Calvary Church of the Nazarene Huntsville, Alabama

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Grace

 

1. The noun charis (Agrace@) does not occur in Mk., Mt., 1st & 3rd John.

2. In the Gospel of John, it is found only in 1:14,16,17.

3. In the synoptic gospels, it is found only in Luke: 1:30; 2:40,52; 4:22; 6:32,33,34; 17:9.

In Acts: 2:47; 4:33; 7:10,46; 11:23; 13:43; 14:3,26; 15:11,40; 18:27; 20:24,32; 24:27; 25:3,9. It is used by Luke in the sense of Afavour, pleasure, and divine good pleasure.@

The word characterizes the message of salvation, or the message as a message of salvation: >Words of grace@ in Lk. 4:22 and Acts 20:24. The word can also depict the Spirit-filled man (Acts 6:8). The overruling of grace may be seen in the spread of the Church (Acts 11:23, with a play on chairo). Beyond the idea of the Church, the word may be used generally for the state of grace (Acts 13:43). There is commendation to the grace of God in Acts 14:26 or the Lord in Acts 15:40. The verb charizomai occurs twice in a legal context for showing favour in a trial (Acts 3:14; 25:11,16). God grants Paul the lives of those who travel with him in Acts 27:24.

4. In Paul, charis is a central concept that most clearly expresses his understanding of the salvation event. The term does not have in every passage the specific sense of the doctrine of grace, and can mean Athanks@ (Rom. 6:17; 7:25; I Cor. 15:57; II Cor. 8:16; 9:15). It is also used as a term for the collection and means Athank-offering@ (I Cor. 16:3; II Cor. 8:1f).

There is an obscure meaning of Athanks@ in I Cor. 10:30. The word also occupies a special place in the salutation (Rom. 1:7) and in the final greeting (I Th. 5:28). It is used in the sense of Amaking glad by gifts,@ of showing free unmerited grace (Rom. 3:24; 4:1; 5:15,17). Paul orientates himself, not to the question of the nature of God, but to the historical manifestation of salvation in Christ. He does not speak of the gracious God; he speaks of the grace that is actualized in the cross of Christ (Gal. 2:21; cp. 15-20). Grace is shown to the sinner (Rom. 3:23; 5:10; cp. vv. 15-20). It is the totality of salvation (II Cor. 6:1). Every Christian has it (I Cor. 1:4).

Grace excludes the Law as a way of salvation (Rom. 3:21; 4:16), since the Law is in opposition to charis (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 2:21; 5:4). In Rom. 4:14-16, grace and faith together are set in antithesis to the law. Grace is not just the basis of justification (Rom. 3:24; 5:20). It is also manifested therein. For justification is not the subjective appropriation of the salvation objectively effected in Christ. The event of salvation is in itself orientated to the sinner and carries justification with it (it is received in faith). The scope of justification as the transmission of life in face of death may be seen in Rom. 5. We find here the connection between grace as event and grace as possession or state (Rom. 5:2). That this state is not habitual is implicit in the term >grace= itself, for grace remains a gift and it is allotted in the Word. A man is called into it (Gal. 1:6,15). Hence he has neither claim nor desert. It comes to view in the destruction of self-glorifying in the Lord (I Cor. 1:29,31), in the Cross (Gal. 6:14), in weakness (II Cor. 12:9).

Grace is Asufficient.@ Two thoughts intertwine in II Cor. 12:9: (a) you will get no more, Paul=s request being denied; (b) you need no more. According to the theology of the cross in this sense charis determines the form of proclamation and also therewith of both proclaimer & believer. Boasting is ruled out by the fact that although one can be sure of grace (the element of assurance is also contained in the concept itself), one does not have it for certain (i.e., it is possible to fall from grace - Gal. 5:4). The power of grace is displayed in the overcoming of sin (Rom. 5:20f). The understanding of its superiority is not quantitative, but qualitative. It is free election (Rom. 11:5f). The understanding of grace as a power is historical, for it actualizes itself in the Church (Phil. 1:7), i.e., in the collection that Paul makes for the community (II Cor. 8).

It makes generosity possible (II Cor. 8:1; cp. 9:8 - where its goal is Aevery good work@). It becomes a demand (II Cor. 6:1; Gal. 5:4f) and it does so in such a way as to make compliance possible. Hence compliance cannot set itself up independently as a work; even as achievement it holds the believer fast in the followship of grace. The radical consequences of this understanding of grace - Christ the end of the Law - are defended by Paul in Gal. and Rom. In Rom. 6:1, he deals with the actual or possibly assumed charge that absolutizing the concept will lead to libertinism. Paul refutes this only in a formal and sweeping way; he does not argue in detail. This is appropriate, for the opposing logic is only pseudo-logic. It fails to see that grace is impartation, and that as such it is the destruction of sin. Paul=s special grace is his apostolic office - he has received it (Rom. 1:5); it was given to him (Rom. 12:3; 15:15; cp. I Cor. 3:10). The fact of the discharge of his office is grace (II Cor. 1:12). His visit to a church is a grace (II Cor. 1:15). In the Pastorals, it has the sense of Athanks@ (I Tim. 1:12).

5. The verb charizomai [Lk. 7:21, 42, 43; Acts 3:14; 25:11,16; 27:24; Rom. 8:32; I Cor. 2:12; II Cor. 2:7,10; 12:13; Gal. 3:18; Eph. 4:32; Phil. 1:29; 2:9; Col. 2:13; 3:13; Phil. 22] does not have the precise sense of the noun. It is always to be construed in terms of the basic sense Ato give.@ The Pauline element lies in the context rather than the usage (Gal. 3:18). The word stands in a soteriological context in Rom. 8:32, namely, an exposition of the kerygma. In I Cor. 2:12, the participle denotes the subject-matter of theology. Also, suffering is a gift (Phil. 1:28f; cp. 2:17; I Pt. 4:12f). A special form of giving (i.e., pardoning) is found in II Cor.12:13. In Col. 1:6, it means the Gospel - to hear and perceive God=s grace is to become a Xn. In 2:13, it denotes the gracious remission of faults. In Col. 3:13, it means Ato pardon.@ Forgiveness is mutually required in the Xn community. The demand is based on the model of the giving of X. In Col. 4:6 the word might mean Agrace@ or Acharm.@

6. In Heb. 4:16, it is used with Amercy.@ Grace is embodied in X, the High-priest; one receives it at the throne of God (cp. 7:25). Hebrews does not speak of the grace of Jesus X but rather of His suffering through God=s favour. The relationship between the death (or blood) of X, the covenant and grace is developed in Heb. 10:29. The antithesis of grace and meats is part of the contrast between the old covenant and the new (13:9). The new covenant is a crisis for the Law. From this results the exhortation to God=s wandering people, the warning against the danger of lagging behind (12:15).

7. I Pt. also speaks of Acharis@ and is practically synonomous with Asalvation@(1:10; cp. I Cor. 15:10 ). The stress is on the hortatory fruit, the understanding of suffering as grace (2:19). I Pt. 4:10 - grace is the power of common life in the community (cp. 5:10).

8. The Johannine writings very seldom use the word or its cognates. Apart from greetings like II Jn 3, where we find Agrace@ with Amercy@ and Apeace,@ and Rev. 1:4; 22:21, the only instances are those in Jn. 1: 14,16,17.

9. Grace is presented as a package in Titus 2:11-14: The Fact of Grace (v. 11) - The Function of Grace (v. 11) - The Force of Grace (v. 12) - The Future of Grace (v. 13) - The Fruit of Grace (v. 14).

Dr. Morris Murray, Jr.

 

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