Amazing grace! We sing about it, but what is grace? We can begin by saying that it is God's favor toward us. But it is more than that. It is His undeserved favor. Now let us go a step further. It is His undeserved favor to those who deserve the very opposite!
The words grace and gift are close relatives. Grace is a gift and for that reason it can neither be earned nor deserved. The minute you introduce any idea of debt or merit, you have eliminated grace. The gift of God's grace is of such enormous proportions that any thought of ever repaying it is completely ruled out. It is unspeakable and incomprehensible.
Now the true gospel is salvation by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8,9). Grace means you don't deserve it. Faith means you must receive it by a definite act of your will. No one understands the gospel unless he understands grace.
The grace of God is wonderful. It can take a repentant prostitute, forgive and cleanse her, make her a new woman, and destine her to be a companion of Jesus in eternal glory. It can take a dying thief, save him in the closing moments of his life, and escort him to paradise that very day. Grace populates heaven with converted murderers, sex offenders, alcoholics, thieves, and liars. No sinner is beyond its saving power.
Grace has lifted millions out of a horrible pit and from the miry clay; set their feet on a rock, establishing their way; put a song in their heart, to glorify their God; and eventually taken them to the many mansions in the Father's house (Psalm 40:1-3).
Hymn writer Haldor Lillenas was right on key when he wrote that the wonderful grace of Jesus is "broader than the scope of our transgressions, greater far than all our sin and shame."
Every true believer is often compelled to say: "I don't know why the Lord ever showed grace to me. I certainly am not worthy of such favor. The price He paid for me was definitely too high."
Grace transcends reason and logic, but it doesn't violate them. Reason would never have the shepherd die for the sheep, the judge die for the condemned, or—most incredible—the Creator die for the creature. Logic would insist that the sinner die for his sins, that the penalty of the broken law be carried out. Grace does the unthinkable.
Someone has described the marvel of grace this way: "Grace is not looking for good people whom it may approve, for it is not grace but justice to approve goodness; but it is looking for condemned, guilty, speechless, and helpless people whom it may save, sanctify, and glorify."
Grace is better than mercy
When a condemned criminal receives a reduced sentence, we say that the judge has shown him mercy. Imprisonment rather than death is an act of mercy. Grace is better than that. It acquits the guilty sinner, imputes righteousness to him, and silences the law's condemning voice.
Grace is better than justice
Grace and justice are completely opposite. A man is asking for justice when he says, "I am a good person and I want what I deserve." Hell is what he deserves. Don't ever ask God for justice! Grace says, "I am guilty, but I believe Christ died to pay the penalty for my sins, and I receive Him as Lord and Saviour. I don't deserve eternal life but I receive it as a free gift from God."
Grace is a better principle than law
The law tells a person what he must do in order to attain a righteous standing. Grace gives him a righteous standing before God, and then tells him to walk worthy of it. The law says, "Do and you will live." Grace says, "Live and you will do." Law says, "Try and obey." The language of grace is, "Trust and obey."
Law tells you what to do, but does not give you the power to do it, and curses you if you don't. Grace teaches you what to do, and gives you the power to do it, and rewards you when you do. So law carries the threat of punishment while grace carries the promise of reward.
Law condemns the best, since even the best cannot keep the Ten Commandments. Grace justifies the worst. Law reveals sin. Grace takes away sin. Law encourages boasting. Grace excludes boasting.
Under law, the work is never finished. Grace tells of the One who finished the work. The law demands, "You shall love." Grace announces, "God so loved." The law lays heavy burdens on people. The burdens of grace are light. Law is a system of bondage, grace of liberty.
There is no mercy in the law. It is cold, hard, and inflexible. Grace tells of a God who is rich in mercy.
—From "Now That is Amazing Grace" by William MacDonald. Published by Gospel Folio Press, used by permission.
An atheist said, "If there is a God, may he prove himself by striking me dead right now." Nothing happened. "You see, there is no God." Another responded, "You've only proved that He is a God who possesses amazing grace."