The Nature of God’s Grace
Once we understand that we are corrupt and rebellious creatures who can only rightly expect judgment from our Creator-Judge, and that we cannot mend our relationship with him but are subject to his sovereign and self-originated offer of mercy, then we are prepared to grasp the true nature of God’s grace. But even more than that, we are finally ready to marvel at the goodness of the Lord and his amazing grace. This is, according to J. I. Packer, the inevitable outcome of the gospel of Jesus Christ: “It is surely clear that, once a person is convinced that his state and need are as described, the New Testament gospel of grace cannot but sweep him off his feet with wonder and joy. For it tells how our Judge has become our Savior.”
Packer explains that the New Testament reveals the grace of God as the source of sin’s pardon, the motive for the plan of salvation, and the guarantee of the preservation of the saints. Let’s take a look at each of these aspects of the New Testament teaching in turn.
Grace is the source of the pardon of sin. The NT teaches that our sin deserves death, and that this was the price of our justification, that is, our transition from condemned criminal to heir of God. But what would cause God to, as the apostle Paul described it, “spare not his own Son, but deliver him up for us all”? Packer says, “It was because of his grace. It was his own free decision to save which brought about the atonement.” So Paul can say in Romans 3:24 that we are justified freely [at no charge] by God’s grace.
Grace is the motive for the plan of salvation. God promised salvation from sin, even as he explained the its curse in Genesis 3, and the promises of salvation are based on his plan of salvation, which he purposed in himself before the world even began. The reason he has done so is declared in Ephesians 2:7, “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” So Packer encourages us by saying, “The stars, indeed, may fall, but God’s promises will stand and be fulfilled. The plan of salvation will be brought to a triumphant completion; thus grace will be shown to be sovereign.”
Grace is the guarantee of the preservation of the saints. The plan of salvation is assured by the unfailing promises of God, therefore the Christian’s future is also assured. And Packer reminds us that, “I need not torment myself with the fear that my faith may fail; as grace led me to faith in the first place, so grace will keep me believing to the end.”
So how should we respond to the knowledge of this amazing grace? Certainly the grace of God, freely given to us as undeserving sinners, ought to produce a powerful love within our hearts for the Lord. May we commit ourselves, heart and soul, to the One whose grace has both freed us and bound us; freed us from sin and bound us to him!