What do we really mean when we talk about grace?
Does it mean something you get for free, like a 10-min grace period for car parking?
Or does it mean mercy or goodness from God, as used generally by Christians, like, “By God’s grace we will get through this”, or “We thank God for His grace”?
All of us have our own idea and interpretation of grace. But here’s what the Bible says regarding grace:
“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
Both grace and truth are wrapped up in the person of Jesus. In fact, grace IS Jesus. And grace IS the truth that God wants us to know and be set free by (John 8:32).
How can we say that grace = Jesus and Jesus = grace? The first part of the verse gives us the answer. To the Jews of Jesus’s day (and even those raised traditionally today), who grew up learning and memorising the laws of Moses, Moses was synonymous with the law, because Moses represented the law. That means, when they thought of Moses, they thought of the law. And vice versa. Moses = the law.
Therefore, we can interpret the second part of the verse similarly. Grace and truth – as one thing – is represented by and synonymous with Jesus. Grace = Jesus. And how much more so, since the law was only given on 2 slabs of stone to Moses, but grace and truth came in the person of Jesus Himself!
How do we know that grace is the truth that God wants us to keep uncovering and opening our eyes to? Because Jesus said John 8:32 to the Jews, who already knew the law by heart since young. It couldn’t be the law – more of what they had to do – that God wanted them to know. It was knowing Jesus – Grace and Truth standing before them in person – that would set them free.
Another verse in the Bible helps to shed more light on what God thinks grace is and isn’t:
“And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Romans 11:6, NKJV)
“And since it is through God’s [grace – His undeserved] kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is – free and undeserved.” (Romans 11:6, NIV)
“But if it is by grace (His unmerited favour and graciousness), it is no longer conditioned on works or anything men have done. Otherwise, grace would no longer be grace [it would be meaningless].” (Romans 11:6, AMP)
Clearly, God draws a distinct differentiation between “grace” and “works”. They are mutually exclusive and they cannot mix. It’s either one or the other.
“Works” here refers to anything men have done – things we do out of our own self-effort, even good works like serving, charity, helping people, praying, reading the Bible, or obeying God’s commandments.
“Grace” on the other hand, is all about what God has done for man – His unmerited favour and graciousness, His kindness that is undeserved and free and unconditional.
How can we tell the difference? Things born out of works or man’s own effort will never last; it may continue for a while, even years e.g. someone trying to quit an addiction on their own, a Christian serving faithfully in church for many years, but in the end they’ll falter, run out of steam, get tired or burn out.
That’s not to say that everyone who’s been serving God for a long time is doing it out of works, nor that everyone who serves under a grace ministry will never get tired. All of us have a tendency to do things out of our own strength. Because it makes us feel good, and because we can.
But ultimately and invariably as we keep doing that we will end up feeling empty and dry inside, and start to develop hard thoughts towards the God we are working so hard for, the God who loves us incredibly beyond our imagination and who never wanted us to serve out of ourselves in the first place.
God wants to do everything for us. That’s why He came to live in us. Jesus didn’t just come to redeem us from our sins and the judgement of them, He also came to redeem us from works. That’s why He said openly, “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Many of us read this as: “Come to Jesus when we’re tired, and let Him refresh us to continue the journey”; and that’s what many of us do. We work hard to serve Him, get tired, go to Him to refresh ourselves, and repeat this cycle over and over again until we get tired of getting tired and we walk away altogether.
But that’s not what Jesus meant for us to do; otherwise He wouldn’t have went on to say, “Take My yoke upon you…For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). To be yoked – or coupled – with Jesus is a continuous process, not a one-time thing every once in a while.
Christians also use this verse to regard ourselves as ‘co-labourers’ with Christ. That would be true if we were talking about a normal yoke, which shares the load equally between 2 animals. And we know that many of the things we encounter in life are neither easy nor light.
Jesus’s yoke is easy and His burden light because He’s carrying all of it. That’s what He wants to do in His relationship with us.
He wants to supply us with ALL that we need – rest and prosperity for our souls; wisdom and blessings for our relationships; motivation, ability, and blessed results for whatever work we do; and anointing and success for our ministry. He wants us to be supplied by Him to the full, always, so that we can act out of the overflow.
When we continuously serve or work out of the overflow of His grace, we’ll never run out of steam – because God never runs out of grace.
That’s what grace is. A continuous supply of God’s goodness, that enables us to do ALL things – through Christ who strengthens us.
So what do we do? Just rest, and receive. Keep resting in His grace, and keep receiving His grace by hearing about it. Trust me – no, trust Him – we won’t end up lazy and unproductive, but we’ll end up doing more than we thought we ever could with better results than we expected we’d ever have.
Because it is He who works in us both the willingness and the performance for His good pleasure, so that we can work it out and produce such glorious results that will make us marvel and tremble in wonder (Philippians 2:12-13).
Is any of this merited, earned, or deserved? No. But it all happened and became our new reality the moment we said yes to Jesus. Because we said yes to grace. Everything was accomplished at the cross. All we have to do is to believe it, receive it, and let Him do it through us.
Grace and Jesus are one and the same. Grace is not earned or deserved; it can only be received. Grace produces rest – rest from stress, and restfulness even as we work out what He has already worked in to us.
In truth, to discover the full depths and richness of God’s grace would take more than a blog post, more than 1,000 even; it would probably take an eternity to fully wrap our minds around and understand the awesomeness of the gift of His Son Jesus and what He has done for us.
But every time we see Jesus magnified and revealed in the Word, we begin to understand a little bit more about grace. And the more we see Him, the more grace pours into our lives and we start to see blessings effortlessly in every area.
Because when we encounter Jesus, we encounter grace.