Saturday, January 31, 2009

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ

While I'm musing on the topic of grace, let me just comment on a trend I've noticed which worries me. This trend is to talk about grace more than we talk about Jesus.

The danger here is that we start to act as if grace were a general principle in God's nature. God works by grace, which means he doesn't deal with us as we deserve. He doesn't punish us when we sin, he gives us good things we don't deserve. Hurrah. Problem is, this slightly formless, shapeless grace is not going to claim me and constrain me in the way God's real grace will. It is too easy to take for granted. It easily becomes "God will forgive me; that's his job".

On top of that, grace - understood as a general principle of God's operation - makes the cross inexplicable and unnecessary. It makes Jesus unnecessary. If God is always gracious, why the need for Christ to come and die? We even now seem to have hymns of praise addressed to "grace" rather than to Christ.

Let's be clear: when Christians say grace, what they mean is Christ. When they say "God is gracious", they mean "God has acted in Christ". When they say "I am saved by grace", they mean "God in Christ has reconciled me to himself". What the word grace actually adds is that it is all Christ, and nothing else.


  1. thanks.
    the cross did nothing
    grace did nothing
    jesus did everything.
    love it.

  2. True. But not biconditionally. So when we say, 'God acting in Christ', it does not necessarily mean graciously. Christ, full of grace and truth, will one day judge and condemn justly those who have refused God's grace (that is, have refused Christ) in their lifetimes. So to say grace in Christ is the best reminder to our faith. So I'll continue to have hymns celebrating God's gracious covenantal action - just like the Spirit inspired the psalmists to write. I'll find them slightly more helpful if Christ is made explicit, because I understand the concern that our hearts can sometimes depersonalise our salvation. But speak of grace or
    hesset, and my soul will rejoice in God my salvation, Trinity, not merely in my salvation like a mechanical product of the grace function. Can anyone who has tasted God's grace truly sing of it without loving and worshiping Christ in whom it comes to us?

  3. "Can anyone who has tasted God's grace truly sing of it without loving and worshiping (sic) Christ in whom it comes to us?"

    My fear is that, yes, it is possible. I am sinfully forgetful.

    But of course, I did not mean we shouldn't talk about and sing about God's grace! As is often the case, it's about emphasis, and I only want to ensure that our emphasis is always the person and work of Christ. That his work is gracious - that in him God is gracious to us - is of course to be affirmed and joyfully celebrated!

  4. I'm very tardy on my blog rounds, but just wanted to say this is brilliant. Spot on. Thanks Daniel