“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7). Ephesians is a follow up letter to the saints in that city after Paul taught them the message of grace and their conversion/obedience recorded in Acts 19, 20. In Ephesians 2:1-3, he recalls their former life outside of grace, outside of Christ, outside the church, the body of Christ.
A key to understanding grace is understanding mercy…”is the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and the resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary). This connection between mercy and grace is beautifully described to Titus: “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).
The gift of grace declared through Jesus was according to God’s eternal plan: “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9,10). Understanding this truth helps us to realize that this gift is undeserved, unearned and unmerited!
We readily recognize the connection in the following triangle: giver, gift and receiver. If there is a gift offered and no receiver, then the power of the gift is voided and the giver is denied the opportunity of being a benefactor. But, if the gift is received, then the triangle is completed and the negative results are removed. Study the following: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). There is no denial that the Gift has been offered!
The Holy Spirit further instructs in Hebrews 5:9 “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Of course, this coincides with the statement of the Master in Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Inspiration has provided us with numerous accounts of receptive hearts to the gift of salvation/grace such as the 3,000 on Pentecost (Acts 2:36-41), great many priests (Acts 6:7), men and women in Samaria (Acts 8:5-14), Lydia and her household (Acts 16:13-15), etc.
But the Bible deals with reality! There were those who rejected the gift of grace and its blessings. “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:45,46). And we recall the tragic rejection by Agrippa, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28). Choice!
Consider the eternal Truth declared through Moses, “I call heaven and earth as a witness today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). “But when they (Samaritans) believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike” (Acts 8:12). Choice!!
Frank Parker is a resident of Sebring. Guest columns are the opinion of the writer, not necessarily that of the Highlands News-Sun.