Wednesday, January 11, 2012


The Grace of God

In our first discussion on the topic of grace this past Sunday, I asked the class members to give a brief definition of grace.  There were many given and I wrote them all down on the board as quickly as I could.  One that came up was “a communicable attribute of God.”  I liked that one, even though it didn’t really define, but rather categorized the word.  I feared, however, that those who were not familiar with theological terms might fear that Grace was something for which they might need to be inoculated.

So a few brief definitions are necessary.
·        God’s attributes are His “distinguishable and essential characteristics” according to one theologian.  We might say that His attributes are simply what/who He is.
·        Some would place these into two categories:  God’s incommunicable attributes – those which belong only to Him, such as His self-existence, His infinity, His immutability – and His communicable attributes – those He shares to some extent with His created beings (us), such as knowledge, wisdom. Etc.

In other words, grace is a characteristic of God that is also found in human beings.  He also apparently expects it of us.  But more of that later.

We must recognize that God’s grace, along with His mercy, compassion and longsuffering are related to His love.  As John says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).  John is not equating God and love, but saying that love is an essential aspect of God’s nature.  Love (agape’) has been defined as “That which seeks the greatest good in its object.”  And this love works itself out in these other aspects.

Recognizing this, we may define God’s grace as “The expression of God’s love without condition toward those who do not merit it.”

Perhaps the Apostle Paul describes it best.  After spending over two chapters in the Book of Romans describing how we – humankind – can make no claim of being right before God, he tells his readers that they are “declared right freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).  He tells his readers in Ephesus that they are “saved by grace … through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Of course, we should be careful not to think of God’s grace as something only revealed in the New Testament.  The word grace (Chen) is first used in Genesis 6:8 of Noah.  Notice that God’s grace is mentioned before Noah’s good qualities, probably because it preceded them.

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD … Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:8, 9).

But it is in the story of the exodus where the LORD not only reveals His grace, but claims it as a characteristic.

The first time we read of His claim of grace is in Exodus 22:27, speaking of mistreatment of the poor.  “… if he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious!”

Also Exodus 33:19:  “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will be compassionate to whom I will be compassionate.”

Exodus 34:6:  “And the LORD proclaimed, ‘the LORD, a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and full of loving-kindness and truth!”

We often think of the Old Testament as picturing God as a God of justice and wrath, a “jealous God” and it certainly does that.  Yet throughout the Old Testament there is this other picture.  We need to keep both “sides” of God in view.


gary said...

good lesson. exodus is a great book for redeemed people. they made the mistake most of us make all the time. they forgot to give thanks for God's great deliverance during their difficulties. same today, God has given us the absolute greatest gift anyone could possibly give and it ain't enough.

Benjamin said...

Totally agree that we need to realize that "both sides" of God are one and the same. God is the only one who deserves to be jealous because there is none like Him. But the jealous, judging God is also the "Judge of all the earth" who does what is right. Without the law, we would not know that we needed the salvation that He offers. Thanks be to God for His matchless grace!

God bless you as you continue seeking Him!

Canadian Atheist said...'ve touched on two of my least favorite doctrines of the Bible - hell doctrine and original sin. Hell creates fear in the individual and millions throughout the ages have suffered mentally from such doctrine and the sin doctrine teaches that we are filthy and in need of redemption or we are destined for hell. The second one teaches self loathing and is almost as despicable as the hell doctrine. If we are filthy, it is only because your God made us this way. Therefore he made you imperfect so that he could punish you later. That is illogical to say the least.

The God of the OT is jealous because the OT is Judaism. Judaism is a religion looking inward. They do not seek to convert anyone. It's why God is jealous and the second commandment has to do with idols. It was to keep the tribes together and the best way to do that was to have a jealous, tyrannical God.

Christianity is Judaism looking outward. Christianity seeks to convert people to their religion and the best way to do that is to turn Gods image in the OT of a tyrannical monster into one that brings love.

We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes. – Gene Roddenberry

Anonymous said...

Hi canadian athiest,I think these are everybodies least favorite doctrines.actually if one is not considering the teaching as a possibility of being true, there shouldn't be any real concern. the fact is we know(although often go into denial) that we one day will pass through this door called can we know for sure what is on the other side? i know the things we believe are truth to us but are our beliefs built on reality? or on our imagination? a thought. if there is a God(creator), we have only two options as i see it; he/she/it must disclose itself,herself,himself to us or we can create this god/no god in our imagination.however, these facts remain. we are surrounded by a universe that demands an eternal explanation for its existance and we are heading for a door that we reaaly somehow hope there is a future.God doesn't exist or not exist at our whims. what i mean is all my believe in god cannot create him like a genie,and all my unbelief can't kill him. he either is or isn't. the question is has he shown us who he is-as he really is. keep thinking-it isn't easy.
a former athiest.

Canadian Atheist said...

Hi Anonymous,

I see no evidence of the Christian God. However, I can't assert that there is no God whatsoever. I do not think any God worthy of the name would create flawed humans, expect them to believe in something that isn't backed by evidence and then throw them in a pit of fire for using the logical, rational brain He supposedly gave them. I reject that sort of God.

You're right - we will all die. I think the fear of death is why Christianity is so successful.

I invite you to view my blog. I have one article I put up today that better explains my views of original sin as well as one called The Meaning of Life that better explains my stance on that.

I would also recommend you search on YouTube for Stephen Hawking videos. He has some compelling theories on the universe. One show he showed up on was the premier of Curiosity and He attempts to answer whether God is necessary.

Whether He exists or not will always be an open question. The dogma associated with religions that say they know is pretty easily torn apart though. I don't think they have any more of a clue than I do. The difference is that I admit it.

Anonymous said...

hi canadian athiest, as i read your last letter i have come to the conclusion that you are not a true athiest. I know because i was a true athiest and i know what i am talking about. i was always an athiest from my youth. maybe I am wrong but i sense you were not. contrary to your comment,death has not made christianity popular but the avoidence of discussing hell and death has.both athiesm and christianity are full of people who think truth begins and ends with them or their group. I am really encouraged by your letter because some of my favorite people in all the bible sounded exactly like you do as the God who doesn
't really exist began working in their life. i think you have a lot of people praying for you. don't stop thinking,it is the most dangerous road. i know because i was there. a former athiest.

Canadian Atheist said...


I'm curious to know why you don't think I'm a real atheist?

You said: death has not made christianity popular but the avoidence of discussing hell and death has.both athiesm and christianity are full of people who think truth begins and ends with them or their group.

I think fear and the fear of death has made Christianity and Islam very popular. I also think that while there may be atheists who think they own the truth, I don't know any that claim they do. We generally leave that to the religious.

Anonymous said...

canadian athiest, i will try to explain. i was always an athiest. as an athiest,I was indifferent to any kind of me that is logical. when i stopped believing in santa,it was the same, no interest in him as a reality. i spent no effort trying to prove or disprove it. i cannot see a true athiest spending so much effort in trying to prove something doesn't exist. my other comment. the bible speaks very clearly about hell and the second death. teachers who want to tell people what they want to hear to gain a hearing;ie,be popular deny or don't talk about this. if i could change any teaching,i would certainly change this, why? because many of my relatives are unbelievers,and as such they don't think like you. keep usually brings distress before it brings peace.individuals think,groups and pacts usually through out critical thinking for the sake of the group.that is happening in christianity today as bill often writes about.

Bill Ball said...

Hey Guys, I appreciate all your comments, but you've left my original post waaay behind. May I make a few suggestions?
Either continue this conversation on Canadian Athist's blog, or Anonymous, you need to start a blog of your own. You have a lot to say.
Thanks :^)

Bill Ball said...

Oops! Sorry, I misspelled Atheist.