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The Meaning Of God's Grace


We often think of God's grace as being His unmerited or undeserved favour extended to us, but there is more to His grace than that.  There is no doubt that God is gracious, but thinking of His grace in terms of merely benefitting us is a bit self-centered.  It neglects what I understand to be another meaning of God's grace that we often miss in Biblical theology.    


The apostle Paul made the following statement in 2 Corinthians 12:9.       


"But he [God] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."


Grace, as defined by undeserved favour, doesn't seem to fit in the above verse.  In the midst of Paul's weakness, God did not extend His undeserved favour to Paul by removing his weakness.  Grace, in Paul's situation must mean something other than unmerited favour.  I believe it means God's divine ability given to Paul to endure his weakness in the process of doing God's will. 


I often wonder how Paul felt during his two year imprisonment in Caesarea.  Where was God's graciousness then?  Why didn't God free Paul from prison?  Why did He allow Paul to be put in prison in the first place?  Grace, as defined by God's divine ability given to us to endure all things, was what God gave Paul during his years of captivity. 


Look at what 2 Corinthians 8:7 says.


"But since you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving."


The context of the above verse concerned Paul encouraging the Corinthian believers to give a generous financial gift to the poor believers in Jerusalem, just as the poverty stricken Macedonian Christians had previously done.  God's grace, or the ability given to us to do His will in all circumstances, including poverty, was available to the Corinthian believers.  Paul called this God-given ability the "grace of giving."  


Grace does not always mean undeserved favour in the Bible.  It can mean God's divine ability given to us to do what He requires, no matter the situation.  1 John 2:5 makes this point.  It reads; 


"But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him:"


John tells us that God's love is expected to be completed in the life of the believer.  That is to say, the love of God demonstrated in the life of Jesus was meant to find its completion, or, intended goal, in the lives of Christians.  God's love is meant to flow from Jesus, to the believer, and then to others.  God has the ability to extend undeserved favour to others.  We don't.  We happily receive God's love and grace but extending it to others is sometimes difficult.  It, therefore, requires us to receive God's gracious, divine ability, to extend His gracious undeserved favour to others. 

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