I pointed to my friend’s arm and asked where her scratches had come from. Her response: “Grace.” Grace is her new puppy who doesn’t always teethe on a chew toy. Believe it or not, that prompted this blog post!
I love the puppy’s name because at this point it seems wildly incorrect. That is what makes her name, and personality, a modern-day parable. I imagine the puppy will grow into her name just like most of us had to grow into our knowledge of grace.
A quick Google search of “the best Bible verses about grace” will result in a long list, most of which are written by the Apostle Paul. Paul, better known as Saul of Tarsus in his pre-grace years, had abundant experience with God’s grace.
The Bible speaks about the early church caring for the widows and orphans. I wonder how many of those existed because of Saul of Tarsus. He watched Stephen’s illegal stoning with the rock-throwers’ cloaks around his feet. After that experience, he madly tore through Jerusalem and other cities pulling husbands, fathers, brothers, wives, mothers, and sisters out of their homes. These early Christians were thrown in jail and many, if not most, were eventually killed.
When the Apostle Paul speaks of grace, he knows more fully than most what that word means. Paul said, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Paul had received great grace for the horrible sins of his past, and grace remained a theme of his life as he fulfilled his calling.
Paul knew that every human being was a sinner in need of grace. We all make mistakes; we all have personal weaknesses and character flaws. Every Christian is born again because of God’s grace. Unfortunately, we don’t always allow God’s grace to govern our own. Paul told Timothy:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24–26
If God’s people do not love with grace, speak words of grace, and act with grace we will not be able to offer God’s truth about grace. But that “knowledge of the truth” is key. Paul taught lessons about grace that I think our culture is too often avoiding these days. Paul also taught about the dangers of offering grace, apart from truth. Paul also told Timothy (and us):
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 1 Timothy 6:3–5
American churches and ministries are facing huge doctrinal decisions these days. Grace is crucial for anyone’s salvation. Churches are full of “saved sinners,” not perfect people. Why should we condemn one sin, but not another? At the same time, many churches and ministries are avoiding preaching God’s messages that are filled with “knowledge of the truth” because someone might find that message offensive. Could some of that friction be caused because a certain “brand of godliness” is “gain?”
It has never been easy to balance grace and truth, but Paul did. He was the greatest evangelist that ever lived. He had murdered good people, yet God still adopted him as his child. Apparently, Paul had a hot temper, and God used his weaknesses to teach dependence on him. Paul understood the meaning of grace but remained devoted to telling the truth about God. That is why the people Paul preached to came to know God and receive his salvation and sanctification.
I would like to explain Paul’s doctrine of grace carefully, this way: tolerance is not grace if it offers a person permission to remain in their sin. Our counsel, our words, our actions, and our character need to be grounded in God’s amazing grace for all sinners and his firm teaching about the need to live holy lives apart from sin. Our calling is the same as Paul’s and Timothy’s. We need to guard our lives, attitudes, character, and our Christian doctrine so that when we witness to others, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”
Beg God for his grace and truth, so you have both to share with others.