Grace Refs
Our society emphasizes that we must earn our rewards. We train for sporting achievements, work for wages, study for ualifications. In contrast, the Bible teaches that we cannot earn salvation, no matter how many good deeds we do. We are totally
reliant on God’s grace.

Luke 15:11–32

The parable of the Lost Son is a lesson to us about God’s grace and compassion. The father showed compassion despite his son’s bad record. Similarly, if we are repentant, God will show us mercy and not treat us as our sins deserve.

1. How did the lost son deserve to be treated?
2. Why did the father show compassion?
3. How did the older son feel when the younger son was treated with compassion?

Grace means “undeserved favour”. God shows grace by forgiving our sins, adopting us as his children, and not treating us as we deserve. As David wrote

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. (Psalm 103:10–11)

Our need for God’s grace
To understand God’s grace, we must first understand that our sin separates us from God. Isaiah writes,

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1–2)

It is important that we appreciate how much God hates sin, and how seriously our sin affects the relationship we have with him. See Chapter 17. Sin. This applies even though we try to do the right thing, because we still are guilty of some wrongdoing. David said

You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. (Psalm 5:4–5)

Although we are separated from God as sinners, there is a way that we can be reconciled to God. God has provided a way for our sins to be covered, or cleansed, so that we can be restored to him. There is no way that we can cover our own sins. God has determined that sins can only be forgiven by the offering of a sacrifice and repentance. In Old Testament times, animal sacrifices were offered, but these were not sufficient. When Jesus came, he lived his life in complete obedience to God and then suffered and died on the cross. He was the perfect sacrifice, offered for our sin.

God’s gracious gift to us is the opportunity to be saved from our sins. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus our sins can be covered
so that we are made sinless before God. Even though we are dirty with sin, because of God’s grace we can be forgiven and
cleansed. He says “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow”.
What a contrast!
Isaiah 1:18

Justified by his grace
For those whose sins are covered by the sacrifice of Jesus, God no longer counts their sins against them. Instead, they are "
credited” with righteousness. In Romans, Paul explains

Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Romans 4:3)

It was because of Abraham’s belief, not his good works, that God regarded him as righteous. Similarly, for us it is faith, not good works, that allow us to be considered as righteous before God.

To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:5)

To be “justified” means the same as being regarded as righteous. We can be justified only through God’s grace.

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22–24)

Regardless of how terrible our sins are, they can still be covered and forgiven through God’s grace if we are truly repentant.
When we accept God’s grace, we receive forgiveness so that we can put our sins behind us. We no longer feel burdened with
guilt because we are right with God.

Salvation by grace:
Acts 15:11; Romans 3:22–24; 4:1–5; 5:1–2,15–21; 11:5–6; Ephesians 1:7; 2:5–9; Titus 2:11; 3:7.
God’s abundant grace:
Psalm 103:10–11; 2 Corinthians 9:8,14; 1 Timothy 1:14; Hebrews 4:16.
Showing grace in our lives:
Matthew 18:21–35; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6; Hebrews 13:9; James 4:6; 2 Peter 3:18.

Relying on grace rather than works
We need to be continually reminded that it is not our good deeds or our scriptural knowledge that will save us. It is not a matter of performing sufficient good works in our life to earn us a place in God’s kingdom. Nor can we perform enough good works to compensate for the bad things that we do.

God requires that we confess our sins and accept his grace. Rather than trying to earn salvation by our works, our works should be motivated by gratitude to God for his grace toward us.

When we realise that our works cannot save us, we may be tempted to stop doing good and start doing whatever we feel like. The apostle Paul warned first century believers against being tempted to sin more to receive more grace. He asked,

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! (Romans 6:1–2)

God will not let us take his grace for granted!

Expressing gratitude for his grace
There are at least three ways we can show gratitude to God.

1. We should thank God in prayer for his gift of salvation. Colossians 1:10–12
2. We should “sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts to God”.
Colossians 3:16
3. We should show grace to others. In the parable of the “Unforgiving Servant” we read of God’s attitude to those who have received grace but have not shown grace themselves.
Matthew 18:23–35. See Chapter 46. Parables of the kingdom

We are instructed to be imitators of God. This requires us to show grace to others and to grow in grace. Ephesians 5:1 This can be in our speech, our strength of character, our forgiveness of others and in all other aspects of our lives.

God’s gift of grace is freely offered to us. We must each make the decision to accept or reject that gift. Accepting God’s gift involves a number of steps:

1. Believing that God exists;
2. Acknowledging that we are sinners;
3. Repenting of our sin;
4. Having faith that we can be saved through Jesus;
5. Being baptised;
6. Receiving forgiveness for our sins;
7. Living a new life focused on God.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)

1. Read 2 Peter 3:18. How can we grow in grace?
2. Read Hebrews 4:15–16. Why can we approach the throne of grace with confidence?
3. Read Hebrews 10:26–31. What is it about deliberate sin that insults the Spirit of grace?

1. Read Romans 12:6–8. Part of God’s grace to us is that he has blessed us with various gifts of ability. What gifts has God given you?
2. Read John 1:14. Jesus is described as being full of grace and truth.

(a) What does this mean?
(b) What examples can you think of that show he was full of grace?
(c) How is grace connected with truth?
(d) Who else is described as “full of grace”? Why?

3. List some examples from the Old Testament that show God’s abundant grace and mercy.

• The new life by John Marshall (published by The Christadelphian, 1971). Chapter 20: “The forgotten doctrine”. 8 pages.
• In the grip of grace by Max Lucado (published by Word Publishing, 1996). A thought-provoking and very readable book. Note that the author believes Jesus is God, which spoils the book in places although it does not alter its basic message.

11. Faith
17. Sin
28. Repentance
29. Forgiving one another
35. The sacrifice of Jesus
37. Baptism