Someone reminded me this week that an oft-quoted cliché among Christians is, “God gives us grace for whatever we need.” But, my friend asked, what does that really mean? How does God give us grace? What does that grace practically look like?
Paul addresses a similar idea in Romans 5:2 when he identifies one of the blessings of justification as providing access to “this grace in which we stand.” How do we access that grace? And what does it mean to have grace to stand?
Notice that the grace is received “by faith.” Given that Paul has just spent 1-1/2 chapters explaining that justification is received by grace through faith alone and that in 5:1 Paul identifies Christ as the mediator of that access, it seems clear that Paul is speaking about the faith that results in justification, through which the believer is also granted the blessing of having access to grace. He doesn’t merit that grace, but it is the gift of God that accompanies justification for the believer. Like an employee who is given keys that grant him access to his company’s buildings and offices, we do nothing to meritoriously access grace ourselves, but we are granted access to grace through the work and gift of God.
If that’s how we access grace, then what does the grace look like? What does it mean to “stand in grace?” The primary meaning is that the grace that justifies the believer keeps him justified and enables him to be sanctified. He stands as one who is freed from his sin (which Paul will further explain in Romans 6) because of the grace of God. And He is freed from the wrath of God by the grace of God. These phrases emphasize that God forgives him and he remains forgiven by God, never again to go back under God’s condemnation.
Peter emphasizes the same reality when he writes,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Pt. 1:3-5)
By His grace and mercy manifested through the work of Christ, God regenerated us, giving us an inheritance that will never die, be corrupted, or disappear and He perpetually keeps that inheritance for us in Heaven, where He will reveal the fulness of it at the end of time. Believers are forgiven of their sins, and eternally remain forgiven of their sin.
A. W. Pink captured the wonder of that reality when he wrote, “It is utterly and absolutely impossible that the sentence of the divine Judge should ever be revoked or reversed.…those [sheltered in the Rock of Ages can never] again be brought under condemnation.”
Those who stand in grace will never again be crippled by the accusation of sin against them.
And since that is true, this phrase also means that there is grace for the believer to live without sinning. By that I don’t mean that he will never sin again (Paul makes that clear in 7:14-25). As long as he has his fleshly body, there will still be occasions of sin. But this does mean that he no longer has to sin (see especially 6:14-18).
Notice that the verb “we stand” is a present tense; that means that Paul is thinking about a current grace that is effective in current circumstances so that the believer can presently stand against sin. This means that God has given the believer all that he needs so that he doesn’t have to sin in any given moment.
What is the grace that God has given to enable men to resist sin? Paul doesn’t answer that question in these verses. His point is merely to affirm that there is sufficient grace for the believer always to live in ways that honor the Lord. Justification makes obedience and the fruit of righteousness possible.
But as we examine the rest of Scripture, we observe that God has not given only one means of grace to stand against sin; like Joseph’s coat, God’s grace to resist sin is multi-faceted.
- He has given us the grace of the Spirit of God to indwell us and produce His fruit in us (5:5; Gal. 5:22-23)
- He has given us the grace of a new heart with new desires that yearns to obey Him (2 Cor. 5:9, 14-16)
- He has given us the grace of His Word to direct us into truth (Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:16-17)
- He has given us the grace of repentance to cleanse us when we do sin (1 Jn. 1:9; 2:1-2)
- He has given us the grace of community and fellowship with other believers to assist us in our battle against sin (1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Tim. 2:25-26)
Whatever our circumstances and whatever our temptations and whatever our fleshly propensities, there is enough grace from God through the justifying work of Christ to enable us to stand against sin and live in righteousness.
I don’t know what your battle is today, but I do know that if you have been justified, you have been introduced to and have access to all the grace you need to stand faithful to Christ today.