Ephesians 1:7-9 – “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.”
I recently heard someone say that the idea of grace terrifies them. When I first heard this idea, I thought it was crazy. But then as I heard them explain what they meant, their thoughts were quite profound.
Grace is undeserved favor. It is the favor that God chooses to give His people who do not deserve His favor. Of course, the ultimate demonstration of grace is seen in the fact that God the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ to bear the punishment God’s rebellious children deserved to bear. We deserve punishment. Jesus took that punishment, providing a way for us to be forgiven and given the greatest gift anyone could possibly receive: God Himself in us. As children loved by God, God calls us to love others as we would have them love ourselves. We are called to lavish God’s grace on other sinners like we desire to experience this grace.
Legalists tend to be terrified of grace. They want to show justice. They demand grace for themselves, but desire to show judgment and condemnation to other sinners who have transgressed the law. Legalists remind me of Jonah. He wanted grace from God, but did not want to show grace to the Ninevites. He wanted them to experience God’s judgment. There is a bit of legalism in all of us, unfortunately. But there is an element of grace that is even more terrifying to even the non-legalist.
Grace sets us free from the law. Imagine being a prisoner for the majority of your life. You’ve learned how to live behind bars, yet you are about to be released. The freedom you had before you were imprisoned led you to break the law. The freedom you are about to have outside of prison might lead you to be susceptible to committing a similar crime that led you to prison in the first place. The comfort of prison is that you were unable to commit the same crime that brought you to prison in the first place. When we are set free from the law by God’s grace, there is a freedom that is beautiful. Yet, the comfort of the law is that we better understand our boundaries. We understand clearly what it is that is right and what it is that is wrong. This was precisely why David said, “Oh, how I love the law.”
We struggle with this in interacting with others. We see someone struggling in sin, and feel the easiest way to interact with them is to lay the law down on them and tell them that they need to repent. At the same time, God has chosen to show us grace, and desires us to show grace to others. At what point is my showing grace keeping someone in their sin? Am I simply enabling them to continue living contrary to God’s desire for them if I don’t lay the law down on them?
Herein lies the beauty of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. The freedom grace brings is far better than the life lived under the weight of the law. Under the law, we stood condemned. Under grace, we stand forgiven. So freedom is what we desire. To be free in Christ is greater than we can comprehend.
In the Old Testament, God promised the New Covenant, promising that the law would be written on our hearts. This is very clearly the work of the infilling Spirit in us. The Spirit convicts the world concerning sin and unrighteousness, and he points us to Jesus Christ. Grace gives us the Holy Spirit, who helps us operate within the freedom we have been given. Without the Spirit of God in us, yes; we should be terrified of God’s grace. With the Holy Spirit, no; we should not be terrified. We should be delighted as we fear God while walking in the grace and freedom he has lavished upon us.