Meditations in Colossians: 4: Grace?
Col 1:2b Grace and peace to you from God our Father
In an earlier study/meditation I commented on how easy it is to pass over words in Scripture without really understanding what they mean, If that was true of ‘holy’ it is as true of ‘grace’. When I was a schoolboy I remember chemistry classes and of playing with ‘quicksilver’, mercury. (Health and safety probably prohibits it today but we were able to do it back then!) You have little globules of mercury on the bench in front of you and if you try to pick it up it splits into many more smaller globules and it seems to run away from you. Grace it like that. Not long ago I heard a preacher glibly talking about grace and I couldn’t stop myself thinking, “From all I know of you and of this church, you really know virtually nothing about grace”. You see, I am sure we are not only to try to get a handle on it’s meaning, we’re also to let it impact our lives and our churches.
Now I am going to cheat here. I’d like to do a meditation but to talk meaningfully about grace means you really do need to see how it gets used in the Bible. My electronic concordance tells me that it occurs over 130 times in the Bible but only 8 of them are in the Old Testament. It is definitely a New Testament idea. When you start looking at what commentators say about verses including ‘grace’ you so often find they hedge the issue and start sounding vague. So here is a selection of the use of the word ‘grace’ and after each one is what I suggest the context and wider scripture suggest is how it is used in each case:
Acts 4:33 the apostles continued ….and much grace (power and goodness) was upon them all
Acts 6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace (goodness) and power
Acts 11:23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace (character and expression of God) of God, he was glad
Acts 13:43 Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God (the way of salvation).
Acts 14:3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace (His way of salvation) by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.
Acts 14:26 where they had been committed to the grace (sustaining an protective power) of God for the work they had now completed.
Acts 15:11 We believe it is through the grace (free gift) of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
Acts 15:40 Paul … left, commended by the brothers to the grace (safe keeping power) of the Lord.
Acts 18:27 On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace (saving mercy) had believed
Acts 20:24 the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (free saving mercy).
Acts 20:32 Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace (His ongoing saving mercy), which can build you up
Now you may not agree with every one of those ‘interpretations’ and I’m fine with that because although the Greek word ‘charis’ generally means ‘loving kindness’ its application is varied and open to interpretation. There are some things we can say about it, however, to draw some meaning to be applied to our lives.
First, it is used as an expression of God towards us. The nature of salvation, that it was freely given by God through Jesus, is an expression of His loving kindness. The work of reconciliation through the Cross and the forgiveness God can bring to us, are expressions of His loving kindness.
Second, by its very nature it cannot be earned. We can never do enough to cover the sins of a lifetime; only Jesus can do that through the Cross. He freely offers that work of propitiation, atonement, forgiveness and cleansing to us and all we can do is accept it gratefully.
Third, God’s loving kindness is always expressed in a practical way, i.e. it is not just words but something that has practical impact on our lives. The old Sunday School mnemonic, “GRACE = God riches at Christ’s expense” is better put, I believe, as “God’s resources at Christ’s expense” or all of God’s power released to us as a result of the Cross, to enable us, change us, and equip us. So look at some of those verses we saw before, inserting this definition:
Acts 4:33 .and much evidence of God’s resources was upon them all
Acts 6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s God’s resources and power
Acts 11:23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of God’s resources, he was glad
Acts 13:43 Barnabas, .. and urged them to continue with God’s resources
Acts 14:26 where they had been committed to the power of God’s resources
It doesn’t sit very comfortably with some of them but it does enable us to see that (maybe expanding some of them a little) this ‘grace’ thing is all about receiving and living in the wonder of God’s provision of us, so when Paul says “Grace and peace be to you from God the Father,” he is saying, may you know and experience all the wonder of God’s salvation released to you as a result of the Cross and administered through the power of the Holy Spirit, His resourcing for you in any and every situation you find yourself in. We are above all else, a resourced people, resourced by God with all of His power released to us as a result of the work of Jesus on the Cross. The life we live today is all about receiving from Him the resources He wants ti impart into our lives. May it be so.