Our word this week is the Greek term charis. Joseph H. Thayer made some significant observations concerning the meaning of charis: "that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness good-will, loving-kindness, favor charis is used pre-eminently of that kindness by which God bestows favors even upon the ill-deserving, and grants to sinners the pardon of their offences, and bids them accept of eternal salvation through Christ."F1 Though our word charis is used 155 times in the NT, it is not always translated with the familiar word "grace." This article will not attempt to explore every occurrence the Greek term charis. It will, however, consider charis in reference to our soul salvation, as presented in Scripture.
First, our salvation from sin commences with the grace of God (he charis tou theou). The apostle Paul affirms "For by grace [charis] you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). Because of his predicament, man needed a divine lift (see Romans 3:9-26). Grace is that divine lift: "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people" [pasin anthropois] (Titus 2:11). Reflecting on grace, C.S. Lewis noted, "St. Augustine says 'God gives where He finds empty hands.' A man whose hands are full of parcels can't receive a gift."F2 And the words of the apostle, as he comments on grace, find a welcome residence on my lips: "Thanks [charis] be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Second, our salvation continues with the grace of God (he charis tou theou). It necessary follows, since we were unable to save ourselves, though in a saved condition, we need that which got us started to stay savedwe need God's grace. And as Tony Evans comments, "Grace not only saves you for heaven, but grace equips you for a life of spiritual growth and maturity here on earth."F3 While Paul and Barnabas were at Pisidian Antioch on Paul's first missionary journey, they urged their addressees "to continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43). Furthermore, after giving a systematic presentation of the fundamental pillars of the gospel message, Paul affirms "But by the grace of God [chariti de theou] I am what I am, and His grace [he charis autou] toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God [he charis tou theou] with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10). As an apostle, Paul's magnificent ministry was accomplished by "the grace of God." We needed grace to pick us up, and we need grace to keep us up.
Third, our salvation consummates with the grace of God (he charis tou theou). Yes, we could not commence our salvation, continue it and certainly, we cannot consummate it. Writing to a group of Christians who were scattered throughout Asia Minor because of persecution, Peter encourages his readers "Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace [charin] to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13). When the Lord bursts the clouds, in His glory, the saved will only receive their crown of glory because of the g race of God. As Mark Twain observed "Heaven goes by favor [grace]. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in."F4
Finally, I believe that every Christian should commence an intensive study of the grace of God and let the wonder discoveries transform their lives. "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound! That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see." These words find a welcome and warm residence in my heart and on my lips. Thank you, Lord, for your "Indescribable gift."
F1: Joseph H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), pp. 665-66.
F2: Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root, eds., The Quotable Lewis (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 1989), p. 272.
F3: Tony Evans, Free at Last (Chicago: Moody Press, 2001), p. 92.
F4: Mark Twain as quoted by Mark Water, The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), p. 446.
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