Grace is NOT a Blue-eyed Blonde is the title of a book by a Christian counselor. But we knew that already. Indeed, many of us have heard grace defined as either God’s unmerited favor or, using the acronym GRACE, as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”
“Grace” is a familiar word in Christian circles and beyond. The great hymn “Amazing Grace” is well-known to both church folks and many who are not church folks. To many without any relationship to God, the hymn expresses a longing for something more, something this world cannot provide. To those in Christ, the hymn celebrates God’s kindness and mercy throughout life and beyond, a kindness that declares us innocent before God. By grace and because of grace we are saved through faith, gifted by God with that salvation.
Is there, though, a side of grace that goes beyond that moment when we come to faith and God pronounces us “not guilty”?
Toward the end of his second letter, Peter urged his readers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 NASB). Unpacking that a little, Peter is urging us to “grow in the grace given by our Lord and Savior and grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” I understand the idea of growing in knowledge of Christ by our experience of Him. But, what does Peter mean by growing in grace?
If we ask Paul to help us understand Peter, we can begin to see two sides of grace. In Romans 5:2, Paul referred to “the grace in which we stand.” Paul was writing about believers position before God. We are justified. We don’t ever become more justified or less. We are innocent in Christ because of His sacrifice and we will always be.
Paul referred to another side of grace when he quoted Jesus’ words to him, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Paul had prayed three times that his “thorn in the flesh” would leave him. Jesus’ answer was that His grace would be enough for Paul to endure. In fact, the greatness of Jesus’ power would be seen through Paul’s weakness. In a sense, then, Paul would grow in his experience of the Lord’s grace as the Apostle carried out his tasks despite his difficulties.
Paul understood this truth already, that God extends more grace when believers are stepping forward. Earlier when Paul assured his readers that as they gave more, even out of their relative poverty, God would make His grace abound. God’s grace would be sufficient in all things (2 Cor. 9:8).
Now back to Peter’s urging, that we grow in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How do we grow in that active, powerful, dynamic grace? We grow as we learn by experience to trust God more. The more we trust Him, the more room there is in our lives for God to “grace” us. The less we depend on Him, the less room we have in our lives for God to work. In practical terms, if we are able to live relying upon our reasoning power, our abilities, our resources, or the gifts God has given in the past, where is there room for God to “grace” us?
R. Lofton Hudson, Grace is not a Blue -eyed Blond, Word Books, 1972.