5:15—“But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.” The reference to “one man’s offense” is a reference to Adam’s original sin.
5:17—“For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
5:20–21—“Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
6:1—“What shall we say then? xShall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”
6:14–15—“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!”
11:5–6—“Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 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.”
12:3—“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
12:6—“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.”
15:15—“Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God.”
16:20—“And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”
16:24—“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
In His First Epistle to the Corinthians:
1:3–4—“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.”
3:10—“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation.”
15:10—“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
16:23—“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
In His Second Epistle to the Corinthians:
1:2—“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
1:12—“For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.”
4:15—“For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.”
6:1—“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”
8:1—“Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia.”
8:6—“So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well.”
8:7—“But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.”
8:9—“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
9:8—“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
9:14—“and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.”
12:9—“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
13:14—“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”
In His Epistle to the Galatians:
1:3—“Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1:6—“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”
1:15—“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace.”
2:9—“And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”
2:21—“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
5:4—“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”
6:18—“Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
- Hermann Strathmann, “marturomai,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans./ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, translated from Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967), 4:512.
- William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, “euange-lion,” A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (1952: translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur, 4th ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 318.
- The American College Dictionary, text ed. (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1948), 242, s.v. “commission.”
- Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd ed., unabridged (Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam, 1939), 538, s.v. “commission.”