Posted by: The Simple Guy | August 28, 2010

What is God’s Grace?

As a “simple guy” I like to speak simply and plainly.  I like to relate things in a way that a child can understand.  Not because I am talking down to anyone, but because that is how I understand things.  If I can’t make it simple, I’m not ready to talk about it.

So, I get frustrated with biblical or “christian” words that don’t readily translate to normal language. Let me give you some examples.

Words like baptize, or apostle, or deacon.  (all words that were “transliterated” not translated – means the translators didn’t find an equivalent in English, but instead just spelled the Greek word in English)

Usually by doing a little homework on the original word in the original language, one can get at the original meaning so this hurdle isn’t too hard to overcome.

Or words like “Christian” or “Love” that can mean so many different things that once you use them you have to define what you mean when you use those words.  So as long as one has nailed down clearly what they mean when they use it, or is willing to look into context when someone else uses it, this hurdle can be overcome without too much difficulty, too.  I just try to make sure that I define terms when one of these types of words is used.

But then there are words like “grace.” Grace is a word you’ll find in the dictionary.  It has a normal meaning.  But in scripture, it doesn’t mean graceful like a ballerina or a gazelle.  When scripture speaks of God’s grace, that is a concept that is hard for me to grab a hold of in my mind.

What is God’s grace?  Is it one of His eternal attributes, or is it outside of Him, just something that He does?

I’ve heard the religious definitions, but I have not heard one that fits all of the contexts in which it is used.

So I would like to ask those of you who frequent this blog.  If you were to speak to a person who shovels sawdust in a sawmill and has never read a word in the Bible, someone who had never darkened the door of a church and was not fluent in “churchese”; how would you define “grace”?

And for my benefit, how would you base that definition in Scripture?

Be brave, I like fruitful discussion:

Craig

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Responses

  1. Craig,

    One of the definitions that I have heard in the past the stuck in my mind was, “grace is getting what you don’t deserve.”
    With regards to the scriptural basis, I am always drawn back to the passages that speak of our being justified by Holy God as sinners, and yet God still being just. This can only be accomplished by an “alien” righteousness that is given to us apart from any demand of merit on our part, that is, Holy God declaring me to be just and therefore accepted before Him is not what I deserve. It is the merit of another applied to my credit. That, to me, is grace.

    • Tom,
      I’ve heard that definition, too. The righteousness I receive from God is definitely grace, and it is God’s to be sure. I do not deserve it at all. I agree.

      I wonder if God’s grace is one of His attributes and therefore timeless and unchangeable, or if it is outside of Him and therefore changeable.

      I’ve also heard it defined as “the desire and power to do God’s will”

      Craig

  2. Craig,

    If we understand God to be infinite and eternally complete then I would view the demonstration of grace to be a manifestation of His eternal, unchanging being. He is the first cause of all things good, therefore, grace must find its source and fountainhead in Him.

  3. The reason I ask is that I heard the statement the other day that grace began when God covered Adam and Eve with skins before sending them out of the garden. This statement seemed wrong to me. I think grace is a part of God and has no beginning as such.
    I think this quote places Grace as something God is Filed with and has always been.
    “Joh 1:14 ESV
    (14) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
    So rather than say grace began at a point in scripture, I would say the first time WE SEE grace is at this point or that point.
    (personally, I would place the first time we see God’s grace toward us is when he formed man out of the clay and then breathed life into him, but that’s beside the point.)

    Am I off base or splitting hairs here?

    Craig

  4. Craig,

    I agree. I believe grace is an “in time and circumstance” outworking or manifestation of the eternal character of God. It is His nature and flows out from Him in time and space, as you stated, in His creative and redemptive works. So, though it is made “visable” to us in time, it has always been the attribute of the Godhead.

  5. I think we can say God’s grace is the part of his nature that causes him to be kind to others, whether they deserve it or not. There’s no limit to its depth (he will be abundantly good to those who have been the worst, if they turn from evil to him through Jesus), though there is a limit to who receives it and for how long. (He was gracious to Judas Iscariot in many ways, but did not save him in the end.)

  6. Very interesting responses, guys.

    Craig and I were discussing this the other day and I’d say that I believe grace is a part of God’s nature and is manifested as unmerited favor toward the undeserving.

    Jim Swindle, that is a ponder-worthy point concerning Judas as I was thinking of:

    Matthew 5:43-48
    You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
    But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you,
    so that you may become sons of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
    For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?
    And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax-collectors do so?
    Therefore be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.

    Would it be appropriate to say that those who believe on the Son are being trained into the graciousness of character He has exhibited toward us?

    • Exactly, Heather. The link by my name in this reply gives some of my thoughts on that, which were prompted by a sermon from my pastor.

      • Wow, what a strong poem, and even stronger truth Jim.

        Thanks for sharing.

        I still like your quote:
        “I think we can say God’s grace is the part of his nature that causes him to be kind to others, whether they deserve it or not.”

        So far, this is the short definition I am looking for.

        I posted about Judas a while back, too. (but looking at the comments of that post, you knew that didn’t you 🙂 – Thanks again for the discussion my friend! )

        https://helmetslayer.wordpress.com/?s=what+did+jesus+say+when+judas+left%3F

  7. […] out here.  But Craig and I were discussing the nature of God’s grace a few days ago and he opened a discussion at his place […]

  8. Jim,
    I like the way you said that. It is the part of His nature that causes Him to be kind to others whether they deserve it or not.
    Heather,
    Yes, I think it is appropriate to say we are being trained in His likeness.
    Great thoughts guys!
    Any more?
    Craig

  9. All,

    Another matter of critical importance, that I believe the exercise of grace toward us produces is, the realization of our utter dependance on Him for our life and sustenance. Our physical and spiritual existence and furtherance is in the hands of Holy God who could justly consume me, but instead declares to me that I am “twice His”……He made me and He bought me!!

    • PREACH IT TOM!!

      Twice His.

      Thanks brother,

      Craig

  10. Grace cannot be explained to either a believer….or to an unbeliever. Grace MUST be experienced for one to KNOW its depths. Grace is ALIVE! Grace is experienced by the ‘few’ who have entered into His ‘rest.’ Grace is a place…a realm of existance…LOVE shared.
    Grace, Agape Love, Righteousness, Holiness, Christ-likeness, Redemption, the moving from death to Life, and Salvation….are all the same thing. Grace is not ‘grace’ until it is received….experienced. Grace is only understood through an interactive Love relationship with God through Christ.

    Adam KNEW: Ge 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

    Abel KNEW: Ge 4:4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:

    Noah KNEW: Ge 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. Ge 6:9 ….. Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

    Lot KNEW: Ge 18:32 …..And he said, Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. Ge 19:19 Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast showed unto me in saving my life; ….’

    Jacob and Esau KNEW: Ge 32:4 And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: Ge 32:5 And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight. Ge 33:4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept. Ge 33:5 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath GRACIOUSLY given thy servant.

    Joseph KNEW: Ge 39:2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. Ge 39:4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.

    Hebrews chapters eleven and twelve are about Grace…about the interactive love relationship between God and those who KNOW HIm.

    Peter is one of the contemporary examples of the Grace relationship…about the interactive personal relationship between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God. Mt 16:15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Mt 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Mt 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Mt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    The ‘spiritual’ discourse between Peter and Christ is the best example for me…of Grace. It is the place where the Divine and the man who has responded to the Divine…stand spirit to Spirit…and each KNOWS the heart of the other.

    As I said to begin with…Grace cannot be explained. And my ramblings are proof positive. LOL. But as it is with all things…a thing can be known by understanding what it is NOT.

    Grace is not conceptual. It is not a personality trait of God. It is not a blanket covering for sin.

    In our carnal traditions, contemporary christianity has dumbed down God and through doing so…we have dumbed down Grace. But in reality, Grace is the pearl of great price buried in a field…that a man…knowing its value… would give EVERYTHING to possess it. Grace comes into force as the heavenly Father extends His loving arms to embrace His child who was dead….and now lives…and that child RECEIVES and PARTICIPATES by falling into those precious arms…looks up and says, ‘I love you, Daddy.’

  11. Carolyn,
    First of all, welcome to my site and to the discussion. Thanks for dropping by!

    A couple of questions. You say grace cannot be explained. Does that mean we shouldn’t try? I mean, it is a word, right? Shouldn’t we work at a definition for those who ask?

    Also, It seems that you are saying that in order for Grace to be Grace, I must know it. (as an experience, I understand) Is it grace if I don’t know it? The reason I ask is this. If I have to know it, doesn’t it depend upon me then? What do we call God’s part before I know about it, or does it originate with me then?

    And last but not least, you say: “Grace is not conceptual. It is not a personality trait of God. It is not a blanket covering for sin”

    How do you know this? I’m working at understanding your perspective, so I may not be getting what you are saying yet. Are you trying to say it isn’t merely a concept, isn’t only an attribute of God? The last line there we have to talk about, but I have to run off to work and am out of time. In short, it better be a blanket covering for my sin, because if it doesn’t cover it all, then I’m hopeless, and so are you. But perhaps that’s in the realm of mercy rather than Grace.

    Thanks again for stopping by, and please don’t take my questions like I’m offended. I am not at all. Just trying to understand what you mean while I grapple with this word in scripture.

    Blessings,
    Craig

  12. I would say grace is a person (cf. Rom 5.5) or personified by Christ’s life; as is truth (see Jn 14.6). If we say that grace has its own ontology or “being” apart from God; then we have set up another principle “outside” of God that actually is eternal and equal to God.

    The only way Christianity has come to conceive of as grace apart from God’s life is to subsume the scriptural portrayal of grace with Aristotle’s categories of “substance” so that grace becomes a created quality that is not necessarily tied to God’s life, but created by it. This is why it is always a problem, given the symmetry between sin/grace, to think of sin as a quality or disease; in fact sin should be defined in “personal” terms, so that we think of it as an absence of God’s righeousness/grace in our lives. If we think of it this way, then the answer to sin is restoration of God’s righteounsess/grace/life to ours (cf. Rom. 5.5). I think grace is personal . . . Augustine thought this too, but more importantly Paul and the Scriptures think so too :-).

    My two cents . . .

    • Bobby,
      Thanks for stopping by, I am truly honored that you entered the discussion, I highly respect your knowledge, opinion, and zeal.
      I don’t quite understand though. I can’t just substitute “Jesus” any time I see the word “grace” in scripture, can I?

      What I am really grappling with here is that I want a definition I can base in scripture that is short and simple. One that I can attach mentally to the word “grace” when it shows up. This is because it probably doesn’t have the secular definition of “like a gazelle or balarina”
      Make sense?
      For instance, the short definition I have in mind for Jesus is “God in skin, so we could know Him better”
      Now I know that doesn’t encapsulate Jesus, or exhaustively define Him. But it is a true summary statement to help me remember. Sort of looking for the same thing with grace.

      I agree that grace is tied up inextricably in Christ. I do not believe it is separate from Him.

      Craig

  13. Craig,

    I think doing lexical analysis of the word grace in the NT is important — but even after you do that study (which I’ve done) we are still left with how this notion of grace is tied to God. Is it something that subsists from God, or in fact is it constituent to God’s very “being?” I think the answer, theo-logically must be that it is constituent to His being. Or else we must conclude that grace is something that is separate from or even equal to God (but in a competitive way, or dualistic way). I think it is a great mistake to think of God’s “attributes” in the way that it is usually framed (i.e. they aren’t the “essential” things that God in fact is in His “inner-life”).

    The Bible assumes a theology or doctrine of God when it speaks about certain points of doctrine (in the epistles for example); I think we need to not only wrestle with establishing semantic ranges through lexical analysis, but that we also need to be involved with the “work” of parsing out the “unstated” points of theology that the Bible writers (Apostles and Prophets) assumed as they were applying these concepts in the occasional situations they found themselves in.

    Let me think of a short little anecdote that might encapsulate what I’m getting at; I’ll be back.

    • I think it is a great mistake to think of God’s “attributes” in the way that it is usually framed (i.e. they aren’t the “essential” things that God in fact is in His “inner-life”).

      Hmm

      Let me think of a short little anecdote that might encapsulate what I’m getting at; I’ll be back.

      Waiting………..:D

  14. I agree that it is part of Who He is, rather than outside of Him. I think your mention of Romans 5:5 is very interesting. I was also thinking of Colossians 1, “Christ in you the hope of glory” as a brief summary of God’s grace in me. I suppose some of the difficulty for me has been that sometimes God’s grace is spoken of in relation to Him, but other times in relation to us. When we try to separate that clinically that destroys the concept, when in actually, it is dynamic and is a part of the relationship we enjoy with Him.
    We tend to speak of God as if He is dead or not in the room, when in actuality, He is very much alive, active, and moving.

    Craig

  15. Hey…Simple Guy. Thanks for allowing us to look at ‘Grace.’

    Simple Guy: You say grace cannot be explained. Does that mean we shouldn’t try? I mean, it is a word, right? Shouldn’t we work at a definition for those who ask?

    Carolyn: Explaining Grace is like trying to explain God. Can’t be done. We can ‘discuss’ Grace with others….but we can’t ‘explain’ Grace…to the degree that they KNOW Grace. Grace is NOT a word…(but I know what you are saying). The characters of ‘g’ ‘r’ ‘a’ ‘c’ ‘e’….are just that….characters of letters of the written language. Putting them together spells grace. We name our children ‘Grace.’ We say ‘grace’ before meals. And our contemporary attempts at putting the whole of heaven and earth, God and man….under an umbrella we call ‘grace’….can’t be done. That’s why I called our attempt ‘dumbed down.’ lol. We can explain football rules, how to make chocolate pie, or numerous other things relating to man. But the depths of supernatural things such as God, Grace, justice and judgement can be made KNOWN only by God…without words. Spirit to spirit. We can try….but the attempt won’t be successful. Our Christian tradition of ‘witnessing to the lost’ is generally done in word only….and is ineffective because we leave the supernatural aspect that a man first must be ‘drawn’ by the spirit of God. We also assume that the ‘lost’ are so because they don’t ‘know’, haven’t ‘heard’ the Gospel. Not true!

    Ro 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.

    Ro 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

    God is Supernatural and beyond what man’s mind can know. His GOSPEL is Supernatural and cannot be presented in a written or spoken presentation. Can’t be done. We Christians today treat the Gospel of God like an item at a fast-food drive through. lol. That’s why we haven’t been successful. That’s why God looked ahead through time and told us that only a ‘few’ would find it and enter the gait called Straight. But we keep trying to make it into a commodity, a thing within man’s control,…..a ‘wordy’ things. But it is in reality …outside the realm of words. That’s why Christ was our example and demonstrated that the Gospel (Grace) is the POWER OF GOD.

    Joh 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

    The only person who can ‘explain’ Grace is the Holy Spirit…who, too, is God and Christ. If He dwells within us…we WILL be empowered to live righteous lives. That ‘living’ of the Gospel is the greatest and only way to ‘explain’ Grace. Short of that….it only words on a fast-food menu at a drive through. ‘I’ll have a Grace Blanket and a couple of Once Saved Always Saved cookies.’ That’s a stretch…but it makes a point. WE Christians, like those of Ephesus, are attempting to ‘do’ the Gospel….but we’ve stolen it from God. It’s His Gospel. His Truth. His POWER. It must be LIVED….not ‘talked.’

    Simple Guy:Is it grace if I don’t kow it? If I have to know it, doesn’t it depend upon me then? What do we call God’s part before I know about it, or does it originate with me then?

    Carolyn:Romans says each man does know and is “without excuse”.

    God would NEVER..trust the eternal soul of man….to man. Grace is KNOWN through the interactive process between the Spirit of god and the spirit of a man.

    Mt 10:20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.

    Lu 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

    Lu 4:17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

    Lu 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

    Do we get what He is telling us???…that the Gospel is ALIVE…from God..and can only be delivered by those ANNOINTED with the living, present, resurrected, Spirit of God….by those who LIVE the Gospel…those who are moved from death to Life…those who were willing to ‘receive’ the gift of Grace. Grace REQUIRES interaction between the heart of God and the heart of each man.

    I truly believe that we Christians of today…are the embodiment of ‘Ephesus.’ We are so busy…such do-gooders…sooooo wordy…literally the continuing perpetuators of the Gospel of the Nicolaitanes…which God HATES!! The True Gospel is purposed to redeem, regenerate, restore, resurrect…move from death to Life….through the power and presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But we, like the Nicolaitanes have GRABBED THE GRACE from His extended hand and knocked the giver on His but. We don’t want God. We only want His GRACE. We don’t want RIGHTEOUSNESS…HOLINESS…GOD!! We only want GRACE as an insurance policy against Hell. We PREACH and TEACH that sin is inevitiable ..but GRACE is sufficient. We have no intentions of becoming ‘perfect as He is perfect.’ We don’t even WANT to KNOW Him. We just WANT what He has to offer. GRACE!! But WE ARE DECEIVED by the traditions we have been taught. ‘Without holiness no man will see God’ doesn’t go away just because we refuse to accept the reality. And as you said, Simple Guy, “of time. In short, it better be a blanket covering for my sin, because if it doesn’t cover it all, then I’m hopeless, and so are you.” Yes, we are hopeless if we plan to continue in sin after being purchased with the spiritual death of God’s own soul. We better not ‘neglect’ so great a ‘salvation.’

    Well, I’ve proved my point. Grace CANNOT be explained. LOL. (smile)!! We can’t even ‘explain’ it to each other….and we are believers. Grace can only be KNOWN through intimate fellowship with Christ. It is an interactive process. God GIVES grace. But it is of non-effect until it is RECEIVED.

  16. If written words are pointless, inadequate etc, to relay the message of the Gospel, then why would God have bothered to inspire men to pen a record of who Christ is?

    Of course it is the Spirit that enlightens. That doesn’t mean God refuses to use Scripture as a vehicle to expose people to the truth.

    Yes, the concept of grace has been mishandled in our culture. However, if God is only gracious to His friends, then His nature is counter to what He taught about “turning the other cheek” and His admonishment to not only greet one’s friends. As Jim Swindle mentioned, Jesus was even gracious (in His love for and close association with) toward Judas.

    Therefore, I do not see that Scripture allows for God’s grace to be something He only gives to/shows/uses to empower believers. He is a gracious God, regardless of our unfaithfulness or lack of understanding.

    I believe Paul wrote of God’s grace “in action”:

    Romans 5:7-10 For one will with difficulty die for a righteous one, yet perhaps one would even dare to die for a good one.
    But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
    Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
    For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

    and, in the OT

    Isaiah 65:1-5 I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here am I, here am I,” to a nation that was not called by my name.
    I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices;
    a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks;
    who sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat pig’s flesh, and broth of tainted meat is in their vessels;
    who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day.

    While both of the above passages speak of future wrath/punishment for rejection of Him, both speak FIRST of forgiveness and reconciliation that He initiates. And He continues to withhold the time of wrath IN SPITE of the fact that there are those who do not receive or appreciate Who He is.

  17. Craig,

    That’s why instead of thinking of grace in dualistic terms we shouldn’t. We need to see grace grounded in God’s life in Christ (i.e. the divine and human in one person . . . grace realized on both sides of that divide Creator/creature).

    Torrance is helpful on this stuff. His points on Christ’s vicariousness are key to your points on “sometimes God . . . sometimes man” in reference to grace.

  18. […] September 6, 2010 God’s Grace Revisited: We have been discussing God’s grace in this previous post. […]

  19. I would only say again Brother, Grace is favor shown that is not merited. From our first cry till final breath we live by the unmerited favor of God because of the perfect righteousness of His Son.
    “Both He who sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one.” Jesus is my righteousness, redemption, sanctification, and wisdom……by grace.

  20. I like your thoughts. I will be checking them out.

  21. […] s “grace” again.  (I’ve blogged before about how I struggle with this word)  My current definition of God’s grace is “that part of Him which cause Him to be kind […]

  22. “Grace is the Holy Spirit.” – St. Seraphim of Sarov

    Or, to put it another way, Grace is the Uncreated Energies of God, the Light of Tabor, the Consuming Fire, God’s creative, redemptive, sanctifying activity in the world and in us.

    • James,
      I’m not sure I agree that Grace is the Holy Spirit.
      Seems like you might me Greek Orthodox? I’m not too familiar with that teaching, but looking into some of the terminology you use, it seems like you might be advocating some sort of mysticism in order to “experience” God’s Grace.
      I would say I thing God’s Grace is independent of his persons (3 in 1) but an integral part of His Character. It exists independent of my experience, too.

      Craig

  23. Of course I’m advocating mysticism to experience God’s grace. (“Mysticism” being not some hocus-pocus formula, but rather that which pertains to the Mystery of Christ – God with us!) God’s Grace is a mystery: how can we who are dust become partakers of the Divine nature (2 Pet 1:4)? How can we who are like grass be baptized with the Holy Spirit and not burn, since our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29)?

    Do you believe that Christ was God incarnate, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily (Col 2:9)? If so, that is a really big Mystery, to put it mildly, but a wonderful Mystery, because in it we have salvation.

    What does Christ being true God and true man mean to you? Can created matter really be a receptacle of Divine Grace, or not? If not, then we are not saved. What was the light of the Transfiguration?

    I would agree that “God’s Grace is independent of his persons” in the sense that Grace cannot be limited to one or another of the persons. When St. Seraphim calls Grace the Holy Spirit, he does not mean that Grace is *only* the Holy Spirit (and not the Father or the Son). So in that sense, yes, Grace is not *exclusively* the Holy Spirit. What I think St. Seraphim is getting at is that, nevertheless, Grace is *uncreated* (i.e. truly Divine) and *personal*. God does not save us via the mediation of created “grace”. Salvation is of the Lord, and our one Savior and Mediator is Himself true God of true God. Neither does God send you His “character”, while remaining “independent” personally. His activity within our lives and within creation is always personal. The Grace of God is the Grace of *Father, Son, and Holy Spirit*. This is actually quite similar to what you have already pointed out: that grace is “Christ in you the hope of glory”, a dynamic “part of the relationship we enjoy with Him” (though I’m not so sure about your use of “part” lol).

    As far as His Grace being independent of my experience, 100% agreement. But just because God can exist without me, doesn’t mean I can exist without God, so to speak.

    • James,
      Thanks for coming back, I welcome your input.
      When I use the word mysticism, I mean what my dictionary says:
      mysticism: Noun
      a doctrine of an immediate spiritual intuition of truths believed to transcend ordinary understanding, or of a direct, intimate union of the soul with god through contemplation or ecstasy.

      If this is what you mean, I would have to disagree.
      However, it seems that it isn’t what you meant, and I am not trying to put words in your mouth. 🙂
      I agree that we cannot fully understand the union we are allowed to experience with God in Christ. But when the word Mystery is used in Colossians, it is a mystery that has been revealed. Not a continuing mystery, but one that was previously unknown, and now is known. (Colossians 1:27 – it has been revealed – “Christ in you the hope of glory”
      You asked: “Do you believe that Christ was God incarnate, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily (Col 2:9)?”
      Yes and no.
      No, if you insist on the past tense. Yes if i can change what you said to what Paul said (emphasis mine – added)
      “Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God”
      “Col 2:9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,”
      Not intending to quibble over details, but this detail is critical. Verb tenses can be watershed details in doctrine.

      Yes, this is a big mystery. None was ever bigger.

      You asked:
      “What does Christ being true God and true man mean to you? Can created matter really be a receptacle of Divine Grace, or not? If not, then we are not saved. What was the light of the Transfiguration?”

      Your terminology is different than I am accustomed to. I believe Jesus is fully God, and is fully man. As fully God, He is one with the Father, and is infinitely worth more than all of His creation. As such, his death in my place is worth more than the entire creation he purchased with that price. As fully man, He could legally and actually take my place. If an angel or other being kept the law in my place, it would not count.
      But the truth of fully God, and fully man is a larger truth than I comprehend. I grant you, this is indeed a mystery. I would even say it is the
      mystery of all of eternity. None other compares.

      Can created matter be the receptacle of God’s grace? Well, with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. I wonder if this was the very reason we were created, to be the receptacle of God’s grace.

      Not sure what the light of the transfiguration has to do with it. You are going to have to clue me in here. However, the text doesn’t say, so we are speculating here.

      I’m not familiar with St Seraphim, so I can’t comment there either.

      I would agree that we cannot exist without God’s grace. It is by His grace that we are not consumed. When Adam and Eve took the fruit, God would have been just and right to destroy them on the spot. Sinful man’s continued existence is purely the result of His infinite grace and mercy.

      You said, “This is actually quite similar to what you have already pointed out: that grace is “Christ in you the hope of glory”, a dynamic “part of the relationship we enjoy with Him” (though I’m not so sure about your use of “part” lol).”

      Agreed.
      The point I was trying to make is that God’s grace is dynamic, not static, so we lose key elements of the truth we are trying to define when we try to reduce it to it’s elemental parts like it was a chemical in the lab, or a law of nature. It is a supernatural thing, it is a part of God’s own character. We make a fundamental mistake when we try to measure it scientifically.

      Stimulating discussion. You have me thinking. Thanks for pushing me to dig deeper here.

      Craig

      • The first part of that definition, depending on how some of the words are defined, is not so bad: “an immediate spiritual intuition of truths believed to transcend ordinary understanding”. I don’t really have a better way of understanding why John the Baptist leapt for joy in utero at the presence of the Savior and His mother. We might say that the Forerunner “experienced” grace in a special way at that time and so he leapt for joy; or we might speak of the “faith” of John; but obviously the experience or faith or however you want to put it was “immediate” as it was mediated neither by the five senses (well, except maybe hearing) nor especially by the rational faculty, which is hardly developed in a prenatal infant to a degree sufficient to “understand” the truths of the Gospel. In any case, those truths do indeed transcend all comprehension. It makes sense to say that John the Baptist leapt for joy because his spirit or “intellect” (what the Greek Fathers would refer to as the *nous*) did indeed directly apprehend or “intuit” truth, even if his rational faculty was not yet developed enough to do so.

        I mostly agree with the rest of your response. When I have a chance I’ll try to write a few things on the Transfiguration and on St Seraphim.

        The only major quibble I would make right now is with the statement, “if an angel or other being kept the law in my place, it would not count”. I think that is an insufficient explanation of the insufficiency of the Arian doctrine. I can’t really think of a reason why an angelic hypostasis couldn’t be incarnate, or why such an incarnate angel couldn’t perfectly keep the law (although on that latter point I can see some objections that could be made). But what I’m sure of is that an angel couldn’t unite God and man (for obvious reasons), nor could he maintain that union even in the grave. An angel could not enter into death taking hold of it to defeat it. An angel could not trample down death by death. I’m fairly certain only He Who is Life Himself could do that. I think the penal substitutionary model has value, but it’s not the only Scriptural model, and I think to understand the necessity of the Incarnation we need to look at all available memories.

        The thing I appreciated most about your response was the suggestion that we were created to be receptacles of God’s Grace. 🙂 I think so. Thank you also for the conversation!

  24. sorry about all of the caps, not sure what happened there. Don’t intend to look like I’m yelling.
    🙂
    Craig

  25. “memories” at the end there was supposed to be models or metaphors or something like that, but this stupid phone changed it lol.

  26. James,
    The reason I say He had to be man for His life and death to be in my place is simply that it does not appear to apply to fallen angels.
    We do not see that Jesus’ death or life as the means of atonement for fallen angels, or that a means has even been allowed for the. So I assume that it must be limited within our kind. Sort of an argument through silence, and my own logical assumption, so not a hill I would die on.

    My thought process about grace goes something like this (at this point)

    I believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

    I believe the Grace of God existed before creation, as an attribute of His (Their) nature, but unexpressed.

    I believe that God created in order to express to One Another who They are. Not that They didn’t already know, but They still wanted to express Themselves. (my wife knows I love her, but that doesn’t mean I don’t desire to express it)

    Let me explain a little more background. I believe glorify and magnify are essentially synonyms in scripture. When God is glorified, it is that He is seen more clearly for who He actually is. Like a telescope magnifies the stars.

    I believe the purpose of creation was to glorify God. Various parts of creation glorify God in different ways. The universe, for example glorifies God by showing His utter vastness and power, among other things.

    I believe He made us so that His Grace could be seen. It always was, but must have an undeserving object in order to be Grace. Jesus deserves all of the love the Father shows Him, as does the Spirit. The Spirit cannot impart Grace to the Father or the Son.

    But we don’t deserve His love and care, yet he showers us with it. I wonder if this is why we were made.

    But this is all just my pondering speculation. Not Gospel truth worth dying a martyrs death for.

    Just wanted to flesh out what I meant by the “made to be receptacles” thought a bit. It is a thought I truly enjoy thinking.

    Craig


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