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The Gifts of Grace

  • April 2019 Issue
Theology Matters

The New Testament word for gift (charisma) has often been translated as grace. All God’s gifts reflect His grace, and the fact that they are gifts means that they are free and cannot be earned. The New Testament’s theology of grace is rooted in the Old Testament idea of God’s favor, which is shown to those who do not deserve it and cannot help themselves.

The psalms often plead for grace or God’s favor. This might take the form of a cry for comfort in a time of affliction, forgiveness for sin, or rescue from one’s enemies (Ps. 25:16–20). Usually a power disparity exists between the one who shows grace and those who experience it. (In human relationships this is often the action of a superior toward an inferior.) But the theological concept describes God’s gracious act of providing for those who look to Him for help.

God’s grace is the foundation of the Christian’s salvation. We are saved not because of the righteous things we have done but because God has shown us mercy through Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5). Salvation is by grace because it is a gift.

Grace itself is also a gift. The New Testament concept of grace includes the idea of a dynamic power that enables those who have been saved to live the Christian life and serve God. The apostle Paul saw this power as the explanation for his own successful ministry. He worked harder than others because the grace of God was “with” him (1 Cor. 15:10).

Our efforts to serve God are like the gifts a child might give to a parent using money that the parent has provided for the purchase. The gifts we give to God are really a kind of re-gifting. Both the opportunity and the ability to serve Him are matters of grace. Because of this our efforts are not really our own. They are a result of God working through us (Gal. 2:8; Eph. 3:20). This is God working in us “to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). The Christian life is a life of grace from beginning to end. We enter it by grace, live it by grace, and receive rewards at the end by grace.

To learn more, read All of Grace by C. H. Spurgeon (Moody Publishers).

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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