We sing about it.
We read books about it.
But we often, in subtle but critical ways, misunderstand it.
And if we misunderstand grace, we misunderstand God.
I know I do.
In theory, we believe that grace is undeserving goodness.
In practice, we act like we have to earn and deserve it.
In theory, we believe that grace is unending.
In practice, we act like we can run it dry.
In theory we believe that grace is strong.
In practice, we act like it’s soft and powerless.
In theory, we believe it covers all our sin.
In practice, we think there’s some stuff grace just can’t touch.
So what’s the issue and which is it?
Undeserved or earned?
Unending or limited?
Strong or soft?
All or some of our sin?
There are verses in the Bible that clarify all those points and more about grace. But I want to take you to a passage that I have been recently combing through that has left me stunned - and I think it will do the same to you.
It’s found in the letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome;
“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15-17)
What Paul is getting at here is the difference between the condemnation that came from Adam’s sin and the free gift of justification (being made right with God) that came from Jesus! But it’s not just a mere difference between good and bad. It’s more than that - and Paul makes that clear!
The contrast Paul wants to make is that the depth of condemnation is not deeper than the grace of salvation. In other words, the negative impact of sin is not greater than the positive impact of grace. The destructive power of sin and death is not as potent as the restorative power of grace and life! That’s Good News!
The greek definition for the word for “more” in this passage says this; “‘mállon’ (‘more than, better rather’) is a comparative adverb so it refers to what is better as compared to what is merely ‘good.’ This involves prioritizing or ranking to elevate the better over the good, i.e. the higher priority (the more important) over the less-important.”
This isn’t just a case that God’s grace does deeper than sin and death (which it does) - it is making the case that although judgement of death is certain to follow sin, even more certain is the grace of God that follows Jesus to all who receive!
But why is it more certain?
Are you ready? This is stunning…
Because God’s ultimate purpose is not judgement but the display of the glory of his grace!
Yes, you read that right. God prefers to glorify Himself through the giving of grace to sinners over judgment. Does that mean God doesn’t judge sinners? No. (And that’s for another blog). Ultimate does not mean only. There are other ways God will glorify His name. But to be clear, grace is His preference. !!!
Let that sit with you for a bit.
GRACE IS GOD’S PREFERENCE.
Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.
And don’t take my words for it.
Paul writes in Ephesians 1:5-6 that “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do - so that we would praise his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
Or if that’s not enough, Paul writes in the next chapter (2:7) that “God raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus in order to demonstrate in the coming ages (for eternity) the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
In other words, the goal of God sending Jesus and His Spirit into the world to save sinners is ultimately so we would praise the glory, the beauty, the otherworldliness of God’s kindness and grace! So we would, for an eternity, marvel at how kind and compassionate and powerful and forgiving and loving God is!
Yes, judgement for sin is a real thing.
Yes, hell exists because God’s wrath is against sin.
Yes, God’s name is glorified in the just punishment of guilty sinners.
But just because it is a true reality doesn’t mean it’s the ultimate goal.
God’s ultimate goal for His glory is to be seen mainly through the lens of His grace!
So the next time you question grace..
The next time you question God’s heart..
The next time you question whether God’s grace can cover your sin..
The next time you question God in general…
Just know this - GRACE is God’s PREFERENCE!
We can trust God’s hand because we know His heart!
And it’s shockingly for us, so we would be solely for Him!