“Sola gratia” (by grace alone) made up one of the five “solae” pillars of the Protestant Reformation. The great truth recovered there stemmed from Ephesians 2 where the Apostle Paul declared:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is a gift of God; not of works that no one should boast. (vv. 8-9)
This great truth of the exclusion of merits in the attaining of salvation truly freed millions under the bondage of the sacramental system of Rome to find salvation by simple faith in Christ’s finished work. For this, we should all praise the Lord!
Unfortunately, many Christians only use this verse in their understanding of what grace is, issuing in both an inadequate understanding and experience of what is described as,
…the surpassing riches of His grace… (v.7)
I hope you’d all stick with me as I quickly peruse the New Testament to define grace. And as an aside, we can never simply rely on the literal definitions in the greek to govern our understanding of New Testament realities. The apostles utilized the greek language to convey the divine mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1), but it requires a spiritual mind, led by the Spirit of God and soaked in the spiritual Word in order to gain a spiritual understanding of these great truths (c.f. 1 Cor. 2:13-16; Col. 3:16).
What is Grace?
In order to give an adequate definition of grace, one must look at all of its usages in the New Testament (which we can’t do here). Grace is a New Testament term, and if you happen upon it in the Old, it’s either referring to God’s generic favor upon man (the literal meaning of the Hebrew word sometimes translated as “grace”) or to something to be fulfilled prophetically (c.f. Zech. 12:10).
Grace didn’t come until Christ came:
For the law was given through Moses; grace and reality came through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:17).
And the Word became flesh and tabernacled (lit. gk.) among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and reality (v. 14).
While the law was given, handed over, and/or distributed as something separate from Moses, grace came through Jesus Christ. Grace was not something that Christ gave to us apart from Himself. Jesus is the very embodiment of grace! Therefore, when you believe into Christ, you receive Him, and thus you receive grace (c.f. 1:12-13; Jn. 3:16).
Some Cool Verses That Prove the Above Claim
…I labored more abundantly than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God which is with me (1 Cor. 15:10b).
I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live; but it is Christ who lives in me… (Gal. 2:20a)
Paul uses “grace” and “Christ” interchangeably. It’s the grace that labored in Paul, not Paul. It’s Christ who lived in Paul, not Paul. Christ as grace became Paul’s very living and labor, the energy, source, and everything in his life!
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit brothers. Amen (Gal. 6:18).
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you (2 Tim. 4:22).
Paul here again uses “grace” and “Lord” interchangeably! Grace is none other than Christ Jesus Himself, the embodiment of God, to be experienced and enjoyed by us. In fact, the very term “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” proves this, for grammatically the “grace” and “Lord Jesus Christ” are in apposition to each other. For those of you who may be trying to recall what an apposition is from your 10th grade English class, this is the exact same thing as saying “the city of Austin” (where I’m writing this) – the city is Austin.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14).
All of these terms are in apposition. The love of God is God Himself who is love (c.f. 1 Jn. 4:8, 16). The fellowship of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit Himself who is our fellowship (1 Jn. 1:3). Thus, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord Jesus Christ who is grace!
That’s Cool, but Why Does This Matter?
I do not nullify the grace of God (Gal. 2:21a).
What does it mean to nullify the grace of God? According to the context and this renewed understanding of “grace,” it’s to neglect the indwelling Christ as the One in whom and through whom we live. Paul gives a perfect example of what it means to not nullify the grace of God in the prior verse.
The Galatians were going back to the principle of the law:
This only I wish to learn from you, “Did you receive the Spirit out of the works of law or out of the hearing of faith?” Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (3:2-3)
The law’s sole role was to usher us to Christ (3:24). Once we receive the Spirit by faith, we should give up the law entirely (v. 25; Rm. 7:6). To try and please God, labor for Him, and obey His commands is to attempt to be “perfected by the flesh” (c.f. Rm. 8:8). We should continue by the grace that we began with, having our living and work be completely a matter of faith through the bountiful supply of the Spirit of grace (Phil. 1:19; Heb. 10:29).
The grace of our Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus who is grace, should be our continual enjoyment! As we feast on Him, drink Him, and breath Him in (Jn. 20:22), we will spontaneously live a life that matches Him (Rm. 8:4).
May we all learn to experience the Lord as our multiplied grace, that we may grow in the grace of our Lord!
Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the full knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Pet. 1:2).
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and unto the day of eternity. Amen (3:18).