… A Place to Grow in Grace
Is there any word more frequently used in religious circles than “grace”? Unfortunately, such common usage does not lead to clarity, but it instead adds to confusion about what this word really means when we find it in scripture. Peter concludes his second letter with the instruction to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). What is this grace he mentions, and how can we grow in it?
First, what does grace mean? Grace is a gift given for free. In Romans 6:23, we find that “the free gift of God is eternal life.” The word translated as “gift” in that passage includes the word for grace. In Ephesians 2:8 Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Grace is the gift of God. The word “gift” in this verse means something given without charge. So, what has God given without charge?
Second, we already noted that eternal life is something that God has given, but if that is all that is meant by grace then how would we grow in that? If God’s pardon of sin and the resulting death are the only characteristics of God’s grace, then the only way to grow in them would be to sin more, so as to receive more grace. Who can believe it?
Paul makes clear that this is an absurd conclusion when he writes, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:1-3). So, clearly sinning more is not what is meant by growing in grace. We find then that there is more to God’s grace than the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life that He has offered. Let’s keep looking to see what else “grace” includes.
In Titus 2:11-13 the Apostle Paul writes, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”
Here is a more complete picture of grace. This passage helps us answer the second question which is, “How do we actually grow in grace?” Notice all that grace brings according to Paul in Titus: salvation, instructions on how to live, and hope for the future. When we consider all of this together, we see that grace is indeed something we can grow in. We can especially grow in knowledge of the instructions God has given, obedience to them, and trusting in hope of the appearing of Christ Jesus.
Consider an example of this: The first place the word “grace” is used in scripture is Genesis 6:8 in the story of the flood. What a strange place to find the word “grace”! The whole world is about to be destroyed, but here is a verse talking about God’s grace. Is this a contradiction? It says that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” This was at a time when no one else found grace. So, what did that grace look like? It took the form of instructions on how to build an ark and a warning about coming destruction. Noah didn’t just sit back and stare at this free gift of life-saving instructions. He got busy and grew in that grace by following those instructions with the sure hope that if he did, he would be saved. God’s grace appeared. It offered salvation, instructions, and hope. It required acceptance, faith, and obedience.
Do you want the gifts that God offers? He does not offer them separately for us to choose which parts we want and which ones we do not. God’s grace is not a buffet meal where you pick your favorite. Noah could not choose God’s offer of hope and salvation and yet reject His instructions, for they were the very means of his hope and salvation.
At the Pepper Road church of Christ, we strive to grow in grace by taking the free instructions God has delivered, growing in our understanding of them, following them in our lives, and so growing in our hope of the salvation that awaits all who will receive His free gift. Would you come grow in grace with us?