There are certain words and phrases that are thrown around quite a bit in the church. Righteousness of God, justified by faith, saved by grace… if you’ve been a Christian for long, you’ve undoubtedly heard these and more. Some Christian phrases have been used so much, however, that I worry they’ve lost their power – or worse yet, we’ve started using them incorrectly.
(Be sure to check out my previous post introducing two additional Christian terms that are often misused or misunderstood.)
Christian Term #3: Saved by Grace
When I think of grace, I think of beauty and elegance. Maybe it’s because I spent most of life as a gymnast and ballet dancer. For the Christian, however, grace is an essential aspect of our faith. In fact, the Bible says that we are saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Grace isn’t just important, rather it’s one of the very things that makes our salvation possible.
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In Paul’s day, there was a group of individuals who were teaching that the more a person sinned, the more grace abounded in their lives. (Paul quickly corrected them in Romans 6:1-2.) A similar movement may be happening today. Some are teaching that since we are saved by grace and not our works, we can live however we would like (leaving our sinful lives intact) and God’s grace will cover it.
But the New Testament is clear… that’s not how God’s grace works.
The grace of God is often defined as God’s unmerited favor. I heard a pastor once say that mercy is withholding what we do deserve, while grace is giving us what we don’t deserve. And this is all true. The Bible is full of references to God’s grace as being His favor on our lives. But the Bible speaks of grace in other ways as well.
We are indeed saved by grace, but it is also by grace that we are empowered to live in Christ.
And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. – Acts 4:33 (NASB)
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. – Acts 6:8 (NASB)
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB)
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 2:1 (NASB)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age. – Titus 2:11-12 (NASB)
Think about it this way…
Before Christ, you were swimming upstream trying to survive (living by works, trying to be a good person apart from Christ). God, in His grace, gave you a row-boat (salvation). But many Christians don’t realize that also in His grace, He gave you a motor for your boat. Too many of us are content with our row-boats. For whatever reason, perhaps fear, we haven’t given in to allowing God’s grace to empower us. Many of us are scared to start the motor because of where that boat may take us if we do.
It is by grace that you are saved (in the boat) but it is also by His grace that you are empowered to live righteously by the Holy Spirit (the motor).
But it doesn’t stop there. The Bible says that we are also stewards of God’s grace. (1 Peter 4:10) In other words, we receive His grace so that we can share it with others.
For the believer, grace isn’t just what saves us. It is the power of God moving within us teaching us how to live and grow. And when we allow it to function in our lives, it has the power to flow through us to those around us.
*Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations taken from the NASB. (emphasis added)
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