Many believers struggle with how the grace of God should be defined. For many, they have embraced certain truths about what the grace of God has accomplished for them, and they accept faith righteousness in exchange for a life of behavior modification fueled by willpower accompanied by a long trail of successes and failures, but many have failed to see grace as an "empowerment" unto a life that brings glory to God. If grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, and His Grace does not empower the believer, then we are all in trouble! Here is some great advice on practical application of grace and how to rightly divide the Word of God:
"First, let's look at a very common 'grace message myth.' This myth is the belief that if one is truly under grace they are never to feel bad about anything — which includes personal behavior. I even read a statement that said "to believe that grace is an empowerment will cause people in grace to experience condemnation when they miss the mark…" Let us look at what the Bible says.
In Hebrews chapter 12:11 it states: 'Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: (Greek: sorrow or pain) nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.' In other words it does not FEEL good when I am being corrected by the Word.
In like manner, when I am correcting my children for playing to close to the riverbank, I can assure you that my correction does not make them feel good at the moment. It is later that they experience the peaceable fruit of my love for them by realizing the protection in my rebuke.
So many believers do not understand the difference between conviction because of righteousness as opposed to condemnation because of sin. To condemn something such as a building is to say that it is rejected and has no value and there is NONE of this in Christ (Romans 8:1). To be convicted of one's righteousness in Christ is to be encouraged that any contrary behavior to one's identity in Christ is in direct opposition to who that person has become (2 Corinthians 5:17).
When Paul rebuked Peter's hypocrisy in Galatians 2:11-14; was he being legalistic towards Peter? Of course not. In the words of one very prominent preacher: 'If you are treating people bad, you, yourself, should feel bad.' The bad we feel is not God's rejection, but rather God's correction.
It is as if so many — who claim to be 'grace people' — are denying so many verses of New Testament Scripture. I believe it's because they can't seem to make these verses fit some preconceived idea of what they believe and desire grace to be. It is like we are smoking 'grace dope' and declaring 'if it feels good' it must be grace, so you can do it, no matter who it hurts.
While it is true that God will NEVER reject you, it is just as true that He loves you enough to correct and protect you from destructive behavior. Truly the enemy masquerades as an 'angel of light' (see 2 Cor. 11:13-15).
Secondly, is there a difference between 'Grace' under the Old Covenant versus 'Grace' in the New Covenant?
Under the Old Covenant the word 'Grace' is the Hebrew word 'chen.' According to Brown Driver Briggs this word is defined as: 'favor, grace, charm elegance, acceptance.'
There are many verses in the Old Testament that refer to finding 'grace' in the sight of someone, whether that be Moses before God, or Ruth before Boaz, etc. (See Exodus 33:13, Ruth 2:2,10). The idea is always that of favor and acceptance.
Under the New Covenant 'Grace' is still favor and acceptance, but yet, in the New Covenant, 'Grace is much broader than that. 'Grace' in the New Covenant has to do with all that God has made available to us because of His unmerited favor.
Or as the acronym says: 'God's Riches At Christ's Expense.' (G-R-A-C-E)
God's riches include all of His ability and power. (1 John 4:17)
Under the New Covenant it says, 'Grace' came by Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
To say it another way: 'All that God is came to humanity in the Person of Jesus.' (John 14:9)
New Covenant 'Grace' can now reign and manifest in the lives of believers because of the new birth and the righteous new nature believers have received in Christ (Romans 5:21). In other words, God's unmerited favor can manifest in the lives of Christians EMPOWERING our acts of 'Grace' toward others. It does not matter if those acts of 'Grace' manifest in releasing healing or simply loving our neighbor, the believer can allow His 'Grace' to reign in and through them.
How does the New Testament define 'Grace?' 1 Peter 4:10 talks of being 'good trustees of God's many-sided grace [faithful stewards of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor].' (Amplified Bible)
The NT Greek word for 'Grace' is 'charis.' According to Thayer's lexicon, (fancy word for dictionary) some of it's meanings are as follows: 'that which affords joy, pleasure,delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech. Good will, loving-kindness, favor. Of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.'
It is also defined as: 'the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace. The token or proof of grace.' According to the above Greek definitions it does appear that God's Grace contains His empowering ability. But let's look at some verses of Scripture from the New Testament to see if they agree.
(1) 2 Corinthians 12:9 uses the word 'grace' and 'strength' synonymously.
So we see 'Grace' is strength.
(2) Titus 2:11,12 declare 'Grace' teaches one to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world or age.
So we see 'Grace' is a teacher.
(3) Colossians 1:6 states 'Grace that is known, brings forth fruit.'
So we see "Grace" is a fruit bearer.
(4) In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul says that he labored more abundantly then all the Corinthians, yet it was not him, but the 'Grace' of God which was with him.
So we see 'Grace' is a laborer or worker.
(5) In 1 Corinthians 3:10,11 Paul declares that according to the 'Grace' of God he was a wise master builder who had laid the foundation of Jesus Christ in the Corinthian's lives.
So we see 'Grace' laid the foundational belief of Jesus Christ in the lives of these believers.
Based upon the above evidence of both the NT Greek language, and the witness of the New Testament itself, I believe it is safe to say that 'Grace DOES empower one in their faith walk. And of course, it is all because of the unmerited, unearned, favor of God given to us through Jesus. To say that someone is legalistic because they believe 'Grace' empowers them not to sin is like saying someone is a 'gnostic' for not believing in the empowering ability of God's Grace.
It is time to accept ALL of God's Amazing Grace from His Word and not our favorite preacher's definition.
by Chris Barhorst
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