The Assumptions of Grace

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Philippians 4:23

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

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And so it ends as it began, by grace:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

I wish I better understood this little word we so readily throw around in the Christian faith. It has come to mean so much that it means almost nothing. I assume I know what it means, and so I just mouth the words and move on. I mean, I get it, right? You too?

Paul begins and ends every letter he writes with these same words, yet there is nothing standard about these kinds of greetings. He is not saying, “Hello again, hope you are well,” or “Thanks for everything; wish you were here.” He is not extending his own grace to us. He greets us with the very grace of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. The little word is loaded with assumptions, and, lest I regularly reexamine them, the word becomes little more than my own presumption.

So what does grace assume? Here goes. It assumes I know I am a sinner; that I was born a sinner; that I am a sinner, not because I sin, but that I sin because I am a sinner. Grace assumes I understand I am a son of Adam, infected with sin-cancer from the start, born with a terminal illness, and destined for destruction. I am, by nature, a child of wrath. It’s not that God hates me; he loves me so much he will not allow me, a depraved sinner, to stand in his presence; for in his presence I am destroyed.

God is holy. This is his nature. Just as a fire consumes anything it is fed, so the holiness of God consumes whatever is not holy. And grace assumes I know that there is absolutely nothing I can do to make myself holy. Grace assumes that I understand that, apart from grace, I am hopeless. The holy God of the universe will not tolerate sin, not because he chooses not to but because he cannot, for to do so would be to deny his nature. The wrath of God is not an emotion but a simple fact of his existence.

Grace also assumes I know I am loved. I was loved at my birth, despite my sinful nature, and loved every day of my life, despite my sin; and loved in and through my recalcitrant, rebellious resistance. Grace wants to make sure I know I am loved, not because of anything I have ever done or not done; nor am I not loved because of anything I have ever done or not done. Grace assumes I know I am loved because it is God’s nature to love me.

Yes, grace assumes I know that God is holy and God is love and that these two eternal verities have been made known to us in this gospel: “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Grace assumes I know that understand that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). 

Grace assumes I get it that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Grace is the unmerited, unmitigated favor of God for sinners like me and you. The more we recognize our sin, the more we recognize our need for God’s grace; the more we recognize our need for God’s grace, the more grace we are given; and the more grace we are given, the more we become the agents of his grace in the world for others.

When Paul says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen,” this is what he means.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is grace and truth, holiness and love, God and man, giver and gift. Thank you for the cross where we find grace on grace on grace. Thank you. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. Are you growing in your grasp of the grace of God in Jesus Christ?
  2. How has Paul’s letter to the Philippians most encouraged you? Challenged you?
  3. What is your top takeaway from this letter and our journey through it?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This study of the book of Philippians has reaffirmed key thoughts of mine concerning my calling to live as a Christ follower. The main thought is my need to pursue having the mind of Christ; his humility, his servant-like heart, his joy found in obedience to his Father’s will. I have come to realize how utterly impossible it is to achieve this calling without the full measure of God’s grace imparted by his in dwelling Holy Spirit. My desire is to grow up to the full stature of Christ in community with like- minded pilgrims.

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