Power Under Grace

The word “grace” appears 18 times in the Old Testament.  It appears 125 times in the New Testament.  A striking change.  What accounts for this?  The apostles tell us.  John said that “the law was given through Moses, but grace…came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).  Paul declared that Christians are “not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14, 15).  When the covenants changed, then, the circumstances under which humanity serves God changed.  The age of grace arrived.  But what are the implications? They are many, but let’s briefly address just one.  “Under grace”, there is power.

The law revealed sin (Romans 7:7), but granted no power to conquer it.  The faithful could fight, but with very limited success.  Paul explains their predicament in personal terms:  “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18, ESV).  Frequent frustration with the flesh was the order of the day:  “For what I am doing, I do not understand.  For what I will to do, that I do not practice;  but what I hate, that I do…O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:15, 24).  The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.  Sin had dominion over those “under the law.”

Under grace, things have changed:  “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).  In this dispensation of grace, God has now empowered Christians by means of the Spirit.  Believers are “strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16), so that “…by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13).  As it says in Galatians:  “I say then:  Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16).

This is not say that Christians are never going to sin:  “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;  and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish (Galatians 5:17).  The flesh remains a factor.  Still, under grace, by means of the Spirit’s aid, the battle against sin will be marked with more successes than it would have been under the law.  Christians, in other words, should sin less than their old covenant counterparts:

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3, 4, ESV).


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  1. November 11, 2009

    Many people operate under the misunderstanding that if I do enough good works, I will go to heaven. If I help my neighbor rake their leaves, or donate a generous portion of my paycheck to a charity, or walk 5 kilometers to raise awareness for an illness, God will be pleased and my soul saved. While the Bible commands Christian acts of service, it also makes plain that such works of merit offer no assistance in overcoming the flesh. This is where we need the grace of God which comes through the supernatural application of Jesus Christ’s blood.

  2. Louis
    November 13, 2009

    It makes me think of this; 2Ti 2:1/3 “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. . .You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

  3. Craig
    November 15, 2009

    Excellent points about grace. The power to overcome sin does not have its source in man, but in God. Good support for this is found in Titus 2:11-12:
    For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,

    With this truth so clear, why is it that followers are so intent on feeling (and teaching) that ‘earning’ eternal life is possible? Eternal life is the gift of God and through grace we are saved through faith. Our obedience is a response to the power of God’s grace. It is about what God does for us, not about what we do because we don’t make ourselves worthy by obedience; He made us worthy through Christ.

  4. November 16, 2009

    Thanks for the comments! Been thinking…
    The age of grace is not one of lower expectations. God still hates sin. Grace has abounded not in lowered expectations, but in that God’s people are now empowered to meet the expectations (Rom. 8:4).

    It is absolutely true that Christians cannot make themselves worthy of, nor earn their salvation (Eph. 2:9). Amen and amen! Failure to see that makes for burdened souls at best, bitter rebels at worst.

    Still, we know that God calls His people to act: “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Eph. 4:1). The just (or “righteous”, same Gk. #1342) live by faith, knowing that faith without works is dead. While one cannot TRUST in his righteous works (Is. 64:6)–he must trust in HIS work–it must never be forgotten that “[h]e who practices righteousness is righteous” (1 Jn. 3:7).

    It is such a fine line. To humanity, these truths (grace and works) are always in tension, and souls have tilted too far in both directions.

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