This is a sermon series on the attributes, or characteristics of God. Today we begin with the most obvious one, grace. Wrath will not be included since there is a sermon with the theme om wrath; but anyways onto grace! There was a conference several decades where they were debating the validity of other religions in comparrison with the Judeo-Christian religion. C.S. Lewis, a recent convert and reformed athiest came into the conference late. When the roar was overwhelming Lewis sat down on the roundtable and waitied for him to be noticed. The attendees eventually noticed him and they asked him what made him convert to Christianity and why was it any different to the other religions. Mr. Lewis replied very solemnly, “it’s grace, simple, beautiful grace.”
Sometimes in Christanity we simplify God’s facets yet His message, love, and forgiveness are complex simplicity. Most Biblical scholars believe that the identifiable attributes of God are as follows: Aseity, Graciousness, Holiness, Immanence, Immutability, Impassibility, Impeccability, Incorporeality, Incomprehensibility, Infinity, Jealousy, Love, Mission, Omnibenevolence, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Oneness, Providence, Righteousness, Simplicity, Sovereignty, Transcendence, Trinity, Veracity, and Wrath.
One of the main issues I had at the beginning was the watering down of Christian theology. Christians now adays are so wound up with the emotional side of knowing God that often times we only take a superficial reading of His Word and an even more superficial reading of the writings from the early church fathers. Truly only 5% of Christians in the west have an understanding of deep theological issues. A recent study said that only 10% of western Christians were aware of what the council of Nicea was and how it influenced our faith. Most Christians surveyed were well aware of what graciousness in terms of God the Father was but very few could name works or deep studies regarding the subject. Those who did sang about how it gave them a deeper reverence, appreciation, and connection with their faith that many other religions boast. So with that let us begin with an ecclesiastical discussion on Grace.
Grace is mentioned in te Holy Bible over 170 times. It is first mentioned in the Old Testament with regards to God’s grace towards Noah. In Genesis 6:5-8 the Bible clearly states that “5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Grace is traditionally defined as love which God grants us and wants us to have unconditionally in spite of what we have done. It has slightly different meanings depending on the denomination you find yourself in. When I was looking to enter into the Roman Catholic priesthood there was a large section on the entrance examination about grace being imbued into human beings through the Sacraments. Early Lutherans believed somethine similar but also said the Word had a large part of it as well and the spreading of it. Calvinists or Arminians firmly believed that grace was under the umbrella term of irresistable Grace which basically meant that only those pre-selected by God could answer the call to Grace .Orthodox Christians or the Coptic believe that grace is very much one sided and is initiated and demonstrated by God through the rituals, as well as the Spirit. Protestants acknowledge, appreciate, and see the value of theace. se teachings but cling to the concept of solo gratia (grace alone) which was part of the 5 solas formalised by Martin Luther. Today I will be looking at a middle ground as something that can apply to us as Christians and not as denominations.
Most Christian denominations agree that Grace is a necessary if not the most paramount component for salvation. While most Christians will agree that the choice that Christ gives us is also a key difference between Christianity and other religions they also acknowledge that the concept of pre-destination is intertwined as well with that although they are unsure as to how. In Deuteronomy 7:8 the grace of God towards the Children of Israel regarding their bondage in Egypt is emphasised as something that should always be remembered, valued, and honoured, not just a gift to discard. It abounds in Numbers 6:24-26 with probably one of my most favourite benedictions in the entire Bible; “24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” These previous two verses are examples of how Grace in the Old Testament takes on different themes or motifs as opposed to the New Testament where it is primarily emboddied in Christ Jesus. A large portion of Old Testament Grace references come from Psalms. It is often called the most comforting and most read book of the Bible or at least the OT.
In Psalms Grace can fall under teaching of the Law and answering of prayers (Ps. 119, Ps. 27). In Psalm 85 Grace appears as forgiveness for past sins, a prayer for a new start and freedom following the Babylonian exile. In Roman Catholicism grace is defined in two categories, first sanctifying grace and actual grace. The first being the gift from God that we can never do anything to deserve, the second is a reference to gifts for good works we do to please God. St. Augustine said that grace was the result of Adam and Eve’s foolishness and pride and that the inherit sin from them did not totally destroy freedom of will but did greatly enfeable it. Most people believe that Grace is clearly contrasted with the Law of Moses and that contrast comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no doubt that grace is the predominant theme in the New Testament, demonstrated in Christ Jesus dying for us unconditionally. Many Christians now say I live under grace and not under the law and they use it as an excuse to allow sin and even use it as a pass to willingly sin, but this could not be farther from the truth. Grace is evidence of love, people believe that God in the Old Testament was unfeeling, distant, and unable to demonstrate grace but although the Biblical references to grace in the Old Testament are nto as plentiful they are qualitative and as referenced Isaiah grace in the Old Testament is pointing directly to Christ. Grace gives us the freedom to live the Law of the Old Testament uninhibitedly, to follow Christ’s commandments without worrying of the punishment that comes not if but when we fail God. But grace is not something we are meant to keep for ourselves, we are called to share that grace and show the love of Christ to others. All of the theologians, church fathers, and desert mystics whom have discussed grace over the centuries have done it all for one reason, to deeper understand and appreciate what Christ has done and the gift God has given us, because it is so beyond the understanding of the human mind. It is deep, complex, simple, and yet beautiful all rolled into one. As Lewis said it is one sets the truth faith apart from other religions. Through grace we do not have to go on pilgramages to far off distant lands, we can access salvation, it is the key personality characteristic that has put this entire plan into play. Will we ever fully understand it? I do not think so. It is the same way with the Bible, I think God did not put everything in there, just what we needed to know. Our disabled human brains can only comprehend so much, but when we are called to home I firmly believe we will fully understand the depths of God’s grace. In our sermon next week we will be looking at aseity.