Scriptures

The Reign Of Grace

Introduction

“Moreover the law entered that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin has reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20-21

Paul is saying that when the Law of Moses was introduced it increased man’s consciousness of wrongdoing. Men would not see their sin or feel a need for a Saviour until their sins were fully exposed and this is what the law did for them.

Law also served the purpose of restraining people from wrong and guiding them in the right way. However, with a full knowledge of law, there would be more things required thus more points where it could be violated. In this way law could increase the number of sins.

However, Paul says the benefits received from grace are far greater than the increase of sin under the old law. Grace is here personified as a great benevolent king whose reign gives victory to the ones oppressed by sin.

While God increased the guilt of sin by increasing man’s knowledge of its evil, yet it in no way put those who were incriminated by law beyond the reach of God’s grace. God’s grace is sufficiently abundant to cover the most sinful life if that heart turns to him.

It is a paradox that just when a man becomes fully aware of his sinfulness is the moment when he most realises his desperate need for grace.

The Prodigal Son had to reach the depths of degradation and realise that he had no resources with which to reverse his ruin before he decided to throw himself upon his father’s mercy. This parable illustrates beautifully the doctrine of grace. The prodigal wanted to work his way back into the favour of his father.

He would be just a hired servant. But the father did not require any recompense. He threw his arms around him and accepted him back as his son. The son did not deserve this. It was unmerited favour.

There’s a new sheriff in town! In ages past Satan patrolled the back alleys and dark corners of the human heart, using law to extract a penalty of condemnation. Now in the kingdom of Christ, something new has happened.

“Grace and truth has come by Jesus Christ.” Now grace maintains peace between man and God with a power that Satan cannot overcome. With the coming of grace, Satan lost his battle with God. Satan’s plan for condemning the human race was based upon God’s perfect commitment to justice, Psalm 89:14.

In the beginning, God told Adam and Eve that their disobedience would result in spiritual death, thus when they sinned they were separated from God as well as the garden of Eden. Some think God was referring to physical death. However, death did not occur until 930 years later. Did God not say in Ezekiel 18:4 “The soul who sins is the one who will die.”

Thus, Satan felt God would always condemn the sinner. Unlike the love of 1 Corinthians 13:5 that “keeps no record of wrongs,” Satan keeps an account of all our wrongs. His name in the Hebrew language actually means “accuser.” He certainly lives up to his name. According to Revelation 12:10, he is constantly bringing up charges of guilt against God’s people “day and night.”

But what Satan did not take into account and of course he could not take into account because it was inconceivable to his evil nature, was God’s grace. Under grace, God’s justice would be satisfied and at the same time, man could be justified. Paul states this in Romans 3:26. “He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Paul makes a very significant statement in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

There are two interesting observations about this passage. First, here and in other passages, we are told that God’s grace was kept a mystery (a secret) from the beginning of time. Prophets and angels did not know about it and wondered about some of the things that were written that obviously pertained to the future. Neither did Satan know about God’s grace until it was fulfilled.

A second observation is that Satan has always worked through evil rulers to accomplish his purposes. For example, he used Pilate to crucify Jesus. If Satan had been able to comprehend grace, he never would have crucified the Lord. Thus, he fell into God’s trap and instead of destroying his enemy on the cross he, in effect, committed suicide.

I can almost imagine Satan clapping his hands in glee as he saw the Son of God die on the cross. Little did he realise he was cutting his own throat by his evil act. In Hebrews 2:14 the writer says, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

We must not conclude that God has not always been a gracious Lord. God is the same today as he was when Moses lived, but the instrument of eternal redemption, which depended upon the justification of sinful man had not yet been set in place.

The grace which was to “reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 5:21, had first to be validated by the crucifixion. God purposed man’s redemption even before the world was created.

This great mystery of God came into effect when Christ’s blood was shed on the cross and he bore the sins of every age of history – past, present and future. Grace was the basis of God’s plan for mankind from the very beginning. This is made very clear in Ephesians 1:4-6.

Our response to God’s marvellous grace will not allow us to relax and fall back into an inactive life seeking a cheap grace. Rather God’s amazing grace constrains us to be victorious over sin and Satan. John says, “We love Him because He first loved us” John 4:19

Love will show appreciation. Love is a much stronger motivation toward godliness than obligation or duty. Anyone who has been in the armed services is aware of what duty can be like. We were loyal to our country but many of the things that were required as duty were not enjoyable and we often would do anything to get out of it. You soon learned never to volunteer for anything.

Unfortunately, some Christian approach the Christian life as a strict duty and are trying to work their way to heaven thus losing the joy of their salvation. This may explain why some Christians are never happy Christians. Grace is the expression of Godly love, and it is impossible for us to love God without at the same time being gracious to others.

The first Christians were a grace-filled people. Grace impelled them to share what they had with others who were less fortunate. Acts 4:32-33 says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.”

The expression “much grace was upon them all” is not referring to the fact that they were saved by God’s grace but it refers to the grace that they displayed in their lifestyle and their response to human needs. Their lives were filled with grace in that they were gracious, or kind and loving to others. They enjoyed “the favour of all the people” because they “gave to anyone as he had need” Acts 2:45 / Acts 2:47.

Grace gives freely and without any conditions or expectations of recompense. Jesus made the ultimate expression of grace in giving all that he had for us even though we had no claim on him, 2 Corinthians 8:9.

Paul used the Macedonians as an example of how God’s grace reigns in the lives of believers. He wrote of their grace, 2 Corinthians 8:2-3.

Then in verse 6, he writes, “So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you about in this grace also.”

It is obvious that grace reigned in the hearts of the Macedonians. Gratitude and love are a natural responses to God’s grace. It affects our relationship with things. There is no longer the fleshly compulsion to hold onto material possessions. This was plainly demonstrated in the lives of the early Jerusalem Christians. We are told that “…much grace was upon them all.” There were no needy persons among them. From time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, “And they distributed to each as he had need” Acts 4:35

Grace also affects our relationships with people. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace” 2 Corinthians 1:12

God’s grace does not end with the salvation of the individual. It fills, then overflows and goes on to affect the lives of others in an ever-moving stream. The Christian’s life is a channel through which an unending supply of God’s grace blesses others.

Ezekiel illustrates it beautifully in chapter 47. A little stream emerges from under the threshold of God’s temple. As it flows it grows rapidly in volume until it becomes a mighty river running into a sea of death, and every creature it touched comes to life again.

It is a compelling image of the never-ending chain of grace carried by those who are committed to “the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” Acts 20:24. Those who were scattered after the death of Stephen “Went everywhere preaching the word.”

Grace not only changes our relationship with others it also changes attitudes and behaviour. The Jerusalem Christians were a happy, joyful people. God’s “great grace was upon them all” Acts 4:33.

From a worldly viewpoint, they were a poor, weak community with dim prospects for survival facing a stormy future of persecution by the powerful Jewish establishment and later by the much greater might of the Roman Empire. Yet they became the most powerful force that the world had ever seen having the weapons of love and truth whereby they were able to “demolish strongholds” of sin and darkness 2 Corinthians 10:4.

Because the grace of God which reigned in their hearts “the rock that was cut out of the mountain without hands” mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 2:34-35, would reduce the great pagan empire which opposed them to chaff on the summer threshing floor.

Grace makes giants out of midgets, giving us the confidence that the work God has begun in us will be carried through to its completion. Paul writing to the Philippians said, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6.

For example, when Paul was depressed by a physical handicap that he perceived to be a hindrance, the Lord assured him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Later, Paul was able to say with confidence, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13. Paul could have gloried in his being an apostle, his mission trips, the many churches he established, and his sufferings and persecutions. Instead, he said, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” Galatians 6:14.

He wrote to the Colossians that because they had understood “God’s grace in all its truth” ….. they would be enabled to bear fruit in every good work “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might Colossians 1:6 / Colossians 1:10-11.

Grace encourages us to trust in God’s glorious power instead of trusting in our own feeble strength. It motivates us to move beyond grace receivers to be grace dispensers.

There is no tension between grace and works except for the dichotomy men have introduced through their failure to understand what grace really is. Grace works. Good works are the result of grace. Good works compliment grace. However, remember they are the results of grace and not the grounds of our salvation. They are the things that naturally go along with or accompany salvation Hebrews 6:9.

When grace reigns in our hearts, no river is too wide, no mountain range too high, no ocean too large, to keep us from passing it on to others. It has been well said, Grace is entirely free but it will cost us all that we are and all that we have. Because of the surpassing grace God has given us we are moved to exclaim, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.” 2 Corinthians 9:14-15.

QUESTIONS

1. How is grace more powerful than law?

Law makes man aware of sin but it cannot release him from sin. Sin separates man from God but grace justifies man so that he can be holy and without blame before God.

2. What was Satan counting on to bring about the destruction of man?

God’s immutable commitment to justice. When law is violated then justice demands satisfaction in the form of some kind of penalty or punishment. Satan the accuser could point to any human alive and say he is a sinner. Satan believed that God’s justice would bring destruction upon the entire human race.

3. What was Satan’s big mistake?

He was not aware of grace. Had he known of God’s eternal plan for redemptive grace he would not have crucified Jesus.

4. Do you think this is why God’s grace was kept a mystery?

By being ignorant of God’s plan Satan would fall into the trap of thinking that by slaying Jesus he would stop whatever God had sent him into the world to do for mankind.

5. What should be our response to God’s amazing grace?

Gratitude and love should be a natural response to God’s grace. A tremendous price was paid by Jesus which we do not deserve.

6. What is it like to be a grace-filled people?

Grace is a great motivator. It gives us a freedom we otherwise could never have. It makes giants out of midgets. It gives us assurance, peace of mind, joy and victory over Satan our accuser.

7. How does it affect our relationship with others?

Grace compels us to share with others what we have received. It motivates us to move beyond grace receivers to grace dispensers. It makes us gracious, kind and loving.

8. How does grace affect our relationship with things?

There is no longer the fleshly compulsion to hold onto material possessions. We will not stand by while others suffer, especially those of the household of faith, Galatians 6:10.

9. How does grace give us confidence?

It leads us from trusting in our own feeble strength to trusting in God’s glorious power.

10. Is there any conflict between grace and good works?

None whatsoever. Grace is the great motivator in our lives. It has been said, grace is entirely free but it will cost us all that we are and all that we have.

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

MENU