Grace heaped upon Grace
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (NIV)
In the New Testament, the word grace has as its primary focus of the forgiveness of sins. This is Paul’s emphasis. It is so closely tied together that the Good News and “Grace” could be mutually interchangeable is some of Paul’s letters. More of that later!
In the Gospels, the word grace appears sparingly, and often with the focus on speaking or acting graciously. For John, grace is referred to only once, yet how powerfully it is expressed; in Christ grace is heaped on grace. “Grace” defines the life of Christ; everything about Christ is grace overflowing freely into the lives of those whom he meets with.
Take some time to identify examples of Christ’s gracious, free gifts to the people who came to him. If you can’t think of any, here are a few stories that you can use to think about the grace of Jesus. With each story identify the grace that Jesus showers on his people. What is the gift, the grace? Observe the unexpected and undeserved nature of the gracious gift.
John 4 | The Woman at the Well
John 7:53-8:11 | The Woman caught in adultery
Matthew 9:1,8,18-26 | The dying daughter and sick woman
Matthew 12:9-14 | The man with a withered hand
Mark 7:24-30 | The Syrophoenician mother
Mark 10:13-16 | The children
Luke 22:49-51 | Malchus
Luke 23:32-43 | The crucifixion
When it comes to Paul, grace takes on a very particular flavour. He accepts the words expressed by John’s Gospel, For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ; and then he focuses it particularly on the death and resurrection of Jesus and their implications for our lives. Actually, he goes even further than that.
But first, there are a couple of occasions when the word grace drops into the everyday interactions between people. It is expressed as a greeting with the hint of a blessing. Check out 1 Thessalonians 1:1. In the first instance, there is a joining together of two common greetings, a Greek one and a Jewish one. Yet, these words are so much more than just saying “hello”. What does the greeting “Grace to you and peace” mean for us? Romans 1:7 gives a fuller expression of the intention of the greeting. How do we express the blessing of God’s grace in the way which we greet each other? Can you think of a better way of doing it?
And occasionally the word grace is identified with or translated as thankfulness … to receive something graciously. Check out both 2 Corinthians 9:15 and Colossians 3:16. Here thankfulness and recognizing a gift are almost interchangeable in their expression. Paul encourages us to recognize all the “graces” of God with grace/thanks.
Now for the big one! “Grace” encompasses everything that God does in our lives, in the life, death and resurrection of Christ; in God’s call to us to repentance; in the Spirit’s daily action in blessing us with “graces/gifts”; in fact, there is no limit to what grace encompasses because there is no limit to God’s grace. Our whole being is a grace.
We could spend hours reading the words of Paul as he falls over himself trying to demonstrate how grace has changed who we are. But a couple of sections should be enough.
Read Ephesians 2:1-10 and pick how many times grace, as a free gift, is spoken of or implied. What is the focus of ‘grace’ in this letter?
In Romans 5:1-11 Paul uses the word “grace” only once, yet it is so expansive in what it covers. What is involved in the ‘grace’ that we live? Everything about our lives is a gift!
Check out the moments of grace that you experience every day, in worship, in living, in relationships, in the beauty of the creation, and in the unexpected “God moments”.Now it is time to thank God for his ‘grace’ showered on us generously and without limit or conditions.
Prayer: God our Father, thank you for all the gifts that you grant us. You are generous at every moment and in every situation that we face. Open our eyes to your generosity and help us to live our lives graciously. Amen.