The Meaning of the Word “Grace”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on grace in light of Ephesians 2:8-10:

Grace is God’s richness for the bankrupt. Grace is God’s resurrection life for the dead. Grace is a one-way street–God comes to you.

…we are Christians entirely and solely as the result of the grace of God. Let us remind ourselves once more that ‘grace’ means unmerited, undeserved favour. It is an action which arises entirely from the gracious character of God. So the fundamental proposition is that salvation is something that comes to us entirely from God’s side. What is still more important is this, that it not only comes from God’s side, it comes to us in spite of ourselves–‘unmerited’ favour. In other words, it is not God’s response to anything in us. Now there are many people who seem to think that it is–that salvation is God’s response to something in us. But the word ‘grace’ excludes that. It is in spite of us…Salvation is not in any sense God’s response to anything in us. It is not something that we in any sense deserve or merit. The whole essence of the teaching at this point, and everywhere in the New Testament, is that we have no sort or kind of right whatsoever to salvation, that the whole glory of salvation is, that though we deserved nothing but punishment and hell and banishment out of the sight of God to all eternity, yet God, of His own love and grace and wondrous mercy, has granted us this salvation. Now that is the entire meaning of this term ‘grace’.” [God’s Way of Reconciliation, 130]

Grace is not God’s response to your greatness. Grace, as Ephesians 2:8 shows, eliminates human boasting. Instead grace is God’s free gift of himself to sinners and for sinners. This is why faith is not so much responding to God’s grace as it is receiving God’s grace.

So don’t believe the lies that your sins are not that great or that they are greater than God’s grace. Both of these attitudes are a kind of boasting. We boast in our sinfulness when we believe our sins are more magnificent than God’s grace thus weakening grace, and we reveal our sinfulness when we think that we were not dead–dead, dead, dead–in sin thus cheapening grace.

Grace is God’s richness for the bankrupt. Grace is God’s resurrection life for the dead. Grace is a one-way street–God comes to you.

The Connection Between Relational Christianity and the Trinity

God is relational because God is God. God is not relational because he creates human beings. You were not created for relationship because God needed a relationship with someone. He has always been in relationship. He is–by nature of his very God-ness–relational because he is Triune–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This means that God is intensely personal. Therefore the Trinity should not be reduced to merely doctrinal matters. God is not a math problem or simply a logical, linear arrangement of theologizing.

In the Triune God the relational aspect of existence is given infinite weight and meaning.

Eugene Peterson writes,

So we don’t understand Trinity by working with numbers, puzzling over how one equals three or three equals one. Trinity has nothing to do with arithmetic. Trinity is the church’s way of learning to think and respond relationally to God as he reveals himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is triply personal, emphatically personal, unrelentingly personal. Growing up in the practice of resurrection must also be unrelentingly and emphatically personal. [Practice Resurrection, 198.]

However, this works the other way round also. Those who prize the practical and the relational nature of Christianity should not get frustrated with those who discuss and debate the complexities of Trinitarian theology. Without the Trinity the personal and relational nature of Christianity is reduced to a finite size. In the Triune God the relational aspect of existence is given infinite weight and meaning. 

Getting personal matters because theology matters.  Relationships matter because God matters.

The affirmation of the Trinity on the statement of faith at your church that you probably have never even looked at means something. It’s important. It’s worth defending. It’s worth celebrating. It’s a statement about the nature of reality, and, not only theological reality, but everyday–communicating with your wife and kids and neighbor–reality. Therefore value relationship and getting personal not for its own sake, but for God’s sake and unto his Triune glory.

Isaiah 61: God is After Your Good & His Glory

This last Sunday I preached on Isaiah 61. The chapter is resplendent with how the promised Messiah gives everlasting joy to those in desperate conditions. Luke 4 shows how Jesus is this promised Messiah, and the gospels as a whole testify to how Jesus in the power of the Spirit embodies Isaiah 61:1-3 and brings joy to the depressed, mends broken hearts, comforts the mourning, liberates those in captivity, and proclaims the good news of the kingdom in word and action.

Therefore the ultimate goal of the joy and restoration that Jesus brings to the broken is the glory of God.

The mission of Jesus brings restoration to human brokenness in all its forms–physical and spiritual. He helps the helpless, makes the weak strong, the unrighteous righteous (Is. 61:10), and proclaims good news to those with nothing but bad news. In other words, Jesus’ aim is to usher in God’s goodness and favor and increase the happiness and joy of sinful humanity.

But the big sentence of verses 1-3, accelerating with God’s goodness to humanity, culminates in the phrase that he may be glorified. God’s gracious goodness in putting the world to right and imparting joy to sinful people in the person and work of Jesus are a means to his glory. This means that God isn’t only after your good (though he is pursuing that)–he’s after his glory. Therefore the ultimate goal of the joy and restoration that Jesus brings to the broken is the glory of God.

Jonathan Edwards, doing what he does best, elaborates on how God seeks the good of sinners and the glory of himself:

God in seeking his glory, seeks the good of his creatures…And in communicating his fulness for them, he does it for himself; because their good, which he seeks, is so much in union and communion with himself. God is their good. Their excellency and happiness is nothing, but the emanation and expresion of Gods’ glory: God, in seeking their glory and happiness, seeks himself: and in seeking himself, i.e. himself diffused and expressed, (which he delights in, as he delights in his own beauty and fulness,) he seeks their glory and happiness. [A Dissertation Concerning The End for Which God Created the World, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, reprinted from an 1834 edition in January 2003), 105.]