Tuesday, February 7, 2012

113. The Nature Of Grace

113.0 - Back To True North: Obviously, grace is also a very important concept to the redemptive agenda. In recent times, grace has come to be popularly understood to mean "unmerited favor." This is actually more the definition of mercy, which is a product of grace, than it is grace. The terms don't correctly interchange, exactly.

So, let's just look at the recognized definition of the word, Grace. Webster's Dictionary defines Grace as, "Seemingly effortless beauty, ease and charm of movement, proportion, or form; a charming quality or characteristic." Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary defines it as, "Any excellence, characteristic, quality, or endowment."

The Greek word that is translated as grace every time, save one, in the New Testament is "Charis." Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament , a widely and highly regarded work, gives this definition for that word, "That which affords joy, pleasure, delight." Strong's Dictionary of the Greek New Testament , also a very highly regarded work gives this meaning: "Graciousness (as gratifying) of manner or act."

113.1- The Simple Meaning: The idea here is simple. These dictionaries give us a much broader definition of grace than is involved in the popular idea of "unmerited favor."  These respected lexicons define grace, in short, as simply a kind of "innate goodness" (innate meaning, from the beginning, or occurring originally or naturally.)

So, the idea being conveyed in these dictionaries and lexicons speaks simply of a natural or characteristic goodness.

And that is the way grace should be understood in the New Testament. It is the natural or characteristic goodness of God. God is "graceful" - naturally good.

113.1 - Common Language: We should point out that the Bible does not have its own special meanings for the words which it contains. In fact, just the reverse is true. It is a necessary requirement for a Bible translator that he or she have a broad and accurate knowledge of both the language that is being translated from and the language that is being translated to.

This is necessary so that words can be employed accurately as to their common and true meanings. In any reputable translation of the Bible, every effort goes toward this accurate rendering into the commonly held usage.

So, accuracy is far better served when one understands grace as the general references render it: simply a naturally occurring goodness, especially in the nature of God. In the New Testament, the word grace usually speaks to us of that goodness, or in some cases, the products of it - a product such as mercy.

113.2 - The Role Of Grace: When we understand grace correctly, the stage is then set to understand the role that grace plays in the transformation of the believer. There is a tremendous and extremely essential insight, which is entirely lost through the "unmerited favor" definition. It is the understanding that this same godly grace also eventually expresses itself within the believer.

113.3 - How Grace Comes - What Grace Does:   It works like this. As we are baptized into Christ, grace, like faith, is another of the qualities of His nature that is transferred to the believer. In other words, the Godly grace (the natural, instinctive goodness which compels Christ) is embedded in the believer through the merger with His divine nature.  The result is a spectacular change in the way that God's people are personally governed and guided in their day to day life.

Paul confirms this transition to a new means of personal government by his statement in Romans, chapter 6, where he says, "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." With this statement, Paul affirms that in these New Testament times we have transitioned from the external government of the law to the internal government of grace. We are now guided by a natural and compelling goodness; more precisely, the goodness of Christ, expressing itself within the believer.

This change provides a wonderful new simplicity to the believer. Now, he simply responds to the compelling goodness of Christ within as the means of ordering and directing his own steps. In this way, grace becomes an effective internal replacement for the awkward and ineffective external law.

113.4 - A Superior Way: Obviously, this is a far superior method of running our daily lives. It is one that fits naturally where the external law did not. And, it is entirely the gift of the indwelling Christ.

How very logical it is when you think about it. God has found a way to bring effective personal government to the human heart. It is the easy government of His grace. It is the natural government of instinctive goodness, which flows from the nature of the indwelling Spirit Christ.

What could be more normal? As the impulses of Christ course through the believer, he or she now serves God with the same natural affinity with which they once served sin. Where once the dark urges of rebellion and self-determination designed our course, now we design our actions by the natural impulses of the inner law of godly goodness. And, to be sure, it does not make us a law unto ourselves; rather, it attunes us to God's highest law.

Oh, so that's what God meant when He said, "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes; and, you will keep My judgments and do them."

So, it is grace that produces the insights, wisdom, and easy government of the heart that correctly elevates and directs our daily steps. It also easily designs the good solutions that life requires.

Therefore, faced with the choice between a no-investment-required kind of mercy, and the alternative of the living goodness of Christ directing from within - choose true grace.  That grace is the spiritual "golden goose." It is this Christ given gracefulness which produces within the believer the precious "daily treasure" that is born of a good heart.