When we think about the grace of God, most of the time the hymn, Amazing Grace, will come to mind. How could John Newton write such a wonderful hymn? The answer: he wrote out of his personal experience of God’s amazing grace.These words were on his tombstone, “John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and Libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.” (The One Year Great Songs of Faith p. 80). As I share the grace of God with you, it is my prayer that all of us will “grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3: 18).
The Background of “Charis” In Classical Greek, charis represents primarily that quality in a thing or person which gives joy to its recipients.
Later, it came to mean not just the grace or beauty of a thing or person, but it signified the gracious or beautiful thing, act, thought, speech itself or of the person. It further acquired the sense of thankfulness. This gratitude is the response to the favor received. In the ethical terminology of the Greek schools, charis came to mean “a favor freely done, without claim or expectation of return” (Wuest’s Studies in the Vocabulary, p. 133). Aristotle captured the essence of charis when he laid the whole stress on the entire and absolute freeness of the lovingkindness of God to men. This grace is conferred freely with no expectation of return, and finding its only motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the giver (Wuest, p. 133). We could conclude that there was divine design in the progressive development of this word from a secular usage in the Greek world to a spiritual usage in the N.T. In fact, this Greek word depended “upon Christianity to realize its full import and to elevate it to its rightful sphere” (Wuest, p. 136).
Practical Lessons for us First of all, this grace emphasizes the favor freely done, without claim or expecta-tion of return. It is entirely dependent on the bounty and free-heartedness of the giver. We are saved purely by this ‘spontaneous act’ of God. Thus, salvation can never be earned. If we are to be saved, it must be by grace through faith in Christ alone (Eph. 2: 8, 9) Nothing more and nothing less! How wonderful it is that we need not work to merit God’s favor. He has already stretched forth His gracious arms to welcome and receive us. This was demon-strated in the death of His Son on the cross. When Jesus died, he stretched his hands on the cross to signify God’s outstretched, unlimited and unmerited love towards us. Secondly, God’s grace is shown towards sinful man. Grace emphasizes the way God deals with sins. When we experienced His grace, God not only does not impute sin to us, but He also freely forgives us by setting us free from sin’s guilt through the ransom paid by Christ. Furthermore, God bestows on us the gift of righteousness and eternal life. Finally, we see that this grace guarantees our glorification (Titus 2: 11-13).
May we let God’s enabling grace work in our lives till this same grace leads us home to glory!
Rev. Mark Tay