It’s Biblical Series:
by Michael Roberts, D. Min.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God not the results of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph 2:8-10). These words point to, what has been called, the “grand doctrine of Christianity.” This is certainly true among United Methodist Christians. We believe in grace!
Our English word “grace” is a translation of a Greek word (charis) which literally means gift or favor. In English, the word “charity” is a direct derivative of this word. In the Bible, this common word is used to describe a very special gift from God. Grace denotes the gift of God’s unconditional, eternal, life-giving love for all. This word “grace” reminds us that being a Christian is not so much a matter of what we do, but a response to what God has done for us. We are saved by the grace (the gift) of God. Our lives receive meaning and purpose by the grace of God. We don’t earn it or achieve it. It is a gift. We respond to this gift through faith; that is, through living in a trusting relationship with God and sharing the gift with others.
When this “grand doctrine” is neglected or watered-down, faith can easily degenerate into an act of self-justification. People can try to live in a relationship with a God that is not known by grace. Such a god quickly becomes a being to be feared and appeased. Apart from this “grand doctrine of grace,” people begin to use fear, guilt, and threat as methods for drawing others to God. People find themselves wanting to please God, not out of trust and gratitude, but in order to save themselves from wrath. This, however, is not the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Every time we try to live by our own righteousness, trying to justify ourselves before God and others, we nullify the grace of God (Gal 2:21; Rom 11:6). Making ourselves the focus of our faith is an attempt to steal grace from God. We live and grow by grace.
The scriptures tell us that compared to the magnitude of God’s love, we will always fall short. “Since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God they are justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:23). In grace, God comes to us to lift us up. Living under the light of God’s grace; those who are anxious can find peace; those who live on the surface can find depth of spirit; those who are held captive can be liberated; those who are alone can find relationship; those who are empty can be filled. Life unto death becomes life unto life. We cannot do it on our own. The journey of abundant, true, and eternal life is a gift. Life is found by living in relationship with this God of amazing grace.
God’s grace, ultimately revealed in Christ, covers every aspect of life (Rom 5:15-21, 11:32). As John says, “From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace” (John 1:16). On our journey we grow in the “immeasurable riches of God’s grace” (Eph 2:1T). And “having been justified by his grace, we become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). God gives the gift to the world. In response, we strive to live as “heirs,” with all the blessings and responsibilities that come with this identity (Rom 8:14-16; 12:1-13; I John 2:29f).
As beings created in the image of God, our purpose is to reflect God’s grace for all the world (Rom 5:12; I Cor 15:10). We image or reflect God’s all-sufficient grace. We provide light to help others see what God has given. This light of grace, however, makes us humble rather than boastful (I Cor 1:30-31,4:7; II Cor 12:9). In this light, we see that all others are covered with grace, just as we are (Acts 15:11). We do not judge them (Luke 6:37; John 8:15-16; Rom 2:lf). Rather, we share the awesome love that God has for them. Our calling is to reflect God’s grace and to help others see and receive it.
As United Methodist Christians, we are bold to proclaim that God’s grace is more complete and more amazing than we can even comprehend (Eph 3:14-19; I Cor 13:12). We want everybody to know this grace, for it is the “way of life” (Eph 2:10). To help us along this way of life, God has given us certain “means of grace.” These means of grace define the method of Methodism. They are worship, prayer, bible study, fellowship, witness, and service. These are called the ordinary means of God. In addition, God can and will work through “extraordinary means” to communicate his love to us. God can use any event hi our lives as a means of grace, for God has an extraordinarily amazing plan. We read that, “according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us, he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph 1:5-10). Thank God for this amazing grace.