“The saint burns more grace than the sinner.” – Dallas Willard
When you hear the question, “What is God’s grace for?,” what answer comes to mind? My guess is that many of us, maybe most of us, conceive of God’s grace as being for our sins, wrongdoings, and transgressions. Some of us grew up learning the acronym, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, which strongly connects God’s grace with Jesus’ death on the cross. In songs I learned during my childhood, I learned that grace “saved a wretch like me,” is “greater than all my sin,” and is “broader than the scope of my transgressions (sing it).”
Such an understanding of grace is faithful to what Scripture teaches. God’s grace was powerfully active during the crucifixion of our Lord and is an essential ingredient in the forgiveness of sins which we have received through faith. However, such an understanding of grace is also incomplete.
God’s grace is for more than simply covering over or washing away past sins. Grace does not simply provide forgiveness from something, grace is also for something. Dallas Willard says, “Grace is God acting in our life to accomplish what we cannot accomplish on our own.” In other words, God’s grace is a positive force in our lives. Grace is God acting with us, producing results beyond our human capacities.
Ephesians 2:8-10 beautifully illustrates the many sides of grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” This verse encapsulates the vital principle that God’s salvation life is a free gift to us, through faith. We don’t earn it or pay it back. In verse ten Paul writes, “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.” Here Paul describes the effects of grace upon our the rest of our life. Though grace is a free gift, it produces in us good works. These good works become our way of life, not in order to secure God’s grace but because we have already received God’s grace!
Here’s a quote to ponder this week: “The saint burns more grace than the sinner.” With Ephesians 2:10 in mind, what do you think that means? Where do you see God’s grace being most operative in your life: in God’s ongoing forgiveness or in God’s ongoing empowerment to live the kind of life He wants you to live?