A number of years ago I cleaned out and rearranged my bookshelves and in the process found a number of empty binders that I was no longer using. Seeing this accumulation of treasures, my then 6-year-old daughter asked me for them so she could “play school.” [Now she teaches English at a middle school in Central Texas as a “real teacher!”]
A few days later, my wife handed me some papers and said, “Look at what Elizabeth has been doing….” In the stack of binders, she had found a few old papers and exams from courses long forgotten. On one mid-term was written the professor’s assessment of my work: “83 B-.” And over his grade, my daughter in a bright orange and purple markers had crossed out his grade and written, and then circled, “99” “A.”
It seems she was quite put out that her father had been deprived of justice on this mid-term, and almost fifteen years later, she was attempting to correct the wrong (I’m just wondering why she didn’t go ahead and give me a “100”). If only better grades could have been achieved so easily while I was in school.
In actuality, what I received was justice; what she was attempting to give was grace. But she had neither the authority nor ability to dispense real grace in that situation. The only one who could have done that was the professor in that course.
So it is as we stand before God. What we have earned by the actions of our lives, whether they are “A,” “B,” “C,” “D,” or “F” lives, is judgment. No one stands up to the standard of God: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). We have been tried and found lacking. And thus having earned condemnation, our only hope is God’s mercy (withholding judgment) and grace (granting favor). He alone is capable of crossing out our failing grade and granting to us His righteousness (1 Cor. 5:21). He is the professor standing with pen in hand over the exam of our lives. He alone has authority to grant grace because He alone is fully and eternally righteous.
One wonder of God’s salvation is that it not only demonstrates God’s love for His people, but it declares throughout the universe the ability of God to effect salvation. God loved us enough to save us, and God has power enough to save and keep us. Says one writer, “The great mistake made by most of the Lord’s people is in hoping to discover in themselves that which is to be found in Christ alone.” [Pink, quoted by Bridges, Transforming Grace, p. 101.]
This is the grace of God that culminates in giving eternally and infinitely good gifts to people who deserve eternal wrath. We deserve the worst God can give and He gives the best He can give (Eph. 2:1-10). That’s grace. And it is available to all men (Titus 2:11).
But just how great and extensive is the grace of God? Consider that:
- By grace we are elected to spiritual life (Eph. 1:3-6)
- By grace we are effectively called to salvation (Gal. 1:15)
- By grace we are given faith and able to believe (Acts 18:27)
- By grace we are forgiven our sins (Eph. 1:7-8)
- By grace we are justified (Rom. 3:24; Tt. 3:7)
- By grace Christ absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf and imputed His righteousness to us (2 Cor. 5:21)
- By grace we are regenerated and given new life (1 Pt. 1:3)
- By grace we are progressively sanctified (2 Pt. 3:18; Rom. 6:11-23)
- By grace we are given spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6)
- By grace we are sustained spiritually and able to do righteous deeds (2 Cor. 12:9)
- By grace we are spiritually preserved into and throughout eternity (2 Tim. 2:1; Rom. 5:21)
As Charles Spurgeon said, “We see a golden thread of grace moving through the whole of the Christian’s history, from his election before all worlds, even to his admission to the heavenly rest.”
Everything we have and everything we do is only because of God’s grace. We are saved by grace and kept by grace. And the even more glorious truth is that nothing will ever change that!