Apart from God's Grace we can do Nothing
by naomi Cassata 4/27/2011 / Christian Living
As she entered in, her gown flowed gently across the palace floor. Her feet stepped where only the elect had stood before. How did she arrive when coming from such a humble background? Her neck and wrists were adorned with costly jewels. Her hair glistened with tiny trinkets. She stood silently before the king. What would be the verdict? She took nothing more and nothing less than what was required of her. It was no longer in her hands. Although, had it ever been? The favor of God and the king were extended towards her. To be chosen queen was her destiny. The kingdom was nothing she grasped after; rather it was something that chose her.
Esther was one of several girls that stood before the king. Was it by chance he delighted in her? I think not. Grace was on her side.
Queen Esther's fate to be queen is a lovely imagery of grace. Grace was never intended to be something we run after. Neither is it something we earn based on our skills, strategies, gifting or power. Simply put: It is unearned favor poured on an individual's life for an explicit purpose.
In the New Testament, we come to understand God's grace in a new light. We see it unfolding in the lives of believers in at least two distinct ways 1) salvation for eternal life and 2) to equip God's children to do His will upon the earth.
Grace for Eternal Life
God's grace was a mystery to the Old Testament saints. We read in 1 Peter 1 that the prophets searched the scriptures "intently" to determine when God's gracethrough Christwould appear. They knew only bits and pieces about God's unfolding plan. However, it was enticing enough for them search it out.
When Jesus came onto the scene, little-by-little, the mystery of God's grace began to unfold. Jesus was not only the one to usher it in, but he was also the very source grace would flow through.
Grace, through salvation, was a foreign concept to the Jews. To them, it meant ceremonial observance and keeping to the law could no longer make them spiritual. The law, given through Moses, had no power. The new covenant was through Christ's atonement and him alone. Accepting Jesus's death as the ultimate form of salvation was something many could not accept. To the Jews, the concept of grace was too simple. Surely there was more.
Like Esther, grace is nothing we earn by being good. It is a gift. Therefore, we can never boast about our own righteousness.
Grace comes from God's goodness to mankind. It enables each of us to live lives pleasing to God by enabling us to live righteously. Grace has purpose and that purpose is eternal life to those that walk in it. "so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:21).
Grace that Equips
In the book of Ephesians, Chapter 3, Paul talks about God's grace equipping him to preach to the Gentiles the mystery of salvation (v.7-9). Paul was stating that without God choosing and equipping him, he would not have the power to tell them the revelation of Jesus Christ. In fact, the desire to serve God was absent from Paul until God's grace abounded.
The purpose of God's grace towards Paul was initially his own salvation. Next, it was to use him to speak to the Gentiles. The message of salvation was being offered to a group of people outside the Jewish community, of the day. This was unheard of. It was Paul that opened this door through God's grace.
Why was Paul chosen? It was Paul that was persecuting Christians in each city; and yet, that still did not detour God from using him. Paul, despite his shortcomings, was the man God wanted to perform the task. I've often wondered how a man that hated the followers of Christ, to the point of consenting to their deaths, became the very person he previously despised. It can only be described with two words: God's Grace. Dictionary.com explains it unmistakably. The freely given, unmerited favor and love of God (Theology 8 a.). This is exactly what rested upon Paul's life.
It had nothing to do with what Paul had done, but everything to do with God's favor. Once God's grace is poured out, the strength to do His will is present. "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10). I love the way Paul puts it here.
First, he makes the point that he is who he is due to grace. Everything he accomplished for God was due to the grace He equipped him with. Second, he goes on to say that he labored even harder than the others who were with him. He lived his life as godly as possibledoing the works of his Father. Lastly, he gives glory where glory is due. He states, " not I, but the grace of God which was with me." That was the power behind his labor. Therefore, Paul could not boast of his accomplishments, but rather point to the one who enabled him.
Examples of God's Grace
There are many examples, throughout the Bible, of God's grace (favor) resting upon God's people. In fact, it seems like God used the most unlikely candidates to bring His will into being.
Esther, a Jew, was shown favor in order to save the Jews from an untimely death (Esther 2:15). Mary, young and unwed, was "highly favored" by God and brought the Savior into the world (Luke 1:28). Moses, despite a stuttering tongue, found favor in God's eyes and set a whole nation free from bondage (Exodus 33:12). David, the youngest of eight boys, found favor in God's eyes, and later governed God's people (1 Samuel 16:12).
God's grace is nothing to be taken lightly. It is a gift from God that we are to cherish by walking worthy of it. Apart from God's grace in our lives, we would be lostwithout hope and purpose. God's grace equips and enables us to fulfill our purposes in Christ Jesus, for "Apart from God's grace, we can do nothing."