The Grace of God Part Six
Because of God’s grace, the church was able to grow. This article on the grace of God in the New Testament will observe how God, through grace, administered His eternal, moral absolutes over all mankind to establish and grow His church.
Grace and the Church
After the church was born in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, large numbers of Jewish people were placing their faith in Christ because of the miracles and bold witness of some of the apostles (Acts 2––3). After Israel’s rulers, elders, scribes, and high priest sternly rebuked Peter and John because of their bold witness concerning Jesus, the Holy Spirit filled the apostles and Jewish believers in Jerusalem; “and great grace was upon them all” (4:1–33).
The Jewish church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to check out reports that many Greeks there had turned in belief to Jesus through the witness of scattered Jews. Barnabas recognized this work as “the grace of God” (11:10–23).
In Antioch Paul and Barnabas persuaded many Jewish people and devout Gentile proselytes “to continue in the grace of God” (13:42–43).
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas stayed a long time, “speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace” (14:3). As a result, “a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed” (v. 1).
The church at Antioch had “handed over”1 Paul and Barnabas “to the grace of God for the work which they had completed” (13:1–3; 14:26). Later the same church “handed over”2 Paul and Silas to “the grace of God” as they started out on another missionary journey (15:40).
As Gentiles were placing their faith in Christ, certain Jewish believers insisted believing Gentiles must also be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses to be saved (vv. 1, 5). A council of church leaders in Jerusalem decided Jews and Gentiles alike were saved exclusively “through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 11).
A brilliant Jewish believer named Apollos “greatly helped those who had believed through grace” (18:27).
The apostle Paul declared that the ministry he “received from the Lord Jesus” was “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (20:24).
The last time Paul met with the elders of the church at Ephesus, he entrusted them “to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (20:32).
The Apostle Paul’s Grace Statements to the Church at Rome
Paul declared that it was through the resurrected Christ that he and the other apostles “received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name” (Rom. 1:5).
Paul used the following salutation to the believers in Rome: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 7).
Paul made it clear all people “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” but can be ”justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:23–24). The word translated “freely” means “as a gift, without payment.”3
Paul said a person who thinks he can earn justification through good works, such as keeping the Mosaic Law, believes God owes it to him:
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness (4:4–5). The law brings about wrath (v. 15). Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace (v. 16).
Because we are “justified by faith,” not by works, “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” (5:1–2).
Death awaits all of us because of the original sin of our common ancestor, Adam: “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (v. 12). But “the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ,” provided the solution to our predicament (v. 15).
Jesus died to pay the penalty of mankind’s sin and thereby provide forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life for those who place their faith in Him. Thus, “as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 21).
Paul exhorted the believers of the church at Rome not to present their bodies as instruments of unrighteousness to sin. Instead, they were to present themselves to God as people alive from the dead, and the members of their bodies as instruments of righteousness to God. They were to do so because “sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (6:13–14).
Paul told the saints at Rome they were saved solely on the basis of God’s grace, not on the basis of their personal works. And since it is by grace, “then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.” And if it were by works, then “it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (11:5–6).
Paul emphasized that because of God’s grace given to him to be an apostle, he had authority to declare to every believer in the church at Rome that none was “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” (12:3).
There are many members in a local church, but all do not have the same God-given abilities to minister (v. 4). Since God by His grace has distributed various gifts of ministry to the members of local churches, all the gifts should be used (v. 6). The apostle Peter taught this same concept: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet. 4:10).
The church at Rome existed before Paul ever arrived in that city. Therefore, it was not established by or through him. As a result, there would have been a natural tendency to ignore what he wrote as an authoritative spokesman for God. Thus Paul told the Roman believers he had a purpose for “courageously”4 writing to them about a certain “matter.”5 His purpose was to remind them “because of the grace given to me by God, that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:15–16). He indicated that by God’s grace he was an authoritative spokesman for God and they needed to heed what he wrote to them.
Paul concluded his epistle to these saints at Rome twice with the same benediction: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (16:20, 24).
The Apostle Paul’s Grace Statements to the Church at Corinth
In opening his first letter to the saints in the church at Corinth, Paul used the following salutation: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:3). In addition, he asserted, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus” (v. 4). That form of God’s grace involved imparting all the utterance and knowledge gifts available to a local church during the time of the apostles (vv. 2–7).
Paul said the church saints at Corinth were “God’s field” and “God’s building” (3:9). Paul planted the field, and later Apollos watered it; but God caused it to grow (v. 6). Thus Paul could claim, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it” (v. 10). He also said,
I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 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 (15:9–10).
Paul closed his letter with this benediction: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (16:23).
In Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth and all the saints in Achaia, he and Timothy expressed the following salutation: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 1:1–2).
Paul assured his readers he and other servants of God conducted themselves in the world “in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you” (v. 12). They did all things “for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God” (4:15). Therefore, they as workers together with Christ, “plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (6:1).
Paul exhorted the saints in Corinth and Achaia to follow the example of the churches in Macedonia. Despite their great affliction and deep poverty, they gave to help saints in greater need than their own (8:1–4). Paul did not command, but urged, those in Corinth and Achaia to “abound in this grace also” (vv. 6–8).
He reminded them, “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” (v. 9). 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” (9:8).
Paul concluded the letter with this benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (13:14).
- William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds./trans., “paradidomi,” 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), 619.
- Ibid., ”dorean,” 209.
- Ibid.,“tolmao,” 829.
- Ibid.,“meros,” 507.